Talking Teen Titans with Felicia D. Henderson

Tue, July 21st, 2009 at 10:39am PDT | Updated: July 21st, 2009 at 10:42am

Comic Books
Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer

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"Teen Titans" #75 on sale in September

Felicia D. Henderson has a long history in storytelling as a writer on such hit TV shows as “Fringe,” “Gossip Girl” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

Not one to ease into something new, Henderson’s first major project in comics is coming on board as the new ongoing writer of “Teen Titans,” beginning with the super-sized #75 in September.

Henderson, who confirmed for CBR News that she has left “Fringe” to pursue this and other projects, is thrilled to be writing one of DC Comics’ flagship titles. In her first comics-related interview, Henderson also shared her love for core members of the team, why she can relate to Static, and how stalking a well-known DC executive helped get her a dream job.

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CBR: What can you tell us about the story you’re going to tell in your first arc of “Teen Titans?” Who’s the villain? Who are the key players?

FELICIA D. HENDERSON: What can I tell you? Well, not much because it’s changing even as I’m writing it and I’m writing it now. In fact, I should be writing now instead of talking to you. I have to go.

Joking, of course. Let’s see. In the first arc some characters will come, other characters will go, a villain will go on a terror that will wreak havoc on our team. Yes, I know I’m “Queen of Vague.”

What about the team itself? The cover of your first issue features Wonder Girl, Blue Beetle, Bombshell, Static, Miss Martian and Aquagirl. Will this be your lineup moving forward?

Some characters will come, other will go, a villain will go on a terror, blah, blah, blah. What I can tell you is that this is absolutely the line up for issues #75 and #76. Sorta.

Share a few thoughts about what you love about each of the members, or what you’re learning to love about them as your sink your teeth into this project.

What I love about the characters has as much to do with them as pieces of a whole as it does about them individually. In other words, each of them represents an opportunity to tell great stories by exploiting the complimentary attributes of each, good and bad.

I love Bombshell because she still feels like an outsider who has the ability to mix it up, and because some problems and like yours truly, she’s got attitude issues.

I love Wonder Girl because she has no idea how amazing she is and therefore is having this crisis of confidence, but still has to lead and make decisions that will change the team forever.

I have a soft spot for Blue Beetle because he comes from a background that made him have to be tough to survive way before he had to be tough to fight crime. I’m really looking forward to re-examining who he is and the challenges and pain, literally, of living in his skin.

Static is special because he’s the male version of me – Pasadena, California as my Dakota. I was this kid growing up, except for the whole big bang explosion-turns-you-into-a-super-hero-ability-to-harness-electromagnetism part.

Aqua Girl and Miss Martian are also cool because they represent some additional serious girl power. And present opportunities for romance not with each other, of course.

Is it difficult finding “screen time” for all the Teen Titans?

Not really. My television experience has almost always been writing for all types of ensembles, so it’s what I do best. That doesn’t mean that everyone gets equal screen in each story. In my opinion, that’s when stories can get into trouble, trying to service every character equally in every issue means that no one gets serviced adequately in any issue. You have to spread the main stories around the characters and issues. One issue or a several issue arc might have a strong Wonder Girl and Bombshell story with a supporting story for another character, etc., etc. Then, in future episodes or issues, you move on to other characters and give them their moment/arc to shine.

What do you think of the art by Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson? Have you even seen any pages yet?

I am like a kid waiting for Christmas morning and it just can’t get here fast enough. I still can’t believe that I’m involved in this, can’t wait for the art, in particular. To be penciled and inked by Joe and Jack is pretty much heaven. I love the “Teen Titans” art so much, to be able to work with artists whose work you already admire, it doesn’t get any better than that.

How did you coming on board as the new writer for “Teen Titans” come about? Were you already in discussions with DC about possible projects? Did they reach out to you?

I guess it’s better that I say it than someone say it about me, so here it is – I’m a stalker. I first met [DC Executive Editor] Dan DiDio about three years ago. He was going to be in Los Angeles and my former manager set me up with a meeting with him. I really wanted to write comic books. Dan graciously offered that we’d find something to work on together. I then graciously stalked him until that happened. I emailed or called him every couple of months for about three years. Finally, he called me to say he was going to be in L.A. and we should meet. We met, I begged, the rest is history.

Are you a long-time fan of the “Teen Titans” and comics in general?

I am a long time comic book fan. I was a sickly child, which meant lots of time on the Asthma inhaler and lots of time in the house while my brothers and sisters played outside. So I created my own alternate universe and comic books helped me do that. My sisters were reading Archies and I was reading “Batman” and coming up with ways the villains could take out my younger brother. Yes, I was dark even at ten years old.

Getting a chance to write “Teen Titans” is so cool because it combines my strengths in writing teens, my love of comics, my science background, and my sci-fi sensibilities. And I’ve always loved the idea of creating stories about where this realm meets the spiritual/mystical one. In other words, I’m in heaven.

Have you signed on for an unlimited run or do you know your end date?

It all happened so fast and with little time to think about or talk about it much. So I don’t know how long my run will be. As long as DC’s happy and I’m having fun, I’ll probably be around – unless you know something I don’t know.

You also have this other gig as a staff writer on “Fringe.” Do you have any worries coming in on balancing both assignments?

I know it will disappoint you immensely, but I don’t have that “other” gig any more. I love and admire the creative forces behind “Fringe,” but I’m also anxious to create my own shows again. It’s hard to do that when you’re working on such an intense show. I’m also about to direct a play that I wrote, I teach in the film school at UCLA, and am working on finishing my PhD, so I kind of have my hands full.

On the television/movie front, I’m developing a couple of new television series ideas and one of them is based on a DC book. That’s all I can say about it for now. I’m also developing a feature film based on “Girl Genius,” an independent comic that I love and can’t wait to turn into a movie.

What are the major differences between writing for comics and television? “Teen Titans” is your first comic assignment, correct?

The biggest difference between the two is that you can rely on dialogue in television and you have to rely on visual story telling in comics. In that way, comics are more like film, even more like silent film, which I love.

Also, because I’m so committed to doing a great job, the process is all-consuming for me now. Every page, every panel, every word of dialogue takes me forever because I take way too long to commit. This is my first full-length issue. To get my feet wet, I did a 10-page “Citizen Steel” story for the upcoming “Justice Society of America Annual” and that took me forever, too. But with “Teen Titans,” I’m on a serious time crunch so I won’t have the luxury of contemplating everything for so long.

Another difference is the intensity of weekly deadlines in television. You know you have to have an episode ready to go every week no matter what and that can be stressful, as well. Both mediums are very collaborative but the way the collaboration works is a little different. Breaking stories in a writers’ room surrounded by fellow writers means that television writing is never a lonely job. Also, there’s no better place to be than with other writers. I love the process.

"Teen Titans" #76 on sale in October

In my limited experience in comics, sure, you interact with your editors, but overall you’re on your own, just you and your laptop, hoping that your story is good, excited about it, yet dreading turning it in because you haven’t had the benefit of other writers tearing it apart. I mean other writers’ constructive input. Again, comics are kind of like feature films in that way.

You worked last season on a very dominant female character on “Fringe” in Olivia Dunham, played brilliantly by Anna Torv. Does she share any similarities with Cassie Sandsmark?

I never would’ve thought about how these two characters are alike, but now that you mention it, I realize how much they have in common. As I said earlier, Wonder Girl suffers from questioning her ability to lead. In some ways, Olivia Dunham has the same struggle. Both women are used to being the smartest one in the room and fighting how her gender could compromise her mission. Both women also have parental, lineage issues that contribute to the constant struggle to figure out where they fit in and how their pasts contributed to who they are today – two somewhat troubled super, amazing women searching to find themselves while doing the right thing at any cost.

Will you be tying-in to “Adventure Comics” at all what with the return of Superboy?

No. Unless Dan reads this interview, thinks it’s a good idea and sends one of those 3:00AM emails informing me about the new tie-in with “Adventure Comics” that I’m doing.

Thanks for this Felicia and again, welcome to comics.

Thanks so much for your time, Jeff. It’s cool doing my very first comics-related interview with you.

The super-sized, 40-page “Teen Titans” #75 written by Felicia D. Henderson with a “Ravager”co-feature written by Sean McKeever comes to comic stores September 30 from DC Comics.

TAGS:  felicia henderson, dc comics, teen titans, fringe

 
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