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Titans and Johns Together!

Geoff Johns Talks Teen Titans
article by Alex Segura Jr.
coutesy of
posted May, 2003

As noted earlier, from the ashes of DC’s Graduation Day Titans/Young Justice, two new teams will spring to life. One will be the Judd Winick/Tom Raney Outsiders series, the other will sound a little more familiar to fans: Teen Titans.

The new series will team up writer Geoff Johns and penciller Mike McKone with a lineup that provides a mix of old and new. Wolfman/Pérez Titan members Starfire, Cyborg and Beast Boy will be joining forces with a few members of what used to be Young Justice: Superboy, Robin, Wonder Girl and Impulse.

Though sparse on details and protective of the new series, Newsarama managed to wrangle some information out of Johns. Let’s hear what he says.

Like those in Outsiders, the characters Johns will be handling in Teen Titans will be changed significantly by the events of Graduation Day, Johns says. “Speaking for the characters I’ll be working with in Teen Titans, they’ll be at a different place I suppose than where they are now,” Johns said. “That’s obvious. The real trick is where they’re going. This is the next step for many of these heroes, a step some are more eagerly willing to take than others. And a step some of them are ready for, and some aren’t. It’s a new look at the purpose of the Teen Titans and these handful of teenage heroes in general. Our goal is really make Teen Titans that one book you race out for Wednesday. That’s at the top of your reading pile, or the bottom if you’re saving the best book for last. It’s a comic that will celebrate young super-heroes, but also show the dangers involved with that. It’s a fun book, with an edge that should surprise a lot of people. We’re going for a somewhat realistic down-to-earth approach to the group.

“The basic concept – where do teenage heroes go to on the weekends to unwind, train and have fun? Titans Tower in San Francisco.”

Always a fan of the series and characters, being offered the chance to handle the writing chores on the book kicked Johns into hyperdrive, he says. “I’ve been a fan of the characters for quite some time,” Johns said. “When I was approached last year about taking on the Teen Titans my brain kicked into overdrive. I already had a few fairly major ideas I had always wanted to do with some of the characters, and the rest fell into place pretty quickly. The line-up, the direction, the goals for the book. The scenarios to put them in. I don’t shy away from super-heroes and I immediately felt ready to tackle the Titans head-on.”

Johns was kind enough to give a little background on who the Titans are, for those who’ve been living under a rock for the past thirty years. “The Teen Titans are a group of teenaged super-heroes trying to make their mark in the world,” Johns said. “Whether they’re there for reputation, friendship, redemption, they’re kids with a chance to really make a difference. The Titans are all about growing up together. Being in a place and within a group that won’t over-analyze every move they make, won’t make them totally self-conscious of the mentor’s shadow they’re leaping out of — or so they hope.

“The Teen Titans isn’t the JLA. They hang out together out of costume. They help each other through difficult personal times. They get on each other’s nerves. They argue. The laugh. They get in trouble. And most of all, they kick super-villain ass.”

When handed the title, it was up to Johns to decide the roster, he says. Having it match the upcoming cartoon’s lineup was a pleasant coincidence, Johns says. “It was a blank slate when I got involved,” Johns said. “I gravitated towards my favorite group of characters – Cyborg, Starfire, Beast Boy – while adding the new teenage heroes — Robin, Superboy, Impulse and Wonder Girl. There will be others showing up, but for the beginning I wanted a line-up that mirrored my favorite Titans line-up in a way. As I’ve said before, I was well aware of who was going to be on the Cartoon Network Show but in my mind, that was only a bonus. The more exposure for these characters and the Teen Titans in general, the better.”

A question that might pop up for fans is why in the world “adult” heroes like Starfire and Cyborg would take it upon themselves to train the next generation of Titans. The answers will come, grasshopper, says Johns. “That’s all pretty well explained in the first issue, and the first arc will revolve around your second question,” Johns said. “Will there be any bumps in the road between the old and new? There will be entire sections of the road missing. This is not an easy transition for these guys. Cyborg and Starfire aren’t used to giving orders or being remodels. Starfire is there to help, but even if she thinks she’s a role model – she’s not. She’s a warrior with a violent streak underneath. And though Cyborg has created the Titans Tower as a place teenage super-heroes can come and be themselves on the weekends – he’s missing the point a bit. He’s a little stern and cold, but that could be because of what’s been bothering him on his off-hours.”

Speaking of the youngsters, Johns gave Newsarama a quick rundown of what readers can look forward to in regards to the teen heroes:

Robin: “Tim is not the character you expect,” Johns said. “He is not always the guy everyone goes to and everyone opens up to or the guy who steps out of the shadows to save the day. He’s vital to the group in a completely different sense, and one I don’t want to give away too much. The simple fact is – Tim has a normal civilian life compared to any of the others. Superboy and Impulse have ‘false’ childhoods – Superboy being a clone and Impulse by-passing his childhood by aging quickly – while Wonder Girl’s identity is public. Tim’s more connected to the real world, and brings it to his fellow Titans. He’s also constantly surprising his fellow Titans, and not always in the best of ways.”

Wonder Girl: “Cassie’s public identity will be a problem,” Johns said. “Her relationship with adults another. She’s going to be under a lot of pressure over the next year for a variety of reasons, but Cassie is very good at dealing with pressure. Sometimes too good. This will get her noticed.”

Superboy: “He’ll be maturing a bit as all the Titans will,” Johns said. “Superboy will become a poster-child for what the Teen Titans are all about. I can’t say much more than that.”

Impulse: “Again, I can’t say much,” Johns said. “Impulse will be running alongside his fellow Titans as the ever-caring and fun-loving speedster.”

Based on the preview pages released to fans last week, it’s evident there will be some tension between the Titans, both young and old. While hesitant to get into details, Johns says things won’t be rosy over at Titans Tower. “I can’t touch on that tension,” Johns said. “But yes, they don’t just fly over to the Titans Tower. It won’t be that easy. There are all kinds of issues this group is going to have to deal with in the months to come. Although this is a generally an optimistic group, they’ll be forced to grab on and hold on to that for dear life.”

The Titans as a property have had their ups and downs in relation to critical acclaim and sales. The most obvious peak being the Wolfman/Pérez issues. While definitely a fan of that incarnation, Johns says the new book will not try to repeat what has gone before. “I was a big fan, that said we’re obviously looking at that for initial inspiration, but this will be a different book,” Johns said. “A different type of team book for the Titans. Marv and George did an incredible thing – they took a book everyone discounted and made it a huge success. You have to respect that. And looking back, introducing all of those characters and situations, it really is an amazing achievement. It’s one of the best runs of a super-hero team book in the history of teams. And, in my opinion, the new generation of teenage characters in the DCU are far and away the best teenage super-heroes around.”

Johns also says readers can expect to see a few familiar faces during the early part of his run. “Superman, Batman and some of the older heroes will stop by,” Johns said. “Raven will be appearing sometime, and there are plans for other Titans but nothing I want to talk about right now.”

Working with McKone has not only impressed Johns, but made him work harder himself. “Seeing Mike’s pages makes me work harder,” Johns said. “The detail and energy and passion he has put into this book is nothing short of spectacular. He’s already halfway through issue #3, I’m working on issue #4, and I couldn’t be happier with how this book is turning out. I hope we continue to work together as well as we have so far because after this book launches everyone will be after him – but Titans has him! We’re having a ball. And his Cyborg…damn, his Cyborg is so incredibly cool.”

Johns’ goal with the book is simple: Get people’s attention. “Several members of the team have never been involved with the Teen Titans,” Johns said. “They’re being introduced to a group that, really, they aren’t sure how it’s going to work. My goal is to create a book that holds up as well as the Wolfman/Pérez Titans hold up today.

“We’re going to get people to sit up and take notice of the Teen Titans. It’s not going to be a book laced with pop-culture references that will date it in three months, it’s not going to be a book that just puts these heroes together and falsely creates friction or adventure. We’re working hard on completely re-defining these characters and the whole concept of the Teen Titans and, quite frankly, the DC team book in general.”

As for the first arc, remember who played a major role in the first adventure of the Wolfman/Pérez team? “The first arc is called ‘A Kid’s Game,'” Johns said. “With Deathstroke. That’s all I’ll say.”

The book isn’t just one of many series featuring the Titans, Johns says. This is history in the making. “It isn’t just an essential part of the Titans’ story, it’s Titans history,” Johns said. “Everyone involved is working incredibly hard, and with a huge amount of passion. I believe all of our passion will come through on the page. The Teen Titans deserve it.”


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