It began in 1980 when DC editor Len Wein and I first approached DC COMICS Publisher, Jenette Kahn, to revive an old DC title called The Teen Titans. There had already been two different versions of the book with the original dating back to the early 60s. Because I was at Marvel Comics at the time, I hadn’t really read much of the second 1970s series, but I enjoyed those early Bob Haney/Nick Cardy stories as I was growing up. They were silly, often campy, but there were a number of fun stories as well. The original series featured the teen sidekicks of DCs older super-heroes. Instead of Flash, there was Kid Flash. Instead of Batman, there was Robin, etc. In many ways this was DCs Junior Justice League.

But there was a problem. Instead of Wonder Woman there was Wonder Girl. Only, unlike Robin, Kid Flash, Speedy and Aqualad, there never was a Wonder Girl in DC continuity. Not a real Wonder Girl at any rate. There was a character in the Wonder Woman comic called Wonder Girl, but, according to the comics at the time, she was actually a computer simulation of Wonder Woman as a girl and not a separate character at all. But back then writers and editors might not have read all the DC Comics, or they may have elected to ignore the fact that this Wonder Girl didn't exist, so they put her into the Titans, and, as a fan, I kept thinking something had to be done. We couldn’t have a ‘fake’ hero fighting alongside all those ‘real’ characters.

So I, a fledgling writer to say the least, pitched the idea of writing an origin of a ‘real’ Wonder Girl story to then editor, Dick Giordano, and somehow he must not have been paying attention because he actually bought it. I went about the task of creating an origin to explain this character who didn't exist. This Wonder Girl couldn't be a young Wonder Woman as a girl but had to be her own person. The story explained that Wonder Woman found a baby girl in a burning building, and, after trying to find her parents or any relative, brought her to the Amazon’s Paradise Island where she was raised as an adopted sister. She was given the name Donna Troy, based partially on Wonder Woman’s name, Diana, as well as Helen of Troy. The story was drawn by artist Gil Kane, with whom I would do a lot of work with later on, and inked by the incredible Nick Cardy. Needless to say, it looked beautiful.

I gravitated from DC to Warren Magazines where I became editor of Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. From there I was hired to become an editor at Marvel Comics and eventually became Editor-in-Chief. While at Marvel, I created a number of characters (more than 70, actually), including Blade, the Vampire Hunter, Bullseye and Black Cat. Years passed, and for various reasons I decided it was time to return to DC.

Upon returning to DC I asked management for only one consideration: I did NOT write any team-up books. After writing Marvel Two-In-One for two years, I realized I hated team-up books. It was impossible to keep coming up with stories that plausibly put two characters together. So, naturally, I was immediately assigned DC Comics Presents and The Brave And The Bold, both DC team-up comics.

I had to get off these fast. Somehow I conned… I mean convinced DC to put me on Superman. That got rid of one of the dreaded team-up titles. But for the second I knew that instead of taking over a pre-existing book I’d have to come up with something on my own to replace it.

I mentioned to DC Editor Len Wein, that I was interested in re-inventing the Titans as my other new book. In the early days, as we were breaking into comics, He and I had co-written a Teen Titans story – number 18 - which featured a Russian super-hero named Starfire – therefore I knew he would be in favor of reviving the title. I had already come up with some ideas and characters (click here to see my initial ideas), so we marched into Jenette’s office and said we wanted to revive the title with me as writer and Len as the editor.

Jenette had disliked the short-lived second series and asked why we would want to revive something that obviously no one cared about. In our youthful arrogance we said “We’ll do it better.” Jenette thought about it, thought about us, and said, “Okay.” That was it. She took our word that we’d do it better. There was no written proposal, no year-long wait until somebody made up their minds. She understood we wanted to do a book and she approved it, just like that. If only it was that easy these days.

So I went home and began the actual task of creating the characters and situations. Although I’d been in the business for awhile, I learned most of my actual craft writing a Marvel comic called The Tomb of Dracula. If you’ve never seen it, look for the recently published Marvel Essentials reprint. While writing TOD, I learned how to pace stories, create characters, juggle many different plots and sub-plots, and to find ways to keep readers interested in my characters. I designed The New Teen Titans, as we were going to call it, with all that in mind.

But a comic, no matter how well it’s written, is only as good as the art. Although I’d been his editor, as a writer I had worked very briefly with George Perez at Marvel. His early work showed a great sense for story-telling, which is more crucial to comics than beautiful illustration. With regular work, George’s actual draftsmanship improved at a staggering pace. By 1979, only a very few years after he began, he was already one of the very best artists in the business.

I saw George one day at the Marvel offices, told him I was starting to work on the Titans, and asked if he’d like to draw it. George actually wanted to draw the Justice League of America, but he saw the Titans as a way of beginning to work at DC. And since the two of us got along well, he agreed and immediately began designing the characters. George and I also believed though we were going to do our very best, the book would probably last only six issues or so. Up until then nearly every new DC Comic for the past decade was cancelled by issue six. Still, we were going to have fun as long as it lasted.

George’s designs were perfect. There were only two very minor changes requested. The first was to remove a belt on Raven’s dress and the second was to make Starfire’s long hair even longer. That was it. As I say, his designs were perfect.

Reaction up at DC to what we were doing with our first issue was so incredible, Jenette asked that we do a short Titans preview story that DC would give away free in the back of DC Presents, the book I was quitting in order to write the Titans. Until then nobody had ever given away a free 16 page extra story in a comic, but DC had faith in the Titans and wanted to expose it to the largest number of people possible. By the way, I often get asked to autograph the Titans supplement in DC Presents #26, but almost nobody realizes I also wrote the lead-in Superman/Green Lantern story, which was illustrated by Jim Starlin.

DC began advertising The New Teen Titans several months before the comic was published, and we started to get hate mail almost immediately. How dare we change the Titans cast? Who were these weird looking heroes? We were called names! Titans Traitors! People swore they’d never buy a copy of the comic. Then the book was published and we got more mail, but now it was filled with praise… and guess what? It came from the very same people who were chastising us months before.

The Titans quickly became DC’s best selling comic, soon outselling the next best selling DC book (The Legion of Super-Heroes) 2 to 1, and the rest of the line 4 to 1. Needless to say, George and I were thrilled. We had designed the comic so we’d enjoy working on it. Who knew the readers would like it as much as we did?

With the exception of issue #8 - which we plotted together - for the first year or two I wrote very tight plots and then gave them to George. He would take the plot and play with it, adding to it, making it even better. When George moved to Flushing, Queens, just a few blocks from where I lived, he and I began to co-plot the stories. Originally, I wanted to work with George because A: he was a really good artist, and B: I liked him. But it was evident that the two of us were in synch. We weren’t just a writer and an artist, we were a team that somehow brought out the best in each other.

We both lived in a few blocks apart, so we’d get together, usually at a restaurant, for our plotting sessions. I’d come in with a story already in mind, then he and I would play with it. Plus it, as they say in Hollywood. He’d add his thoughts, I’d come up with something else, he’d suggest this, I’d suggest that. By the time we were done we had what we believed was a great story. Then I’d go home and type it up or George would take our verbal discussions and simply start drawing.

We did whatever worked, and because we were not only good friends but we respected each other completely, we learned very quickly to trust each others’ instincts. Also, because there was no personal ego involved with creating the stories, it didn’t matter who came up with what – we were only concerned with the final story. This made for a great partnership and an even better friendship.

We believed the Titans should not be a Junior Justice League as it had been for many years. I strongly believed that there would never be an adult mentor in the title, as there had been when a character named Mr. Jupiter was introduced in the late 60s. These were, to our thinking, intelligent teenagers who could handle whatever came their way without having to wonder what their adult partner would do. Our youngest character was 15. Our oldest were almost 18. They didn’t need adults to tell them what to do, and, because our readership pretty much matched the ages of our heroes – at least in the beginning – we knew there would be more satisfaction if our characters were, in many ways, better than their partners. Yes, they were still teens, and they, I hope, acted with all the adolescent and hormonal changes that real teens faced, but they were also smart and capable. In all ways our motto was - we don’t need no stinkin’ adults.

Over the years we watched our characters change and grow. Yes, you read that right – we watched them. Indeed, we wrote and drew the stories, created them from pure fiction (they don’t actually exist in some alternative dimension no matter what you may have heard) but fictional characters MUST react based on who they were even as real people react based on their histories. Therefore, even if we think a character should do A, when it came down to that story, it might very well be wrong for the character do to A and so instead they do not B or even C, but perhaps M instead. If real human beings are the sum of what we were, then fictional characters need to react in the same manner. So we were often surprised at the directions the characters took even as we created the stories. I think making the characters react realistically and in character made them believable to our readers and to ourselves. And I also believe that is why The New Teen Titans became such a success.

George and I worked together for five years, which is very much a record for a modern comic’s team. But George, who was not only continuing to dramatically improve as an artist, wanted to do more. I suggested he try writing a Titans back-up. George’s story-telling was excellent and his plotting instincts were near perfect, so the next logical step would be writing. Though he never did write a Titans’ story, George wanted to try plotting and drawing Wonder Woman. After a few months, he began to dialogue it as well. The rest, as they say, is history.

People ask if I had any problem with George leaving the Titans, and George and I both always say, and mean, no. A writer can write 3-6 comics a month, which means we can explore many different kinds of stories, but very few artists can draw more than one book a month. After five years it was important for George to recharge his batteries. Besides, he wasn’t going to leave the Titans because of any problem between us – we were already working together on a second title – Crisis On Infinite Earths, and then we were going to do The History Of The DC Universe together as well. George was leaving only to grow as a talent and I applauded him for it.

Several years later George returned and we did a five-part Titans story which, because of the events that had occurred in the Crisis On Infinite Earths series, had us re-examine the origin of Wonder Girl. Although it was beautiful, I was always sorry we had to do it. Our original Wonder Girl origin story - Who Is Donna Troy? – was one of the very best stories we had ever done. I wish we could have let that story stand and let the readers make up whatever they needed to, but DC continuity dictated that we needed to make sense of her origin. Unfortunately, it never really did answer the questions, and Donna’s origin was done and redone several times over. DC’s now killed Donna Troy, so she’s gone until the next writer figures out how to bring her back. In comics, death is rarely ever permanent, so I’m confident she will return. It’s just a matter of when and how.

Not long after George and I finished work on Crisis, I moved from New York to Los Angeles. I still remember sitting in my new house, the movers hadn’t yet come with the furniture so I was sitting on the floor, my back to a wall, typing away on my laptop computer, working on what would become The History of the DC Universe. That was almost the last time George and I worked together on a DC comic story.

George was working on Wonder Woman and I continued to work on Titans. I had the privilege of working with some great artists including Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Ed Barreto and Tom Grummet among others. But as time went on I was no longer Titans editor and therefore found the book changing drastically depending on who was head honcho. A writer’s job, even if they originally created the project and shepherded it, is to follow the editor’s lead. Although most of the editors were good, they all had slightly different views on what the book should be. And different from what I thought the book should be. Perhaps I should have left the title when it was no longer exactly what I wanted, but I loved the characters and hoped to keep some control over them.

Ultimately, however, one editor wanted changes that were so drastic, and I thought so wrong, that after a few months of trying to make do I realized I no longer enjoyed my job. At a DC West-coast Christmas party, held on the set of the TV show “Lois and Clark,” I asked DC Editor-in-Chief Mike Carlin if I could, after sixteen years, finally quit the Titans and move instead onto a new version of Night Force, a horror comic I had created back in the 80s. Mike arranged for the Night Force to be revived, but asked that I stay on the title for four more issues with a new editor in place who would let me end my run on the Titans pretty much as I would like.

The characters, by then, had been altered beyond recognition, and in order to make the changes necessary, the last four issues weren’t the very best, but they did bring back the characters that I had loved and wrote. I thank Mike for making those last four issues possible, and to editor Dan Thorsland, for giving me the freedom of fixing whatever mistakes I could. The Titans series ended for me on a good note, and after sixteen years and God knows how many stories, I was pleased to say goodbye to old friends.

A few months after The New Titans was cancelled, DC revived the book with a new writer/artist as well as a new cast of characters. I have always made it a matter of record that I don’t read comics I created once I leave the title, so I never read any of those issues. I did think it may have been too soon after the cancellation of my series for DC to revive the title. It would have been better to wait a year or two, but this series, good or bad, suffered the backlash of following what we had done for almost two decades, and it was soon cancelled. DC tried again with another take on the Titans, and it, too, failed to take hold. After numerous attempts and creator changes, DC recently brought back the Titans again, but this time it seems to have recaptured some of the buzz and excitement of George’s and my run. I wish them the best. The Titans have also become a major animated series appearing on both The Cartoon Network and The WB. It seems to be a hit and has been renewed through its fourth season.

Although people know I don’t read the title, I’m still frequently asked about it. I tell them the same thing I’ve told every creator who has followed me and asked for my advice. As much as I enjoyed the Haney/Cardy Titans run as a fan, I went out of my way not to do what they did. George and I went off in our own direction, doing what we believed in. Our characters reflected our interests. Our stories came out of our personalities. We were not going to do yesterday’s Titans, but the Titans of today and tomorrow. There was no way The New Teen Titans was going to succeed if all we did was a pale imitation, a Xerox of a Xerox, so to speak, of what had come before. I hope that this latest series remains a success, and if it does, and even if it doesn’t, I hope future writers and artists will follow us in one way only; do what you care about. Make it your own.

That is the only way to make sure the Teen Titans will be here for a long time to come.

-Marv Wolfman






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Article ©  2010 Marv Wolfman

All artwork © 2003 DC Comics. All Rights reserved.

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