When "Teen Titans" bows on Cartoon Network this Saturday fans willget a DC Comics animated show unlike the ones they've grown accustomed tostarting with the dark "Batman: The Animated Series." Bright, colorfuland bursting with spastic energy, "Teen Titans" is heavily influencedby anime and geared towards younger viewers.
Cartoon Network has provided C2F/CBR News with this Q & A session with GlenMurakami, producer of the show, who talks about crafting a new kind of cartoonsuperhero series.
Q: What types of stories are you trying to tell?
Glen Murakami (GM): We're trying to tell stories that kids can relate to - byusing problems thatreal teenagers have. For example, we'll deal with things like sibling rivalryand bullying, but not in an "after school special" kind of way. Our take is that the Teen Titans are real kids who just happen to have superpowers.
Q: What does each character bring to the group?
GM: Robin is the leader - the brains of the operation. Cyborg is the backbone;heprovides strength to the group - physically and emotionally. Beast Boy is the humor. Starfire is the positive energy of the group. Raven is not exactly apessimist, but she definitely provides balance.
When we started creating the show, the first question we asked was: "Whatare the characters' flaws?" Once we knew what the characters' limitationswere, we knew how to play them off one another. As a result, all the charactersare funny. It's not like we said that Beast Boy is the funny one and he's theonly one who cracks jokes. They're all funny, but it's within their owncharacter. Playing the characters against each other is where you get theconflict and the humor.
Q: What are some of your influences for the show?
GM: Anime has been a big influence on the show - everything from"Speed Racer" and "Kimba the White Lion" to the work ofcreators like Osamu Tezuka, Ishinomori Shotaro and Hiyao Miyazaki. The series"FLCL" was a major influence.
I'm from a generation that grew up watching anime shows like "Battle of thePlanets" and "G-Force." I think my generation, and the kidsgrowing up today, will be familiar with some of the style and techniques we'llbe bringing to U.S audiences on "Teen Titans."
Having worked on series like "Superman," "Batman: The Animated Series,""BatmanBeyond" and "Justice League," it gave me a clear example of what had been done inthis genre, and that we were going to try to move in a different direction.
Illustrators like Bob Peak and Coby Whitmore have been big influences on theloose, painterly style we have been using for the backgrounds. And our storyeditor, David Slack, has referred the show as a superhero version of "TheBreakfast Club." There's some truth in that.
Q: How will you balance the "Teen" with the "Titans"? Whattypes of "teen issues" will they confront?
GM:Every good story is what its metaphor should be. Instead of getting veryspecific, we tend to choose stories that everyone can relate to. We think thateveryone can relate to being bullied. You don't have to be a superhero or arobot hybrid to know what that feels like. Same thing with sibling rivalry -it's a universal problem.
We make the show fun, though, and it's about superheroes doing their thing. Andthat's how it avoids becoming an after-school special. We're not hitting theaudience over the head with anything.
Q:How does "Teen Titans" compare with other animated shows? What about the music?
GM: The look of "Teen Titans" is different than any other superhero showcreated for an American or western market because no other show has been soheavily influenced by anime. We use some "super-deformed" kind oftakes, which I think of as a Japanese equivalent to a Tex Avery approach.
The fact that there is such a strong element of humor in "Teen Titans" makes itdifferent than most superhero shows. But our humor is not ironic at all - we'renot mocking our characters, we're just incorporating humor into theirinteraction, keeping it true to the way that real teens would react.
Musically in "Teen Titans," we're doing anything and everything that isappropriate for the feel of the show. The music will vary, in some cases, forevery show or even within a specific show. One time it might be jazzy loungemusic, and, in another, it will be techno, to help with the mood or feel of theshow. I don't feel like this show will ever be traditional musically in the waywe were with Batman or Superman.
Q: You've worked on other shows with superheroes - how is "Teen Titans" different?
GM: "Batman," "Superman" and "Justice League" broke new ground. No one ever tried toportray superheroes in that way before. The style of storytelling was morerealistic, more filmic. We took a comic book story and told it in the style of amovie.
With "Teen Titans," we went back a step and made it more like a traditionalcartoon. Also, "Teen Titans" will be more character driven. As in old"Star Trek"episodes, these characters are iconic in their own way, even though the audiencemay not be familiar with their history in the comics. The humor and tensioncomes out by contrasting these types against each other.
Q: How is Robin in "Teen Titans" different from the Robin we've seen in"Batman?"
GM: In "Teen Titans," we don't even really think of Robin as part of the"Batman and …." team. I'm trying to treat him as a brand newcharacter that people have never seen before. He's the leader instead of thesidekick. He's independent. He's not in the shadow of his father figure, nor ishe going to react in the same way Batman might. In fact, we'll never mentionBatman at all in the series.
Q: How closely will the TV series stick to the popular DC Comics series?
GM:We've looked through the entire history of the characters - from the verybeginning - and tried to boil all of it down and condense it. We've tried totake the best parts of each character through the years. Things have changed -like the costumes and the character design, but not so much that a comic fanwould not recognize them. But the show will remain an entity unto itself.
We've focused on telling the story of the characters rather than dwelling ontheir backstory. This is a show about the characters trying to find out thingsabout themselves. Throughout the course of the series, it will touch on wherethe characters come from, but we won't be doing flashbacks. We try to createsituations where the rest of the Teen Titans learn about one of the teammembers, in the way any real kid would.
When I was a kid, I didn't get caught up in origin stories too much. You neverquestioned why the Three Stooges had different jobs all the time or how SpeedRacer got to drive the car. They just did. Once the story gets going, you get soinvolved that the backstory just did not seem that important.
Q: What kind of audience do you expect "Teen Titans" to attract?
GM:I think everyone will like it. The stories work on so many different levels. Ifyou want action, there's action. If you want humor, there is humor. But all thestories are very strong and they are actually about something. They're about howpeople feel and I think everyone will be able to relate to that. The Teen Titansare superheroes, but their problems are not so far above the problems of anyonewatching that they will not be able to relate to it. The villains, in many ways,are about helping the characters learn more about themselves.
"Teen Titans" makes its debut on Cartoon Network this Saturday,July 19th at 9pm EST with two back-to-back episodes "Final Exam" and"Sisters". Check out CBR'sreview of the show. Then tune in for "Titans" on Saturday.
LXG BOX OFFICE
"The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" debuted at #2 this weekendaccording to weekend estimates published by BoxOffice Mojo. The comic adaptation took in some $23.2 million, falling inbehind "Pirates of the Caribbean."
"The Hulk" is still in the top ten after four weeks on the charts.Big green grabbed another $3.7 million, bringing its tally to almost $125million. This one is fading fast and probably won't be in the top ten next week.
In interesting "League" side note, Varietyreports that Patrick Swayze will next play Allan Quatermain on the small screen.This won't be in some "LXG" spinoff, but rather a four-hour miniseriesremaking "King Solomon's Mines" for Hallmark Entertainment.
DC COMICS' AVI ARAD
Hit comic-based movies: Marvel Comics can make them. DC Comics can't. This isthe trend of the past five years. Today's Varietycontains an interesting article of DC/Warner Bros. plans to match Marvel'sbig-screen success.
Those plans could (and should) include creating their own version of AviArad, someone who gets comic books and movies and is able to champion characterson their journey from one format to the other.
"There is no reason why the DC stable of characters can't outperformMarvel's," says "LXG" producer Don Murphy, who is involved withmany comic adaptations, including DC's "Death: The High Cost ofLiving."
"It just requires a person focused on making that happen," Murphycontinued. "That's difficult to find when instead of two people running thecompany like Avi and Ike (Perlmutter), DC is owned by a monolithic media company-- but it's not impossible."
To that end, Kevin Tsujihara, an executive VP for business development andstrategy for Warner Bros. Entertainment and DC president and publisher PaulLevitz and head-hunting their own Avi Arad.
Tsujihara told Variety, "we're going to hire someone soon."
In the mean time, Warner is looking to get "Catwoman" and"Constantine" rolling this September and C2F/CBR News exclusively brokethe news that Neil Gaiman's "Death" movie has been green lit andmay also start filming by 2003's end.
From a press release:
IlluminatiEntertainment- the first Hollywood management and production company tofocus on clients with backgrounds in comic books and video games - todayannounced its plans for this year's Comic-ConInternational in San Diego.
Illuminati will be located at booth #4024, where it will be selling copies ofthe inaugural Illuminati Sketchbook. Totaling a whopping 68 pages, thesketchbook includes artwork from all of the company's management clients-withmuch of that artwork coming from new creator-owned projects that they'll beformally announcing in coming months. The sketchbook is a limited edition ofonly 500 copies, and is expected to sell out quickly.
That isn't the only isn't the only sketchbook the company will have on hand.
They'll also be selling standalone sketchbooks for most all of theirclients-including some clients who won't be attending the convention. All moniesgenerated by sales of these sketchbooks go directly to the artists, so fansbuying their favorite artists' books will truly be supporting those artists.
The company will also be announcing exciting new creator-owned projects fromsome of their clients-including Dave Johnson and Ric Krause's "DarkRide," for which they'll be selling preview ashcans. Johnson is probablybest known as the Eisner-winning cover artist of "100 Bullets" andDC's sell-out hit "Superman: Red Son," while Krause is a successfulscreenwriter who's sold "Comeback" to Fox 2000 & James Cameron'sLightstorm Entertainment and "Black Box" to Senator International& producer Mark Canton. Both Johnson and Krause will be on hand to signcopies.
Another highlight of Illuminati's offerings will be signed copies of thepremiere issue of Todd Dezago & Craig Rosseau's "The Perhapanauts."Neither creator will be able to attend this year's convention, but Illuminatiwill be selling most of the remaining signed and numbered copies of thelimited-edition debut at the convention-making it the last opportunity for manyfans to purchase the issue.
Additionally, all of Illuminati Entertainment's comic clients attending theshow will be spending time signing at the company's booth and promoting theirworks. A completesigning schedule is available online.
TheComics Continuum reports that a new Wolverine-like character will make herdebut on this season of "X-Men: Evolution."
X23 is created just for the show. She's a 14-year-old secret weapon developedusing Wolverine's DNA. In her debut episode, she single-handedly defeats the X-Menand then lays in wait for Logan.
DD DVD GIVEAWAY
Fox is providing us with five copies of the 2-disc set to passon to you, the faithful reader.
Just signup for our giveawayat Comics2Film.com between now and July 27th for your chance to win.
CALLING ALL FAN ARTISTS: G.I. JOE WANTS YOU
Comics2Filmhas teamed up with Devil'sDue Publishing to give fan artists a chance to see their artwork inprint.
We're looking for a few good pencil and inkgurus to work up a faux cover for the "G.I. Joe" comic. The top threeentries will be published in the pages of upcoming Devil's Due comics.
We'vejust launched the contest, so there's still plenty of time to enter. Click overto the Comics2Film.comwebsite for complete details and official rules. Then draw that cover!