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The Cotton Club: Towering Titans

By Mike Cotton
courtesy of
July 2003

JSA, Flash and Hawkman writer Geoff Johns tackles the Teen Titans this June and says the teen super team is here to stay.

MIKE COTTON: Did you grow up a fan of the Teen Titans?

GEOFF JOHNS: I was always a fan of the characters. But I never read the book until later.

COTTON: What Teen Titans stand out in your mind as classic tales? JOHNS: Oh, ‘The Judas Contract.’ That’s a great story. I think it resonates with fans because of the characters interaction and growth. They literally change and grow: Robin becomes Nightwing. New Titans show up. Titans betray each other. They all transform. That’s why that arc is so important to the Titans and to fans. You saw changes that stayed. And it was just fun to read. That’s the thing about Titans, these characters are kids, they have to change and evolve. As an adult, from 29 to 30 there’s not much of a change. But from 14 to 15? There’s a huge change. And that has to be reflected. And it doesn’t mean that Tim Drake will be Batman Jr. in a year but he will change and it’s also about how these character change each other.

COTTON: So, how did you get approached for the series?

JOHNS: I got approached about a year ago, I think it was the last Wonder Con. DC asked if I had any interest in Teen Titans and I told them it all depended on the line up. It had to have teenagers in it. But I was very interested right away. I said, “This is what I want to do with Superboy?, this is what I want to do with Robin?, this is what I want to do with Wonder Girl? this is what I want to do with Impulse.” I knew what I wanted to do with the four core characters. I’m a fan of those characters and I already had ideas for most of them. [And DC] gave me a lot of free reign to interpret these characters. And then we added in some of the older characters like Beast Boy, Cyborg and Starfire. But immediately, when they approached me it wasn’t if I was going to do this, it was how was I going to do this.

COTTON: Were there any character you didn’t think you’d like using at first?

JOHNS: The new Wonder Girl-it wasn’t that I didn’t like her, but I didn’t understand her. But now that I’ve started writing her and plotting these issues, figuring out what to do with her, she’s become one of my favorite character in the book. Especially with Mike McKone drawing it. He makes all these teenagers look like real teenagers, and they all look different. And the cover to issue #3, Wonder Girl’s the star and it’s just amazing.

COTTON: Yeah, it looks like McKone’s at the top of his game.

JOHNS: Mike is insane. He doesn’t even know how good he is right now. I mean, he’s always been fantastic, but he made an amazing jump up-a huge jump up. He brings such an enthusiasm to this book. He loves the characters. And his Deathstroke the Terminator is bad ass-just wait until you see that. I don’t know many other artists in the business who can pull off what he does with these characters. He makes them all look different. Even if everyone’s in silhouette and out of costume, you can tell who they are. That’s an amazing feat. He does Titans Tower to San Francisco to every animal that Beast Boy is so well. I just got pages in of Beast Boy as a Rhino and it’s fantastic.

COTTON: What’s the mission of this book?

JOHNS: The first mission of the book is to make the Teen Titans relevant in the DCU again because they haven’t been teenagers in a long, long time. We have to go back to what Teen Titans was supposed to be about-teen superheroes within the DC Universe, how they grow up, respond and react. Also, how they perceive each other and how they perceive everyone else. We’re trying to take a modern day look but still have fun. We’ll have them go out and make mistakes and have fun but at the same time, we want this book to have an edge to it and consequences. There will be some serious stuff. They’ll go through some hard times, but at the same time, they’re teens, so they’re more optimistic and they’re not jaded.
They’re more exuberant and they bounce back quicker than adult heroes do.

COTTON: Why are the Titans important to the DC Universe?

JOHNS: The DC Universe has always been a very generational universe from the time of the Silver Age. We see a lot of characters that are adult versions of other adults. And sidekicks have always been a mainstay of the universe, much more than anyone else. And teenage superheroes, with the Legion and original Titans, have always played a role in the universe. Titans is a huge piece of what the DC Universe represents-it’s fun. It’s a fun fantasy world to venture into every week and the Teen Titans should be a cornerstone of that world.”

COTTON: Who’s the leader of this new team?

JOHNS: It depends on who you ask. Right now, there’s no clear-cut leader. People think they’re leaders but that all remains to be seen. We’re really waiting to see who steps up, who takes charge over time. When the team is announced people are like, ‘What the hell are Starfire and Cyborg doing in there?’ Well, we’re not just throwing them in there. Their presence will be a focus of the first arc and we’ll find out exactly what they are doing there. That issue is main to the first arc. They’re in their early 20s, they’ve been Teen Titans, they’re grown up now, so why are they there? Are they there as mentors? And there’s also this friction between the older Titans, who’ve never been in the leadership role and the younger Titans who sure as hell don’t want to be told what to do. That’s a big source of conflict in the first arc.”

COTTON: What’s the first arc about?

JOHNS: The first story arc is basically that someone thinks it’s a bad idea for kids to wear costumes and he’s going to let the Titans know that in a big, big way-that’s Deathstroke the Terminator. And there will be other classic Titan’s villains. Everyone else is talking about Brother Blood-he’s on the way. That’s a big one. He’ll be showing up in the second arc. The first six issues are one arc, and the next six issues will form the next arc. Both Brother Blood and Deathstroke are classic villains we’ll be using, but after that we’ll be using some new villains who haven’t fought the Titans before but have fought the individual members. But really we want to try to rebuild the rogue’s gallery and that takes adding some new guys.

COTTON: You’ve become known for making the Flash’s villains cool again. Do you plan to do the same with the Titans’ rogues?

JOHNS: I’m trying to make the [Titans villains] relevant to the Titans again. There’s a big twist to Brother Blood that no one knows about that will really make him relevant to the Titans again. The same with Deathstroke, he’s a mainstay with the Titans. We want to make sure that if the villains you see fighting the Titans were fighting the JLA it would make no sense. It would make no sense if they fought the JSA or the Metal Men. They have to be a Titans’ villain and it only makes sense for the Titans to fight them.

COTTON: Will other DC Universe teams be showing up?

JOHNS: Yeah, there’s going to be a pretty big reason for the JLA to become involved in a little while. It’s a fairly big reason too. But I don’t want to say much more than that.

COTTON: Any characters you’ve already decided will never show up in this series?

JOHNS: Never say “never.”

Mike Cotton is a staff writer for Wizard Magazine. For all the comic book news fit to print, check out Wizard on sale every month at comic book specialty shops and newsstands everywhere.


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