In 1980, writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez reinvigorated the classic concept of the Teen Titans with slightly older, more mature versions of the superhero sidekicks in "The New Teen Titans" #1. Fast forward 34 years and the dynamic duo of Arthur Baltazar & Franco Aureliani are relaunching their all-ages hit "Tiny Titans" for DC Comics with a brand new series in 2014. The major difference? These Titans aren't getting any more mature.
In fact, the Titans are actually Benjamin Buttoning a bit, skipping their "Superman Family Adventures" tween years and returning to their original "Tiny Titans" appearances.
Art and Franco told CBR News that the new miniseries would read well as done-in-one adventures but that this time around, "Tiny Titans" will also have an overarching story.
The long-time collaborators, who are also developing "Itty Bitty Hellboy" and Dynamite projects with their trademark style, also shared that all of the old favorites would be returning to Sidekick City Elementary and that Shazam would be enrolling too -- complete with his New 52-approved hoodie.
Teasing what kickstarts the Tiny Titans' first adventure back in action, Art and Franco also discussed their favorite characters (something impossible to decide), the greater Aw Yeah Universe, their impact on children's reading abilities and why introducing Darkseid as a lunch lady makes the New God more compelling when he's read years later as a major supervillain.
CBR News: As a long time reader of your books, and on behalf of two other young readers I know quite well, I can safely say my house is pretty jazzed that "Tiny Titans" is coming back. Let's start with a little housekeeping. The series hasn't been solicited yet, so what can readers expect? Is it an ongoing monthly? A miniseries? A digital first?
Art Baltazar: It's a six-issue miniseries. And it's comics -- just like the comics we always make. I am sure it will be released digitally too. Aw yeah!
When can we expect it to arrive?
Baltazar: Gee, I don't know. April maybe? [Laughs] I don't have an exact date. But everything is due soon, like January and February. I wrote all the deadlines into my calendar yesterday so I know it's coming soon but I don't know the exact date just yet.
While your original run on "Tiny Titans" was primarily done-in-one stories, there were some recurring jokes and storylines. Will this remain the same this go around or are you considering longer story arcs over multiple issues?
Franco: They will be done-in-one stories but there will also be a bigger arc. You will be able to pick up each issue and read them without reading the other ones but the whole thing has a coherent, loose story too.
Baltazar: Everything we do is one big universe but you can jump into it at any point. You don't have to read a bunch of stuff. It will be good. There are some penguins and some bunnies in the first issue in the Batcave. That's the only continuity. People might wonder why there are penguins and bunnies in there. [Laughs] That's about it.
Will the core members of the original series return? Are you adding any new characters to the main cast?
Baltazar: Yes and yes. You'll see all the big guys and there will be new guys and then they're going to meet new guys but it's the basic Tiny Titans: Robin, Beast Boy, Starfire, Raven, Terra, they're all in there. Batgirl's in there. Aqualad, Kid Flash. All of the guys you know and love. And more.
Can you give us one "and more"?
Baltazar: You're going to see Captain Marvel. Actually, you're going to see Shazam. He's no longer Captain Marvel. And you're going to see Shazam with his hood on. We're going all New 52 on you. [Laughs]
And hoodies are cool.
Baltazar: Aw yeah! Hoodies are awesome.
Do you have a favorite character? And what do you like best about him or her?
Baltazar: I'm thinking Robin.
Franco: Dude, that's like asking me to pick my favorite kid but I only have one. [Laughs]
Baltazar: I've got two and they both have good qualities. [Laughs] They're all good. It's so much fun. It feels like we have been with the Tiny Titans for so long that they are our guys. It almost feels like they are our characters -- sometimes we forget that they belong to DC. [Laughs] But it's cool to add our spin onto the DC Universe. It's been cool. We've got the New 52. And we've got the Baltazar/Franco universe. [Laughs]
The Aw Yeah universe. [Laughs] Is there a character that will return and get an expanded role this time around?
Baltazar: Brainiac 5 and Psimon create some problems in the first issue. I guess they are like the bad guys throughout the whole series. They're from the Brainiac Club and they're going to cause problems for the Tiny Titans. They're not bad guys but if you had to pick a villain, it would have to be those two. [Laughs] They're doing things to make the other guys uncomfortable.
Are the Tiny Titans still at Sidekick City Elementary or have they graduated to Sidekick City High?
Baltazar: No. They're the same age. It's kind of like what happened the next day. It's goes from "Tiny Titans" to "Superman Family Adventures" to the new series. I know they got a little bit older in "Superman" but we're going to pretend they didn't. [Laughs]
You mentioned that Brainiac 5 and Psimon play a role in the first issue but what else can you tease about the first issue and the series?
Baltazar: We find out on the first page that the Treehouse goes missing. That's going to carry out throughout the series. I don't want to reveal too much because it's awesome and I don't want to give away our punchlines. But on Page 1, the Treehouse goes missing. That freaks them out pretty good.
Franco: It's actually a true story. [Laughs]
With all of these Aw Yeah projects in the works, this one, "Itty Bitty Hellboy," the Li'l Dynamite project, have you had a chance to reflect on the significant role you are playing in children's reading and their overall development?
Franco: I like that you call our books the Aw Yeah Universe. I like that a lot.
Baltazar: Aw yeah! That's pretty cool. We make books that we think are awesome and funny and good. We truly make them for all ages. And it's cool to see when kids look at our books as one whole universe.
They give us drawings with all of these different characters. Robin and Krypto and Itty Bitty Hellboy and Action Cat are all one drawing. They see our comics as all one big thing. Kids don't care about the different companies. They just see an Art and Franco book and know it's going to be awesome. "I want that. I want that."
I think it's our job to introduce kids to comics and I think people are picking up on that.
Franco: This is the first time kids are reading the Titans or any characters that we do and when they see the regular universe stuff, they're like, "Hey, I remember reading this." That's pretty cool.
Baltazar: They might see Darkseid as a major villain but then they remember him as the lunch lady. "I thought he was the lunch lady?" It's a great introduction.
I've spoken with Sholly Fisch a number of times and I know that he's a big proponent of introducing children to reading through comics. It doesn't matter what kids read -- books, comics, the back of a cereal box -- as long as they're reading.
Franco: That's something that we've heard over and over again: "My kid learned to read because of this book." We hear it constantly. I'm with Sholly. As long as they're reading, I don't care what it is, but I'm kind of glad they're reading our stuff. [Laughs]
Baltazar: We sit at home and make comics and we don't really see the impact until we go to a comic show or we get letters. I get letters just about every day. I either get a letter or a tweet. I get physical letters mailed to my P.O. Box still, which is cool. That's how you know you're doing it -- you're doing it right -- because when I'm at home, I am making comics and throwing out the garbage. But when we're at a convention, we're like rock stars. [Laughs] And if we get recognized at the grocery store or a comic book shop, that's pretty cool too.
"Tiny Titans" #1 by Art & Franco is expected in April 2014.