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Titans Together: Judd Winick & George Pérez

TITANS TOGETHER
Upcoming Titans writer Judd Winick chats with Titans co-creator George Pérez about which comic creator he modeled a character on and keeping up on bikini styles.
Moderated by Ben Morse – courtesy of http://www.wizarduniverse.com – Posted September 30, 2007
(This article was also published in Wizard Magazine #193)


George Pérez taught Judd Winick how to draw. “I would not trace his comics, God forbid, but copy the characters and the poses,” explains the struggling cartoonist-turned-writer of hits from Marvel’s Exiles to DC’s Green Arrow. “In art class, I’d get criticized for drawing models too stylized because I made them look more interesting, and blame can go to George for that.”

Winick, along with a generation of comic fans, grew up with New Teen Titans, the revolutionary 1980s re-imagining of one of DC’s oldest concepts by artist Pérez and writer Marv Wolfman, co-plotted by both. Tales like “The Judas Contract” made up the bedrock of Winick’s bible for storytelling, while Robin (later Nightwing), Wonder Girl, Changeling, Starfire, Cyborg, Raven and Kid Flash became like family.

Cut to the present where Winick, along with artist Ian Churchill (Supergirl), launches the classic Wolfman/Pérez Titans roster out of a Titans East Special one-shot in November and into the ongoing series simply titled Titans, beginning in December.

Recently, Winick had the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream by picking Pérez’s brain on all things Titans. The results proved entertaining and, at times, downright surprising.

JUDD WINICK: So, George, how did you hear about the new book?

GEORGE PÉREZ: Pretty much when Wizard called me to do this interview. [Laughs] But I’m glad you’re doing this book, especially because if it’s popular, Marv [Wolfman] and I get more royalty checks. [Both laugh] After working on [New Teen Titans] for so long, I’ve had my say and it’s nice to see people picking up the characters that Marv and I created so long ago. I remember when I first drew Starfire, Cyborg and Raven hoping one day they would be there when they showed all the other DC characters, have that corporate brand on them. I remember the first time I saw Starfire in some DC montage and thinking, “My God, now I’ve got a legacy.” After a quarter of a century, for you to go back to these characters is incredibly flattering.

WINICK: Well, it’s a testament to what you and Marv created. People always come back to what you guys did as a seminal piece of storytelling. [DC VP-Executive Editor] Dan [DiDio] has been spearheading lately a lot of what fans see as darker, more realistic books with a lot of angst. But Dan said, “I want one team where it’s like a family and they get along, and I keep coming back to those original Titans.” And that’s what so many of us enjoyed about [New Teen Titans]: young people away from home who were in it together.

PÉREZ: Marv and I wanted that sense of family and brought bits from both our experiences. It was who the characters were and how they reacted to the quiet times that really made the book sing for me. I particularly liked issues like “Day in the Life” [New Teen Titans vol. 1 #8] and “Who Is Donna Troy?” [New Teen Titans vol. 1 #38] where there were no fights and just lots of drama, because the biggest challenge for a comic book artist is to make a quiet scene dynamic.

WINICK: Right. When [Justice League of America writer] Brad Meltzer and I were in college together—

PÉREZ: You two went to college together?

WINICK: Yeah, we were roommates and he’s my best friend to this day.

PÉREZ: Oh, cool, I didn’t know that.

WINICK: Well, we used to refer to those issues as the “jacket and turtleneck” issues, and only in hindsight did I recognize how exciting I found those moments, how human it was when they were out of costume yet still interesting to watch.

PÉREZ: When Marv and I did the wedding [of Donna Troy in Tales of the Teen Titans #50], we were determined to not show a single character in costume, except for Raven who wasn’t at the wedding. The characters were so familiar at that point, such a part of the fans’ lives, that we wanted to do a book that was strictly about friendship, emotion and a rite of passage. I truly enjoyed the characters. I wish you luck because I know that trying to keep it light in an industry that had kind of gone angst-crazy is always a challenge.

WINICK: I’ve actually tried to stay away from the online message boards since this was announced because I am somebody who has been typecast as somebody who writes dark stories, changes characters and kills them off.

PÉREZ: Oh, you’re that Judd Winick! I’m hanging up. [Laughs]

WINICK: That’s me. [Laughs] There is a way of storytelling that is lighter but not trite. Read back any of the original [New Teen Titans] stories and all the time the stakes are life and death, but at the same time there’s a lightness to them because of the camaraderie. We’re trying to emulate that sense of them not waiting around in the Tower for a bad guy to show up, but instead that when an individual on the team is going through something the rest of the team would rally around them.

PÉREZ: Even when we did “The Judas Contract” [Tales of the Teen Titans #41-#43, Annual #3], it was a sense of family, but then you had a traitor in the fold with Terra. [The Titans’] demise there was based on a person coming into their family and then using that closeness against them. Then in that same storyline we started dealing with kind of extended family by introducing Jericho, Deathstroke’s son, so now even the villains had family. Who is drawing your book, by the way?

WINICK: Ian Churchill.

PÉREZ: Oh good! I know the fans like Ian, and it’s always nice to have the fans on your side. And all the original characters are there?

WINICK: Yeah, the lineup is Nightwing, Starfire, Flash, Red Arrow, Cyborg, Raven, Donna and Beast Boy. Am I leaving anybody out?

PÉREZ: Other than the latecomers, Terra and Jericho, that’s everybody. And of course having Red Arrow is an addition from [the original Titans’] lineup. I’m curious to see how Ian draws Kory’s hair.

WINICK: He was talking about it, actually. I think Eddie [Berganza, Titans editor] sent him no less than 10 or 11 different artists’ renditions. Ian kept saying, “I love how George did it, but I don’t want to copy him.” He loves how when she flew the flames trailed behind from her hair.

PÉREZ: The “Mighty Mouse” effect. [Both laugh]

WINICK: There’s a question I’ve wanted to ask you for a long time that Brad and I used to talk about. We both noticed how, over time, Raven’s appearance changed drastically, with her becoming more thin and her face becoming more angular. Was all that just you naturally evolving as an artist or was it always a stylistic decision based on where the plot was going?

PÉREZ: A bit of a combination of both. When I started on New Teen Titans, I was still in my 20s and had just come from Marvel where I’d developed the tendency to draw the John Buscema full-figured types of women.

WINICK: Broader shoulders, thicker waists.

PÉREZ: Exactly. As I got into the characters [on Titans], in addition to learning to draw better, I wanted them to each be more individual. I started picking up little things, like making Kory taller than Dick when they stood next to one another. She was Dick’s height or shorter in the first few issues, but then she became the tallest member of the team besides Cyborg.

WINICK: Yeah, I noticed that.

PÉREZ: With Raven, I started basing her on real people, in particular a young dancer my wife knew. When I went back and looked at some of the earlier stories, I realized how different she looked. With Kory, obviously I couldn’t explain her growing, but with Raven I knew it could work in the story and be one of those great “I meant to do that” moments, so I told Marv. [Laughs] I started making her constantly more and more slim so that by the time she’s revealed in demon form, she looked almost emaciated in comparison to how she looked before. The test for me was always that if I were to shave the characters’ heads and give Kory eyeballs, I could still be able to tell them apart. If they had printed the wedding issue in black and white, I wanted you to still know who Gar Logan [Changeling] was. I drew him with a bit of [actor] Mickey Rooney and, from when I met him years ago, a little bit of [Fables writer] Bill Willingham. Bill doesn’t know that, but something about this Cheshire cat grin he had when he smiled I gave to Gar Logan.

WINICK: Hell, I don’t think any of us saw that. [Laughs] Can I ask what the working partnership between you and Marv was like?

PÉREZ: Originally, the book was much more Marv and [editor] Len Wein and I was the hired gun. But once I got into the book, I was in with both feet, and Marv and I would talk through the plots to the point where there was no longer always a written script. We developed such a symbiotic relationship that we could take the most minimal discussion and turn it into a story. I remember when we did the original story with the Titans of Olympus [in New Teen Titans vol. 1 #11-#12], I drew the scene where the Titans of Myth showed up but forgot to label them and Marv guessed every single one correctly. [Laughs] That’s how in synch we were.

WINICK: That’s amazing.

PÉREZ: One of the biggest regrets I have, and I know it was harder on Marv, was the creation of Jericho. He was created as a mute character to play on my strengths as a person who loved doing body language and playing with facial expressions and nuances. I told Marv never to even use thought balloons with Jericho because in a printed medium that might as well be speech. After I left the book, a character created to suit me kind of floundered with other artists, some of whom were very good but they didn’t know Jericho inside and out like me.

WINICK: I know it’s a tough question, but did you have a favorite of the characters?

PÉREZ: That’s one of those things where it’s like choosing between your children. The character I liked drawing the most was Kory, the character I liked the most was Donna, and the one I empathized with the most was Cyborg. When people ask me what character I like to draw the best, I tell them that’s why I do team books, so I don’t have to choose among my children. I went from being a hired gun to being a genuine father to these kids. Did you have a favorite as a reader?

WINICK: Picking up from what you said, I liked them all for different reasons, and that was the beauty of the book. I thought Gar was really funny, that Starfire was beautiful and loved how romantic and sweet she was, and then you had to love Dick Grayson who was the bedrock of the team.

PÉREZ: Dick always had great legs. I always believed in putting in a fair amount of beefcake with the cheesecake. [Laughs]

WINICK: No kidding! Did you guys ever do a count on how many swimming pool scenes you did?

PÉREZ: Oh gosh, once we had that pool we had to use it! [Laughs] When I met my current wife around then, she was in the fashion [industry], so I had to keep up on proper bikini styles and things like that.

WINICK: I know the expression “We’re standing on the shoulders of giants” is often misused, but I think what it really meant to say was that you gentlemen are the building blocks on which we get to build upon further. These characters were molded, created, fleshed out and became real, and now we get to pick up the baton and run with it.

PÉREZ: Well, thank you. I remember saying the same things when I met Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott and I’m looking forward to a situation where you’ve got a young person in the industry saying your books inspired them, for you to feel that gratitude that you’ve made a difference in an industry you end up loving so much.

WINICK: I can only hope that day will come.

PÉREZ: If the Internet guys don’t kill you first! [Both laugh]

 


End of titanstower.com transmission. About this author:  Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind titanstower.com. He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author