[SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers and reveals of key plot points from “Teen Titans” #100.]
During its heyday in the 1980s, “New Teen Titans” was the title, month in and month out, not only for DC Comics but for the entire industry, that readers flocked to comic book shops to buy the day it arrived.
Some lean times followed the title’s epic run, but when superstar creator Geoff Johns relaunched the franchise with the latest volume in 2003 — along with British artist Mike McKone — “Teen Titans” again became a buzz book for critics and fans alike.
Johns left the series in 2007 following the release of “Teen Titans”#45 and the title’s popularity slipped again, but when the current creative team of writer J.T. Krul (“Green Arrow”) and artist Nicola Scott (“Birds of Prey”) joined forces for what would ultimately be the closing chapter of this incarnation’s run, sales climbed as readership came back faster than Bart Allen.
Krul and Scott told CBR News DCU’s September relaunch forced them to pick up the pace on a story arc that was planned to run much longer, but the two were extremely pleased with the final product of “Teen Titans” #100, on sale now.
While Conner, Rose, Gar and Raven would most certainly agree, Superboy Prime is left on the outside looking in. Or more precisely, on the inside looking out.
CBR News: Your run on “Teen Titans” has been extremely well-received by critics and fans alike. J.T., you had worked with versions of the team for “Titans” and “Blackest Night: Titans,” but how familiar were you with the superhero team prior to joining DC Comics?
J.T. Krul: I found “New Teen Titans” when I was a little older. Probably when I was a teenager but obviously, I loved the [Marv] Wolfman/[George] Perez stuff and when Geoff Johns restarted the title with this run, 100 issues ago, it was a really an exciting time to get back into it.
Nicola, what about you? It feels like you’ve been drawing the Teen Titans for years.
Nicola Scott: Thank you. There are some characters and titles that I think every artist and writer have an affinity for and I’ve always known that “Teen Titans” was one of mine. I really love sidekicks in general but I’ve always been a fan of Titans and I really love these particular kids.
Did you go back to some earlier runs on the title for either research purposes or pure inspiration?
Scott: Every artist brings something to the table, whether it is just a part of their style or an interpretation of a character. I did go back and re-read all the trades from when Geoff and Mike [McKone] started, through. There were all kinds of little visual cues that I picked up that informed my art for the book. Sometimes it’s as subtle as body language and who might stand next to whom.
How about you, J.T.? Did you go back to those early issues to ensure you tied off any loose ends Geoff may have left behind?
Krul: I tried to take care of some of the broad strokes but for me it was more about establishing the characters and returning them to their core at the end because they’ve definitely had their ups and downs. I wanted to show the struggles that Wonder Girl goes through, that Superboy, that Flash, that Ravager goes through. Beast Boy and Raven too. There is definitely a desire to explore all of these things that have plagued them or have stuck in their psyche during this whole run and beyond.
But I also wanted to give them a good send-off, not so much in terms of a “riding off into the sunset” moment but more just a sense of reaffirming them in their roles. And who they are. Because as teenagers, they struggle — because I know I did — with identity and the question, who you are. It’s about trying to find that path that will turn you into the person that you want to be. That’s always been a part of the Teen Titans. They always wanted to do it kind of on their own. Sure they’d have a mentor figure like a Cyborg or a Starfire somewhere in their ranks but at the end of the day, they were trying to carve out their own path.
They’ve had a lot of crap thrown in their way, so I think it was more a sense of just holding true to what the book has always been about. As far as it being about a sense of family and working together and being there for one another, I’ve tried to do that through the whole run and I really tried to ramp it up towards the end, focusing on the functionality of family and camaraderie and friendship as opposed to the dysfunctionality of it.
Were there characters you enjoyed writing more than others? Or perhaps one that you fell in love with during your run?
Krul: Tim Drake has always been one of my favorite characters. I actually think that he is one of the best heroes in the DC Universe. There is something about him that I just love. I just feel that he’s doing it for all the right reasons as opposed to being pulled into the superhero world by tragedy. He saw people in need and found a purpose. Not only for the world but for also, more importantly, for Batman as he tried to keep him from going off the rails.
So getting a chance to do “Teen Titans” and eventually bring Red Robin back on board was obviously really special to me.
Beast Boy is another character that I always liked but didn’t realize how much I liked him until I started writing him. He’s probably the character I’ve grown to like the most from where I started. He was somewhat put in a certain role in the past as the funny guy but I really liked exploring him further.
Nicola, who were there characters you enjoyed tackling most each month?
Scott: The greatest thing about drawing a team book is the variety. It’s working with different personalities, faces, body types and costume textures that really keep it interesting for me on a daily basis. There were no real difficulties, except maybe Rose’s armor and that was my own fault really. And maybe trying to keep contact with Raven’s eyes while her hood was up.
I really did love drawing Bart though. Making him a little smaller and leaner again and his outfit super shiny. I also loved working out those crazy boots that Mike had designed, like a suped-up, futuristic Hermes winged sandal. And I have to say I was surprised by how much I loved drawing Conner. I found him charming to draw and I can’t describe the undeniable thrill that comes over every time I drew the “S” shield.
Nicola, while this is not your first team book for DC, it’s your first with a younger set of do-gooders. Do you prepare differently when drawing teens? More to the point, how do you draw teen angst and raw, unbridled emotion?
Scott: I knew from the very start that I didn’t want to put too much black on the page and certainly not too much shadow on the kids. I wanted them to look young, fresh. There’s also quite a distinct difference between the bodies of teens and 20-somethings. They’re leaner, generally less defined, a little more puppy fat of their faces and a couple of other tricks. They also show their emotions physically, more with their bodies than their faces.
Can the same be said about writing teens, Titans or otherwise, J.T.?
Krul: Absolutely. Because teenagers are not as confident, and they’re not as comfortable in their own skin. [They’re] not as sure of themselves, so there is this certain uncertainty as they move forward and explore the world.
I think of them all, Tim is able to move the most in terms of confidence because he’s a little more mature than the rest of the gang.
Beast Boy’s role on the team really evolved these last few arcs and he unofficially became sort of the mentor figure for the team. He never really took command, but in the “Solstice” arc when everyone else was captured, he stepped up to the plate and delivered. He never really sought the leadership role but he always there to give Red Robin or Superboy guidance, or whomever needed it that little nudge in the right direction. Or just an ear or a shoulder, much the same way Donna Troy served that role during her time on the team.
So you definitely adjust how you are writing them. Not only in terms of being as confident in themselves, but also wanting to put on that front. For instance, with Damian, that’s his big thing. He puts on this strong front but, at the end of the day, you forget that he’s the youngest of the group. He’s just a kid and even though he’s been raised by assassins and he’s this amazing hero/vigilante/killer, he has his own insecurities especially when it comes to someone like Red Robin. Whether it’s trying to fit into the team or trying to take his place or usurp his role and not wanting to show that he wants to be there. He always wants to put on that tough exterior when that’s not actually the case.
You said you wanted to give the team a nice sendoff, but before that the Titans needed to face one more challenge, and it’s a big one against Superboy Prime.
Scott: Yeah, it’s really sad to see the team go but I’m really happy we got to do a really big super smackdown send off first.
Was it always the plan to include Prime in the final arc or did you arrive at his involvement organically?
Krul: The Superboy Prime arc is one we thought up almost initially when we started doing the book back with “Teen Titans” #88. We knew that this was all going to lead up to this confrontation. In the first arc, we see a shadowy figure emerge from the rubble of the high school. So right there, we knew we were already going to do this arc. But at that point, we didn’t know the book was ending with #100. And that the New 52 was happening.
DC was great in giving us two extra books — an extra book in July and an extra book in August — so that we could do this arc and finish it out. The original plan was for this to be a slightly longer arc but they still gave us the space to tell the story we wanted to tell and hit all the beats that we wanted to hit.
There was other stuff I wanted to do, in terms of just fleshing some stuff out. I wanted to further establish Superboy Prime’s return and how he is in that return. Maybe explore that a little more. Explore the notion of Bart and the virtual reality chamber and what that was doing to him. Explore more the reconciliation between Beast Boy and Raven at the end of book, and really, what played out for all them. With Wonder Girl and Superboy and Superboy and Ravager. Just the whole team. Once we condensed it, it still worked but it really served more as a big, visceral action extravaganza, which is also not a bad way to send things out.
Did you enjoy working on Prime? I know Geoff Johns loves him.
Scott: Yes, and he’s surprisingly very different than Conner. His looks are a little more classic Superman but with an arrogant air.
Krul: I did too. Again, that was the one thing that I wish I could have explored a little more. I felt a little bit like he went from back in this universe to hell-bent against the Teen Titans pretty quickly because we needed to do it for the economy of space.
But I think bringing him back in this regard, having him have kind of a purpose even though it’s disjointed and it doesn’t make sense to other people but in his mind, knowing that the motivation for him is, “I have to sever this connection because this is what drew me back here and this is what will get me back home.”
That’s the one thing that is always important with a good villain. What’s his motivation? It may not make sense for other people but at least it makes sense for them. All he wants to do is get back home because he did just get his chance to be himself again and live his life a little and have his family again. And in the blink of an eye, that’s torn away from him and he’s on this world where Conner is staring him in the face, which is one of the reasons he goes to the trouble of manufacturing the match clone and has Doctor Caligan make these other clones of him, just to try and shove it right in his face.
The whole arc has been about Superboy Prime trying to push the buttons of people and trying to find the elements that will trigger the most response. And I really enjoyed doing the whole clone thing and having the three different instances of Superboy because he is a clone and that is something he battles with all of the time but at the end of the day, he rises above it and realizes that while he and Red Robin are talking, it’s who you are, and the experiences that you have and the people that you let into your life that define who you are. Not your genetic makeup.
Big spoiler here, but the Teen Titans eventually defeat Superboy Prime and it would appear, DCU relaunch aside, that a chapter has closed somewhat emphatically for a very popular supervillain. It also seems a few very significant panels between Superboy and Ravager really were the nail in the coffin, so to speak, for Prime.
Krul: Yeah, Ravager thinks Superboy is sending her away, like, “Get out of here, get to safety” and she says, “I am not leaving your side.” And he says, “No, no, get the box out of my room.” So the box that we saw earlier on, she goes to his room while being chased by the bald Superboy clone and inside the box is a shard of Kryptonite. She uses it to kill the clone and then she throws it down to Robin and he kills another clone and then they kill the third clone with it but with Superboy Prime [it] doesn’t affect him.
But with all the Teen Titans working together, they finally do defeat Superboy Prime and then Conner and Supergirl have an idea. They actually take him to the Source Wall and imprison him within it.
The last we see of Prime, he’s saying, “Whether it’s here or in the future, in this world or another, people have been trying to imprison me all my life and no one has ever been able to do it.”
Superboy says, “This isn’t a prison. This is the end,” and he and Supergirl fly away.
Nicola, I love how you depicted the epic battle pitting the Teen Titans against Prime. How did you decide portray it the way you did?
Scott: There are a few pages leading up to what is essentially all the Titans taking on Prime directly, some pages a few panels each, then a splash and then a multi panel page of all the team unleashing themselves at him. The script pretty much left it up to me on how I’d break the multi down and the editor [Rachel Gluckstern] had suggested a grid. I wanted to do something dynamic, but also fun that galvanized the team despite it seeming like they were taking turns. I think the result works pretty well and has a real “Titans Together!” kind of feel.
It’s a great sequence, but what will really get the forums heated is how the issue closes for Beast Boy and Raven.
Krul: Yeah, we actually have reconciliation for Beast Boy and Raven where they come together and kiss. And I was really happy to have them kissing again because those two have been fighting, or at least at odds, for some time.
Nicola, was that a memorable page for you?
Scott: There is a long, shared, loaded history between these two. It’s delicate but also quite honest when they drop their barriers. I wanted to show that moment when you know there’s no use trying to fight it any more, that fragile cusp of things turning.
It sounds like the two of you really enjoyed this collaboration.
Scott: I loved working with J.T. He and I have become great friends in the process so I’m glad we’ll always have this collaboration in our shared history.
There is so much more we wanted to do, more stories we wanted to explore but really I’m just pleased we got to bring this team and these characters back from the brink a little. There seemed to be quite a bit of love lost between this book and the readers in recent years so we were both really happy and grateful to have had our moment with them and for it to be so well-received.
Krul: When [editor] Rachel Gluckstern approached me about doing the book, we started talking about artists and I sent her a list of three names, and Nicola was at the top my list. Rachel called me back and said, “She was at the top of my list too.”
[Nicola’s] the total package. She gets the action but more importantly, she gets the emotion and I think with the Teen Titans, like a lot of team books, that’s really important. She really allows those moments to shine. She is also unbelievably nice and charming. And the Australian accent helps too.
Finally, Nicola, one last question. What did you think about that Phil Jimenez variant cover?
Scott: This experience was heightened from the start. We knew it was going to be the end of the series, and the end of working with each other, on top of being a 100th issue and bumper-sized. That alone makes you want to step up a little. But then I found out, about halfway through, that Phil was doing the variant cover and I knew I had to bring my A-game. His cover is gorgeous and the perfect tribute to Teen Titans history.
“Teen Titans” #100, written by J.T. Krul and featuring art by Nicola Scott, is in stores now.