Far more than any other team in the DC Universe, the Teen Titans went through the wringer between the end of Infinite Crisis and the start of their One Year Later storyline.
How bad did it get? Superboy was killed in Crisis, Kid Flash lost his powers, Wonder Girl went into mourning, Cyborg and Starfire were lost in space, Speedy left, and Robin took a 'round the world trip with Batman to rededicate himself to his mission and mentor's vision.
So who were the Titans during the missing year? Hell, who wasn't a Titan during the missing year might get you a quicker answer. A new Zatara was involved, as was a new Aquagirl, along with Miss Martian, and a boatload of others. Oh, and the Tower got two caretakers - Wendy and Marvin. Yeah, you probably recognize the names.
By the time the first One Year Later storyline started, the Titans looked little or nothing like any of their previous incarnations - Robin had just returned as leader, Cyborg was healing, Beast Boy and Raven were gone, and the active membership had been reduced to Ravager (Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke's daughter) and Kid Devil, the one-time sidekick of Blue Devil. Robin had a secret project in the basement, Wonder Girl was punching nearly anything that moved, and, oh yeah, the Brotherhood of Evil was back.
Got all that?
Good - because as things moved forward, the Titans (such as they are) engaged the Brotehrhood, only to have Plasmus rip Kid Devil's chest open. Seriously.
The Doom Patrol turned up, and well…that's kind of where we pick things up with series writer Geoff Johns.
Newsarama: First things first - let's get in on the ground level of the Titans One Year Later that you started with on the first pages of #34 - Cyborg was offline for the better part of the year prior to One Year Later, and in that time, there were some…changes? In the broad sense, how would you characterize the missing year?
Geoff Johns: I wanted to shake the team up, and I was nervous doing it. I knew the reactions would be "Ravager?!" and "Who the #@$% is Kid Devil?" But because of Superboy's death, it forced us to take chances, and I'm glad. For a long time our line-up seemed to look like the former Young Justice kids smashed together with the New Teen Titans. It was great for the first three years of the book but it was time for something new. And the OYL to me seemed like an opportunity, and a requirement, to seriously alter the status quo. Top on character development and mysteries and set the stage for the next year of adventures, with an emphasis on new characters and revamps like the Doom Patrol and Titans East.
In the comics themselves, the Teen Titans lost several of their members. Including a lot of main ones. Superboy. Kid Flash. Starfire is still missing. Cyborg was out of it. So since then, Beast Boy did his best to keep the team growing and stable, but it wasn't working.
The Titans went through, I think at last count, 24 members during the missing year. They would come and go, most only being on the team a few weeks before quitting or getting kicked out or simply disappearing. Some members were previous Titans others were teens that Cyborg - and us - have never heard of before including Zatara, Miss Martian, Talon and Power Boy among others. Some of these we'll be meeting in the next arc.
NRAMA: Was the death of Conner, along with the disappearances the root cause of the turbulence in the year that passed?
GJ: Right. As stated above, it was turmoil for this team. They were splintered more than anyone else and now it's about rebuilding. But how the team rebuilds and why is the most important element in the book. Are these new kids cut out for this? Why or why not? What will Wonder Girl's new focus become? Why is Cyborg sticking around or why not? What is Robin's reason for being there? And what obstacles to the Titans have to overcome on a personal level to be the team they need to be?
Tony Daniel and I were intent on making sure that we brought our absolute A game to this book. Tony altered his art style and has grown and evolved in an amazing way over the last few months and he's only getting better. I've been trying to zero in on character development, on real growth as the issues move on. With new members like Ravager and Kid Devil, it's allowed me to throw some wild cards into the team.
NRAMA: With all the splintering then, who was left to put the team together?
GJ: Beast Boy and Raven shouldered the responsibility of keeping the Teen Titans together. But after Raven discovered a secret, that's revealed in Titans #38, she quit. And with the Doom Patrol asking for Gar's assistance daily, when Robin returned, Gar left. The real heart and core was gone and no one was filling the void fast enough.
NRAMA: Obviously, you're not going to give the month-by-month lowdown of what happened during the year here, but from the practical standpoint, are readers going to see the changes that took place during that missing year? How much of it will be shown in 52, compared to in Teen Titans?
GJ: You'll see 90% of it in Teen Titans. A lot of it will be seen in "Titans Around The World," our next arc. We'll be meeting a lot of members from that missing year and you'll see why it didn't work. Will it work this time? That's the question.
Also, there is an issue of 52 coming up that has the one of the versions of the Teen Titans from the missing year in action, issue #21 I believe. That same issue introduces another super-team to the DCU.
NRAMA: Speaking of that missing year - Ravager's assessment sounded about right - she and Kid Devil do sound like the bottom of the barrel - did things get desperate in the missing year?
GJ: They went through everybody else. When Robin came back, everyone who was on the team said "No." Ravager was offered a place as a member on Nightwing's request and Kid Devil, well, he just kinda applied and was taken in. More on both of them and how they get on the team in the months ahead.
NRAMA: You said at WizardWorld this weekend that they'd be coming back here and again, but in the DCU, who are Wendy and Marvin? Obviously, they're a name check to Superfriends, but where do they come from and who are they, relative to the DCU?
GJ: They are the caretakers of the Titans Tower in the DCU. You got it - they originate from the Superfriends show as the sidekicks with no powers. Think of them as super geniuses. The son and daughter of a famous genius in the DCU.
NRAMA: And that genius' name is?
GJ: Keep reading.
NRAMA: Figured we'd get to that comment sooner or later. Okay - back to the team, by the point the "New Teen Titans" arc starts, how long has Robin been back?
GJ: He's only gotten back recently. He's still very new to the "new" team when Cyborg wakes up. Robin is our full-fledged leader.
NRAMA: Staying with Robin for a second - like Cassie - he's still not over Superboy's death. What was their friendship like that he's go…arguably, a little nuts, and start playing with trying to clone a new one. I mean - trying to make a new friend after he dies isn't the healthiest ways of expressing grief, is it?
GJ: That's the point. Both Wonder Girl and Robin are grieving in their own way, but without the support of one another. And grief isn't something that's easily dealt with. The Teen Titans are a support group, friends, and without the team there after a terrible loss - both Robin and Wonder Girl sought out help elsewhere.
NRAMA: So - the "New" arc…any advice, if say, folks were betting on who may still be on the team by the end of the arc?
GJ: The team will alter further in the next arc as we bring two more members on to the stage. One of them in particular is going to cause serious repercussions with another of our members. Their world is going to look a whole lot different.
NRAMA: Moving then to "Titans Around the World" - this all goers back to
all those extra lockers in the Tower Cyborg mentioned a long while back, doesn't it? All in all, a membership drive?
GJ: It starts off as a membership drive. It's decided that the Titans need more experienced members. They start with Raven, but Cyborg finds something strange…and it turns into a mystery involving the Titans from the missing year. That's the most fun thing about the book right now, there's a huge tapestry of characters and adventures - the team literally as two or three times as many former members as it did. Avenues into every kind of story we want to tell. I'm just glad that people are giving Ravager and Kid Devil a chance.
NRAMA: Speaking specifically to issue #36, the Doom Patrol plays a major role in the Kid Devil subplot. This is their first post-Crisis outing, and first time since the...merging of their possibilities back in Teen Titans #32. What can you say about who this Doom Patrol is? We've seen that they have the classic elements...what about the Morrison era? Will we see elements of that as well?
GJ: The Doom Patrol are what they've always been - men and women changed by horrific accidents and saved from the brink of death who use their bizarre powers to battle the strange and unusual threats no one else wants to. And, yes, that's our origin box from the book.
The concept of the Doom Patrol has always been one of the most intriguing in DC. You look across the board at the DCU and the main heroes are, for the most part, fairly normal. We don't have a Thing or Hulk, at least one that's as prominent. Metamorpho is the closest we have to a "monster" character. In the beginning, the Doom Patrol was introduced as a dysfunctional family struggling to adopt their new identity of "super-hero." Today, the Doom Patrol is still a dysfunctional family, except maybe when you put them next to the new Teen Titans - which is why we're using them in this arc.
The core elements we've built the new Doom Patrol around are based off the original version, Grant's - which we touch upon a lot, and John Byrne's with the addition of Elasti-Girl - who is one of our major focal points, mixed with our own slanted take -- we're throwing in a bit of a Universal Monsters thing and some new psychological perspectives on some of the other members, old and new.
Teen Titans #36 is designed in part to be an introduction of the Doom Patrol for anyone who doesn't know what or who they are. We've tried our best to make it as accessible as possible for the new readers that have been picking up Teen Titans and Tony Daniel in particular has done a fantastic job in the redesigns.
But yeah - for people who might not have picked it up yet, in Titans #36, we start up where we left off last issue. One of their new members, Kid Devil, is rushed to the Doom Patrol's castle after being injured by a member of the super-freak group the Brotherhood of Evil. The Teen Titans head to the Doom Patrols' headquarters to become reintroduced to the first team Beast Boy was ever on.
There are some new members on the Doom Patrol including Mento, Beast Boy's adopted father, Bumblee and Vox, who's Mal Duncan, that we'll explore over the arc a bit. And for why Mal is like he is now - that's coming up in 52, but isn't essential to this storyline.
NRAMA: Speaking of Doom Patrol's altered timeline, they've still got a Jones on for the Brotherhood. But...clarifying, the Brotherhood didn't kill them, according to history, now?
GJ: Again, we've designed for this new readers but there are scenes in there that should clarify everything for long term Doom Patrol fans. The explosion on the island, the accidents the Chief caused, it's addressed but it's not what the story is about. That's one of the reasons we dealt with the continuity months ago, so we could just hit the ground running and address as few elements of the team as we went.
NRAMA: Fair enough, but with the Brotherhood playing into the arc…obviously there's the legacy with Beast Boy and the Doom Patrol connection, but what makes them so well suited to be the foils of the Titans? Also - have the Titans earmarked the Brotherhood as "their own" in respect for what they did to Bludhaven?
GJ: Wonder Girl is after the Brotherhood of Evil because after a long year of emotional turmoil she's venting. She's focusing her anger and frustration on a team that deserves it. Robin is after the Brotherhood for similar reasons but also because he knows what their plan is - to clone the Brain a new body. And Robin wants that cloning equipment. But the Brotherhood are long time Doom Patrol adversaries, and the Doom Patrol is getting involved. The connection between the teams is explored in this arc.
The Brotherhood of Evil's motivations, however, are strangely ironic. They want to enable their leaders - the Brain and Monsieur Mallah - to finally be together.
NRAMA: And speaking of that… Brain and Mallah. There've been stories going around that their relationship is...a little more than just teammates?
GJ: Yes. Which is what Grant Morrison established so brilliantly in his run on Doom Patrol. There's a connection between them - they are soulmates in a way no one else can understand, including the Doom Patrol. I think the trick is with the Doom Patrol and the Brotherhood of Evil is that as crazy and as bizarre as they look on the outside, on the inside there are even more cracks and fractures in their sanity. The DCU doesn't have a lot of "weird" characters and we're hoping to but a little more of that unsettling "these guys are super-heroes?" into the team.
NRAMA: But Brain and Mallah…?
GJ: Brain and Mallah.
NRAMA: Sitting in a tree?
GJ: That's how the song goes.
NRAMA: And here, the press was all over Batwoman, when over here, there's a nice brain in a tube cloning a new body so he can physically express his love with his gorilla lover… Okay...final thoughts you'd like to leave people with on the series?
GJ: We've been, obviously, taking a big risk with the new direction of Teen Titans but we really wanted to take advantage of the OYL jump and shake the book up. Tony's art alone makes it worth flipping through. Give it a shot.