When DC Comics announced the cancellation of “Teen Titans” in January, many speculated that the title and characters would not be absent for long. A few months later, and these speculations were proven right when DC announced a “Teen Titans” relaunch, giving the book a brand new #1 issue and a brand new creative team of Will Pfeifer and Kenneth Rocafort.
Pfeifer, a writer whose past credits include work with Wildstorm and the miniseries “Amazons Attack!,” was originally announced to take over full-time writing duties on “Red Hood And The Outlaws” last year. He will now be writing a three-issue arc before shifting his attention to “Teen Titans” as the original “Red Hood” writer Scott Lobdell moves back to the title.
Pfeifer spoke with CBR about the latest Titans relaunch, touching on the new team dynamic he’s bringing to the series, the quick round of musical chairs he’s playing with Lobdell and how the series will not be a bunch of scenes of Red Robin, Wonder Girl and the rest, sitting around a table, talking.
CBR News: A couple of months back, you were announced as the new writer for “Red Hood and the Outlaws.” Now, you’re writing three issues of that before coming on as the series writer for “Teen Titans.” Why the switch?
Will Pfeifer: I was working on “Red Hood” and I think had turned in the first issue. Then I was on a conference call with my editor and a couple of other guys — I think Eddie Berganza was on the line. They were going to relaunch “Teen Titans” and wanted to know if I wanted to write it. I was very excited, but I was a little concerned. Having a day job and not having done comics for a few years I was worried about picking up two new books at once. But they said the plan was they wanted me to switch over to “Titans,” and Scott would come back to “Red Hood.” I loved writing “Red Hood” but I grew up reading “Teen Titans,” so I said that sounds good to me! [Laughs] So we made the switch. We’d always planned that first arc on “Red Hood” to be a three-issue arc, so it just fit in perfectly with the timing.
Since you were a childhood “Teen Titans” fan, is there a specific era that influences you the most as a writer, or a favorite run on the comic?
I’m old enough I actually bought the Marv Wolfman/George Perez issues off the newsstands — and I was actually buying it off a newsstand and not a comic book store! I think this is pretty common for people my age; I was a huge fan of the “X-Men” and this was like DC’s X-Men, but you knew Kid Flash, you knew Robin and then there were these new people like Starfire and Raven. Growing up, that was definitely one of my favorite comic books. When Geoff Johns took it over years ago, I got back into it and it was sort of an updated, newer version, but you could sense the same appeal — the young heroes in some kind of created family. I liked what they had done, and now I’d like to take it in my own direction.
Let’s talk about that direction, because not only are you coming on as part of a new creative team, DC is relaunching the series with a new #1 issue. What makes your “Teen Titans” different from what came before?
I think one thing we’re going to do with our “Teen Titans” is we’re going to take the young heroes, and obviously they are part of the DC Universe, but we’re going to take a — ‘realistic’ sounds like a weird word to use, but maybe a slightly more realistic look at how they would be viewed in this world, in the sense that the first arc or two of this series is going to be about fame and how their exploits are covered by news reports, but even more than that. In a world where everyone has a cell phone and everyone’s Tweeting their opinions, they’re just surrounded by this bubble of fame, and how they respond to it as heroes. Some of them love it, some of them feel threatened by it. We really shine the spotlight on [the idea of], if you were a superhero in the DC Universe and you’re one of the biggest celebrities in the world, what would that be like? Combined with the fact of course you’re risking your life with crazy superpowers almost every day.
And that’s combined with the fact that you’re a teenager, and fame and teens don’t always mix well, as we’ve seen in the real world.
Exactly! It’s scary enough in the real world, when you don’t have superpowers and people are trying to kill you. So in this world, we’re just going to keep amping it up and amping it up.
Originally in the New 52, the “Teen Titans” came out of the shared ‘Young Justice’ corner of the DCU where you had Harvest and N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and the Ravagers really involved with the story and their formation as a team. For the relaunch, does that still stand? Will N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and the other teen heroes be a large part of the book, or are the Titans on their own, more apart from that?
This is more of a team on their own. However, in their first adventure they are taking on a common foe, and they all know each other and they all work together to varying degrees of success. They’re going to be keeping to themselves and a unit onto themselves, but there’s also going to be at least two factions of people seeing potential in them for good and evil purposes, and thinking how they can take advantage of that. The Teen Titans are their own team, but people are going to be thinking, how can we use them? How can we put them to a purpose for good or for evil?
On the team we’ve got Red Robin, Wonder Girl, Beast Boy, Raven and Bunker. How did you decide what teens would comprise this core group? And why not bring in other teen heroes, like Supergirl, Blue Beetle, etc.?
I think the initial five are a good mix. You have different personalities. Red Robin is obviously a little more cool and calculating, Beast Boy’s kind of a joker, Bunker is one of the newer heroes trying to figure it all out, Raven’s the Goth girl and Wonder Girl is just like a cannon! [Laughs] She’s the muscle of the operation! Hopefully, fans willing, this will be a long run, so we’ll have plenty of time to take people in, bring people out, but we wanted to start with just five. I think five is a good number because they can bounce off each other, it doesn’t get too confusing and everyone gets their chance in the spotlight. But we’ve got plans to bring other people in and we’re going to mix it up; this is going to take place smack dab in the middle of the DCU, so there’s going to be all sorts of other excellent heroes and villains.
Then how would you sum up the five main characters and how they relate to each other?
Red Robin, especially in the first couple of issues — right now they don’t have an outside leader or an outside presence guiding them, and obviously he’s a good strategist, he’s a good detective. There’s a mystery at the core of this first arc, and he’s the one investigating that while keeping all their other efforts coordinated.
Beast Boy, ever since those old Perez/Wolfman issues, I’ve always liked as the joker, the funny guy. It strikes me that a guy who can turn into animals in a world where people do nothing on the Internet but post funny pictures of animals would have fame like you wouldn’t believe! [Laughs] And would enjoy it, to an extent! So we’re going to play with that.
Bunker is newest to the group and to the idea of being a superhero — plus as a gay teen he’s going to be dealing with issues the others wouldn’t deal with. I don’t want it to be a standard after school special of the week: the gay teen superhero! We’re going to really try and integrate his life into the whole picture. Not just that he’s gay but he’s a hero and he’s a kid and oh, he’s in a relationship, and see how it all fits together.
Cassie, like I said, she’s the muscle, and she’s also dealing with some rather weird parent issues and her heritage! [Laughs] And she’s really powerful, so she has some anger going on. What’s going to happen with her is that people, specifically women, will be inspired by the tough stance she takes and she has to decide if that’s a good and positive thing, and how she responds to her own dedicated fans.
Raven, who is the almost the most withdrawn and inward looking, the one who has a lot of trouble brewing on the inside. She is going to get some fans of her own, too. It struck me that Raven, with her mysterious attitude and that dramatic look, I could see tribute bands springing up to her all over the place. She’s going to have that happen, almost a cool underground vibe; anyone can like Superman, but it’s the mysterious kid who becomes fans of Raven. She’s going to have to deal with fame on a different level, and that will lead to some interesting threads.
You’ve talked before about how important it was that this is focused on the teens and their voices, so as the writer, how would you describe the tone? And do you see this as a book that could appeal to teenagers?
To be honest, I don’t know how many teens read comics these days! [Laughs] I know there are some out there, and I hope they pick up this book. I loved the Teen Titans when I was a teen. I’m over forty, I have a daughter and have been married for a long time, so it’s hard for me to fake being a modern teenager. But we’ve all been teenagers. We all know how it feels to both have the world out there waiting for you to do what you can with it, and feel the world is a huge scary place and it terrifies you. It’s that balance between excitement and fear, and I hope to bring some of that to the book. I want it to be fun, I want it to be funny; I also want it to have some real consequences, because teens are brave but they can screw up, and when you’ve got superpowers and you screw up the impact can be pretty devastating.
You’ve talked a lot about the kids dealing with fame and that there is a big mystery going into the first arc. What can you tell us about the story that kicks off the new series?
Well, it all starts with them in Manhattan. They’re minding their own business, and all of a sudden this school bus with a bunch of kids on tour come screaming down the street, through traffic, loaded with explosives, and the Teen Titans have to figure out, how can we save these kids? How do we figure out what this is? But that’s a small piece — what’s the bigger goal and the person in charge of this? That’s the mystery. We’re going to start right off with action; I talked about how we’re going to be dealing with fame and these other issues, but the book itself is going to have a lot of superhero action, and we tell the story through that. A lot of modern comics is a bunch of people sitting around a table talking. This is not going to be that book.
This is really the first time I’ve worked in a team book, and I’m having a great time bouncing the personalities off each other — you put all the chess pieces together, and you watch them collide and see where they end up. If you like what I’m doing with “Red Hood And The Outlaws,” then I think people will like what we’re doing with “Titans,” because it will be fast paced, it’s going to be big crazy action and it’s going to be good personalities!
The relaunched “Teen Titans” kicks off in July.