As some readers (and we at Newsarama) guessed, the Teen Titans are getting some extra power soon, as the new Power Girl, Tanya Spears, is joining the team.
DC's Teen Titans title was just relaunched in July with a new #1 and creative team — writer Will Pfeifer and artist Kenneth Rocafort. With a team that includes Red Robin, Wonder Girl, Raven, Bunker, and Beast Boy, the series took on a new, youthful tone that incorporated social media and new themes.
Soon, the team gets a new member as Tanya joins the team. The new Power Girl is a black teenager who's one of the "most intelligent 17-year-olds on the planet" and inherited the name from her friend, Karen Starr, before the latter left for her home world of Earth 2.
Newsarama talked to Pfeifer to find out more about Power Girl's incorporation into the team and the themes he's exploring with the new Teen Titans.
Newsarama: Will, in your story so far, there's a sense that teens and young adults of the DCU are interested in mimicking the Teen Titans because of their celebrity — and you're even worked that into the story. Is this something you were wanting to reflect about today's young generation?
Will Pfeifer: Well, I’d hate to lay all the blame for modern media obsession at the feet of the current young generation. It’s something every generation deals with in their youth, deciding who’s worthy of hero worship and then deciding what form that hero worship is going to take.
I just finished reading Leigh Montville’s excellent biography of motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel, who was the closest thing in my childhood to a real-life superhero (even if his offstage behavior was more villainous). His dangerous stunts inspired a generation of boys (and probably some girls) to do all sorts of stupid things on their bikes, and this was back in the day before cable TV, the internet or social media.
What’s different these days – and in the world of the Teen Titans – is that everything is faster and more media-saturated. I have no trouble in believing that a group of girls would be inspired by Wonder Girl, if she existed in the real world. In fact, those girls would probably have their own reality show.
Nrama: True, but these fanboys and fangirls seem to get a little out of hand. Should we be interpreting any commentary from you about that, within the themes of the story?
Pfeifer: Nothing too serious or specific, but just a reminder that in a world where people – including teens and even children – have superpowers, things can get very dangerous very quickly.
Even those without powers – like the fangirls patterning themselves after Cassie – can see all these masked heroes beating people up and figure they’d like to get in on the fun too.
Nrama: Let's talk about the Teen Titans themselves. How would you describe the team's status right now? What's their group like — are they still inexperienced, are they confident (overconfident even?), and why are they still together?
Pfeifer: Their levels of experience vary with each member – Red Robin is obviously fairly experienced at this sort of thing, and he’s not afraid to remind the others of that fact – which, of course, causes some tension among the ranks.
Wonder Girl, for one, is feeling increasingly limited by her role in the Titans as the group’s main muscle, while Bunker is still pretty new to the whole game and is still having a blast as a superhero.
That combination of experience and lack of experience, bravado and fear, and optimism and cynicism is what keeps things interesting, regardless of the costumes or the powers involved. A team book where everyone is on the exact same page isn’t much fun to read – or write, for that matter.
Nrama: They're not living in the same place, but are they still bonding as a team?
Pfeifer: Having said all that, yes, they are bonding as a team, even though they’re not living in the same place.
I grew up with the [Marv] Wolfman/[George] Pérez-era Titans, and I thought the idea of a group of Teen Titans living in a giant T was pretty damn cool, but for this series, it seems slightly more realistic to have them living apart, spending most of their time together either on the streets of New York or hanging out in Bunker and Beast Boy’s apartment.
But with backing from S.T.A.R. Labs looming, they might be able to find themselves slightly more fitting digs – or at least a rarely-used conference room somewhere in the S.T.A.R. Labs corporate empire.
Nrama: Ah, OK. So is the association with S.T.A.R. Labs going to be on ongoing thing? Because so far, it's been related to the threats they've encountered.
Pfeifer: It all started because the current threat involves S.T.A.R. (and involves them very, very directly, as we’ll soon see.) But the association between S.T.A.R. and the Titans isn’t going to end when the threat is resolved. Manchester Black sees real possibilities in such an alliance, and so does Josiah Power – though he’s sticking to the background. For now.
Nrama: You mentioned Manchester Black, who you've introduced in your Titans run. Were you a fan of this character in his pre-New 52 form?
Pfeifer: Definitely. Like just about every other comic book fan back then, I thought “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way” was one of the most memorable, most intriguing superhero comics of the era, pitting the classic hero (Superman, of course) against the darker, edgier, more modern “heroes” (Manchester and the Elite).
I liked Black because, though he was clearly an arrogant jerk, he wasn’t necessarily wrong about everything. That’s how he’s going to be in the Titans – not the nicest guy in the room, but very possibly the smartest – or at least the most calculating.
Nrama: So is he going to be a foe for the Teen Titans?
Pfeifer: He’s not going to be a foe for the Teen Titans – he’s going to be their best friend, at least initially. Black sees a lot of potential in the Titans, and sees a way for S.T.A.R. Labs to move into the hero business with the hottest new group of heroes around. Strategically and promotionally, it makes a lot of sense for him.
Nrama: Will we learn more about his association with Algorithm?
Pfeifer: You will. Stick around for issue 4, and you’ll learn all you need to know about Algorithm, Manchester Black and how they’re connected.
Nrama: How would you describe your creation of Algorithm as a character? Some people have noticed a similarity to the pre-New 52 character Ladytron. Did that character influence her design?
Pfeifer: Algorithm was designed to be a foe who would (a) prove a formidable opponent for the Titans and (b) offer up a mystery that led to us exploring just who the Titans and what their place is in the modern world. We wanted someone who could take whatever the Titans could dish out – and with Wonder Girl, Bunker and Beast Boy among their ranks, they can dish out plenty – and bounce back, stronger and (and this is the key) smarter than ever. She’s been essentially (and literally) a Titans-fighting machine so far in the book, but there’s a surprising layer of depth to her, and that will be revealed in the next issue.
And yes, Algorithm grew out of Ladytron. The basic concept and the design was too good not to use.
Nrama: In a couple issues, we'll see a new member of the team. How did you learn about the new Power Girl, and what did you think of her?
Pfeifer: In the pages of World's Finest. I liked her immediately, because I’ve always been a big fan of stories about ordinary people who get super powers and then have to figure out how to deal with them. (My old series HERO was about that same theme in virtually every issue.)
I especially like this brand-new Power Girl because she’s a smart young woman in her own right who’s already been exposed to the concept of super-powers through her contact with (the other) Power Girl, and now has been gifted not only some of those pretty impressive powers, but also the name itself.
But here’s the thing — our new Power Girl, Tanya, isn’t content to follow in the footsteps of the previous version. She’s striking out on her own, and when she first encounters the Titans, she’s actually one of those young women following Wonder Girl around — not because she idolized Wonder Girl, but because she sees this as a way to check out the Titans close up without announcing who she is. Like I said, she’s a smart young woman.
Nrama: Ah… OK, now I get it. What interested you about bringing her into the Teen Titans?
Pfeifer: Having Power Girl as part of the Titans is a natural move, both for her and the team. As someone new to the whole idea of being a superhero, she’s naturally going to look for some guidance, and since her previous mentor, the other Power Girl, skipped off to an Earth in another dimension, she’s going to seek out someone nearby (East Coast, say) and close to her age.
In fact, she’s just about the same age as some of the Titans, though they’ve got more experience.
But Tanya’s not going to do whatever they say and pattern her behavior after theirs. Like we’ve established, she’s very smart, very determined and has some of her own ideas about being a hero. The guidance is going to be a two-way streak.
Nrama: It looks like you're getting a new artist in December? Scot Hepburn? Is Kenneth coming back?
Pfeifer: Scott’s not the new artist – he’s just stopping by for a few issues to give Kenneth a break. I like his art a lot, though – it’s got a real energy and sense of motion to it. And for the story we’ve got planned for those two issues, which involves a group of teens getting their hands on some weapons-grade, power-producing pharmaceuticals, Scott’s art fits perfectly. Lots of slam-bang action headed your way, I promise.
Nrama: Your run has kicked off with some pretty good sales number. Anything you want to tell fans about Teen Titans?
Pfeifer: I just want to offer a sincere thanks for the support we’ve gotten. I know the Teen Titans are personal favorites of many of the readers, and I also know they’ve had some great, talented teams of artists, writers, colorists, letterers and editors charting their adventures. The fact that people would be willing to (a) take a chance on what we’ve come up with and (b) seem to be enjoying it is more exciting — and more gratifying — than you probably realize. So, once again, thanks.
Nrama: What comes next in the title? How would you describe what 2015 brings for Teen Titans?
Pfeifer: Big things, I assure you. By the end of issue #8, we’ll be leading into a crossover with another super-team, and the reason for that encounter is someone who’s going to cause some big changes in the Titans — old members will be leaving, new members will be joining and the team itself will be going through some very tough times.
It’s still going to be the book we’ve been promising — and delivering — for months now, a fast-paced, fun adventure about young people dealing with earth-shattering situations and earth-shaking powers.
But those teen years aren’t always fun and games, and after their brief flirtation with fame in issues #7 and #8, they’re going to learn what happens when they’re no longer beloved by the public. Not much fun for our heroes but fun for me, and fun for the reader, I’m guessing.