He’s a writer and creator who needs no introduction, and was a guest at this year’s London Film and Comic Con who I targeted like a heat seeking missile the moment I arrived. And, in-between signings and panels, I managed to grab a quick 10 minutes with Marv Wolfman, in which time I asked him about his work on the seminal series, The New Teen Titans, and the industry shaking maxi-series, Crisis On Infinite Earths. It was an honour and a pleasure speaking with him and one more off the bucket list of creators I’ve dreamed of meeting, let alone interviewing. It was the highlight of a weekend full of creator meetings.
Olly MacNamee: I’m going to unashamedly start by asking you about the inception of The New Teen Titans, the comic book that got me hooked on comics for life. Was it a question of you pitching it to DC, DC asking you, or even you asking George Perez?
Marv Wolfman: I wanted to get off a book that DC had assigned me to and proposed instead that I do the Teen Titans and create a whole new group. They weren’t too sure they wanted to do another Teen Titans book, but I eventually convinced them and started it, then ran into George (Perez) and asked him if he would be interested in working on it and he said, “Yes.”
OM: Had you any other artists in mind before George?
MW: No, I hadn’t given it much thought besides George. I really liked his artwork, we had become friends at Marvel and I really just wanted to work with him, and it worked out really well.
OM: That run had so many highpoints: Brother Blood, the return of the Doom Patrol, The Judas Contract; but what were the personal highlights for you?
MW: My intent was to create a family rather than a team up book and the fact that those group of characters, even to this day, are still a family proves that my time creating them correctly and creating their backstories, really did work.
OM: Yes. That one-off issue #8, early in the run, that really summed that feeling up for me. I really warmed to these characters even more in after issue. Did you know that you were onto something even then?
MW: Well, we knew that what we had set out to do was actually working. The idea of a family group rather than a team-up book was the first thing in my mind from Day One. A lot of the fans thought we were simply doing our version of the X-Men and I kept on saying, “No we’re not, we’re doing our version of The Fantastic Four,” which was a family. They were connected anyway. But, I wouldn’t just rip off FF. Our characters came from different places, and represented different genres. For example, Raven let us tell horror stories, while Starfire let us tell sci-fi stories. Cyborg allows us to tell stories about street level stuff and tech. But, I very quickly created an emotional link between the characters that helped them become family.
OM: Do you think maybe that’s why The Judas Contract story arc worked so well?
MW: Yes. You’ve really got to care about the group long before Terra arrives on the scene. It also played with comic book conventions too, because all the fans would have assumed that the Titans would make her good. Myself and George knew from Day One that she was never going to become good and that she would die. That was always in the plan two and half years before it even happened. When I came up with the basic concept and talked it out with George –we always talked stuff though like this–before we even introduced her, I knew what the character would be even before I had a name or had even given her a power. Then George and I worked out all the details together.
OM: What about other stand-out characters, like Brother Blood. I found this to be a genuinely creepy storyline, as it was intended to be. Was he your own allegorical commentary on organised religion maybe?
MW: I loved Brother Blood. He wasn’t about religion but rather the religious TV evangelists, which I don’t think are religious at all. It was a commentary on that, not organised religion, not real religion. These people trying to get your money and are preaching all this stuff and get their followers to believe they’re going to get cured and everything else. Brother Blood was a horror version of that.
OM; Thankfully, that was something we escaped in the UK at that time really. Now, I really must talk to you about your work on Crisis On Infinite Earths, like so many others before me. Was the weight of expectation upon you when you came to write this series?
MW: Well, when I pitched it to DC I knew up front, and they did too, how big this was going to be. But, no-one knew how well it would sell, or whether it would sell at all. It was a risk DC were willing to take, because my thoughts were that DC needed a lot of help at that time, and they did too. This was direction and a way to show the fans that this was a new DC. This wasn’t their moms’ and dads’ DC.
OM: And, how did you manage to keep track of all the characters you put into the dress? Spreadsheets, charts, tick lists or did you leave it up to George?
MW: A little bit of everything. George would throw in a lot of characters he wanted to draw into the background, which was great, because the idea was to show everybody how many DC characters DC had. Others were on my original list of characters I wanted to use–but The Flash was not on my list of characters I wanted to kill off, even though Supergirl was, because we knew we wanted Superman to be the sole remaining survivor of Krypton ahead of his relaunch (from himself and John Byrne in 1986)–and then others were recommended by DC, or other editors. A real mixture of everything.
OM: What other highlights are you proud of from your career so far?
MW: Something like Tomb of Dracula at Marvel, or Night Force at DC,which played against type. I came up with a different style of writing for me, for both these titles; a different way of doing a horror story. There are so many others, but those two pop off the top of my head immediately.
OM: And finally, are there anymore characters, genres, mediums, you’d really want to work with?
MW: Well, I started off as a comedy writer, and that’s why there was such humour in Titans and even Tomb of Dracula. I believe in mixing in humour because that’s what life is. I’d love to do more humour. There are characters I’d love to do more stories for, including my various Titan characters. I did a Raven mini-series the other year, for example. There are still plenty of things I’d love to do.