At long last, "Teen Titans: Games" is a go. Announced today as part of DC Comics' week long "DCU in 2010" marketing campaign, the highly-anticipated graphic novel from the original "New Teen Titans" creative team of writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Pérez will be arriving in the marketplace by year's end.
Originally conceived in the mid-eighties, the 120-page project has been announced and delayed several times over the past 25 years, but it appears that the superstars (and Starfire) have aligned and Wolfman and Pérez will be returning to the Teen Titans and revisiting the team at a time where their popularity was paramount.
The legendary Wolfman/Pérez run on "The New Teen Titans" began when the book launched in November, 1980. Shortly thereafter, it arguably became DC's most popular title. The then-new team of teens and prominent sidekicks featured Robin (Dick Grayson), Wonder Girl (Donna Troy), Kid Flash (Wally West), Changeling (a re-imagined Beast Boy from "Doom Patrol") and three new superheroes: Cyborg, Starfire and Raven.
In this exclusive first interview about the project, Wolfman told CBR News that "Teen Titans: Games" is set in DCU circa 1987 and should be considered for fans of the franchise as a lost tale from the Teen Titans' "classic" age.
CBR News: The first question is, I guess, an obvious one, but "Teen Titans: Games" was originally conceived 25 years ago. What took so long to get to today's announcement?
Marv Wolfman: It was a couple of things. We plotted it way back in 1987, and George drew approximately 80 pages. I think at that particular point, having come off – and George can tell you this a little bit better, because it's on his side – drawing the Titans for so long and being on time for all that time, when most people couldn't even do a book for a year, he had been on it for five or six years and he missed one issue in that entire time, and that was planned. It was actually #5. I think there was a Titan overload at that point, and this was a daunting task. When we started this – and this was going to be a hardcover book from Day 1 – no one had ever done anything like "Games." There hadn't been a 120-page graphic novel about a character or a set of characters of that sort. There had been books that had been 48 pages or 60 pages, period, but 120 pages was a daunting task – certainly back then. We've had some graphic novels that are that long and longer still, since. So to get back to your question, I think it was just a bit of Titans overload, and I think George was also beginning "Wonder Woman," so he really needed a break from the Titans.
Do you recall what your original high concept was when you pitched "Teen Titans: Games" to DC Comics?
Gosh, George might have better memories of this than I do. I know that I came in with the initial idea for the story, but that was just the initial idea. We actually worked it out together, and then George went off and plotted it. I was in the midst of a writer's block at the time, so I certainly understood George having a block, as well. And in order to get George right away, he broke down the story rather than have me do it. But near the end of our run on "Teen Titans," we generally talked it over in detail and then he'd go off and do it and I would do the dialoging, so it wasn't that far off from what we had done.
How it was suggested, I'm not sure. I think we were originally going to do [a graphic novel] that became a Donna Troy story. The second one that we had done, the origin, not the first - that was a five-parter, and when that one became part of the "Titans" run, we wanted to do another graphic novel. It was always my thought that we should do a long-form book, and I believe that George had the same feeling. I believe at the time that "Titans" was still DC's best-selling comic, and certainly the idea of having George, who had been off the "Titans" for a little bit - not that much, primarily because of "Crisis [on Infinite Earths]," and then "History of the DC Universe," which we did together - the idea of having us come back for a major size story, I think sounded very good to them.
Can you tell us about the story you and George are telling in "Teen Titans: Games?" And since it was conceived 25 years ago, has that story changed at all since its original concept?
George and I will be getting together fairly soon to work out the last number of pages, but we're still basing it all on the original story. The story was plotted way back when. The entire plot was pretty much done, but we're making some changes along the way. Now, 80 pages have been drawn. We have approximately 40 left, and what we want to do is heighten the emotion, heighten the storyline because obviously 22 years have passed, but we're not going to be changing it drastically. We just want to make sure that everything really works and makes complete sense and has the most emotion that we can get out of it at this particular point.
Continuity-wise, where does this story fit in?
It was plotted in '87, so it fits into the 1987 look of the Titans. Nightwing is in that costume, Danny Chase is in it. The costumes and the look of characters certainly fit there. Because I didn't dialogue it back then, I just plotted it, I'm not writing it in that very purple style that was prevalent back in the eighties. It's a lot more sparse copy, though there is a lot of it because you do have a book with so many characters and they're all talking, but I've certainly learned how to tell a story with fewer words that say more. But in terms of the material, the story is not changing all that much, but there will be some big surprises if people managed over the past 22 years to find a copy of the original plot, which was circulating online for a little bit.
It's all the regular Titans, obviously because the story was plotted back then. It's Troia, in that costume, Nightwing, Cyborg, Changeling, Danny Chase, Jericho, Starfire, and a number of others, but they're all there. This isn't a big surprise. What this really is, is the uncovered story that had been done at the height of the Titans. And except for the actual dialoguing, that's exactly what it is. Because, as I said, George drew 80 of the pages back then. One of the interesting things about the graphic novel itself is, in the old days – old days, I'm sorry – back in 1985 or ‘86 or '87, as in today where original artwork was 10x15. George drew this double-sized up. So when you look at it, I'm looking at a page right now on my computer, and the backgrounds are so incredible because he wasn't drawing them to the very tiny size that original art was much later. So George is really having a field day with his artwork. I always felt while he was drawing it that this was going to be very special for him. He was going to take his time and do it right. And when you see it, you'll understand what I mean, but the pages are probably the best looking "Titans" pages that ever happened between us.
As someone who's name is synonymous with so many of these characters, that must be very rewarding for you, as well.
Oh, it's amazing. It's a little scary because I hadn't dialogued and now I'm trying to, not get back into the characters, because I've always worked on "Titans" stories over the last 20 years anyway - I've done "Titans" in different formats, and I've done short "Titans" stories, etc., so I've never been that far from the characters - but to tell a story that started back then and do the emotion of the characters back then and such, is huge.
Basically, what the story is about is, how do I put this, because it's actually a fairly complex storyline... There is a Gamesmaster, the villain – all the villains, by the way, are brand-new for this book – but a Gamesmaster, who is setting up a specific game for a specific reason, and he has a number of players who are working with him, and the Titans are the focus but we don't why. What he's doing is targeting the Titans' lives because he knows all of the Titans' secrets, including who they are. So it's a chance for the Titans to be very emotional because their loved ones are in danger and this would have been, had it happened back then, a major gamechanger in terms of the cast, because certain characters don't make it, certain characters do. We're telling a very strong story. It really reaches into their lives, as opposed to a menace that is out there that they have to stop because of x, y and z. Here, it's about their friends, their loved ones, their relatives being targeted for reasons they don't know and we don't know until, of course, you read the story.
You've mentioned the height of the Titans a few times. Can you take us back to the eighties when it was the book?
Well, it certainly took people by surprise, because nobody expected it. George and I approached DC to do it. I had come up with the basics of the characters, and when George came in, which was very early in the run, the two of us modified what I had originally brought to DC and we made the assumption, because DC's sales weren't that strong back then, that the book would last about six issues. But we were going to do exactly the book that we wanted to do. We wanted to do something a little bit special, in that nobody was doing books at that time for the creators themselves, so we were going to do a book the way we thought a hero book should be. But DC had the reputation at the time to cancel books within six issues. We did not make the assumption that it was going to outlast that. We were just going to pour everything that we could into it and pretend that it was going to go on forever. And when it was cancelled, George would go onto "Justice League" and I would go on to probably more Superman stuff or something of that sort. So we and DC had absolutely no expectations in that it would do well.
When the first ad appeared, we got hate mail. It featured all these new characters – and this was just based on the ads. It featured Raven, Cyborg and Starfire on the cover with the previous Titans like Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash and Changeling, or Beast Boy as he was known previously and again.
But, we received all of this mail: "How dare you get rid of characters like whomever." And then the book came out and we started to get all of this praise, and the first issue sold through the roof, but the praise that we were getting was from the same people that were complaining about it previously because they liked the new characters and they immediately got into it. Sales for the book started enormous and, at the time, the way book were sold, especially on the newsstands, you wouldn't find out the sales for about nine months, but in the comic shops, of course, you found out about it early. But comic shops weren't big back then. There were very few. So, sales appeared to be going down and down and down, and then with #6, which was the first one that people could order pretty much after they saw the first issue, sales zoomed up and never stopped. So once they saw the book, they bought it and obviously, as you know, of the initial run, I did probably 250 issues all told between the original "Titans" book and then the off-shoots and, for a year or so, we were doing two "Titans" a month, all the annuals, all the specials, etc., so I did about 250 of them.
I just love the characters… even when the books and stories weren't really up to where they should have been.
Like you said, you later worked on the "Teen Titans" animated show and other projects, so you've really been working with them ever since.
Yes, everything. So, often DC was calling me to do a short "Titans" classic character's story, as they call them. I don't. I call them third generation, but most people consider them classic characters. So, I've been asked to do Raven stories, I've been asked to do some short Titan stories, I had done, like you said, the "Titans" cartoon show, so I haven't been that far removed from the characters but for the last couple of years. Except for a two-parter that I did with Geoff Johns in the "Titans" book, I hadn't done a lot. So coming back to it now, especially coming back to a specific time period in the Titans, as opposed to where it had evolved to, for a change, this is one of the best times I've had doing the Titans. It's just wonderful.
Do you have a favorite Titan, or is that like picking a favorite child?
I would love to say that it is like a favorite child, but my favorite is probably Raven. But I never featured her front and center. That's not the way you do it. I just thought that she had the most complex and probably best storylines in terms of who she is in comics. There is a lot of depth to it. There are a lot of layers to it with both Starfire and Raven. And Cyborg, as well, but Starfire certainly has an incredible, complex origin. Cyborg's origin, I wish I could play with it a little bit more. That's in terms of the characters that George and I created, of course.
In terms of characters that I wasn't entirely responsible for, I love writing Nightwing or Robin before that. Wonder Girl is a strange situation because the fact that everything everyone knows about Wonder Girl I did create, but like back in 1969. We did an origin of Wonder Girl in #22 of the original run of "Titans" and I wrote that. That's the one that named her, that's the one that gave her an origin, that's the one that gave her character. She was just a computer simulation, but the people who did the Titans didn't know that. And as a fan, that just drove me crazy, so I came in as a kid with this story and DC bought it. It was back-up to #22 of the original. So I love that character tremendously, and only half-created her because she existed but she didn't really. She was just Wonder Woman as a teenager and everything else was me at that point. All the regular characters that we know, are what they are because of what George and I did together.
Does one of your favorite characters play a major role in "Teen Titans: Games?"
No, it's very much an equal showing of all the characters. This was not about Raven and it's not about Nightwing and it's not about Donna. It's about the Titans because they are all being targeted.
It must be a huge thrill working with George again.
Oh, yes. We had done many of those short "Titans" stories, three, four pages that were featured in the other books over the years and of course, we did "Crisis" together after "Titans," and we did "History of the DC Universe" after "Titans." We also did some work at Disney together, behind the scenes, when I was the editor there, so George and I have always been friends and have worked together, but not to this extent certainly.
Are you working on anything else, DC or otherwise?
Well, I just did a couple issues of "Brave and Bold," and I've done a four-part Superman story that I'm really proud of. The fourth part is being drawn right now. I have no idea when it will be finished, and I have no idea where they are going to put it because it's a stand-alone story so it can go anywhere. It's not a part of continuity. It's a unique story, and I am incredibly proud of it. I finished my run on "Vigilante" and I'm doing "God of War" right now. And I'm also writing a number of video games.
Check back with CBR soon for an interview with George Pérez.