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Wizard #143: Teen Phenoms

An article by Richard Ho from Wizard #143 – August 2003:
Wizard files a scouting report on the new TEEN TITANS roster,
with help from our expert commentator, series writer, Geoff Johns.

Geoff Johns knows a thing or two about assembling winning teams. Having crafted championship runs on Avengers and JSA, DC’s ace scribe now turns his team-management expertise to the DCU’s new super-squad, Teen Titans, whose first issue debuts July 16.

Johns constructed his lineup with all the skill of a seasoned skipper. First, he signed some of the best young players in the game. Then, he enlisted some cagey veterans to whip the talented but unproven youngsters into shape. Finally, he recruited the steady hands of artist Mike McKone (Exiles) to help shape his collection of all-stars into a finely tuned, butt-kickin’ machine, capable of taking on and taking out the competition.

“Teen Titans is about teen heroes growing up together,” explains Johns. “They’re saving the world, and each other. I want to have a lot of character-driven stuff, but when the action comes down, it will be brutal. When we do our second arc with Brother Blood, it’s going to be JLA-big. They’re gonna kick ass!” Just how good can this team be? Wizard breaks out its A-game to predict exactly what each member will bring to the table. We analyze and evaluate the Titans’ roster, player by player – and we even go to Johns himself to get his expert take on the stars he drafted. This is one scouting report the competition would kill to get their hands on.


SPECIALTY: Keen detective skills, martial arts expertise

SCOUTING REPORT: Tim Drake burst into the big leagues by giving Batman a run for his money – when he successfully deduced his secret identity – so you know the kid’s got skills. And after honing that analytical noggin and fighting ability under the Dark Knight’s watchful eye, Robin is more prepared than ever to bring his game to the next level. He’s even taken after the Bat’s mysterious ways, confounding teammates by appearing and disappearing from the scene at his whim. With a deadly combo of brains and brawn, Robin’s considered the team’s best fighter and the most likely to keep cool under pressure. While those skills and experience make him the perfect leader – as he was with the former Young Justice team – he prefers to leave that role to older members, like Cyborg. But we gotta wonder if the Teen Wonder will wear the captain’s mantle before too long. Whether Robin likes it or not, the rest of the Titans, especially the younger ones, look to him when the going gets tough. Team chemistry is the key to the Titans’ success, and It starts at the top.

OUR EXPERTS SAY: “One of the most powerful members of the team – end yet, he’s still the guy that everybody underestimates,” notes Johns. “Straight-laced and serious.. .He’s got a lot of tricks up his sleeve.. .Probably the most well-adjusted member of the team… Doesn’t want to be the leader, but everybody looks up to him… Deep down, he thinks he has a better perspective on the world than Batman… He’ll grow Into his own type of hero, and it’ll be different than Batman, Superman and all the Icons that’ve gone before.”


SPECIALTY: Tactile telekinesis, super-strength and near invulnerability.

SCOUTING REPORT: Every team needs some muscle at the heart of the lineup, and the Titans pack some serious power wIth the teenage clone of Superman. The Cadmus Labs creation has come to understand and master his powers over the years, rapidly approaching the power levels of his legendary mentor. One thing that hasn’t changed is his youthful recklessness and fun-loving personality, all of which routinely lands him In trouble. But don’t make the mistake of underestimating Superboy’s intelligence – despite his seemingly bone-headed pursuit of good times and girls, he’s no dummy. He’s savvy enough to see that he’ll eventually be forced Into the role of Superman’s successor, whether he likes it or not. And those are some pretty big tights to fill. Still, he boasts a healthy belief In his ability to live up to that legacy. And let’s face It – he can be cocky, routinely challenging Robin’s leadership back in their Young Justice days. And then there’s his strained relationship with Wonder Girl, following the tragic events of Young Justice’s final adventure. Only time will tell how these dynamics will play out on the Titans.

OUR EXPERTS SAY: “In many ways, the main character of the book, at least at the beginning,” explains Johns. “He’s a big, strong, corn-fed guy, almost like a high school football player.. .Arrogance isn’t the right word – it’s confidence, bordering on arrogance.. ln his opinion, Superman Is too straight-laced.. .Believes he’ll be forced into the Superman role eventually… Gets bored easily, unless you anger him – and then, watch out!… Look for him to evolve, mature and grow up throughout the series.”


SPECIALTY: Super-speed

SCOUTING REPORT: Things are about to change for Impulse in a hurry. The teen speedster stands poised to bust out of his immature shell, and the first few months of his new stint as a member of the Teen Titans promise to be full of surprises. Bart Allen sped along the fast track to superhero stardom under the tutelage of Max Mercury, the Zen Master of Speed. Once he learned to control his hyperactive metabolism and super-short attention span, the grandson of the Silver Age Flash was able to use his control of the Speed Force in an ongoing battle against evil and boredom. Ironically, the fastest member of the team has also been the slowest to grow up. With a mile-a-minute mouth and a happy-go-lucky attitude, Bart never seems to take things seriously – and in turn, nobody seems to take him seriously. Even the current Flash – Bart’s cousin, Wally West – doesn’t believe that the young speedster is ready to shed his video game mentality and play with the big boys.

OUR EXPERTS SAY: “He’s not the quickest speedster in the world – he acts before he thinks, and he has to grow beyond that,” relates Johns. “No one really respects him right now.. .He’s a nice guy, but people don’t believe in him as much as he believes in everybody else.. .Cares more than anyone on the team.. Big changes are in store over the first four or five months… including some romance.


SPECIALTY: Flight, super-strength

SCOUTING REPORT: She may be the most inexperienced of all her former Young Justice mates, but if there’s anybody capable of coming out of nowhere to grab the spotlight with the Titans, it’s the tough-as-nails Cassie Sandsmark. With a fearless attitude and superpowers granted by the Olympian god Zeus, Wonder Girl is a younger, spunkier version of the hero she idolizes. And with the Titans, she’ll get another chance to start living up to those lofty expectations. The events leading up to the disbanding of Young Justice – most notably the death of Donna Troy – the original Wonder Girl and Cassie’s mentor – left the young heroine scarred and a bit lost. As a result, she’s reluctant to embrace the life of a hero again – at least in the beginning. It took a visit from Starfire (against the wishes of Wonder Woman) to get Wonder Girl back into the game. Now, she’s got a long road ahead of her – but lucky for her, she’s got some familiar faces at her side.

OUR EXPERTS SAY: “A tough girl, and next to Robin, she’s the best fighter on the team,” proclaims Johns. “She’s going to be more of a woman in this series, and less like a girl…She’ll have to go through the most to really accept being a Teen Titan… There’s going to be an outside force that starts to affect her, and she’ll have to either confront it or give in to it.”


SCOUTING REPORT: Every good team needs experience. Luckily, the Teen Titans boast a core of cagey vets that will be instrumental in the development of the next generation. It all starts with Cyborg, the cybernetic hero responsible for recruiting the new Titans. With his half-human/half-robot physiology, Victor Stone flashes impressive physical weapons that constantly evolve, along with computer-like intelligence that will come in handy as he oversees the Titans’ operations. And according to behind-the-scenes reports, Johns actually traded speedster Jesse Quick for Cyborg back when he was recruiting characters for his run on Flash!

Hailing from the doomed planet Tamaran, the warrior princess Starfire looks after the younger kids and tries to give them some much needed guidance. Since she grew up as a slave to galactic warmongers, Princess Koriand’r possesses a kindness and compassion that makes her the perfect role model. That is, except when she gets torqued on the battlefield; using her impressive strength, flight and energy bursts, Starfire can sometimes go berserk with bloodlust.

Gar Logan is probably closest to the younger Titans in terms of mentality, playing the middleman role that helps create a sense of team unity. But make no mistake – Beast Boy is not simply the team’s resident jokester. He’s been through some of the Titans’ toughest years, and his experience and ability to morph into any animal will be as invaluable to the new guys as his wisecracks.

OUR EXPERTS SAY: “Cyborg is the rock of the team.. .He accepts who he is, and he isn’t bitter about his situation,” says Johns. “He provides a solid foundation for the rest of the Titans.. Starfire was a slave as a kid, and that messes you up big time.. So when she’s threatened, she blows people away.. She’s trying to be an older sister to Wonder Girl and the rest of the Titans, and she’s the gentlest person you’ll ever meet, but when they go into battle, she goes psycho and scares the crap out of them.. Beast Boy bridges the gap between the two generations.. He’s got a great outlook on life, and he has fun doing what he does.. And yes, he hits on lots of chicks.”


SCOUTING REPORT: The Titans’ starting lineup is stocked from top to bottom – but even the best teams need a deep reserve of quality back-ups. New members are sure to join the Titans lineup in the near future – many of them straight out of the franchise’s storied past. First off the bench will be the empathic Raven, the half-demon demon daughter of the evil Trigon. Having worked with previous Titans teams In the past, Raven, who can sense the emotions of others, cause psychic feedback in her opponents and can split her “soul-self” into a separate entity, knows the score and will step right in without missing a beat.

OUR EXPERTS SAY: “Raven will appear towards the end of the first year She’s different from the other Titans, more of a rebel,” notes Johns. “Also,be on the lookout for other familiar faces, including Captain Marvel Jr., Hawk and Dove, a shocking “milestone” DC character.. .and that’s just the beginning!”


SCOUTING REPORT: Great teams are forged In the heat of battle against their fiercest competition – and given the powerhouses that are scheduled to challenge the Titans’ supremacy, we may be looking at one of the most legendary incarnations in the history of the franchise. Deathstroke, the super-powered mercenary and the Titans’ most bitter rival, will be first on the I fight card – expect him to have a lasting Impact on at least one Titan for a long time to come. Also, immortal cult-leader Brother Blood shows up after that to take a crack at unseating the team. And look for brand new enemies to establish themselves as worthy adversaries as the series marches on.

OUR EXPERTS SAY: “During the first three issues, fans might be a bit disappointed with Deathstroke and what he does, but as time goes by, they’ll eventually say, “Holy sh–! That’s why he’s doing what he’s doing!”‘ says Johns. “Of course, he’s got a big gun, and he’ll use it a lot, but look for some surprises!”


Think the Yankees have a rich team history? Check out the golden era of DC’s teen dynasty, the Teen Titans!

Although the team’s humble origins began in 1964’s Brave and the Bold (vol. 1) #54, it wouldn’t be until 1980 when the team would trump practically every title on the racks, including Uncanny X-Men. And it is that version of the team that writer Geoff Johns and artist Mike McKone looks to with their new Teen Titans series. “The Titans origins all stemmed from parent/child differences,” says acclaimed Titans writer Mart Wolfman. “The theme for the Titans began and remained young versus old. These universal concepts, understood by all teens as they grow up and separate from their parents, could be revisited time and time again. I believe they gave Titans a depth of character that had not, up to that time, been often seen in comics.”

Resurrected as The New Teen Titans, the co-plotting writer-artist duo of Wolfman and George Pérez (the team behind Crisis on Infinite Earths) reteamed Robin, Wonder Girl and Kid Flash with newcomers Changeling (now known as Beast Boy), Raven, Cyborg and Starfire. For the first five years focused on the awkward trials of teenage life, including identity issues, runaways, drug abuse, deadbeat dads, sex and relationships.

Perhaps the most memorable issue the team faced was betrayal. As almost a direct response to the X-Men’s introduction of cute and perky Kitty Pryde, Titans debuted the tempestuous Terra. Laced with tons of ‘tude, she shook the team up with biting sarcasm for over two years worth of issues. Just as Terra charmed her way into fans’ hearts, she threw the ultimate curveball by revealing herself a traitor in the infamous arc titled “The Judas Contract” (Tales of the Teen litans#41-#43, Annual#3). Working for Deathstroke, her job was to take down the Titans from within – and she nearly succeeded.

With the arrival of the 1990s, the book (then titled The New Titans) was cancelled, with subsequent relaunches failing to capture the magic that Wolfman and Pérez made memorable.

“The Titans became a surprise hit,” reminisces Wolfman. “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.” Thanks to Johns and McKone’s latest reboot, it appears Wolfman and Pérez’s Titans are going nowhere but back on top.


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