When There's Trouble…: J. Torres talks 'Teen Titans Go'

[Teen Titans Go 1]If you've been watching the popular cable television channel Cartoon Network recently, you've no doubt noticed the ads for a new "Teen Titans" animated series. CBR/Comics2Film even featured a review of the first two episodes recently. But what you may not know is that the series is hugely popular already, just two weeks into its life and that fans of the show, based on the popular DC Comics franchise (which has been revived by Geoff Johns and Mike McKone), will get a companion comic book series this fall. CBR News caught up with "Teen Titans Go" writer J. Torres, a regular columnist on CBR, and spoke with him about his plans for the series.

"'Teen Titans Go' is a new ongoing series based on the Cartoon Network animated show," said Torres. "Our first issue is scheduled to be in stores Nov. 26. That issue has art by Todd Nauck with Larry Stucker and a cover by Dave Bullock. We're trying to make it as fun and dynamic and action-packed and funny as the show!"

If you're not familiar with the Teen Titans of past or the characters in the current animated or comic book series, Torres says you need not worry- this will be a reader friendly series. But if that isn't consolation enough, he offers a brief introduction to the main players in "Teen Titans Go." "Robin is the leader and brains of the operation. Cyborg is the backbone, the physical and emotional strength of the group, if you will. Starfire is the heart of the group and its 'positive energy.' Raven is not exactly the 'negative' to Starfire's positive, but she definitely provides a kind of balance with her sarcasm and brooding nature. And of course there's Beast Boy the cute comic relief. I took the 'Which Teen Titan are you?' quiz on the Cartoon Network site and got Beast Boy. Obviously, I am cute and funny too, and will approach this these characters in a cute and funny manner, which is appropriate for a comic book based on such a cute and funny show."

Lest the fans of the original Teen Titans worry, Torres says he's a big fan of Speedy, Wonder Girl and all the rest of those Titans you only find in the comics… for now. "Oh, yeah!" says the co-creator of the "Sidekicks" series for Oni Press of his affection for the Teen Titans. "'The New Teen Titans' for sure. I clearly remember my introduction to that series. Issue #7. 'Assault on Titans Tower.' Picked it up at the corner store. Talk about dating myself! I also remember digging stories of the original Teen Titans in reprint books like those DC Digests. In case you haven't heard, I kinda have this thing for sidekicks [smiles]."

While Torres would have probably knocked down doors at DC for this project, luckily it was DC who came to him with the proposal and he explains, "About a couple of months or so ago Lysa Hawkins contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in working on a 'Titans project.' I said, 'Very much so.' When I later found out it was going to be the comic book based on the new cartoon, I almost said I'd do it for free!"

The other big superhero animated series on television, "Justice League," also has a comic book counterpart, "Justice League Adventures," and the stories in that comic tend to be completed in one issue, a trend you'll see carried over in Torres Titan's tenure. "I've been asked to write single issue stand-alone stories for starters just like the show is written. I believe the show won't be doing any two-parters until the end of the first season. There is of course that recurring subplot involving Slade, but if I said any more on that I'd probably have to kill you."

Some readers may not be familiar with Torres' name, despite the variety of work he's done on series like "Sidekicks" or "X-Men: Ronin" or "Days Like This," and it may lead some to wonder why DC would pick him to do the series. "I've been writing all-ages comics for a number of years now, and I've tried to produce good material that would hopefully attract younger readers to the fold, so it's almost like I've been training for this," explains the writer of why he feels he's a good fit. "But most of that previous work has been in the small press, so it hasn't been easy reaching that new audience. That's not to say books like 'Alison Dare' or 'Jason & the Argobots' don't have fans, and haven't achieved some level of success ('AD' was even nominated for an Eisner in the Best Title for Young Readers category a couple of years back). But now I've got this amazing vehicle to keep that 'personal crusade' going and take things to another level. For me, it feels like something coming full circle, really. It's the stuff I did for Oni Press' all-ages line that got

me here, and it's obvious from my other work like 'Sidekicks' that the Teen Titans are favorites, so I couldn't have been offered a cooler gig if you tried to tailor something for me. Now, here's hoping I can exploit this opportunity and really reach even more young readers with this series. In our attempts to be taken more seriously and produce more 'mature' comics, and all that time we went around exclaiming 'comics aren't just for kids', we kind of threw the baby out with the bath water, you know? We've serviced the aging fanboys enough, we need to start getting them while they're young again, don't you think?"

While Torres has creative freedom to do a lot of things with "Go," he does admit that he is bound by the series to a degree. "Right now, we're following the lead of the show. If someone like, say, Aqualad shows up in an episode, don't be surprised if he ends up making a splash in an issue somewhere down the line. I'd love to do something with characters like Terra and Speedy and Kid Flash, but we have to see how they're played on the cartoon first. Although, it just hit me that I recently got a plot approved involving some baddies that as far as I know haven't been scheduled for appearances in any episodes...

"As for what I know in advance about the show, at this point I've seen up to the sixth ep but I have descriptions of the eps for the entire first season... and beyond. As I said before, if I went on, I'd have to kill you."

The writer also realizes that many comic fans may be resistant to trying a comic book they see as "not real" because it isn't "in continuity" and so Torres says he'll do his best to satisfy old fans, but he's aiming to make it fun for all the kids who might come into comic stores after watching "Teen Titans." "Hopefully, we strike a nice balance between the new and the old. I think that's what the cartoon really has going for it. There's plenty there for Titans fans nostalgic for the Wolfman/Perez days or the fun of old superhero toons like the 'Super Friends,' as well as a lot of 'cool' stuff to attract the younger kids who are into manga and anime, and maybe grew up watching 'Powerpuff Girls' and 'Pokemon.' I spoke to my eight year old nephew about the cartoon the other day. We haven't had this much to share and mutually geek out about since we both got a PS2."

And if you've got any queries about art, Torres sums it up succinctly, saying, "Todd Nauck is on board for the inaugural issue (maybe more depending on his schedule). He worked on 'Young Justice.' 'Nuff said."

One question on everyone's mind has to be: J. Torres, what do you think of the "Teen Titans" animated series? "You know, when I first heard about the show and saw the early promo art, I got excited pretty fast," admits Torres. "I mean, it's the Teen Titans in an anime-influenced cartoon. Glenn Murakami must have a direct line to Santa Claus because I don't know who else could have told him about my wish list."

Though everyone has a month or so before they can pre-order their copy of "Teen Titans Go #1," Torres is already providing the best reason to do so: "Because all the other cool kids (both young and young at heart) will! I urge retailers to really give this book a chance. It's the perfect 'gateway' comic for young readers. The show is a hit, so order lots of copies and remember that the first issue is coming out a month before Christmas and what's a cooler stocking stuffer than a comic book? Plus, I encourage all you 'older' Titans fans out there to pick up an issue and share it with a son, daughter, niece, nephew, neighbor's kid, etc. The Teen Titans have always been about the next generation, and the old guard passing on a certain legacy to the new. Need I say more? Please stop me before I embarrass myself further... just pick up the book!"

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