Drawing Things Together One Year Later: Daniel Talks "Teen Titans"

Being a teenager is difficult enough, but when you've got super powers or special skills and a desire or responsibility to help people, adolescence can be a nightmare. Fortunately, the super powered teens of the DC Universe have a place where they can go to deal with the pressures of puberty and be with a group of like-minded heroic peers. That place is Titans Tower, the headquarters of the Teen Titans. With the Teen Titans jumping "One Year Later" in April's issue #34, Titans Tower and his inhabitants will be undergoing some changes. CBR News spoke with the man responsible for depicting those changes, "Teen Titans" artist Tony Daniel.

With the beginning of "One Year Later," many DCU books will have brand new storylines and Daniel used this as an opportunity to develop a fresh approach to his art style on "Teen Titans." "I wanted to step it up a notch with regards to my art," Daniel told CBR News "I also felt like I needed to update my style, my approach. Issue #34 sees some of those updates I'm talking about, but I don't actually get comfortable with it until issue #35. The immediate reactions from Geoff Johns and Eddie Berganza were for me to keep doing what I'm doing. They really like the new direction my art has taken.

"I've started to add a bit more realism to my figures," Daniel Continued. "Also, I wanted a whole new look for 'OYL' and myself all together, but some of the things I'm doing, especially on the rendering, aren't anything like I used to practice. So, we needed the right inker to come in who had the right arsenal and confidence to bring my new vision to reality. We got Kevin Conrad, my old buddy and inking partner, over on the book and it's made such an incredible impact. We all feel the book now has its own unique look and we're pushing the art further every issue.

"At first, I was trying to really stay true to what went on before me, in spirit, anyway," Daniel explained. "I might've been a little afraid to cut loose since I wasn't sure if I would be sticking around or not. Mike McKone was certainly beloved by the 'Teen Titans' readers and I had some big sized shoes to fill there. So, I might've been a little stiff starting out; a little stage fright. But Geoff saw something there and we began talking, quite frequently, about how to approach this book. It's very important to both Geoff and I that this be the best we can be. So, his input was very, very valuable to me in expanding my style."

Daniel and Johns communicate regularly to insure that "Teen Titans" is a product of their best efforts. "Geoff and I talk on the phone a lot about the approach," Daniel said. "Mainly we talk mood, or layouts. Geoff likes traditional layouts. More widescreen panels on the action. His script is very thorough, but just in describing what's going on in the panels, or the characters' emotions. 'Titans' is a book that deals with a lot of emotions and it is very important that I pull off the emotion Geoff needs."

The emotional level of "Teen Titans" will be heightened during "One Year Later" by appearances from a number of characters, many of whom will be sporting new looks courtesy of Daniel. "So far with the first arc, I've been drawing the Brotherhood of Evil and the Doom Patrol," Daniel stated. "All of the Doom Patrol has been redesigned and so have the Brotherhood of Evil. So, I've already been able to put my stamp on some of these characters and feel at home with them. There are also some new villains Geoff created for the Brotherhood. It's been a lot of fun for me. I've also redesigned all of the Teen Titans, eccept for Cyborg, but I'm still trying to see if I can tweak him down the road. Kid Devil is a new character. We worked together to find the right look for him. I think he'll grow on people quickly."

Daniel is also very excited for the artistic opportunities coming his way in future "Titans" stories. "I'm definitely looking forward to the 'Titans East' storyline," he said. "I pretty much know all the members and it'll be a lot of fun for me to work on. There's also an addition to the team later this year that should have everyone flipping over. And I really can't wait for that."

In addition to depicting new members and characters Daniel is also having a blast bringing to life the core cast of "Teen Titans." "My favorite Titans to draw are Robin and Wonder Girl," Daniel explained. "I also love Raven. She's such a great character. I love Beast Boy, too. I've finally settled on the 'look' for him recently so every time I draw him he becomes more and more real."

Drawing work that feels real and is ready before a deadline is the most difficult aspect of illustrating "Titans" for Daniel. "It takes a lot of work to not be late," Daniel stated. "I average five pages a week. The amount of quality I want on each page means that I have to manage my time right. I don't like to rush my work, but I also understand the importance of getting the book in on time. To me, it's always been a game of time management. I don't allow myself to think I can be late. When I am, I feel like I underachieved or something. Fans want quality work on a monthly basis, so that's the most difficult aspect for me."

Getting a chance to illustrate one of DC's most popular titles on a monthly basis is the most rewarding aspect of working on "Teen Titans" for Daniel. "I had a choice to make last year and that was to change direction in my career," Daniel said. "Doing commercial illustration and video game work or giving my comics career one more shot. I felt I'd never reached my full potential in comics and I failed myself in what I envisioned for myself as a young artist all those years ago. So, I decided that if I was going to stick around, I had to do it right. I wanted to work on my craft, get better and grow as an artist and storyteller. That meant changing my approach, my style even, which is easier said than done. It's like deciding to suddenly speak properly when you've only known slang your whole life. Sure, you'll slip a bit here and there, but with practice, you learn and it becomes almost second nature. That's where I'm getting to now. Occasionally shaking out some of those old bugs, but with the support of Eddie Berganza and Geoff Johns, in particular, I've really started to see my own progress. On a personal level, reaching the goals I set for myself is the greatest reward.

"All of us working on the book feel like we're part of something that's really special and that the books we'll be putting out this year will be considered special too by the readers," Daniel continued. "We can't wait to have these issues come out. We can't wait to get working on the issues that Geoff has planned for this year and next."

Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans
Teen Titans Go! Vs Teen Titans: Every Version of the Heroes in the Trailer

More in Comics