One of the more surprising news of the past week was writer Scott Lobdell’s announcement that he would be leaving Teen Titans — a series he launched and shepherded since the beginning of DC Comics’ New 52 — this coming April as the series reaches its end, as well. Scott generously shared details of his thought process throughout the run with us, sharing how this team of teen adventurers was different from all those before them that shared the name, and giving hints as to what we can expect to see in the coming months.
Matt Santori: Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk, Scott!
Scott Lobdell: There is no such thing as “too busy to talk to Comicosity!”
MSG: Now coming up on the end of your run, how has your thought process on writing the Teen Titans changed from when we were first introduced to these characters to now? Has your concept of them grown as their own relationships and personalities developed?
SL: Absolutely! And, to be honest, this might be where I zigged when I should have zagged (If I want to get all philosophical two years in).
The original idea was to pull the Teen Titans together for a very specific threat to the teen population of the DC Universe – in this case, N.O.W.H.E.R.E., a globe-spanning organization dedicated to capturing, curing or killing teenagers with meta powers. I wanted to introduce the idea in the first year and then put a pin in the group while the team got to know each other and wound up on other adventures (mostly involving getting to know each other, while also keeping to their original mission statement of helping teenagers).
In the first eight or nine months you can see a lot of ground work being laid out — the mystery of Skitter’s transformations; what was the coincidence that lead Bunker to be on the same train with Red Robin; who was Detritus and what were the long term ramifications of masking his presence to Red Robin; who were the rest of the soldiers in Grymm’s battalion and how did they wind up at S.T.A.R. Labs; and would Static be joining the team as a member or just a brilliant support system as Virgil; who was that police detective with what looks like a rap sheet on Kid Flash from the future? The series was bursting at the seams with new ideas and directions. Each of the stories in the first year were about building a Teen Titans Universe to explore.
I loved the notion that these are kids. They aren’t super heroes. They aren’t the Justice League in training. They aren’t even sidekicks. They are kids with powers who have just been through something traumatic and they are not in any rush at all to go their separate ways. They are hanging out together and having adventures — sometimes helping each other, sometimes helping kids at large.
I liked the idea that these kids were kind of aimless, without parental supervision — without mentors telling them what to do or train them — without a history between them, they had to figure things out as they went. The book bobbled around in tone and direction because the kids were adrift without a “reason” to be together (like, say, other super hero teams). Instead of writing a “team book” I was writing a book about young teenagers.
The next few issues are very much designed to “right the ship” — to define the Teen Titans as a team. I’m sure you guys will let me and Tyler Kirkham and Kenneth Rocafort know how we’re doing! That’s the great thing about Teen Titans fans — we’re never shy!
MSG: Raven was one of the most requested characters to return to the team from the start, but also remains one of the most changed of all the Titans. What was your rediscovery process for her character and what differentiates this version for you versus previous iterations?
SL: Well, the plus and minus of using or reintroducing fan favorites into the New 52 is that part of the audience wants one thing (to bring back the character we know!) while the creator has a different criteria that they are working with: how does this character fit into the world around him or her as it exists now.
We all know the history of Raven as it existed before… where she was raised in this otherworldly dimension to be kept away from her father, Trigon. She had a long history (her very first appearance on) with the original Teen Titans.
But when she was brought back in Phantom Stranger, it was with some interesting new quirks. Not only had she not been raised in this alternate dimension, she was pretty much raised on Earth and on the run from her father. And when the Phantom Stranger ultimately betrayed her by delivering her to Trigon “for the greater good” – she spent an “eternity” learning at his side, enslaving worlds and being in touch with her evil side.
So when she came to the Teen Titans, she was already – by design – a new take on the character. As opposed to the young woman who was always afraid she was going to give into the evil side that was her father… she had already lost by the time we met her. So instead of a Teen Titans who were there to protect Raven from her father, we have a story about how her exposure to these kids and her developing relationships with the Teen Titans are going to be about rescuing her — about rehabilitating her — instead of fighting to maintain her humanity, she’ll eventually be fighting to reclaim it.
That’s the thing about writing for the New 52. In many ways it seems like some fans want the cover band version of a story or a character. They want what they know — and new continuity be damned! But that isn’t what I was asked to do and it isn’t my job.
MSG: The upcoming annual, among other things, deals specifically with the return of two characters — Skitter and the Harvest. Has Skitter’s absence been strictly a matter of evolving story lines, or will we be seeing her importance grow in the coming months?
SL: It is hard for me to talk about Skitter without giving away secrets of the story that is about to be told. But I will say this: she was always going to go away and come back, and when she came back it was going to be in a way that forced the Titans to re-examine some of their alliances and preconceptions about what it means to choose sides in conflicts that they might not fully understand (Look! There they go, acting like kids again and not super heroes!).
One of the things I’ve found interesting since her departure were the howls about where she had gone to — why the Teen Titans hadn’t tracked her down. (Umm… how?) My own personal experience with being a teenager and later on as an adult, is that — sit down for this — people come in and out of your life. And they are allowed to, even if you want them around. In this case, the Teen Titans were not a team that had been together for years. They weren’t besties. They were a handful of kids who got together to try to shut down N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and they did for a time. And Skitter went her own way.
She came into the book as a mystery and she left for a time as a mystery. To me the most fun part of a mystery is waiting for it to be solved.
MSG: Harvest, of course, is inextricably linked to the origin of the new Superboy, unbeknownst to his Teen Titans compatriots. What was your thought process in developing his origins and motivations, and how do you think he’s crafted the type of team the Titans have become?
SL: I have always been fascinated by Tim Drake and his place among the Teen Titans (even the role of Robin). On a team of often very powerful metas — he’s the guy without any super human powers. But he’s the one they ultimately and always follow in the end. That is awesome to me. That is a guy with the “least amount of power” looking out for those with powers and helping them defend people without.
To me, that makes Tim Drake the coolest, most compassionate, most awesome character in the Teen Titans universe.
In some ways, he’s even more awesome than — forgive the term, Professor X — because Tim doesn’t have any skin in this game, just his heart. He’s not a meta fighting for the rights of metas, he’s a human being who has left Batman’s shadow to try to try to guide the next generation of metas to be awesome: to do the right thing by themselves and others.
When Brett [Booth] and I created Harvest… we wanted to create Red Robin’s opposite number. Instead of a young man who still believed in the inherent good of metas, at the very dawn of the metas, Harvest was an old man who witnessed first hand the horrors inflicted upon humans by metas at what was essentially the end of the peaceful co-existence between the powerless humans and metas.
Tim was the Alpha and Harvest was the Omega — and in many ways N.O.W.H.E.R.E. created the Teen Titans by their very presence. Harvest came back in time to stop the rise of the metas, even as his presence here is what prompted Red Robin to form the Teen Titans in order to stop him.
So the idea is to have two humans from two completely different times in their lives (the optimism of youth and the pessimism that sometimes comes with age) locked in this battle for the fate of the metas around them.
MSG: One of the interesting things about your Teen Titans run is its connections to the future of the DC Universe, now playing out most obviously with Kid Flash and Superboy. With so much focus on the future coming up in both New 52: Futures End and the Flash, will we be seeing more ramifications from afar playing out in Teen Titans as your run wraps up?
SL: I’ll be honest, I grew up in a time where “future stories” were awesome because they merely presented possibilities, alternatives. Over the years, it seems to me, that we live in a connect the dots Wikipedia era of needing to know ever last detail of something and have it documented to within an inch of its life and tied up and laid at the altar of Continuity that we’ve lost the inherent fun of comic book stories.
Just like in life, there is absolutely know way to know if your life at the end of the day is going to resemble your life at the end of the day. Death, unemployment, a cheating spouse, a sick child, a foreclosure… we’re not supposed to know what tomorrow is going to be like for the characters we read. I think “future stories” are fun when the are rife with possibilities. Less so when they are merely a fast forward to the last chapter of a book.
MSG: Some strong bonds have been slowly building between members — as with Bunker and Kon, or Solstice and Kid Flash — but the team as a whole doesn’t seem to function very well. Where do you see the disconnect for the Titans in regard to gaining each other’s trust?
SL: Do they not function well? Hmm. They seem to win a lot of fights, no?
Look at Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s brilliant run on New Teen Titans — where it started with a core four with all their storied history and then Starfire, Raven and Cyborg added. Peter David’s awesome Young Justice with the trio of besties pre-bonded. Even Geoff Johns’ seminal Teen Titans was sort of about getting the band back together and taking the show on the road. In the New 52, none of them knew each other… so to write them as if they have these instant bonds, that they trust each other explicitly or even that that trust turns out to be warranted, would feel something like what I presume would be a bad acid trip to me.
MSG: Tim Drake has been nearly exclusively left to you to develop for the New 52 and you’ve certainly added some intriguing elements to his back story! Will we be seeing Red Robin’s situation with his parents play out in the coming months and how do you see his personal life affecting his relationship with the rest of the crew?
SL: I am so glad you asked! I am fascinated about the idea of examining Tim Drake’s relationship with his parents. And here I thought I was alone… so alone!
MSG: Any final thoughts or special teases for the Comicosity audience?
SL: Everything changes. Everything.
Scott Lobdell races toward the conclusion of his run on DC Comics’ Teen Titans in April with the final issue of this volume, #30, arriving in stores one week before a concluding chapter in Teen Titans Annual #3.