BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
This April Judd Winick
is hoping to give comic fans a new reason to Remember the Titans! Taking the classic team from the Marv Wolfman/George Perez New Teen Titans
era, Winick is forging a whole new era for the heroes that most modern comic fans grew up reading in the '80s. Nightwing, Donna Troy, Starfire, Cyborg, Raven, Beast Boy, Changeling, Red Arrow and Flash reteam after a tragedy befalls a group of Titans that Cyborg was training. Most Titans fans can't wait to see the new series take form, so, to satisfy your curiosity, we've got Winick on hand to give us some inside information about these Titans getting Together!
Winick is a big fan of the Wolfman/Perez incarnation of the group. He grew up reading these adventures like a lot of us and the stories are still very fresh in his mind. He remembers the quite moments that made this more than a group of characters in costumes, just meeting to go bash the latest bad guys. One of the most memorable moments for Winick was in the pages of New Teen Titans # 39
, a story entitled "Crossroads," where Dick Grayson and Wally West gave up their costumed identities of Robin and Kid Flash.
"I really dug the issue where Dick and Wally quit, but they didn't actually
quit, which was interesting," Winick said. "Their costumes were empty on the cover, with gloves and belts hanging from the logo, and they were talking away. I thought, 'Dick's not going to be Robin?!' This was before we had comic book press like THE PULSE
. There was nothing to check or go into to hear rumors. It didn't exist. You had to stick on the story. Here he was giving up being Robin, but saying, 'I'm not leaving you. I just can't be Robin anymore.' I was really struck by that. He's giving up this persona that meant so much, but I was so hopeful realizing he would become another hero. How exciting was that?! It was such a bittersweet moment. You knew he was coming back as another hero, but you didn't see it coming at all. You didn't think about it. Then, sure enough, he did. Dick gave up being Robin for all the most human reasons and he had such a really hard time doing it. I liked how he asked Kory to help him take off his tunic. It clicked in my brain that it was so hard for him to do, because he would never put this costume on again. He meant it. That was rough, but it was so interesting."
Winick continued, "Right there for me is the epitome of the Wolfman/Perez run. Again, it's not like a fisticuffs thing -- it was just a character giving up a costume. He will still lead the team. He will still be a hero. But he gave up a costume and it was so moving. They created these characters set in bedrock both on a visual and written page. Perez, unlike anyone has ever been able to do since, created characters that were so visually specific that you could always tell who was who. At Donna Troy's Wedding [New Teen Titans
# 50], when Wally was standing next to Dick, you knew who each was -- they weren't Ken dolls with interchangeable hair. With these terrific characterizations, I think it's why we all come back to this group. The musical chairs of creation have finally stopped where I get to sit down and write the Titans."
Like Winick mentioned, one of the things that was so integral to the success of the New Teen Titans
was that readers knew these characters so intimately in and out of costume. Wolfman and Perez gave us several memorable Day in the Life type tales where we just saw them interacting outside of the "office," so to speak, and living their civilian lives. Winick said he has a few plans like that of his own, but the first won't be a Day in the Life, it will be more like a Night. "After the first arc, issue # 4, I have a story in my mind that is 'Date Night' that's totally not about superheroes," Winick said. "It's utterly about one of those night in the life type stories. I like that. Again, we're on the shoulders of giants and I mean that in a good way. With these characters, you can do stories just like that, which are not about saving the day or what not -- just about their lives, who they are, why they do this. The premise of the book is that it's not about a team, it's about a family."
"It gets boring for me too having no personal life shown," Winick continued. "I'm interested in being able to go both ways on it. It will be nice to take a break from the hero bit. Sometimes if you create an arc that's too big, you have to see it through to the end of six issues. For me, where I am right now, I'm less inclined and excited about that idea. I like to wrap up a story sooner and have moments where we can just breathe."
However, breathing easy is going to be tough, especially after the events of the recent Titans East
special where several young heroes Cyborg was training were massacred by a mysterious foe with a definite agenda against the Titans. The cover teased, "Who Will Die?" and the answer seemed to be "just about everyone." However it is that tragedy that leads to the original Titans return. "The Titans picks up where we left off many, many months ago," Winick said. "It's basically them dealing with the attack. They're facing an old villain we haven't seen in a long time. By the end of the arc, they decide they want to stay together ... not just as a team, but more like a family. There's no monitor duty. There's no meeting here every Saturday to take on whatever villain pops up. It's more about if Flash has a problem, his friends will come to his aid to help him close the case. From the jump, this is just about them getting together, because they are friends and enjoy each others company. They care about each other."
Although it's been a while since they were actually a team and a lot of these heroes have been through the wringer several times. Winick understands these characters in and out of costume. He gave THE PULSE
his thoughts on what makes each tick now, to whet appetites for the April debut of The Titans.
Winick began with Starfire, a character who used to be very naive and innocent, but who has seen some of the worst universes have to offer and come out stronger. "For so long she has been very much like Pollyanna," Winick said. "Now, it's a little unbelievable for her to be so wide-eyed and naive, especially after everything she's been through. That being said, there is a difference between being naive and being hopeful. She's a sweet person still. She's less a babe in the woods. I think it's more about how enormously hopeful, pleasant and sweet she is. That doesn't mean she hasn't seen horrible things and knows the worst in people. I think she's aware of all of that, but still hopes for the best. I like her being a little sweet and a little bit Pollyanna."
Also very sweet is Donna Troy. In the original New Teen Titans she was like the conscious and big sister of the group. She constantly checked on everyone and tried to make sure everyone was on the same page and doing well. Winick said that's not going to change much here. "She's still the big sister of the group," he said. "She's been put through the wringer in a big way, but I don't think it's changed her too much. She is the unspoken leader of the team. Nightwing is the quarterback calling the shots, but she's the coach there to help him call the plays as equals. Red Arrow, Wally, everyone there is really a seasoned pro. They don't take orders from anyone really, but they do defer to Dick to make it work. It's easier for them. That's the nature of their working relationship. Dick calls the shots, they follow. But I think of Donna as right there -- I see her as the equal."
Quarterback isn't a role that Nightwing minds with this group of heroes. "It's the delightful flip side of the Outsiders," Winick said. "One of my friends said I'd been writing Nightwing a long time without really being on the Nightwing book or having him appear too many times in my Batman run. Nightwing likes this. It's basically his call that they remain here and stick together. I think there's two places he likes being the most when he's in costume: fighting alongside these people or fighting alongside the Batman, even as much as they butt heads. Also, the way I see it, when he takes off the costume, he feels like spending time with these people. They know him completely inside and outside of the superhero game. Of course he likes being around them. He likes leading them."
Speaking of Red Arrow and for those curious, he is still in the Justice League. "This isn't a team," Winick said. "It's just him being with his friends. All of these heroes will keep doing what they are doing in their individual titles and other appearances. Beast Boy is still leading the Doom Patrol. Red Arrow is still with the Justice League. In fact we will probably do a JLA crossover at some point. We get to do fun things with this book. The Doom Patrol will be making an appearance too. We're trying to keep the fun here, even with the darkest stuff we come up with to put them against."
Those of you who loved the wise-cracking Gar Logan and thought he could pun with the best of them will be pleased to know that Winick doesn't plan on seriousing up the hero any time soon. "It's nice having an out and out smart ass here," He said. "You don't hear silly tags like someone saying it's out of character for him to do that. Gar can say any joking wise ass thing repeatedly. He gets to crack the jokes. I like him that way. But, that being said, the jokes are only as funny as the drama that will follow along with it. So we're going to get into his head a little more, which will be fun. He's not the kid anymore -- none of them are."
"There's an elephant in the room as far as chronology for all of comics that has been ignored," Winick continued. "We get a little bit of a blessing. Superman and Batman have been in their early '30s for 65 years. Dick Grayson was a child sidekick and now he's like 22. We all read the comics where he's a little boy fighting alongside the Batman and now he's like a senior in college yet Batman's still 34. But, this has allowed us, if the Teen Titans began when the heroes were all just teens and they are all in their early '20s now, to see them grow up from teenage sidekicks to young adults. Some of them have/had children, some of them have had relationships; they all have a true unadulterated history. These characters have truly known each other for years and grew up together."
Winick said Gar is still younger than the rest of the Titans, but he's not really the "kid" of the team. "He's done a lot of growing up. Different thing have happened to him -- to all of them. He's a real heavy hitter now, but so are the rest of them."
As for Gar's best bud, Victor Stone a.k.a. Cyborg, Winick joked, "It wouldn't be a book if you didn't blow Cyborg up at least once. But, I kind of got it out of the way now [in the pages of Titans East], so we can move on. For me, as a reader and a writer, I feel the tortured man of metal angle has been done to death. There's nothing new there for the moment. I'd like to get into other aspects of him and what makes him tick. He's not in the first arc much, because he got blown up, but with issue four or so, he's back up and around again."
Someone who's up and running, but not exactly as those who only read about her in the pages of the Wolfman/Perez Titans, is Raven. Winick was glad that her character had been changed before he got on board as the writer. "Someone took care of the heavy lifting for us," Winick said. "Raven worked at the time [New Teen Titans # 1], but she's a very hard character to write in a contemporary way. We'll take the update and run with that -- but we won't ignore what has happened before. She is still very much Raven, but with less of an other-worldly feel. I like her tough, without the Goth and scary. I don't think it's necessary .... She's a lot of fun and I enjoy writing her immensely. I like how she was revised."
Raven was revised due to one circumstance and Wally West was changed due to a very different one. His wife and children now affect just about everything that he does in or out of the Flash's costume. "Wally is a family man," Winick said. "He has a lot going on, but I'm glad we have him. We've seen how people around him seem to die, blow up, or be affected by the Speed Force this or that. I'm a little more interested in basically tackling how fun it is to BE Flash. For as serious as The Titans starts with people getting killed or squashed, I want this series to be fun -- a bit of a blast and entertaining."
"We're having a really good time working on this comic," Winick continued.
Those of you missing a certain purple-eyed original Titan are going to have to wait a while longer to see if Garth will make an appearance in these pages. Winick was tight-lipped about any other past or present Titans who might guest star. He said, "As far as anyone else appearing, those are storylines we will tackle a little bit later."