Set in continuity-free universes which reimagine the DC Universe’s major players, the “Earth One” original, stand-alone graphic novels are produced by the biggest names in the industry. Today, at Emerald City Comic Con, during the publisher’s Retailer Roadshow, “Teen Titans: Earth One,” Volume 1 was announced. Written by Jeff Lemire and illustrated, colored and inked by Terry and Rachel Dodson, the publisher’s latest OGN arrives in stores on November 19.
Also announced today were “Superman: Earth One” Volume 3 by J. Michael Straczynski and Ardian Syaf and “Batman: Earth One” Volume 2 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. Both sequels to the bestselling series are set to arrive in 2015. DC also confirmed that the long-awaited “Wonder Woman: Earth One,” by Grant Morrison and Yannick Paquette, will arrive next year, as well.
In an exclusive interview with CBR News, Lemire assures fans that despite his already full workload, “Teen Titans: Earth One” won’t slow him down or cause his departure from one of his other projects as the script is already complete. The award winning creator exclaimed his love for Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s “The New Teen Titans,” discussed the lack of grown-up superheroes in his Titans’ world, which Titans are featured in this project — and which one he had a crush on while he was growing up.
CBR News: When DC Comics relaunched with the New 52 in 2011, it came with clean slate for the entire DC Universe. With that arena being available, what makes telling a story in an “Earth One” original graphic novel so inviting?
Jeff Lemire: It’s allows two things that I love. First of all, it’s a graphic novel, not a monthly serialized comic, so it allows you to tell one big story with a beginning, middle and end — almost like a film. That’s where I came from: graphic novels, with “Essex County” and my all other books. It’s a format I embrace. And to tell one big superhero story, in that format, is something that you don’t often get to do because most things are serialized.
The other big aspect is that it is free of all continuity and all backstory. It’s not tied in with anything else, so it allows you to literally display all of these concepts down to their core and start fresh and take them in new and unexpected directions while still being true to that core concept. Not having to worry about 50 other writers and what they’re doing. The freedom is pretty exhilarating.
You’re writing, “Green Arrow,” “Justice League United,” “Future’s End,” your own creator-owned project “Roughneck” over at Simon & Schuster and now this. Does something have to give?
No. I’ve been done this book for over a year. It was something that I worked on last year. And now it’s up to Terry to do the hard work. If we get to do a second volume, I may have to take a look at my schedule but for now, I’m okay.
Based on our past discussions, I know “The New Teen Titans” by Marv Wolfman and George Perez was a real jumping on point for you and comics. Can you talk about the influence of that run on you as a child and now as a creator?
I’ve always said that those two guys and that book, in particular, was my introduction to comics. Marv Wolfman and George Perez were the first creators whose work I followed avidly. “The New Teen Titans” from the ’80s was like my Bible as a kid. I read every issue over and over and over again. It’s really what got me into comics, and DC Comics, specifically. So for me, to get to take those characters and concepts and put a modern spin on them and try to recapture the feeling that I had while reading those books, without just redoing those stories, is something really challenging. It somewhat intimidating, but also clearly a dream come true for me since I was eight years old and wanting to tell stories with those characters.
Do you think the Teen Titans’ very makeup — a team of teenaged superheroes — is what makes them so intoxicating for readers?
Yes — I think, as a kid, the Teen Titans give you a nice gateway into the superhero world. To have young characters, like you said, that you can relate to. I always wanted to grow up and hang out with Terra and Changeling. They seemed like great people to hang out with. [Laughs] And I always wanted to be Terra’s boyfriend! [Laughs] So this really is kind of fun.
Obviously, [as a teenager] it’s easier to relate to those characters because they are a bit closer to your age and your experiences. I tried to capture some of that in this book. These are teenage versions of these characters again. In the regular DCU, a lot of them have aged. It’s cool that we get to go back to those formative years.
Is sidekick a dirty word?
They aren’t sidekicks, because in this world, adult superheroes don’t exist yet. There is no such thing as a sidekick. That doesn’t mean that moving forward, in Volume 2 and onward, new versions of characters like Robin or Aqualad or whoever might work their way in, in a new way. But for the start, anyway, there are definitely no sidekicks.
Can you talk about your collaboration with the Dodsons on this?
Man, it’s been a blessing. Terry and Rachel Dodson are doing the artwork on the book. Terry is doing the pencils, Rachel is inking and Terry is actually coloring the book himself. Aside from being incredibly talented, they have to be the two nicest people that I have ever met in comics. They’re such wonderful people. They’ve actually been working on this book for quite a while, maybe a year-and-a-half now, and over that time, we’ve become really good friends. There is a great mutual respect. He’s such a professional. The work is always so good, I hope after we are done with the Teen Titans we can work on other projects together because I think it’s such a great fit.
My goal with the “Earth One” books is to take superhero comics and set them in more of a real world setting. I am approaching it like I’m doing the movie version of the Teen Titans. It has to be completely accessible and also very relatable. As much as I could, I tried to make these characters real teenagers with real personalities, and Terry gives these characters so much personality.
He’s evolved a little from his regular style. I guess I would say it’s a slightly more European look. It’s a little more fluid with his own coloring, and the characters themselves are just so animated.
Which Teen Titans are we going to see in your “Earth One” OGN?
To be honest, that was one of the hardest things to decide when I got the gig, for a couple of reasons. There have been different iterations over the years. There is the sidekick version with Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Robin and Aqualad. And there’s the Wolfman/Perez version, with unique characters like Starfire and Cyborg. These books have no continuity, so they’re not linked to the other “Earth One” books. They’re not linked to “Superman: Earth One” or “Batman: Earth One” yet. Without a Batman or a Wonder Woman, there can’t really be a Robin or a Wonder Girl, yet. I couldn’t really use those characters unless I introduced the adult versions of those characters.
What I really decided to do was take unique characters that would be free of all that, so I embraced the Wolfman/Perez era I loved so much — the roster is Cyborg, Changeling, Starfire, Raven and Jericho.
From the outside looking in, Cyborg is probably the most recognizable character on the team. I’ve always been fascinated by the character. He just seemed like such a tragic character, and you know I love tragedy. [Laughs] He’s a kid that’s been overtaken by a machine — that’s just such a great emotional hook. I knew that I could really work with that. In a lot of ways, he was an easy character to write because I knew his story and his drive. Some of the other characters were a bit more difficult to figure out, what motivated them and what their arc was going to be but Cyborg was pretty clear cut and I think I have done it in a way that is true to who he always was but it’s a new take on the man-machine thing too. And I hope, a little bit unexpected.
Changeling or Beast Boy — or whichever name he was given at the time — was always a great entry point for readers as a kid because he always seemed the youngest. And in a lot of ways, he was the most relatable. I’ve really gone with that here. He’s a bit younger than the other characters in the book, a bit more immature. That’s where he starts — he ends up somewhere else, but I don’t want to spoil anything.
I will not discuss Starfire, because there is a lot of mystery all around her and I can’t say anything without spoiling a whole bunch of the book. I will have to leave that one open for now.
I always loved Raven. In a lot of ways, she was my favorite character in the Wolfman/Perez stuff. She’s a tragic story. She’s the daughter of a demon and she’s being pulled to the dark side, constantly. I didn’t go that route with her in my version. It’s a really fresh take on Raven, actually. It’s very different than the DCU version. But I still love the character.
Raven and Starfire are really key to the plot of the first volume. I can’t talk too much without spilling stuff, but, like Starfire, there is a lot of mystery surrounding Raven that will all be revealed as the story evolves.
Not going to lie to you. The last member, Jericho, is a bit of a surprise. You want to talk tragic — he’s certainly had his ups and downs!
I don’t mean to be elusive, but it’s tough without revealing big plot points. Jericho has always been someone that I really liked in the Wolfman/Perez stuff. His power set is really cool, and I loved his link to Deathstroke — we’ll just leave that as a hint.
It’s funny you mentioned Deathstroke, the Teen Titans’ archenemy, because I wanted to ask you about the villain of this book. Is it him?
Will we see him? Yes. Is he the archenemy? You’ll have to wait and see. He’s different in this world, but he’s there. It’s not the Slade Wilson you’re used to. He has different motivations than the DCU’s version of the character — completely different. Where he goes may actually be the most surprising.
Hopefully this volume is successful so I can do more, because I have sort of built this thing as a trilogy, with an expanding cast and an expanding story throughout three volumes. That’s where I hope to go with it, for sure.
“Teen Titans: Earth One,” by Jeff Lemire, Terry Dodson and rachel Dodson, arrives in stores November 19, 2014.