J. Torres: All in the Family

A comics interview article by: Chris Murman
It’s one thing to pigeon-hole yourself into writing a certain genre, but it is quite a different animal to find a niche you feel passionate about. The latter can be said for J. Torres, DC’s busiest all-ages writer currently on shelves. By not only tackling the Johnny DC line, as well as a few mainline DC titles, Torres has managed to carve out quite a bit of work for himself.

This summer, J. has a brand new series for readers young and old in Family Dynamic. I took a sec to find out more about what’s coming, why it isn’t like other “family” books and why he loves where he is in his career.

Chris Murman: So let's get the obvious question out of the way for this title. Family Dynamic, even in your own words, appears to mimic some famous families in the genre like the Fantastic Four and the Incredibles. Why do a series like this and what makes your family different?

J. Torres: It's not that we "mimic" anyone, it's more like we're playing in the same sandbox. We don't mimic The Incredibles any more than it did the Fantastic Four, you know what I mean? If anything, we're closer to a JSA or Teen Titans in terms of the family themes and generational, extended family elements. We're basically putting everything we love about superhero comics into this, from secret identities to colorful villains, from teen angst to family drama, power rings to secret lairs and all that fun stuff.

CM: In our discussion prior, you mentioned that there will be origins based on magic and power rings. What can you tell readers about his team's beginnings?

JT: The first Family Dynamic started out in the 60s, led by Sam Spencer. He and his team, which included his wife and their brothers, were the first to wield the elemental rings as a team. Flash forward to the present day and Sam's eldest son and his family, including his wife and two sons, now wear the rings. But to make things interesting we've got two other members of the family wanting in on the superhero action, which causes some complications.

CM: There was also mention of the elements in their powers. This "dynamic," so to speak, has been touched on in team books before. Why do you suppose this vehicle is often used in this medium?

JT: Well, I don't think it's used as often as the mutant thing or having heroes with super strength and the ability to fly. But in any case, elemental powers are simply cool, and using all four or combination thereof in one team makes sense because they go together thematically, naturally.

CM: Who's handling the art chores for you on this title? How has the start of the book going so far with this artist?

JT: From what I've seen, we're off to a great start. Tim Levins is the penciller and he's turned in some terrific artwork thus far. He's given a hand in the inking department by Dan Davis who is doing a wonderful job too. Rounding out the art team is Dave McCaig on colors and, while I have yet to see any colored pages, I'm sure they'll look amazing once Dave does his magic.

CM: Are we going to see this family take part in DCU continuity or will this be a self-contained story?

JT: We were given the choice between setting this in the DCU or keeping things in our own world, and for both creative and contractual reasons, we chose the latter. But who knows? If the miniseries proves popular and successful enough, maybe we can do some kind of crossover next. I'd love the Family Dynamic to meet the Marvel Family, for example.

CM: You're off to a hot start in 2008 with titles such as Wonder Girl, Legion of Superheroes in the 31st Century, Blue Beetle, Batman Strikes and Teen Titans Go under your belt. What have you learned since starting with this publisher and how has your style changed along the way?

JT: I don't know if my style has changed all that much since working for DC, but I've certainly learned a lot about both writing as well as the business end of comics from my editors and everyone at DC. And one of the best things about working for DC is that I've been able to do "my thing" over here, which has been great. A freelancer couldn't ask for much more, really. Well, except maybe a raise, or an exclusive. [laughter]

CM: Your bibliography reads like a Who's Who for DC's all age titles on shelves currently. Did you always want to write that style of comic, or have you just found a niche worth staying in for a while?

JT: I actually got my professional start in comics writing all-ages material for Nickelodeon and Oni Press. I used to teach grade school and I love kids, plus I'm a huge fan of children's literature, so it makes sense that I gravitate towards all-ages comics and that my sensibilities tend to lean that way. I grew up reading DC Comics and obviously it impacted my life in a very positive way, so I think it's important to produce good all-ages comics. It's a way for me to "give back" and follow in the footsteps of the creators who were there for me in my formative years to inspire me to want to write.

CM: Now that Wonder Girl has wrapped, how do you feel the series went? What place do you see Cassie in as a character?

JT: Well, I tried to get her to dump some of her baggage and give some closure to certain plots we've seen over the last couple of years. Personally, I thought it was time that she got over Conner's death and "buried the hatchet" with Diana. I wanted to see her grow and mature in the miniseries, and I knew that was going to be limited since the story takes place over a mere two or three weeks, but I think we got Cassie there.

CM: You've also got webisodes of Degrassi: The Next Generation with Epitome Pictures. For the uninitiated, what are we going to be seeing on our computer screens?

JT: The five webisodes out there now include two animated ones which come right out of the Degrassi graphic novels I wrote, and the other three are parodies of The View, Napoleon Dynamite, and Bring It On. I worked on another four-part story, which has yet to be posted, but that was something a little different, something we played "straight" and can be seen like a kind of Outer Limits or Twilight Zone story involving some of the Degrassi characters.

CM: As you can see, J. is a busy man these days. Be sure to keep an eye out for Family Dynamic when it hits store shelves this summer, as well as the litany of other great all-ages titles from DC.

On a personal note, this writer has seen his fair share of doom-and-gloom comics over the ages. My “state of the union” address at the end of last year said as such; that we are in a day and age where all we get is war, death and sex in comics. Creating in this format must be about more. It’s refreshing to talk to a writer that has a passion for creating books for kids. The median age for comic readers grows every day, and if our medium is to survive, someone must cater to the readers of tomorrow: our kids. I applaud J’s willingness to discuss very openly his desire to put out great books for readers of all ages, and as such will be checking out this new title as a result.

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