In 1980, writer Marv Wolfman teamed up with illustrator George Perez to reinvent the Teen Titans for a new generation of comic book readers. Defying expectations, ‘The New Teen Titans’ became one of the best-selling comics of the decade. The influence of Wolfman and Perez’s epic run is still felt to this day, particularly in DC Universe’s ‘Titans,’ the second season of which (premiering here today) features their two greatest villains -- Trigon and Deathstroke. We caught up with Wolfman during last week's Dragon Con 2019, and he shared with us his thoughts on the creations of some of his most iconic characters, and how he's looking forward to seeing them in ‘Titans’ season 2...
When you and artist George Perez launched ‘The New Teen Titans’ in 1980, you included some new characters on the roster. Why did you go with new heroes instead of only the classic mainstays?
When you're reviving a book that had existed for a very long time, one of the things you want to do is say, “This is a brand new version. This is a new concept. This is a new book with new characters.” So if people were coming to it with an already set opinion of what they were expecting to see, I wanted them to know that we were doing something different. We were doing something special that had more meaning to me. Also, I didn't particularly like a lot of the characters from the 15-year run that the Titans had. They were around forever and there were a lot of different characters, and I wasn't a fan of all of them. I really liked several, and those are the characters I used. The others I didn't bother with.
What prompted your decision to remove Kid Flash from the team before the landmark “Judas Contract” storyline?
The problem with a character like Kid Flash, and it was a problem all the time, is that let's say the Titans are in Titans Tower and they're talking, and suddenly they get a summons that there's a problem in New Jersey. Before Robin could get out of his chair, Kid Flash should have already been in Newark. He was too powerful. In my view when you have a team, no one character could dominate the entire series. What you had to constantly do is slow Kid Flash down and give him a reason not to rush ahead because he should be able to get there so fast. Essentially, I just felt that he actually made the other characters look weaker because he had to slow down and be with them. Of course, if there was a major problem, he should just go ahead and knock ‘em all down at super speed. So I removed him because he was literally too powerful for the group.
Your run had a pivotal moment where Dick Grayson quits being Robin and adopts his own persona as Nightwing. Did you realize how historic that was at the time?
When we did it, it had never been done before where the kid partner becomes the hero. Kid partners always stayed the kid partner. It didn't make sense in so many ways because we were not handling Dick Grayson as a 12-year-old. We were handling him as 18, 19 and 20. If you're going to do that, wearing a silly Robin costume with the short pants was ridiculous. Having him constantly having problems was ridiculous. We wanted to treat him as a 17-, 18- or 19-year-old character as opposed to being a little kid anymore. And if he was going to become the leader of the Titans, and he had been from day one, he should be dressed accordingly and he should be dressed as himself, not as the kid partner of another hero.
And someone with longer pants!
And have long pants! [Laughs.]
You and George [Perez] also filled the series with fully fleshed out supporting characters, like Sarah Simms, Terry Long, Vic’s grandparents, and many others…
One of the things I thought was important, and Stan Lee did it so beautifully with Spider-Man, was to create a real world around the hero. It's always felt to me that most heroes seem to have only their supporting cast where they worked. These were almost adults, they were on their own. They should have friends, they should have people they care about, they should have co-workers, they should have a million other people. Cyborg had grandparents, and I thought that was just a great bit that George came up with, because everybody has at one point or another. It just fleshed out his family even more. Everyone should have a full family, everyone should have friends outside of the superhero. When everybody is a superhero, nobody stands out.
One of your most memorable characters was the villainous Trigon. How did you and George Perez come up with him?
We both came into Trigon from different ways. I was coming up with a character who could be the father of Raven, but the scariest Satan ever in the history of those types of characters. And George was trying to make him very powerful and in a sense very sexy with the horns. What he was doing was trying to take Trigon in a way that nobody would have expected to see, a satanic-like character. Coming together, I think made that character work so well. The character was totally evil and yet there's something that draws you to him. The antlers that George gave to him was just perfect, turning him into this powerful stag.
What are your memories of co-creating Deathstroke?
I tell people this and they hardly ever believe it, but it's actually true. Deathstroke literally came to me in one second. Almost everything about the character -- who he was, where he's from, how he became who he is -- came in just one second. I wasn't even thinking about it because I was still in the midst of creating the characters who would become the New Titans. I was in the middle of creating Raven, Cyborg, and Starfire and all the new ones. That’s what I was thinking of, that's what I was centering my mind on. Deathstroke appears in the second issue because he was created simultaneously. They were all being created at the same time because I knew Deathstroke was going to be a very special character. Then George came in with an incredible design for the character. He became even more popular than I think any of us could've imagined.
Have you seen the first season of DC Universe’s ‘Titans’ yet?
Oh yeah, I loved it. I haven't seen the second [season] yet.
What were your favorite parts?
The Raven stuff primarily. I really liked that… One of the things about the Starfire plot I liked was her slowly getting her memory. I thought Anna [Diop] did a wonderful job with that. Making her someone who was probably very scary and yet very seductive at the same time.
Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to seeing in ‘Titans’ season 2?
Just seeing where they're going. They're adding a lot of new characters. The fact that they're bringing in both Deathstroke and his daughter as well as one of his sons, it's just amazing to me. Again, even a character like Deathstroke has an entire family. He has an ex-wife, he has all these problems. He's a villain and yet he has a family life. People weren't doing that, and it's something I like very much. The fact that they're picking up on that, and doing his son… His son and his daughter are just great.