Lobdell Builds Up Gay Teen With "Titans" Bunker

With the advent of their New 52 relaunch of superhero titles, DC Comics has introduced a number of new characters to the DC Universe, but none of them have gained quite so many reactions as Teen Titan team member Bunker.

Introduced online in advance of his full debut in this week's "Teen Titans" #3, the hero whose power involves creating brick-like force fields earned both praise and scorn online when the publisher revealed that the Mexican youth would not just be openly gay but a more flamboyant take on gay superheroes in general. Since that news hit in September, the merits of such a character have been considered and reconsidered by critics and fans online (including this piece by CBR's own Brett White), but on Wednesday readers can decide for themselves how well the hero fits within the DCU.

Of course, writer Scott Lobdell (who previously spoke with CBR about Bunker here) comes to the book with no small amount of experience writing YA-tinged superhero comics. The writer who once shepherded stories about all kinds of teen drama with Marvel's 90s hit "Generation X" admitted that "while I've certainly done other comics since then that I'm excited about, there is certainly something fun about being back on a regular, ongoing teen book that is different from any other writing experience." The writer spoke to CBR News about how he and artist Brett Booth approached the task of writing teen superheroes from a new angle in "Teen Titans," why Bunker will be a different kind of superhero than fans are used to seeing for more than just his sexuality and why sometimes it's better to leave the angst aside with young heroes.

CBR News: There's a lot going on with "Teen Titans" and how it functions within the New 52 line and within your other DC work. I wanted to start on the series talking about how you've chosen to introduce the characters to date. While there's definitely a bigger storyline here, it feels very much as though you've been working to make each issue stand alone and introducing a new cast member on the scene through Red Robin's eyes. What was the thought behind that decision?

Scott Lobdell: I have to say that I tend to get varying degrees of grief about it - and when I say that, I mean within the creative process - because the two most famous iterations of "Teen Titans" have been Marv [Wolfman's] and Geoff [Johns'] versions where both of those books started immediately with characters we knew. So you could have a Robin and a Wonder Girl and a Kid Flash meet a Raven, a Starfire and a Cyborg in the first issue, and it didn't matter because we knew who at least half those characters are. The other half were characters that all came on the page at the same time.

But because of this new continuity, it wouldn't have been possible to create a first issue that had all seven of the Teen Titans in it, and I felt really, really strongly that we needed to give the characters room to breath. I got as far as issue #3, and then I got the tap on my shoulder that said, "Okay, they're a team now. Go!" [Laughs] So I think by issues #4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, people will see that they're going to be stunned by how quickly things start spiraling and building on top of each other. But I really do believe that that wouldn't be possible if we didn't get to know all the characters first.

The overarching theme of the book fits very much in line with what's been going on in Geoff and Jim Lee's "Justice League" in terms of the super powered teens being seen as a menace to society. There's a lot of pressure - from the mystery N.O.W.H.E.R.E. organization, from the news media and from their inspirations in the hero community - that these kids should not be the heroes they're trying to be. How does that element of the series serve as a metaphor for being a teen in general?

Well, it's kind of interesting. Imagine if you called 911, and two 14-year-olds showed up to take the call or chase a burglar away. Even if they had a gun on them or a baton and a taser, you'd still say, "I'm not sure I can trust a kids version of how they think they should handle this situation." I think there's a bit of a realism to this notion that kids with super powers are probably - even under the best of circumstances - not people you should trust to handle certain situations. As a society, kids aren't allowed to drink until they're 21 or enlist in the Army until they're 18 or smoke. So there's a notion that they would have all these powers whether they were born with them or armed with them in some way, and then society or the authorities in charge of people, to think that they'd suddenly embrace these kids with sometimes incredibly dangerous super powers is something that doesn't add up. That [resistance] seems perfectly natural to me as opposed to the notion of "Here's a kid who's going to come and save me from a burning building." I mean, if a 16-year-old fireman came to save me, I think I'd go, "You know, I'm going to wait a minute here for a real fireman." So I felt if you're going to do a book about teen superheroes, the more you concentrate on the teen part, the more you separate them from the rest of the DC books.

Let's talk about Bunker, who debuts in full in this week's issue #3. We got a very brief glimpse of the character in issue #1 along with word that he had escaped authorities in Mexico. Where do we pick up his story as he interacts with the team?

We pick him up and discover that the reason he was arrested in Mexico was because he was on his way to the states. As we established in issue #1, Red Robin has been kind of making a call to arms to young metahumans. He's been a kind of blogger muckraking where he can. What we discover in issue #3 is that Red Robin is the entire reason why Miguel has been inspired to take his metahuman abilities and use them for a greater good. So when he actually meets Red Robin, it's the culmination of the last few months of his life. And for Tim, I think he's been observing the whole problem of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and metahuman teens from a somewhat detached point of view. Meeting Miguel makes him reevaluate what he's been doing in terms of now discovering that a young superhero team is forming around him. While Tim was happy in issue #2 to work with Cassie and to help face the threat on hand, it certainly starts to gel in meeting Miguel that he's got a superhero team. This isn't something he can orchestrate from a distance anymore. It's becoming real.

How did you and Brett Booth conceive on Bunker not just in terms of his sexuality or his personal background but as a superhero character that fits on this team and in this world?

When the first few images of the new Teen Titans showed up, there were people on message boards complaining about Skitter and how different she looked, and they had a similar reaction to Bunker because he's not a typical kid in a cape who can run fast or knock down a building. He has a different power set. I think that what we really wanted to do - and the promise I'd make any readers moving forward - is that if we do introduce characters like Trace from issue #2 - three brothers who can teleport in relation to each other - they'll be characters and powers that we have not seen in any permutation before. Whether it be Bunker or Skitter or Trace, Brett and I really want them to be new and different.

A lot of digital ink has been worked up on Bunker being a gay teen and being a teen who's a bit more flamboyant in his embracing of his sexuality. Of course, people can see the finer points of how that works out in the issues, but after reading #1 and 2, it struck me how for many character in this world, their powers are like a curse - this burden they have to bear. Was part of Bunker's conception not just having him embrace his sexuality but having him provide a counterpoint to the general put-upon teen superhero idea?

Yeah, I think so. I'd say that definitely the point of Bunker's embracing things is that he enjoys everything about life. He enjoys being alive, he enjoys his sexuality, and he enjoys that he's been gifted with these super powers. To some degree, I don't think we see a lot of characters enjoying their super powers the same way that you and I would. I think it's great to see the drama of characters burdened by that which separates them from society, but there's also the idea that many people solely enjoy and celebrate every day that which makes them different instead of being fearful or angsty or regretful.

I remember in my high school yearbook, my quote was "Life is too serious to be taken too seriously." And I think in a lot of ways, that's Bunker's feeling. He just loves waking up in the morning and enjoys whatever happens to him in the course of the day. That's really fun for characters not just in comic books in general, but certainly in "Teen Titans" - a series that has certainly had its share of depressing situations over the years.

"Teen Titans" #3 goes on sale this Wednesday from DC Comics.

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