Exploring "Teen Titans: Year One" with Wolfram & Kerschl

Mon, November 12th, 2007 at 12:00am PST

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Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer

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"Teen Titans: Year One" #1 on sale in January, 2008

The Big Three of DC Universe sidekick lore are back and they're bringing a pocket-sized princess along for the ride as veteran TV writer Amy Wolfram ("Teen Titans") and rising star artist Karl Kerschl ("All-Flash," "Robin") are set to re-imagine the Teen Titans in January with the six-issue miniseries "Teen Titans: Year One."

"We are definitely going back to the old school Teen Titans," Amy Wolfram told CBR News.

"It's directly re-imagined from the old Nick Cardy book," added Karl Kerschl.

Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad -- the proteges of Batman, The Flash and Aquaman, respectively -- first teamed up in "The Brave and the Bold" #54 in July 1964 to defeat a weather-controlling villain known as Mr. Twister. The group of adolescent do-gooders officially became the Teen Titans when Donna Troy was specifically created to join the team as its first recruit in "The Brave and the Bold" #60 using the superhero identity of Wonder Girl.

"In terms of a re-imagining, I don't think we are doing anything terribly out of continuity but I think that is sort of beside the point," explained Kerschl. "I think we both have a pretty solid idea on who the characters are and who they are as people. That stuff, as long as it feels right, will ring true as an origin story for the characters that people know."

"We are still pretty true to the origins," Wolfram agreed. "If you go back to the origin of Wonder Girl, she has had several so it's impossible to stay in the continuity all of the time because there is no [single] continuity. There are several different ones. But we are staying, I think, fairly true to the characters and just updating their technology is the only really big change. They have the technology that kids today would have and they don't call her 'Wonder Chick.' So we try to update it a little bit."

Wolfram, who was a writer and story editor for the animated "Teen Titans" from 2003 to 2006, was originally contacted by DC editor Eddie Berganza for the project. Berganza was also responsible for teaming her with Kerschl.

Discussing her jump from TV to comics, Wolfram said, "I had done a lot of research with the comic books for the TV series but this is a new thing and a lot of these characters are brand new to me too, so that's a lot of fun."

Kerschl thinks Wolfram's TV history with the team definitely holds some influence with the book but admitted, "Neither of us is actually that familiar with what is going on in the 'Teen Titans' comic book right now so we are just really doing our own thing."

Their own thing is focused on the Teen Titans coming into their own, out from under the shadow of their mentors and learning to be more independent. "The mentors are sort of a looming shadow," explained Kerschl. "The cover is kind of literal. You will see lots of them in the first few issues."

"When we start off, the Titans are all very much alone," continued Wolfram. "They really didn't have anybody to relate to. But I think dealing with each other is a real refreshing change for them."

Wolfram joked, "I don't know what else we can say. I normally give interviews after things have aired. I am not sure."

"Everything we are doing for the first series is directly out of Teen Titans continuity," Kerschl teased. I don't know what else to say. I don't want to spoil anything. They definitely have a history with the villain. It will feel very new and different to people but at the same time, we are changing almost nothing. The costumes are all the same. The locations are pretty much the same. The situations are all the same, we are just spinning it in a different way. Some of those origin stories were kind of rushed. This re-tells it with a focus on the kids and their perspective on it. And how they are feeling and how they deal with stuff. It's the same story. It will be surprising and comfortable at the same time. What we are doing, if anything, is giving their origins more space to breathe."

That's definitely important when one of your lead characters can only live an hour at a time out of the water. "Aqualad certainly is a comic foil," said Kerschl. "But I think he is more that that. I am enjoying that character just because there is almost nothing to draw from. So I feel beholden to almost nothing in terms of his past. I think whether you like it or not, it's a pretty strong take on the character, at least, it solidifies his personality. He is extremely insecure. He is frightened all the time."

"For Aqualad, we don't know a whole lot about him except that he can't be out of the water for more than 60 minutes," added Wolfram. "He is basically a water creature and we get to see him being strong and pushing his own limits, which is kind of cool.

"We are hitting all the characters at that turning point where you go from being a teenager and being someone else's child or having someone else be your mentor to coming into your own. It's great to watch these characters get their confidence and try things for the first time and really push their boundaries."

The one character with the deepest pedigree for justice, certainly in the team's infancy, is Robin, the Boy Wonder. "Well, he has the coolest mentor," quipped Wolfram. "He has the most experience and he's done the most things and he had, for the most part, someone to train him to the job very well. The other ones may not have had that. But we are going back to the very beginning and a part of his journey is learning, who he is. Is he someone's sidekick, working alongside somebody or is he a leader?"

"He is the leader, but not by choice," said Kerschl. "It his nature to take charge but I certainly wouldn't say he is the most competent."

Traditionally in DC's team books, The Flash is the one delivering all the laugh-out-loud one-liners. But with Aqualad already announced as the team's resident jokester, Wolfram and Kerschl went back to another classic, for a re-imagination of sorts, to find room in the book for two funny men. And no, we aren't talking Harold and Kumar.

"[The Flash and Aqualad] kind of work together as a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern," explained Kerschl, citing Shakespeare's groundbreaking Abbott and Costello-style comedic duo. "Wally is a comedic character, but I think Kid Flash has a lot more going on with him then being an interesting comic foil. He has a brazen ego. He is probably the most confident."

Rounding out the team in "Teen Titans: Year One" is Donna Troy, a.k.a. Wonder Girl. "She's a girl first," explained Wolfram. "I think she is exploring this whole new world of everything; boys and life and this new culture, everything. She's very much fascinated by everything."

With this being "Year One," that means outside of Robin, the other characters Wolfram is most familiar with from the TV series -- Starfire, Cyborg, Raven and Beast Boy -- are not in play for this miniseries.

To the notion of a "Year Two" and beyond, Wolfram said, "Buy the book. They are definitely all cool characters and they have lots of stories that we could tell."

"If fan response is any indication, there are a lot of characters that people want to see," continued Kerschl. "Really popular characters from the 'Teen Titans' series that people want to see that you can't do in a Year One book. We can't do Cyborg and we can't do a lot of those Wolfman and Perez characters."

Marv Wolfman and George Perez were of coruse the creative team behind the highly successful 1980 re-launch, "The New Teen Titans." The roster featured Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Doom Patrol's Changeling (formerly Beast Boy), Starfire, Cyborg and Raven.

While she'd love to get her hands on some of her old TV pals, Wolfram said focusing on the original team gives her a new challenge as a writer. "That's why it is very interesting to me to go back to this original lineup because the only character I've ever really dealt with was Robin," explained Wolfram.

"Aqualad, I guess, we had in a few of our episodes and we had two episodes with Kid Flash, but really the lineup is completely new to me. And the dynamics are new so to see them at that age and just getting together and forming, there's a lot more stories that can be told down the line. But we are really enjoying going back to the beginning and exploring how they came to be how they are."

Despite working together from either side of the American continent, Kerschl and Wolfram have found the series to be a collaborative effort while both adapting to a creative partner from a different medium. "[Working with a TV writer] is a huge change," said Kerschl. "I have never been discouraged talking to the writers that I have worked with, but it's always: I get a script and go ask a couple of questions and I just draw it. We don't really work that way on this. Amy is probably used to working in writing rooms and bouncing ideas back and forth. This process has been much more organic than anything I have been accustomed to. We are on the phone frequently just talking about the story before anything is written down. And because we work that way and because we have had a lot of time to work on it, we can kind of organically alter things from earlier issues to things we may want to do later. Each story is sort of an evolution, which is sort of more like way writing for television works."

Wolfram concurred, "I am used to having my storyboard artists in the room and my directors in the room, which is not typical of all animation. That's just the way we did it [on "Teen Titans"]. And I can't imagine doing certain things without Karl's input because he has to be able to see it, to draw it.

"And also, he'll come back to me and say, 'I need more pages here' or 'I don't get this scene' or whatever, so it's better if he can come back to me and go over it or I can give him new dialogue and neither of us feels like we are working in a vacuum. I think it would be very difficult for me to just turn over pages. Not that I don't trust him but I just think that it's more organic if we can talk back and forth and really collaborate, which is what I like to do."

With the writers' strike currently on in Hollywood, Wolfram says we may see her name attached to more comic book projects. "We'll see, we'll see," Wolfram remarked. "I am really enjoying it. I am really enjoying the way that Karl and I work together and it's definitely something that I am having a good time with."

Asked to describe "Teen Titans: Year One" in one word, Kerschl responded, "It's all very formative but if I had to take a word to describe it, it would be 'awkward.' They are all in the awkward stages."

"And 'transition,' too," said Wolfram. "They are all trying to get out of their awkward stage, and they will someday."

"Teen Titans: Year One" #1 ships January 2, 2008.

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