Don't call them 'Teen Titans,' and don't call them the 'Justice League.' They're better than that.
DC's new Titans ongoing series is the flagship team book of the 'Dawn of DC' line, with the longtime teen heroes graduating into the big time as the official major team of the company. Nightwing's Tom Taylor and Birds of Prey's Nicola Scott have partnered up for this new run, launching back in May as one of the splashiest books of the year.
Now with summer fading and the 'Knight Terrors' event winding down, the ongoing Titans series returns from a brief hiatus with September 19's Titans #3 - and onward to its first proper event (as befits DC's main superhero team): Beast World.
Ahead of Titans' return in September and Beastworld's debut in November, Popverse spoke with Taylor and Scott about the series so far, and what's to come.
Popverse: Nicola, the last time you worked on the Titans was during the Convergence: Titans miniseries, in which one of the final panels had Starfire resting her palm on Nightwing’s butt. With the increasing fascination with Nightwing’s behind, are we to expect more moments like that upcoming in your Titans ongoing?
Nicola Scott: I pick my moments, and so far, this book isn’t really the right place. But if you look keenly, his butt is there. It’s always a bubble, so it will always be center stage.
Tom, you've gone from writing Nightwing to writing Titans and now Titans: Beast World, is this part of a long-running storyline that you’ve had planned out since the very beginning of your tenure at DC?
Tom Taylor: What we set out to do with Nightwing ended up having a big influence on the DC Universe. What we wanted to do was to tell this positive story of true heroism and a hero who just wants to help change his local community and the world.
The more people responded to that book – I was talking to Josh Williamson and Chip Zdarsky and Tom King and other people at DC – it was a feeling that all of us wanted to go because it’s why we all love heroes. We want to write characters with integrity who inspire people.
After Dark Crisis was the 'Dawn of DC,' which became the place for the new Superman, and for Nightwing to keep doing what he’s been doing, and for the Titans to be the premiere team of the DC Universe.
Reading what's come so far with Titans and looking at Ncola's dynamic renderings of the characters, is this new series meant to set itself as the modern JLA book, the mainstream modern Justice League?
Taylor: Yes and no.
No, because they’re meant to be the Titans. In a way they’re more mature than the Justice League, which is strange to say because they’re all in their late 20s. The number of times that the Justice League have forced internal conflict, we want to avoid that with the Titans, because they’ve known each other their whole lives. They squabbled as kids, we don’t want them to squabble as adults. They can be something more now.
Scott: The Justice League is a group of really powerful people who have to work together when the world needs them. The Titans are a group of equally powered people who’ve been training together since they were children. So, they know how their dynamics operate. They’ve sorted out all their traumas as teenagers. They’re now a fully functioning, really cohesive family with the power level of the Justice League who can just get stuff done without quarrel.
Are you suggesting that the Titans are a better team than the Justice League?
Taylor: …Not openly! [Laughs]
Scott: They’re a more cohesive team than the Justice League. That sort of relationship that they have and the history that they have makes them very agreeable with each other’s insight and direction.
Taylor: I think they have the potential to be a better unit than the Justice League.
I’ve written the Justice League quite a lot in a lot of different settings (DCeased, Injustice, Dark Knights of Steel), and I love that Superman and Batman are essentially each other’s heroes and the World’s Finest Friends. I love leaning that way. But the Titans are all equal. They are family.
Titans has started out with fresh designs for some of the characters, such as a new look for Starfire, Beast Boy, and Raven. How do those looks set the tones for these iterations of those characters?
Scott: Well, a few of the characters needed a little bit of an update. Some of them had already been done, like Cyborg – who has a book coming. His look was already good to go. Nightwing is Bruno [Redondo, artist on Nightwing]’s territory. Wally’s Flash outfit is Wally’s Flash outfit.
But right off the bat I was telling Tom 'We’re dealing with these characters, they’re going to be a team. Donna doesn’t need a sword, right?' And he said 'Absolutely!' And I’m like 'Good!', because unless Donna is slaying a dragon, she doesn’t need a sword, she can put that thing away. She certainly doesn’t need a shield, she has one on each wrist.
Superhero outfits: I’m done with black leather outfits, can I have a tweak? The editor agreed, so back to the star-field costume. I love the bold graphics of the big white stars.
For Starfire, we played around with a few different variations until we sort of all agreed on the one we settled on. Sometimes with costumes, you know it when you see it.
Taylor: And we’ve seen it, we’ve seen one Starfire cosplay walking around at San Diego.
Scott: And there’s been a few times over the years where I’ve seen some redesigns, and I’m like 'That’s not it!' I see the idea, but it doesn’t work as a Starfire costume. When you’re getting the opportunities to find an update, you want to know what has worked in the past and why. And Starfire’s origin point was a Barberella adaptation by George Perez. So you want to find a new modern way to express that - and feels appropriate for their age and appropriate for the moment.
Tom, there seems to be a tradition for Titans writers to become Nightwing writers and vice-versa. You think of Marv Wolfman, Devin Grayson… can you describe bringing Dick Grayson from working with Barbara Gordon in the pages of Nightwing over to leading the Titans in their team book?
Taylor: Well obviously I’ve been writing Dick for a long time. I am a massive fan, especially the Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel run which I bought secondhand and tore through all of them. Having his voice and his empathy and heart, and knowing how he wants to help and his drive to help in the back of my head tells me he’s a born leader. Not just a born leader, but a trained leader. It isn’t that big a stretch to go from writing personal Nightwing stories to bringing him [onto the Titans].
I think one of the big moments was him deciding to put Titans Tower in Blüdhaven, away from the shadow of anything else as a beacon onto the world. It’s another way for him to continue to transform that city.
Peacemaker appeared in Titans #1. Does that open the door for other characters, more specifically the younger generation of characters like Tim Drake and Cassandra Sandsmark? Might this even possibly develop into another iteration of the Teen Titans alongside The Titans?
Taylor: Not from us. The sweet spot for a team book is always seven. Once you get more than that, people lose their stories and their own special moments. You’ve only 20 pages, and that’s not always a lot of time for seven characters. If I brought more characters in – I can – but that means others won’t get a chance to shine, and we really want them to have chances to shine in this book.
With Titans: Beast World just announced, is this meant to be seen as Gar Logan’s time to shine?
Taylor: Sure, it’s this giant event in November 2023 that tears out of the pages of what we’re doing in Titans. Beast Boy – to save the world from an ancient evil – becomes a Starro called 'Garro'. And in the middle of this, he loses himself. His spores eventually infect the world and suddenly the world is being torn apart by human-animal hybrids. Black Adam becomes a Lion-Man and tears Kahndaq apart. There’s a lot more fun stuff to come with several great creators.
Nicola, the Titans have traveled a bit in these first two issues of the series, with them going to Borneo in Titans #2. How much has your artistic input influenced the storytelling in the environmental aspects of the book?
Scott: I follow the script. I see the primary part of my job is to best facilitate the intentions of the writer. While we might collaborate and talk about what’s coming up, for the most part – the script is the bible. From there I’m fleshing it out, giving it as much reality and gravity as possible.
The locations that we’ve been to, some have been specific like Borneo. But the nuclear disaster [in issue #1], I think if Amanda Waller’s henchmen are showing up then it’s got to be in America. I want to it be a different time of day than in Blüdhaven. So, I go – Kansas. We don’t state that it’s Kansas, but I'm giving myself the kind of reference information, and to Annette [Kwok, the Titans colorist].
Taylor: Regarding the specific locales of the book, once it’s decided where an event takes place, we spend so much time working out how far away places are, checking world clocks, seeing how characters can get there when we need them to, it takes so much time and nobody cares or notices! But the fact that we have fast travel –
Scott: Boom Tubes!
Taylor: Yeah! It’s so freeing!
I’m just realizing both the writer and penciller of this book are Australian –
Scott: And our colorist Anette Kwok is Australian as well.
Is this a first for DC? A first wholly Australian – powered North American comic?
Taylor: We did a Green Arrow short story (for the 80th Anniversary 100-Page Spectacular) with Anette as well!
Working out of Australia, do you need to make sure the work is sent in by a certain time of day to respect the time zone differences?
Scott: The nice thing about being in Australia is that when the deadline is Friday, that’s our Saturday since we’re a day ahead. [Laughs]
Taylor: That’s why I spend many late nights. [Laughs]
Titans #3 is written by Tom Taylor with art from Nicola Scott. It will be available from DC Comics on September 19.