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J.T. Krul Talks Titans

J.T. Krul is a writer on the rise. After making his mark at Aspen, J.T. impressed DC fans with his work on TITANS: BLACKEST NIGHT and TEEN TITANS #77-78, and also helped to usher in a new controversial role for Roy Harper within the DCU. The super-busy scribe took time out of his hectic schedule to answer some exclusive Titans-related questions for titanstower.com as he gears up to become the regular writer on TEEN TITANS.

(A special thanks to Tarcísio Aquino for helping to coordinate this inteview.)

J.T. KRUL TALKS TITANS

titanstower.com: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, J.T. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started writing comics?

J.T.: I’m originally from Michigan and moved to LA after college to work in the entertainment industry. I was EXTREMELY lucky and landed a job at SEINFELD as a production assistant. After years of working in that field, I was again lucky and got a foot in the door at Marvel thanks to a guy named Josh Ryan. I submitted a handful of stories and ended up selling two short anthology stories to Marvel, then met up with Mike, Frank, and Peter at Aspen Comics. Before I knew it, I was writing both FATHOM and SOULFIRE.

TEMPEST AND BLACKEST NIGHT:
DEAD IN THE WATER

titanstower.com: When did you first get offered the writing assignment for TITANS #15?

J.T.: I think it was around March of 2009. I had been talking with [editors] Eddie [Berganza] and Adam [Schlagman] for awhile about doing something together, and when the Titan spotlight issues were being developed, Geoff Johns suggested I tackle Tempest. [TEEN TITANS editor] Brian Cunningham called me up and it all went from there.

I had been a fan of Titans for some time, but even I was surprised when they mentioned Tempest because he had been largely MIA since [the] Infinite Crisis.

titanstower.com: Tempest was often seen as a “weak” character, especially in his days as Aqualad. Were you aware of that perception? How did you see Tempest and what did you want to say about him?

J.T.: I never thought Tempest was a weak character. It evolved over time in an attempt to differentiate him from Aquaman, but in the Titans issue i wrote, I tried to bring him back around – if not in abilities, at least in terms of his role.

titanstower.com: In approaching TITANS #15, you must have been aware of what was in store for Tempest in BLACKEST NIGHT. With Tempests’ fate in mind, how did you approach that element in your story? TITANS #15 also contained another huge revelation: The confirmed deaths of Dolphin and Cerdian. Was that your idea? Or was that something discussed with the editors?

J.T.: I was aware of Garth’s ultimate fate in BLACKEST NIGHT when i wrote the issue, but my goal was to give him his moment – let the readers have a taste of what Garth could have been given the opportunity. As far as the deaths of Dolphin and Cerdian, we talked a lot about it. Many times when I write stories, an image comes to mind first – it sort of jumps out at you – and you build the story around that. In the Tempest story it was the image of Garth swimming through the city with his family wrapped in cloth on the backs of sea life. I thought it was such a powerful image. Garth is swimming free, but the weight of his sorrow follows him – like a funeral procession.

BLACKEST NIGHT: TITANS
BRING OUT YOUR DEAD

titanstower.com: How were you offered the opportunity to write BLACKEST NIGHT: TITANS?

J.T.: Getting offered BLACKEST NIGHT: TITANS was one of those calls I’ll always remember. I was actually running errands and ended up talking with Geoff and Eddie Berganza while sitting in my car at the post office. I had just started doing a story for Eddie after talking with him for a couple of years. But I know a lot of it came down to Geoff pulling for me. Getting the news, then finding out that I had Ed Benes – let’s just say it was a great day.

titanstower.com: Many of the Titans characters have been through so many tragedies and deaths through the years. And a project like BLACKEST NIGHT: TITANS really needs to play off their history. Was it daunting to swallow so much history in a short time? How did you build this story?

J.T.: As for wrapping my head around all the death in the Titans world, yes – it was daunting. There were certain aspects that DC wanted to make sure were included – obviously the Hawk and Dove angle due to the clue it revealed about the nature Black Lanterns and their power…and lack thereof. Seeing Donna ‘s family return was also something they wanted to see. As for Gar and Terra, that one was a no-brainer. Probably one of the best doomed relationships in comics.

I went through the entire roster and history of the team, looking at all the possible dead heroes I could use, but at the end of the day I focused on quality not quantity. I know there were many readers that were disappointed not to see Duela Dent or Danny Chase or such, but cramming the book with dead heroes would have simply muddled the overall story of the characters we did focused on.

titanstower.com: In BLACKEST NIGHT: TITANS #1, we also see a glimpse of Red Star and Rose Wilson, and how they have dealt with loss in their own way. It seemed like something that was going to be explored in the mini-series, but was abandoned. As part of a much larger crossover, how do you construct a mini-series like BLACKEST NIGHT: TITANS? How do you find that story within a larger story, where a lot of the beats have been planned out in advance?

J.T.: The opening page of issue #1 was originally conceived as something we would return to – in terms of Deathstroke, Red Star, and Ravager, but as I outlined the series, there simply wasn’t the room. All the stories would have suffered had they been given less time and space. Geoff and i had some cool ideas for the Red Star story, but had to leave it out. It’s one of the reasons I was thrilled to be able to write the two-part Teen Titans story with Deathstroke and Ravager. They are great characters with intense dynamics that played very well in the scope of Blackest Night.

I’ve been asked a lot about how to make a miniseries like this work and have meaning when it’s an offshoot of a larger epic story. To be honest, I didn’t think about how BLACKEST NIGHT: TITANS could impact the main series. Instead, I focused on how the themes of BLACKEST NIGHT could impact my book. My main goal was to use the premise of the story to explore the characters I was writing and help shed some light on who they are and how they think, act, and feel. It’s a story of confronting fear, and loss, and regret.

titanstower.com: In Brad Meltzer’s DC UNIVERSE: LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT #1, Deathstroke tells Geo-Force that he drugged Terra – which is what slowly drove her insane. That sort of altered what Marv Wolfman and George PÈrez had intended – that Terra was just a bad seed. In BLACKEST NIGHT: TITANS, your story held true to the original Marv and George version. Was there discussion about that? And were you a fan of the original “Judas Contract”?

J.T.: Obviously, I was a big fan of the original “Judas Contract.” It would have been almost impossible to not be and still write BLACKEST NIGHT: TITANS. To me Terra is a great character that held true to her sadistic form throughout her life, and that’s what i wanted to reflect – Definitely Terra as the bad seed.

RAVAGER’S BLACKEST NIGHT:
THE DEADLY WORLD OF DEATHSTROKE

titanstower.com: You were able to tackle some Titans characters again with TEEN TITANS #77-78, this time focusing on Ravager and Deathstroke. Can you tell us how you broke down that particular story?

J.T.: I did a ton of research for the Ravager/Deathstroke story. It’s something I do anyway, but even more so with Blackest Night stories because it’s all about the history. I read all the old stuff, plus what Geoff did in TEEN TITANS. But it was actually Geoff and DC’s idea to throw Jericho in the mix to make things even crazier.

I knew the entire story hinged on getting the two reserved characters to admit their true feelings, even if it had to come from the Black Lanterns themselves. Rose and Slade has about as screwed-up relationship as you can get – even in comics, which is saying a lot. But at the end of the day, he’s still a father, and she’s still a daughter. People can write off family all they want, but it doesn’t change the inherent influence blood relatives play on us – no matter what. Family is family. Slade’s motives have always been questionable at the very least, and I wanted to give a moment of clarity for him – to say despite everything, this is why he does what he does – at least as far as his family is concerned.

For Rose, she can rail against it all she wants and play the loner, but deep down she wants to be part of something – be it a family, a team, a relationship. Why else would she stick with the Teen Titans like that. And regardless of what he’s pulled, Rose could never truly write Slade off because he is her parent – and all she has. Or so she thought. That’s why the ending says so much about Rose. Once she gets it in her head that her mother might still be alive, it gives her a semblance of hope, which gives her the ability to completely walk away from Slade. Maybe, he’s not the only parent out there.

titanstower.com: The death of Wintergreen had been hinted at, but never seen on-panel. Was that something you wanted to recreate? Or did that come naturally from the story?

J.T.: It was definitely something I wanted to explore. Going into BLACKEST NIGHT, using Deathstroke – I knew Wintergreen had to play a central role. It was such a great opportunity to play that final quiet scene out. And I also wanted to show that Slade and Wintergreen were so close that when Jericho took over Slade, Wintergreen could tell something was off with his friend.

titanstower.com: Did you envision Jericho on a road to redemption? How do you see him in relation to Slade and Rose?

J.T.: In many ways, Jericho is just like Rose and Slade. They are all haunted by the past, but for Jericho his demons are much more literal as he is plagued by the residual psyches of those he has possessed. I did try to set him up for something down the road – not necessarily a clear path to redemption, but I wanted to make Jericho sympathetic. He’s not just some psycho – he’s damaged goods. A tortured soul that wants to find peace of mind.

titanstower.com: One of the biggest revelations was that Rose’s mother may still be alive. Even at Sweet Lili’s “death” way back in DEATHSTROKE #45, there was no body found. It seems like something that had been set up years ago. Was that particular plot point your idea? Did you intend to follow up Rose’s search for her mother?

J.T.: As for Rose’s mother, that was something I keyed into early on in developing the story. Going back and re-reading the old Titans and Deathstroke stories, seeing how “open” the death of Lil was opened a huge possibility in future stories, but it also served the story itself. Rose wants family and her father is the only one around – or so she thought. Believing that her mother is alive allows Rose to finally reject Slade.

TITANS IN TRANSITION

titanstower.com: You’ve written a few issues of TITANS in preparation for the transition to Deathstroke’s Titans team. It somewhat limits where you can “go” as a writer. Was it hard to find a story with a team in transition?

J.T.: Sometimes it can be tricky when you are doing a story in between such transitions. That’s why I chose to focus on the characters and their individual mindsets. It’s essentially an internal story about what’s going inside the minds of Cyborg, Donna Troy, and Starfire as they figure out that next step. I actually liked getting a chance to tell a more personal story – I’m into the emotional journeys as much as the physical ones.

titanstower.com: The original solicit to TITANS #22 solicits reads, “As the remaining three members of the team are evicted from their New York City headquarters by General Lane, they wonder if there’s anywhere on Earth they can still call home. ” Was there a change of plans there? If so, why?

J.T.: Solicitations are written several months in advance. For the most part, storylines are locked in place and on a certain path, but when the story is something like the Titans story was, changes can happen. Originally, we were going to connect the story to Lane and his war against the Kryptonians, but eventually decided to keep it on its own in the Titanverse.

titanstower.com: Through the character of Phobia, we saw a little bit into the minds of Starfire and Cyborg. Where did you see them now, in terms of their lives at that moment?

J.T.: Kory is an alien. Ever since coming to this planet, she’s had a connection to the titans and identified herself by them, and specifically by her relationship to Dick. She lost her whole family and the last thing she would want would be to lose her new family. But that connection has also limited her from exploring any other horizons. As for Vic, he’s made his peace concerning his own injuries, but takes the loss of others under his care very heavily.

FALL OF RED ARROW
AND THE RISE OF ARSENAL

titanstower.com: With JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE RISE OF ARSENAL, what was your role in breaking down Roy Harper’s future? How did that assignment fall to you?

J.T.: When I came to Roy Harper, his immediate fate was already set in terms of losing his arm and Lian in CRY FOR JUSTICE. For me, Roy is a man who has lost everything that matters to him. The RISE OF ARSENAL story wasn’t about him coping with the loss, but rather about him merely experiencing the loss. Lian’s death has forever changed him and he hasn’t even begun to deal with it.

titanstower.com: Cheshire was done some heinous things, such as nuking the entire country of Quarac. In your mind, is she insane? Pure evil? Beyond redemption? Does she genuinely love Roy? Or Lian? Is she even capable of love?

J.T.: I think she loved Lian. And at some point, she cared for Roy, but only because of the connection with their daughter. She is a cold and calculated assassin, made hard and bitter out of necessity. She’s not pure evil or insane, she simply operates on a moral plane different than that of the rest of society.

titanstower.com: Some long-time Titans fans are a little upset at Lian Harper’s death and Roy’s subsequent drug relapse. What can you say to them to convince them to stick around for the rest of the story?

J.T.: I look at this as the beginning of a very long and hard road for Roy. Having him handle Lian’s loss in the pages of a few issues would have been a huge letdown. I wanted to give the loss the weight and meaning that it deserved. It had to matter to him, had to change him forever. He’s wrought with anger, lashing out in every way he can, and doing his best to completely avoid feeling anything. He wants to be numb, he wants to forget. Hell, part of him wants to be dead. To me, that’s a character and a conflict I want to read about.

TEEN TITANS:
A BRIGHTER TOMORROW

titanstower.com: Your stories have been very well received by a lot of the hard-core Titans fans. Have you gotten a chance to experience some of the fan reactions to your Titans tales, either online or at comic cons?

J.T.: I have. Going to conventions has become even more fun. It’s especially nice to get positive feedback from longtime readers who are enjoying my stories.

titanstwoer.com: Now that you’ve written various Titans both past and present, do you have a favorite Titan?

J.T.: Favorite Titan character…that’s a tough one. I normally try to avoid taking a cheat answer by listing several, which I could easily. So, I’ll say Tim Drake. He’s awesome – I could see him being better than either Bruce or Dick in the long haul. The thing I love about Tim is that he wasn’t driven to the life of a hero by tragedy. He went looking for it because he wanted to help make the world a better place. In another life, you could see Tim lying about his age and joining the service. Like Bucky in WWII. He’s smart, he’s capable, and he’s driven – always striving to be better in every way.

titanstower.com: Now that you are the TEEN TITANS ongoing writer, can you share what’s in store for the team?

J.T.: For me, my run on TEEN TITANS is going to be about the team being a family. These aren’t a ragtag group thrown together out of necessity. They are together because they want to be. They have a bond. That’s not to say there will not be friction, but at their core – they’ve got each others’ backs. Raven and Gar are definitely on the team in my book and I’ll be touching upon them and their relationship sooner than later. I am particularly looking forward to giving Gar some time in the spotlight. After all, he’s the veteran of the team now.

titanstower.com: Well thanks again for taking the time to answer some Titans-related questions. Any final words to all those faithful Titans fans out there?

J.T.: Get ready because the future of Teen Titans is very, very BRIGHT!


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