As winter rolls around, DC Comics thaws out a lost tale by writer Mark Sable and artist Sean Murphy this December: “Teen Titans: Cold Case,” a 56-page one-shot pitting the adolescent adventures against the villainous members of the Flash’s Rogues Gallery.
Although originally a team consisting of sidekicks to the DC Universe’s heavy hitting members of the Justice League, the Teen Titans have since grown into their own self-realized super group consisting of teenaged heroes from all throughout the DCU. This began primarily in the pages of the highly popular Marv Wolfman penned and George Perez pencilled “New Teen Titans” series. The duo introduced a number of new characters to the team including Cyborg, Raven and Starfire, who went on to become mainstay members of both the Titans title and the DCU.
Throughout the years, the Titans experienced a number of revivals and incarnations. The upcoming “Cold Case” features a version of the team seen during writer Geoff Johns’ critically acclaimed run and takes place after the events of “Identity Crisis.” This iteration of the team includes Robin, Ravager, Wonder Girl, Kid Devil and Cyborg. While speaking with CBR News, Sable revealed “Cold Case” first began not only as his first work-for-hire project with the publisher, but also as a planned arc in the “Teen Titans” ongoing series.
“I wrote it. Sean Murphy drew amazing pages. And for whatever reason, they just sort of shelved it,” Mark Sable told CBR, citing continuity placement as a possible reason. “It’s just one of those things, if for no other reason than Sean’s art is so great on it, I’ve been sad that it hasn’t seen the light of day – until now.”
Sable wrote the project several years ago after his work on the Image Comics six-issue limited series “Grounded,” which featured a teenaged cast, caught the attention of then-DC editor Jeanine Schaefer. His ability to write younger characters in that original series helped land him the gig on “Titans,” which in turned played to Sable’s own affinity for the teen aspect of the DC heroes.
“I think Marv Wolfman and George Perez created some amazing characters, but I really love what Geoff Johns did – made a book with actual teenagers in it,” he said. “[Johns] was telling great stories. I love that they’re actually teenagers, and they’re their best when they’re written as such. You can tell the difference when people do that rather than write them as adults in slightly younger looking bodies.”
Rather than just appreciating their age, Sable added how much he enjoys the characters in the book as well, especially a certain half-man, half-machine character he ended up later penning in his own eponymous miniseries. “Cyborg is a character that I love and I think is one of the most underutilized characters in the DC Universe,” admitted the writer. “I’m good friends with James Robinson and I’m so glad he’s using him in ‘Justice League.’ I think he’s an A-List character for a whole host of reasons, not just for how powerful he is but because he’s got a great backstory that Wolfman and Perez came up with for him.
“The other character I love was the then-Robin, Tim Drake. He’s really the heart of my story,” said Sable. “I’ve always liked Tim Drake more than Dick Grayson because here’s this kid who figured out who Batman was and who made himself into Robin. He didn’t just inherit the mantle or have it thrust on him. It was something he wanted and went after and that’s pretty unusual in the DC Universe, and with characters in general.”
Tim Drake takes center stage in “Cold Case,” as the inciting incident that brings the Titans and Flash Rogues Gallery into conflict traces all the way back to the death of Drake’s father in “Identity Crisis.” “The story has to do with somebody trying to lure Robin with something connected to his father. Without spoiling anything, it’s something from ‘Identity Crisis.’ It’s something that I picked up on and it’s something personal to Robin that’s tied to his father,” revealed Sable. “I felt like Robin hadn’t come to terms with or dealt with his father’s death. At the same time, the old Captain Boomerang was the murderer of [Robin’s] father and the younger Captain Boomerang was somebody that was being recruited by both sides. That’s how the Titans/Rogues connection went in.”
As always, there lies two sides to every story and in this case, a colorful cast of devious villains fills that other side. Sable referred to Geoff Johns’ former run on “Flash” as one of the best for the character and expressed his particular love of Johns’ take on the Flash villains. To Sable, the Flash has a Rogues Gallery on par with that of Batman and Spider-Man and the writer called out the Rogues’ chilling head honcho as his personal favorite. “Captain Cold is the one for me. He’s a killer ultimately, and a bad guy, but at the same time he’s got a sense of honor,” Sable said. “What’s interesting, and it’s mostly through the force of Captain Cold, [Johns] really tries to differentiate them from other groups in that he gives them rules – like they don’t attack certain people – and putting a lot of weight into the idea that they’re a family. I always wanted to do a book that was just the Rogues because I feel like you can do a great ‘Sopranos’ sort of thing. It has that family element and that idea of a code of honor.”
As with many “Titans” tales, family plays an overarching theme in “Cold Case.” Sable said that along with Robin’s feelings toward his father, his story also explores the twisted relationship between Deathstroke and his daughter Ravager. It doesn’t end there though, as the book became a very special project for Sable in that regard as well. Upon hearing that DC would finally release the story, Sable decided to do a slight rewrite at an extremely emotional time in his life, but one he said suited the tone of the one-shot.
“I felt like ‘Teen Titans’ was always this book about these kids finding their own family and creating their own family. Again, this was written a few years ago and when Eddie Berganza said that they were going to release it, it came at a bad time in my life where I had just lost my own father. It was a bit of good news in a dark time for me,” he said. “When I went back to [the story], I realized that DC continuity had changed quite a bit and I went back and did a rewrite. It was very emotional for me, and it was pretty significant because of things I realized about fathers and family and I was able to understand loss in a way that I hadn’t when I originally wrote it.”
“Teen Titans: Cold Case” heads into stores December 22