Johnny DC Gets Super-Sized with Three New Titles

Mon, February 11th, 2008 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer

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"Tiny Titans" #1 on sale this week
Last August at Wizard World Chicago, DC Comics Coordinating Editor Jann Jones announced the all ages' Johnny DC imprint would be buoyed by three new titles by top-level talents – "Tiny Titans" by Art Baltazar ("Patrick the Wolf Boy"), "Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam" by Mike Kunkel ("Herobear and the Kid") and "Super Friends" by Dr. Sholly Fisch ("Cartoon Network Action Pack") with rotating artists and all the covers by J. Bone ("Will Eisner's The Spirit").

With "Tiny Titans" the first out of the gate – issue #1 is set for release this week, February 13 – CBR News spoke with all three creators about the importance of all ages' comics and why they're so much fun to write.

Art Baltazar is a long-time fan of "Teen Titans" and says while his take on the team of sidekicks is kid-friendly, you certainly don't need to be a child to enjoy the book. "In fact, you can treat yourself even if you don't have kids," Baltazar remarked. "There are lots of references to the current Titans titles and characters. Some cameos by other DC characters, too.  So, if you're a long time Titans fan, you'll get the jokes just like the new fans just jumping on."

Don't believe him about cameos? Baltazar teased, "There's a member of the Justice League on page one of 'Tiny Titans' #1. Also, Barbara Gordon makes her first appearance in the first issue and she's wearing a cape."

"Super Friends" #1 on sale March 19
The stories are told in one to five-page short, funny stories, much like a newspaper comic strip, said Baltazar. "The book has a theme kinda running through each issue," he explained. "Like the Titans Treehouse is shown a few times and so is Sidekick City's Elementary School. We even get glimpses of the Batcave.

"They're kind of in their own Tiny Titans world, doing their own Tiny Titans things. Imagine the same Titans we all know and love, but really, really little. Each book is self contained and awesomely funny to read."

Baltazar also keeps busy as the artist of the critically acclaimed "Patrick the Wolf Boy," written by Franco Aureliani. "We may have a new trade coming out soon," said Baltazar. "I'm currently developing and writing stories for my characters 'Meteor Mite,' 'Li'l Nasty Wolf Junior,' a comic I call, 'Scratch" and a romantic Graphic Novel called 'Hot Alien Love Rocket.' Besides comics, I've been painting lots of paintings and trying to work the art gallery scene."

Based on the designs from the Mattel toy line, Dr. Sholly Fisch's "Super Friends" – which launches Wednesday, March 19 – is more geared to younger readers than "Tiny Titans." "In a world where there aren't nearly enough comics for kids, our goal is to make 'Super Friends' a series that hooks kids on the fun and excitement of comics and super heroes," explained Fisch, who is a noted developmental psychologist. "This is the one that inspires young kids to finish reading, wrap a towel/cape around their neck, and run around the house shouting, 'Up, up, and away!'

"Basically, the series builds on all of the things that make super heroes work for kids. The heroes are true icons – Superman, the Batman, Wonder Woman, and so on. The series doesn't take itself too seriously, so there's plenty of room for just plain fun. And most important, the heroes really are heroes – who do the right thing, just because it's the right thing to do. They help each other, and help people who need them, too.

"Tiny Titans" #2
"These aren't just the Super Friends; they're your Super Friends. And you can be their Super Friend too, by being a super friend to the people around you.

"To that end, one key to the series is to get kids as involved as possible. So, alongside the stories, every issue also features things like secret coded messages, puzzles, personalizable Super Friends membership certificates, cut-out finger puppets, etc., etc. And among its letters and kids' drawings, the letters page also features the 'Super Friend of the Month,' a real kid who's written in to tell us about something nice they did for someone else.

"So yes, the primary audience is young kids. But we've also been sticking in plenty of stuff to catch the eye of anyone who's old enough to remember things like talking gorillas and Cap's Hobby Hints. Essentially, it's for anyone who likes fun comics and who's still kind of a kid at heart."

Cap's Hobby Hints was a feature that ran in DC titles in the 1960s, in which kids could mail in their own hobby hints. If the hints were published, the lucky child would receive $5.00 and some original art from the book.

Like Baltazar, Fisch is a long-time fan of his source material. "Well, let me put it this way, when editor supreme Rachel Gluckstern first asked if I wanted to write 'Super Friends,' my answer was, 'Have I mentioned that, when I was five years old, the first comic book I ever bought was an issue of 'Justice League of America'? I'm having a blast writing this series."

"Super Friends" #2
The writer did tease that in classic "Challenge of the Super Friends" mode, there would be cameos a plenty in his book. "I've already written the first six issues and planned out the central ideas up through issue #12 or #13. I can tell you that the first six issues include classic JLA villains like Amazo, Felix Faust, and the Key, not to mention the Joker, Trickster, Prankster, Harley Quinn, and Punch and Jewelee teaming up as the Jesters' League of America. Plus, we've got dinosaurs running loose in Metropolis, super heroes turning into apes and did I mention that the Felix Faust issue has finger puppets?"

The finger puppet reference is in homage to the 1962 cover of "Justice League of America" #10.

Outside of comics, Fisch owns and operates an active business as an educational consultant and researcher for children's educational media. His current projects run the gamut from working on a few television series, to consulting with a group of experts in preschool math education at the National Academy of Science, to running a research study on what kids learn from the PBS series 'Cyberchase' and another international study for Sesame Workshop.

"Every once in a while, I manage to spend a few minutes with my wife and kids, too," joked Fisch."I always recommend that parents screen comics, just like any other media, to make sure they approve of the content before sharing them with their kids. As I tell parents, 'you're the best judge of what's right for your child."

"Tiny Titans" #3
As a developmental psychologist with more than twenty years' experience in educational media, Fisch is a big fan of anything that gets kids reading and that most certainly includes comics. "When I was growing up, my family had a running joke that if I knew anything that my parents didn't realize I knew, I probably read it in a comic book," explained Fisch. "I learned tons of stuff from comics, whether it was vocabulary – thank you, Hank McCoy – to obscure science facts – thank you, Gardner Fox. But even more so, superheroes have the potential to instill kids with important values like honesty, selflessness, kindness, and to inspire all of us to be better people. So we're trying to do some of that in 'Super Friends,' too. Not a bad goal to strive for, huh?"

The third new title for Johnny DC has yet to be solicited, but we know it's a new vision for Captain Marvel and it's the brainchild of Eisner Award-winning creator Mike Kunkel. "I can't say enough how excited I am about working on the new kids' line with Captain Marvel," said Kunkel. "It's a character I've loved since I was a kid, and I hope to bring a lot of new fun to the Universe of Shazam. There's a charm and appeal with these characters that is so enjoyable to tell stories with, and has always fit naturally with an all-ages audience. Plus, it gives me the license to yell Shazam whenever I want."

Kunkel won back-to-back Eisners in 2002 and 2003 for "Herobear and the Kid."

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