Scott Lobdell must be listening to a lot of Who records these days. As evidenced by his current DC Comics workload, he obviously feels the kids are alright. Most fans are aware that DC will undergo an ambitious company-wide relaunch this September, renumbering all of their ongoing comic books and resurrecting multiple defunct titles, promising to publish 52 monthly comics in all. Recruiting a legion of creators, writers and artists to accomplish this Herculean task, DC tapped ex-Marvel Comics scribe Lobdell to pen not one, not two, but three books centered on the DC universe’s younger members: “Superboy,” “Teen Titans” and the ex-Titans threesome “Red Hood and The Outlaws.”
Best known for his work on Marvel’s “Uncanny X-Men” in the ’90s, Lobdell teams with another ’90s superstar, artist Brett Booth of Wildstorm fame, as well as artist/inker Norm Rapmund to bring readers the new “Teen Titans.” Following what Lobdell calls the “Core Four” — Wonder Girl, Superboy, Kid Flash and Red Robin — the Titans team also includes three brand-new characters, as yet still unnamed. Joining artists R.B. Silva and Rob Lean, Lobdell then spins off Titans member Kon-El into his own monthly comic book series in “Superboy,” a title that explores his lab-manufactured roots and asks the question, “Can a clone develop a conscience?”
Lobdell spoke to Comic Book Resources about “Teen Titans” and “Superboy,” and while he couldn’t get into plot specifics, the writer gladly expounded on the differences between the pre- and post-September teens, his view on decompressed storytelling and his goals for both the series and the comic book industry in general.
CBR News: Jim Lee has said that of the September books, “Teen Titans has probably the most variety of what existed before. ” Is “Teen Titans” a title you hope to draw new readers to?
Scott Lobdell: I don’t really see it as we’re trying to draw new readers in as much as I’m trying to write “Teen Titans” #1 in a way that someone doesn’t pick it up and feel like all the best stories about these characters were told 10 years ago. I think a first issue should, where possible, say “Hey! Hop on board! This is going to be awesome!” I’d rather say that than, “Oh, hi! Sorry, you missed everything!”
Is this an unconventional way to look at things? Maybe! But I’m hoping new fans will feel included at the same time older fans can feel energized. The goal is to please everyone who is picking up the first issue of “Teen Titans” — and that includes anyone who stopped reading the series after Marv [Wolfman] and George [Perez] left!
The last teenage super-team you worked on was “Generation X” in the ’90s. Was it difficult getting back into the swing of writing teen characters?
Well, as people who know me might say, the fact I’m probably still a 15-year-old boy probably helps a lot. But no, I’d have to say the biggest surprise to me about this whole relaunch has been how natural it all feels to me — like I’ve come home.
With an organization targeting super-teens, Wonder Girl as a thief and a tattooed Superboy, the tone of “Teen Titans” seems darker than before. Are you going for an edgier feel?
It is so interesting whenever I hear that word “edgy,” or “edgier” — anyone who knows me knows there are fewer people on the whole planet that are less edgier than I am!
But no, I’m just trying to write a really entertaining story, and to do that one needs conflict. When you look at the first 20-something issues of Marv and George’s “Titans,” we find a young Vic Stone’s body savaged by some sort of pan-dimensional rift, a young princess traded to interstellar death camps by her own sister, and a young woman who lied and manipulated the Teen Titans into re-forming (after the Justice League of America chased her off) in order to keep her Satanic father from invading our world and tormenting all of humanity for eternity. Now that sounds edgy!
But I don’t recall ever thinking of them that way. I’d sit down and read the books and say “Holy — I need to get the next issue!”
Let’s talk about the changes to the characters on the team. We have Tim Drake leading and Wonder Girl as a thief — is this Wonder Girl a Cassie Sandsmark gone bad or a new character?
I’d have to say neither. I don’t think she’s really much different from the Cassie Sandsmark who originally “borrowed” the Sandals of Hermes and the Gauntlet of Atlas for her first adventure. I think some people read the word “thief” and think she’s being re-imagined as a female Gambit — that is not the case at all.
Other than obvious tattoo, how does your Superboy differ from the pre-September one?
He’s a work in progress, where the pre-September Superboy was more firmly established. Even when he was first introduced he was pretty much fully defined. The exciting part about this Superboy is we see him honing his T.K. [tactile telekinesis] powers in a way we’ve never seen before. I love Conner, he’s a great character, and Karl [Kesel] and Geoff [Johns] and Jeff [Lemire] have done some great stories with him. I just want to look at him from a different angle and see what that reveals about him to us.
On a similar note, how is this Bart Allen Kid Flash different than the Bart Allen we’ve seen before? Or is this one character that is basically remaining the same pre- and post-September?
Sorry, I have to keep some story points. But I’ll tell you something no one else knows yet — he is on the very first page of the very first issue!
What can you tell us about the other characters on the cover?
I can tell you I’m in love with all three of the characters who aren’t the Core Four on the cover. It has been pretty surreal listening to the snarksters on the message boards dismissing [one of] the unnamed girl as a “Witchblade knock-off” as there are virtually no similarities at all between the two characters — other than that they are both women! But Brett [Booth] and I have agreed to keep some elements close to our vests.
That said, I can tell you I’m excited about seeing the Core Four interact with some new characters. Could we have used any one of the awesome number of teenaged super heroes in the DC Universe as the other members? Certainly — Miss Martian, Red Devil, Lilith, Bumblebee are just a few that spring to mind! But Marv and George used the series to introduce such former rookies as Cyborg, Raven and Starfire and brought in “that green kid from ‘Doom Patrol,'” and so we felt it was important to keep the tradition alive by using “Teen Titans” #1 to introduce new characters to DC through the Teen Titans.
Someone on the message boards was bemoaning the very idea of trying to introduce a single new character in “these days of decompressed comics,” which might be true. But Brett and I aren’t doing decompressed comics — we’re actually having trouble fitting everything we want to into this new 20-page format! Does that make me old school, that I’d rather a comic be nearly overflowing with story and action and character development each month instead of stretching a single story over the course of six issues? Then call me Old School and I’ll wear the name with pride!
Switching gears, how will Superboy’s adventures in “Teen Titans” differ from what’s going on in the “Superboy” series?
All I will say at this point is that readers who read both “Superboy” and “Teen Titans” will be rewarded for their investment.
Superboy is a character with a complicated origin story, at least in modern continuity. Will this new “Superboy” series clarify and cement a simpler origin for him?
I don’t really see his origin story as that complicated: He was created by Project Cadmus from the cells of Lex Luthor and Superman in the event anything ever happened to Superman. None of that has changed.
The most recent “Superboy” series by Jeff Lemire and Pier Gallo focused on making the series feel like a Silver Age comic with short story arcs and Silver Age-inspired adventures. Will your “Superboy” have a more modern feel to it, or is there a specific era you are pulling from?
I don’t feel like I’ll be lifting from any era — but I can tell you my goal is to avoid story arcs altogether. I will admit something to Comic Book Resources readers: I kind of hate story arcs.
I prefer telling a series of one-shot stories whose subplots lead us from on story to the next. But if I can help it, you’ll never see a “Part One of Blank” on any of the comics I work on. Will the stories be serialized? Yes, but I want to try to usher in an age of storytelling where readers are going to put down their $2.99 and walk away with an issue that has a 20-page story in it, not the first 1/6 of a story.
Chris Claremont and John Byrne once told a huge sweeping epic about the X-Men who wound up going to Japan, the center of the Earth, the Savage Land, into space, captive at a carnival (not in that particular order), and it wasn’t until they burst into the door of the mansion and Wolverine was already tearing at his costume that we the readers even realized we were taken through comics’ most awesome road trip! Every issue was important. Nowadays we’d probably be told, “This is Issue One of the Globe Trek Agenda!” Hopefully we can move away from that as an industry and let the monthlies be great and the trade paperbacks be great because they collected six really fun stories!
I need to be clear, I don’t mean this as a slam in any way at the phenomenon that is Jeff Lemire and Pier Gallo — they did a great job on “Superboy,” as their Eisner nomination attests. But he opted to take the reins on “Animal Man” — and I read “Animal Man” #1 while walking through the streets of Chinatown in Los Angeles, and I couldn’t put it down; no matter how many times I nearly got hit by a car, it is that good — and I’ll be telling different stories with Kon-El!
Finally, what do artists R.B. Silva and Rob Lean bring to the “Superboy” table?
They bring vulnerability to the most powerful teenager on the planet. For that, these two are worth their weight in gold!
“Superboy” #1 drops September 14; “Teen Titans” #1 hits stores September 28.