Team Titans Redux: Phil Jimenez Speaks
Phil Jimenez: Titans Fan to Titans Pro
[from The Titans Companion, 2005]
TTC: How did you get the job on Team Titans?
PJ: I had done the Terra origin in the first one, and then was doing some covers, then I did four issues of it. I think the idea was the book was dying, and they wanted to keep me as an artist on it, so having done sporadic issues throughout, I think they thought that once again – they being the editors – my similarities to George Pérez would help boost sales, so they put me on the book. When they approached me about it I didn’t want to do it, and then my friend who was a writer and I, we decided we wanted to play with it and saw it as a writing opportunity, so when I asked if I could write it, they said, “Yes.”
The unfortunate part of that was we had no idea that what they wanted was DC Comics’ X-Force. They, DC management at the time, saw Team Titans as this answer to Rob Liefeld’s X-Force, and what we wanted to do was something much more character-driven [and] self-aware, something more like Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. So from literally the first issue, it was a struggle editorially to the point that the book just fell apart on us completely, and a long-term story that we had planned got condensed to four issues. Then Zero Hour came along and undermined everything anyway. [laughs] So that’s the long-winded story about Team Titans.
TTC: Did you intend to draw all of the issues that you wrote?
PJ: Yeah. When we pitched it – and it was so strange [that] it was approved – we pitched it through issue fifty, the idea being that all these various Team Titans, who were indeed from another timeline, from another planet, they were scattered throughout our time [and] once a year we would visit a new team which would be somehow involved in the history of the creation of the DCU. The idea [was] that each of these Team Titans saw some important event throughout the timeline, and that they would all finally join together with issue fifty, and then the rest of the time we would focus on the development of our main characters as they adjusted to this life on Earth.
For example, we were going to reveal that Terra was that alternate Earth’s earth elemental. She was the Swamp Thing of this other Earth, but of course, that never panned out because Zero Hour came along and said that there were no multiple Earths, it was a single timeline, and that they were brainwashed by the villain Extant. So everything we planned to do, we were suddenly told we couldn’t do and that we had to wrap all those stories up within four issues. So basically, four years worth of stories we had to wrap up in four issues and get off the book and prep the characters to become the assassins Zero Hour needed them to be.
TTC: How did you and Jeff Jensen work together as authors?
PJ: We co-plotted stories together, and then he would handle some dialogue, I would handle some, and then we would merge our scripts and tweak them in the end. I was so frustrated by the editorial management of the book, though, that I was horrible to work with, I’m sure. Jeff was just trying to keep it afloat, but we were arguing at every turn with our editors. We would turn in plots, and they would rewrite them without us knowing, and then we would get pages back that were unlike anything we’d turned in, and it just continued to be more and more frustrating issue after issue. To Jeff’s credit, he was pretty amazing. I continued to fight with the editors so much that eventually I just quit the art chores on the book, I was so angry.
TTC: One of the things you didn’t get a chance to do during those issues is introduce all of the Team Titans that were stranded throughout time. You mentioned once in the letters page that you wanted to introduce all six hundred…
PJ: As I said, our plan was to do a story that took place over many years, and at least once a year we would be introduced to a new set of Titans. So our plan was to introduce quite a few of them, but like I said, we were told editorially that we couldn’t do that, that we had to wrap up that story, so we never had the chance to be introduced to all those characters.
TTC: Another thing that happened in the book was that the teams were restructured, and former Titans were brought in as field leaders. Do you remember that?
PJ: Unfortunately, I have no memory of that. It was a particularly unpleasant time, and creatively we were being told what to do, [so] I really don’t remember much of it, unfortunately.
TTC: So chances are, that wasn’t an idea that originated with you?
PJ: Honestly? I couldn’t tell you. It was a very frustrating time creatively because they were fighting us at every turn, so I’m not sure what was ours at that point [and] what was theirs. I really have no idea.
TTC: Did you gravitate to any of the characters more so than others?
PJ: Yeah, the girls, obviously. I’ve always liked female characters, so Mirage and Terra were great. Redwing, some. We had some great stuff that we wanted to do with Battalion. Neither of us were particularly fond of Kilowatt or the vampire, Nightrider, so we didn’t really care much about them, or what happened to them, but it didn’t really matter if we liked them or not because we were being told what to do with them.
TTC: In the letters page of the last issue, there was a joke about what would have happened had the story continued: it would’ve been a story involving Harlequin and New York City…
PJ: Oh, yes! That was a story that we wanted to tell.
TTC: What would it have been about?
PJ: If I remember correctly, it was a story where Harlequin – Duela Dent – got a hold of Time Commander’s hourglass and reshaped New York into the New York that she remembered from the Sixties comic book. But again, another story we weren’t able to tell because the editorial leaders didn’t want that, they wanted X-Force. They didn’t want anything funny or quirky, so we were never able to tell that story.
TTC: Your first opportunity to write Donna Troy was actually back when you were on Team Titans.
TTC: I take it you didn’t get the chance to do the things with her there that you would’ve liked to have done.
PJ: No, and plus we were forced to take her powers away. All that stuff – her becoming a Darkstar – was thrust on us. We had no choice, so not the direction I would’ve taken her in, but that’s what was dictated to us editorially.
Phil Jimenez talked online about TEAM TITANS [his original plans for the series]
Presented here are relevant excerpts from the chat. Enjoy!
PJ813 : About the Teamers.. I signed on to do a particular kind of self-aware, kitchy project…the higher ups wanted the new X-Force… …and everything we had planned got screwed up by ZERO HOUR… .none of which were particularly good for the team, DC Comics, or my career. We had originally intended to explore various things with the Team… Mirage’s psycho pregnancy; Killowat’s subtle racisms, the possibility that Terra was a lesbian earth elemental… Kole was Marv’s doing, not mine…and we had to explain her away…
N8TWING : Phil: Woah, there… explain Terra as a lesbian elemental…
PJ813 : In our original plan, the Team Titans were from an alternate time line and Terra was that time line’s Earth elemental and she was going to be a lesbian.
Drumrboy96 : Terra was in the closet??
PJ813 : No…just coming of age. Remember in those first issues I wrote how the Earth was trying to tell her something? No, not that she was a lesbian… but that she and the Teamers were on the wrong Earth.
Newschip : That’s fascinating, Phil (about Terra). Were there any plans for Prestor Jon? He seemed to be turning sinister at the end of the series
N8TWING : Phil: Also: Mirage’s pregnancy… did you mean phantom pregnancy? If not, what is psycho pregnancy?
PJ813 : I’m not sure what our Prestor plans were. Mirage was going to go nuts during her pregnancy, and try to shape change it out of exsistance and it would be invulnerable to that, and she’d eventually kill herself.
PJ813 : We were going to explore the Joker’s Daughter angle… we were going to find out that the Joker’s Daughter was insane… that her memories of the Titans (now non-continuity) were just ravings in her head. She was going to steal the Time Commander’s hourglass and reshape Manhattan into the island that she remembered, recreating a 70′s world of heroes, villains, and icons that the Titans would find themselves in.
PJ813 : Agreed. Mirage was never a favorite. But I found the drama of her after-rape period ripe with possibilities.
From the lettercol of TEAM TITANS #24:
“And speaking of the conflict between Mirage and Killowat, that plot line was one that should have been fleshed out a little more. Charlie’s stunning display of political incorrectness in issue #15 was to have been the beginning of an on going storyline that would have both tracked the disintegration of the Mirage-Killowat relationship and- get this-an ambitious effort to examine institutionalized racism within American society. Lucky for our editors and for you, that storyline was put on hold, as the changes dictated by Zero Hour altered the direction of this comic. And honestly, if it wasn’t Zero Hour, it would have been something-or someone else-that would have put an end to that storyline, if only because the way we would have approached it probably wouldn’t have been appropriate for a mainstream super-hero comic book. That’s not meant as a slight against our readership in any way, but a knock against ourselves for trying something we most likely couldn’t have pulled off.”
Next issue blurb for TEAM TITANS #24 [the final issue] seems like that aborted Harlequin plot idea Phil spoke of…hmmmm… .
NEXT ISSUE: It’s finally here-the comics epic that Titans fans have been clamoring for for years! Duela Dent is back-and she’s going to take full advantage of this pesky ZERO HOUR business (and the Time Commander’s hourglass) to transform the entire island of Manhattan into a zany copy of the world she remembers – a world of Star Wars, the Brady Bunch, and land sharks; of Village People, Donna Summer, and bell bottoms; of the Super Friends, Big Wheels, the Sex Pistols, and Afro Puffs – a world of the ’70s aplenty: disco is back and so is that queen of funk-the HARLEQUIN!
(giggle-just a little ZERO HOUR humor there, folks. Take care! See you in the funny papers!)
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.