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Marv & George Titans Reflections: 1998

Marv & George Titans Reflections: 1998
From the New Teen Titans Archive, Volume 1


Titans Forever!

[From the New Teen Titans Archive, Volume 1]

By Marv Wolfman

In the Batman story that appeared in the April, 1940 issue of DETECTIVE COMICS, National Comics (now DC Comics) introduced Robin, the Boy Wonder, the first of what would be a long line of super-hero sidekicks. The common wisdom at the time was that a young sidekick would appeal more to comic-book readers than the adult parental-figure hero because readers would be better able to identify with someone their own age.

Garbage!

As a kid reader I hated kid sidekicks. How on earth could I, a slightly overweight, non-sports enthusiast comic-book reader identify with some super-hero kid doing triple-flips on a high beam all the while spouting quick witticisms? I was the sidekick’s age; I knew I could never be him. On the other hand, the adult hero was something I could, in my most insane fan delusion, aspire to become.

Also, if truth be told, I hated the way kid heroes were drawn. Which was short. Very short. Munchkin short. The DC kids: Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Speedy, etc. all seemed to rise up to slightly above waist-high on the hero. So, as adults they’d be what? Four foot two? Yeah, I’d be really afraid of them.

Furthermore, the kids didn’t act like me or my friends. They used outdated slang that no self-respecting real kid used. Heck, most of my friends barely used slang at all. The sidekicks were also respectful of all elders. Lets not even begin to go there.

Sometimes I wondered if Robin had to ask Batman’s permission to go to the little hero’s room.

I felt, I truly believed, if I ever got the chance to write teenage characters I’d at least try to make them appear as close to what I felt like as a teen. They would be real people first and super-heroes second. They would also be completely responsible for themselves. Why should super-heroes with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men have to answer to adult mentors? Not on my watch.

In the very late 1960s, shortly after we became semi-professional comic-book writers, Len Wein, my best friend and fellow writer, and I got the chance to write an issue of DC’s sidekick comic, THE TEEN TITANS. Though our ideas at the time outstripped our talent, we were determined to make these teen heroes act the same way we and our friends acted.

During the 1970s, I moved to Marvel Comics where I wrote and edited on a number of comics including Tomb of Dracula, The Man Called Nova, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. I also was assigned Marvel Two-In-One, a team-up comic featuring the FF’s Thing character and some other Marvel hero.

Now, if I didn’t like teen heroes, I absolutely hated writing team-up books. My forte, I believed, was developing characters, not writing one-shot adventures, and team-up books were all about solo stories. In 1980, when I decided to make the switch from Marvel to DC, I asked DC not to assign me to any team-up titles.

So naturally my first two DC assignments were THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD and WORLD’S FINEST, both single-story team-up books.

I knew the only way to get off these assignments was to come up with new titles to write. Because I had enjoyed working on the Titans I asked if there would be interest in reviving the long deceased title. The answer was no. The Powers That Be believed readers were so turned off by what had gone on during the previous incarnations of the title that they would never buy a new version.

Not the kind who ever took no for an answer, I began to come up with some new ideas. Rather than just redo the book, we would create a few new characters even as we juiced up some of our favorite old Titans.

I’m often asked how we came up with the New Titans. The answer is both simple and very complex. It is my belief that the best characters have strong, traumatic origins that you can constantly revisit and find new wrinkles to play with. Superman s origin echoed the biblical story of Moses. Doomed to die, an infant was sent by his parents on a journey to another land where he grew up to become a great hero. Batman watched as his parents died. Spider-Man let a burglar kill his favorite uncle and from that day on, his guilt motivated him to combat crime. These heroes were born of tragedy, and the trauma that created them continued to motivate them throughout their adventures. Psychologically speaking, we are what we were.

The New Titans would be created in the same way, and their origins would control their later actions. Starfire was an alien Princess whose weak-willed father, Myand’r (meander) sold her into slavery in order to save his planet from destruction. Ravens mother was an Earth woman raped by an interdimensional demon. In order to save Vic Stone’s life, his father had to turn his son into a living cyborg.

Are you sensing another pattern? The Titans’ origins all stemmed from parent/child differences. The theme for the Titans began and remained young versus old. Son and daughter versus father and mother. These universal conflicts, understood by all teens as they grow up and separate from their parents, could be revisited time and time again. I believe they gave the Titans a depth of character that had not, up to that time, been often seen in comics.

There was more. I believed the Titans themselves needed to be emotionally at odds with each other even while they needed to be friends. To facilitate this I set up two theoretical triangles, one for the male characters, one for the female. For example, put Wonder Girl at the top of the women’s triangle. Donna Troy came from an Amazon race who believed not only in peace, but were also warriors. On one corner of the triangle put Raven, whose interdimensional society were extreme pacifists who would never fight, not even to save their lives. On the other corner put in Starfire, who comes from a pure warrior culture. Three sides of the same coin, so to speak, with enough in common they could be friends, but with enough differences that would keep them at odds. This fundamental conflict, one hoped, would create good stories.

Also take a look at them emotionally: Raven was shy and introverted and found it difficult to confide in others. Starfire was outgoing and pure, lusty emotion. Wonder Girl, once again, was directly in the middle.

The same kind of triangle was created for the guys. Robin, later Nightwing, was the level-headed and capable leader who, because he was kept on a tight leash by Batman, often felt inadequate for the task at hand. He also had a need to prove himself to Batman. Because everyone in his life had died on him, Changeling believed he had very little to offer anyone and covered it up with an outward bravado. Cyborg was a logical scientist type who rejected that approach to become an angry young man. Nightwing’s logical approach to life and anger toward his “parent” was shared by Cyborg while his feelings of inadequacy were shared by Changeling. Cyborg and Changeling had also been physically altered by their parents, and that helped bring them together.

The characters were created so they would play off each other, but they were still only words on paper. They needed to have real life breathed into them. That happened when George P6rez came onto the scene.

I’d known George at Marvel and liked him. We’d fought early on when I was an editor and he was a newbie artist, but as time went on we became friends. George specialized in drawing group comics. The Avengers. The Fantastic Four. Et cetera. The more characters the merrier. George was also one of the very best storytellers among the younger artists. He would be the perfect artist to bring the Titans to life.

Like Starfire and Raven, George and I are similar but opposites. George is outgoing and gregarious while I’m rather quiet and introverted. Still, like our characters, we somehow clicked. I saw George up at Marvel one day and asked if he’d be interested in working on the new Titans comic. George was looking for something new to draw and figured that the Titans would only last a few issues, but it could be fun to draw.

You see, in 1980, DC was having a tough time selling comics. Most new books were cancelled after only six issues, so it wasn’t that far-fetched to believe the Titans would be a fun ride for a few months before once again going off into comic-book limbo.

Armed with George as artist, Len Wein, as editor, and I met with The Powers That Be and verbally pitched the new Titans idea. We talked about how this would be like no other Titans comic. It would be powerful. It would be fun. Who knows, it might even sell. We must have given a great pitch because we not only got the Titans comic but were asked to do a 16-page story that would be inserted free into another comic [DC COMICS PRESENTS #26].

George got started designing the characters. To say his designs were absolutely spot-on perfect would be to diminish George’s role. He made Kory, Vic, Raven and the original old Titans, Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and Beast Boy (modified to Changeling) into real people. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it:

There is no better artist partner in comics than George. Ask anyone who has worked with him.

Before issue one came out, when only the ads for the comic were starting to appear, we received a ton of mail complaining about these new Titans. Who were these characters? Get them out of the book! Bring back Gnarrk, the caveman Titan. After issue one came out, the very same readers wrote back swearing allegiance to the New Titans. George and I were ecstatic. NEW TEEN TITANS #1 sold through the roof. They liked us. They really liked us. But we still didn’t think the book would last.

Issue one sold well. Issue two didn’t sell as well. Three sold even poorer. Four worse. Five was in the dumper. Six… Well, with six we beat out the sales of issue number one and we never stopped climbing.

Note: To those of you who cancel comics with their second or third issue before they have a chance to find their audience, think about this.

The Titans became a surprise hit. George stayed on the book for almost five years, then he returned a few years later for another short run. I remained as writer for over sixteen years, which must be a record of some sort. But, at last, I ran out of stories I needed to tell, and sales started to decline, so I asked DC to let me off the book. We agreed to cancel THE NEW TITANS with my last issue.

I am very proud that I’ve been able to co-create so many characters that have resonated with so many readers, and I hope George and my Titans will be around for many generations of readers to come.

If you are not familiar with George and my early Titans stories, this special DC Archives collection, the very first to feature heroes not from the Golden or Silver Age of comics, is definitely for you. And a big thank-you for forking over the humongous bucks to see what the fuss was all about. If you have the original comics and just wanted to see them printed better than they’ve ever been before, then this book is also for you.

Whichever you are, I sincerely hope you enjoy the stories. George and I didn’t write and draw them to be stuck in Mylar snugs and later sold on the collectors’ market. We created these stories for people to read and enjoy as much as we loved writing and drawing them.

It’s almost 19 years later, and although there are more than a few of the nearly 250 Titans stories I wrote that I wish had never been printed, I still deeply love these characters. Here’s hoping you feel the same.

MARV WOLFMAN
November 7, 1998


George Pérez Looks Back

[From the New Teen Titans Archive, Volume 1]

Who woulda believed it? Nineteen years ago it had to be considered one of the most irrational professional decisions I had ever made. In fact, it was probably considered one of the more dubious decisions DC Comics had ever made. After all, THE NEW TEEN TITANS? Who woulda believed that series would succeed?

Certainly not me. For me it was just another job, a favor for Marv Wolfman and Len Wein, who had both just recently set up shop at DC. It was, I figured, merely going to be a six-month commitment – since the title could not possibly survive beyond that.

I was never so happy to be so wrong.

The book succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest hopes, launching a resurgence within DC Comics still being felt today. It also brought me the biggest success I had yet known. More than any other series before it, TITANS really helped me develop as a storyteller, thanks immeasurably to the generosity of Marv Wolfman, who encouraged me more and more to imbue the stories with my own personality as well as his, particularly since many of the characters, like Cyborg, Starfire and Raven, were being created from the ground up and their personalities developing organically
through the course of these first important issues. This creative freedom was liberating and would serve me so well in all my future work, most notably my first writing gig on WONDER WOMAN.

But it started with the Titans.

Looking back at these early stories, I remember when I knew this series was more than just a job, more than just a favor for a pair of friends. It was in issue #8 that I think Marv and I really nailed the specialness of the characters and the series. “A Day in the Lives.., was the story that galvanized the personalities for me, the point at which I felt they were dictating how I would draw them and how Marv would dialogue them. That’s when they truly came alive. It is so fitting that this volume builds up to that pivotal issue.

On a personal note, issue #8 will always have a special place in my heart for yet another reason: It was the issue I was drawing when I dated my future wife Carol for the first time.

Yeah, it seems that quite a lot of the best things in my life started with the Titans.

GEORGE Pérez
November 2, 1998

 


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