J. Torres at Home with "Family Dynamic"

Thu, February 14th, 2008 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer

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EXCLUSIVE: "Family Dynamic" #1 cover by Tim Levins
This June, DC Comics launches "Family Dynamic," a six-issue, monthly miniseries with art by Tim Levins ("Batman: Gotham Adventures") and words by J. Torres, the fan favorite writer of "Teen Titans Go!" and "Wonder Girl," who knows a thing or two about families. The Toronto-based, Manila, Philippines-born Torres has a younger sister and brother and is also very close to his numerous cousins. The writer told CBR News this alone gives him loads of personal experience to call upon for source material.

"Everyone has kids, so yeah, we have a big family," said Torres. "It's also a quite multi-cultural family and we get some of that in 'Family Dynamic' too."

But unlike the Torres bunch, the titular family explored in "Family Dynamic," the Spencers, has superpowers – fuelled by power rings – and secret identities. "Keeping those secret identities intact is one of the many dilemmas the family faces in the story," said Torres. "They also butt heads over secrets they've kept from each other, and that adds to the drama. When our story opens, the new Family Dynamic has only been in business for about a year, so they're still learning."

Albeit perhaps not the traditional nuclear or even super-nuclear family, the Spencers are elemental – quite literally. "Sloan, a.k.a. Pyralis, is the father, fire elemental and leader of the team," said Torres. "Gina, a.k.a. Sirocco, is the mom and air elemental. Luca, a.k.a. Troylus, is the eldest son and water elemental. Gio, a.k.a. Terran, is the baby of the family and the earth elemental. Sam, Sloan's father, along with his mother and two uncles (all three now deceased) were the first Family Dynamic from the 1960s. Sloan also has a sister named Maeve and niece Makenzie who eventually get into the superhero game with them. Sloan's niece Makenzie, named after one of my nieces, is Korean. Her background is partly inspired by DC editor Jann Jones who is Korean-born but adopted by an American family. My wife is Korean too, by the way, so she's another inspiration for the character. Gina is Italian and Sloan is half-Greek, so that makes their kids, what, three-quarters Greco-Roman? They're like the kids in my family who are mixes of Filipino, Korean, Spanish, Italian, Polish, and French-Canadian."

"In the first issue, we meet a fellow by the name of Defender who hails from a nearby city, just across the border," teased Torres. "There are other superheroes in the area, as well as in the Dynamics' past, who we'll hear about throughout the story.

"This evil being known as the Dark Wraith has been haunting the Dynamics since the 1960s and is responsible for the deaths of Sam's three team members," Torres further revealed. "Sloan's family becomes the new team in order to save Sam from the Dark Wraith who seems to keep coming back wanting to finish the job he started."

"Family Dynamic" will feature some super friends and the pre-requisite arch nemesis, but unlike other familial superhero tales such as "Runaways" and its tie-ins to Marvel Universe, "Family Dynamic" is set outside regular DCU continuity. "We were given the option of setting our story in the DCU but opted to make this our own world like 'Astro City,'" Torres said. "But who knows? If this does well enough, maybe the next miniseries will involve a team up with the Marvels or Batman Family."

Torres said like other popular family stories in both comics and other media, "Family Dynamic," in some aspects anyways, won't be re-inventing the wheel. "Well, much like 'The Incredibles' or 'Astro City,' we're definitely playing with certain archetypes but we're putting our own twists on things," explained Torres. "We're pretty much putting everything we love about superhero comics into this, including the family team aspect, colorful villains whose origins are connected to the heroes, magical power rings, high tech gadgets and secret lairs and all that fun stuff."

If truth be told, when Torres saw Pixar's "The Incredibles" in 2004, it almost killed his long gestating idea for a superhero family. "I remember having the idea before 'The Incredibles' movie came out, being disheartened when I heard what that movie was about, shelving the idea, seeing the movie and loving it, being inspired by the movie to dust off the idea and make it different, then shelving it again because I didn't know what to do with it," said Torres. "Finally, I mentioned it to [DCU Executive Editor] Dan Didio about a year ago, and here we are now."

While not family, Torres is teaming with one of his oldest pals on "Family Dynamic," artist Tim Levins. "Tim and I go way back. We first met in our senior year of high school, and started working on a comic called 'Copybook Tales' while we were in college," said Torres. "This is our third project together, but the first in many moons. So, as far as the collaboration is concerned, it's like jamming with an old band mate. He's been a great sounding board for my ideas, both design-wise and narratively speaking, and he's contributed to the backstory as well and helped me synthesize a lot of character and plot elements. He's not 'just a penciller' on this project, he's a co-creator. Visually, he's very much influenced by Bruce Timm and Mike Wieringo among others in that clean, simple, animation-inspired style that I love, so the series will have that look to it."

Not necessarily a Johnny DC or "all-ages" book in the traditional sense, Torres said "Family Dynamic" will hopefully have a broad appeal for readers both young and old. "The Johnny DC brand is going through some changes and I'm not sure I'm qualified to elaborate on that, but if you look at recent issues of books from that line, you'll see a different trade dress," offered Torres. "Plus, I'm sure you've heard about the new titles they've got coming up like Mike Kunkel's 'Shazam' project.

"DC's trying something different and 'Family Dynamic' is part of that. When Dan and I first discussed the book, he told me he wanted something 'all-ages.' I asked if he meant all-ages like 'Teen Titans Go,' and he said no, 'all-ages like Superman.'

"So regardless of what's going on with the Johnny DC line, our book is going to have sensibilities closer to 'Teen Titans: Year One' than 'Teen Titans Go.' I hope everyone checks it out."

Though nothing is planned yet, Torres hopes after six issues, readers will be clamoring for more "Family Dynamic." "Hopefully, it does well enough that we can do a Season 2," said Torres.

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