Earlier this week, we spoke with new "Teen Titans" artist Jonboy Meyers about the upcoming series relaunch, in which he debuted some of his art and design process for the characters, their outfits, and even their new-look Titans Tower. With the series drawing ever closer as we approach the launch of "Teen Titans: Rebirth" in October, CBR News continues our unofficial 'Teen Titans Week' by speaking with series writer Benjamin Percy, to complete our look on this new era for the characters.
With Damian Wayne now in charge of the team -- and his grandfather subsequently emerging as a new threat against them -- the group of Starfire, Beast Boy, Kid Flash and Raven certainly have their work cut out for them. In our interview, Percy explores just what we can expect to see them up against -- and shares an exclusive first look at the lettered pages for the issue!
CBR News: What is your personal history with the Teen Titans as characters, as a team, as a concept? Were you a fan before you came to the team for DC: Rebirth?
Benjamin Percy: I dipped in and out of the Wolfman-Perez run when I was a kid -- and then revisited the old issues after I graduated college and the Johns’s run rekindled my interest. When DC approached me about writing the series, I do what I always do: immerse myself in research. Watching "Young Justice" and "Teen Titans Go!"; reading every issue I could get my paws on. That’s the only way to approach an event like Rebirth: know what’s been written, so that I can cultivate the best of it, while giving the Teen Titans my own unique spin. Wolfman/Pérez and Geoff Johns remain my touchstones for quality.
Various people have assumed leadership of the team over the years but now Damian Wayne has taken the reins. How does Damian’s approach vary?
You won’t be surprised to hear he takes the team by force. It’s Damian after all. And you also won’t be surprised to hear that Beast Boy, Starfire, Raven and Kid Flash don’t appreciate his tyrannical approach.
But slowly -- and with difficulty -- they’ll come to empathize with each other as they realize good intentions underlie Damian’s bad behavior. He’s not only looking to help himself, but save their lives, as they all face a common enemy.
The Titans have never shied away from taking on powerful foes -- but Ra’s Al Ghul is another level. How does he come into their path? What is he up to, as the series begins?
It’s not often a writer gets the opportunity to write a #1 issue, and I don’t take that for granted -- I also don’t take my readers’ attention for granted. They’re going to give me one or two issues, and if I don’t wow them -- if I don’t grab them by the throat and drag them down the rabbit hole -- then the "Teen Titans" will get sidelined as a series. This is one of the most important franchises in comics' history, and I want to launch it with earth-shaking thunder.
Which means nothing less than a marquee villain like Ra’s al Ghul will do.
I can’t tell you too much about what he’s up to, as that would spoil too much. But here’s an exclusive nugget of information we haven’t shared with anyone else. There is a school -- called the Demon’s Fist -- presided over by Ra’s himself that is cultivating the future of the League of Assassins. Knowing that, you better lock your doors and hide under the bed, because those kids are nasty pieces of work.
With the Titans going up against someone from Damian’s past -- in essence, they're fighting legacy itself. Is that a theme you’re interested in exploring in your run?
Absolutely. Ra’s is not only centrally important to the narrative but also to theme. Damian is the son of the world’s greatest detective, and the grandson of the world’s greatest crime lord. He just turned thirteen, as you know from the DCU Rebirth issue, and that’s a fulcrum point, the juncture of childhood and adulthood. He’s going to face some hard choices, as are all the Titans, about how the burden of their pasts affects the freedom of their futures.
How will the team work together in these circumstances? With Damian in charge, things could well be quite tense.
Everyone loves an odd couple -- Kirk and Spock, Abbot and Costello, Green Arrow and Black Canary -- and Damian and Starfire will offset each other beautifully as friendly adversaries. They’re both fierce warriors. They’re both alienated. But he operates in the shadows, whereas she’s powered by the sun. He’s bitingly asocial, whereas she wears her (very big) heart on her sleeve.
Here’s one of the things that unites the team and serves as central theme not only for DC’s Rebirth generally but the Teen Titans particularly: these characters are all haunted by their past as they try to wrestle control of their future.
How did you decide on the characters who'll be showing up in the series, as an ensemble and as a collection of fan-favorite heroes?
Every arc will have a character as a focusing agent, so the first arc belongs to Damian, and the second arc belongs to our sixth, secret member -- who will be announced in the near future -- and so on.
I’m doing this because team books are crowded, and characterization gets thinned as a result. So the series will remain an ensemble, but one character will rise above the others and guide the emotional and thematic arc each time.
We’ve got a mix of fan favorites and newbies. They’re all outliers and they’re all, well, looking for friends. And isn’t that what "Teen Titans" has always been about? Friendship? That -- and coming-of-age.