Marv Wolfman: Let the Games Begin

A comics interview article by: Jason Sacks

For the better part of the Eighties, few comics on the stands were as popular and beloved as Marv Wolfman and George Pérez's New Teen Titans, a landmark run on the youth-centric DC series that is still considered by many to be the standard bearer for the franchise today. To the delight of such fans, a long lost chapter from that era finally saw the light of day this past week. Decades in the making, New Teen Titans: Games is a highly anticipated full-length graphic novel by Wolfman and Pérez that hearkens back to the team's heyday.

Wolfman was recently gracious enough to talk about that book with Comics Bulletin's Jason Sacks, shedding light on what it's like to revisit such a longtime shelved project as well as his thoughts on what DC has done with its characters in the interim.

Jason Sacks: Games has been a long time coming. Why did it take so long to finally come together?

Marv Wolfman: We'd done a basic plot and George drew the first 60 or so pages but then went into Titans-block. As I'd been having a writer's block at that time, I certainly understood. We planned to finish it some time, but after a while it was evident it wasn't going to be. After a few false re-starts we finally did. 

Sacks: Tell us about the plot of this book and the state of the Titans at the time that this book was set.

Wolfman: Except for the costumes, this really has little to do continuity-wise with the Titans of that era. At least plot-wise. We replotted the story pretty thoroughly when we started it over again this past year. The first 60 pages were done, so they had to be incorporated into the new plot, which isn't as easy as you'd imagine. I had to take finished art and make the characters say things that had not been planned 23 years ago based on a new plot that hadn't been conceived when those pages were drawn. But, of course, the last 50-60 pages were done to the new plot. Then I went in and dialogued everything to give it a single voice and have all the pictures working toward the new story we developed. It was a great challenge.

Sacks: How much reworking of the book did you have to do to get it ready to be published?

Wolfman: I'd say it was 50% old, 50% new in terms of art, and about 75% new in terms of story. You can judge for yourself, since we actually print the original plot in the back of the book for you to compare. And I annotated it so you'd get some idea what was done and why.

Sacks: How extensive were your notes from the time it was originally created, and how tough was it to fill the gaps in the story?

Wolfman: As I said, you can see for yourself in the back of the book. But I will say here the notes were very rough because we [George Pérez and I] intended to work them out together. That just never happened. 

Sacks: It must have been nostalgic working with George Pérez again. Is he one of your favorite collaborators?

Wolfman: It is most definitely between him and Gene Colan. I've worked with dozens of others that I loved collaborating with, but those two are at the top of the mountain.

Sacks: How do you feel revisiting these characters for the first time in so many years?

Wolfman: I've written Titans material since those days but not a lot and never a full novel's worth of story. It was great. I love those characters. 

Sacks: How did you persuade DC to allow you to finally publish this book after so many years?

Wolfman: Actually, Dan DiDio came to me. Probably because he was sick of hearing me whine about it for years. But it was his decision and I was utterly thrilled when he called me. 

Sacks: The New Teen Titans is now considered to be a classic series and one of the great DC books of the early 1980s. What are some of your favorite memories from that era?

Wolfman: I think the overwhelming aspect of the book was getting to do a superhero series that I created with George and being allowed to really do what we wanted. I think the characters are solid and iconic, and if you understand what makes them tick, it's hard to get them wrong.

Sacks: Since your work on the series, the Titans have become stars, going so far as to have an animated series that included characters you created. What do you think the secret is of the Titans’ success?

Wolfman: George and my Titans was a family book; it wasn't about isolated characters being brought together but characters who we created to work like a real family unit. A lot of time was spent creating them before anyone ever saw them. I think the time and care spent up front contributed to their longevity.

Sacks: Any chance of you and George working together on another project in the future?

Wolfman: I'd love to. He's not only a brilliant artist but a good and dear friend. 

Sacks: There’s a bit of controversy over the way that Starfire is being depicted in a certain New 52 book; how do you see Kori? What kind of person (or Tamaranian) is she?

Wolfman: I have always made it a practice never to see what people do with my characters after I leave the project. So, I have no idea what's going on. Nor do I want to. My view is that I never asked the people who did Titans books before me for their ideas. I wanted the freedom to do what I (and George) felt best. I didn't want to feel hampered by their approach to the book, so the people who follow me should be free to do what they want, too.

Sacks: Cyborg is slated to be one of the big guns of the New 52. What’s your opinion of him becoming one of the major heroes of the new universe?

Wolfman: He's a great character. I'm really pleased they think so, too.

Sacks: Of course, you were the writer on the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths, so I have to ask your reaction to the New 52.

Wolfman: We get our contributor books mailed to us about a month late, but I'm anxious to see and read them. But I have to say, I proposed the idea of all DC comics starting all new and renumbered number one back in 1985 to follow the Crisis. We didn't do it then for many reasons, but I liked the idea then and I agree with it now.

Sacks: Thanks so much for taking the time, Marv!

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