Wally West's return in Rebirth — and his warnings about a "darkness from somewhere" that's infecting the DCU — is just the beginning of the story. The character will share his message of 10 missing years in the DCU as he joins the Titans, a new series by Dan Abnett and Brett Booth that launches in June.
And Newsarama has learned that DC has given Abnett a DC exclusive contract, as he's not only writing the new Titans title, but also Aquaman and Earth 2: Society.
Because of Wally's return, Titans will be "central" to the events unfolding after the revelation that Watchmen characters have manipulated the DCU, according to Abnett.
The monthly Titans title will spin out of the events of Rebirth while also picking up on what happened in Abnett's just-finished Titans Hunt. Wally will join with other team members from Titans Hunt, including Bumblebee, Nightwing, Donna Troy, Gnarrk, Hawk, Dove, Arsenal, Tempest, Herald, and other familiar Titans characters.
Newsarama talked with Abnett about Wally's role on the team, about his early tease of the character's return, and why the Titans are so important for DC's new acceptance of legacy characters.
Newsarama: Dan, you're DC exclusive now?
Dan Abnett: Yes, I'm delighted. I didn't campaign for it or anything. I was offered it. I'd been doing stuff for DC for a while, sort of gradually, incrementally adding stuff to what I was doing — they asked me to take over Aquaman, asked me to take over Earth 2, and asked me to do Titans Hunt.
And when the Rebirth thing happened, DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio said, would you mind coming out to Los Angeles, to Wonder Con and everything? And I went, "Oh lovely!" You know, being part of the announcement, which I happily did. I was very happy to be part of it all.
And once I was there, he said, "We really would like to put you on an exclusive, if you're interested." It felt like they were taking seriously my contribution, It wasn't like, 'Well, we're trying him out. If he doesn't work out, we'll get rid of him.'
It's lovely to be connected to a company like that, and to have that relationship cemented. And I'm really enjoying what I'm doing for them. So it just seemed the right thing to do.
Nrama: Readers have learned from DC Universe: Rebirth #1 that Wally West is back in continuity. Readers of Titans Hunt probably already figured that out, a week before Rebirth, because you hinted it pretty strongly.
Abnett: Yes, there was one character missing. There was one character who should have been there. Anybody who goes back and looks at Titans Hunt will see that I was almost unsubtle. There was a person not there that nobody was talking about.
Nrama: And now he's there. So he's going to be central to Titans and Titans Rebirth?
Abnett: Titans Rebirth is all about the return of Wally. There are obviously going to be huge ramifications, because Wally is so important to Titans history. So it's a wonderful reunion, and it's a very big deal.
He kind of rounds out the team. And also, he's sort of a messenger, a bringer of this warning. He has seen, to a certain extent, what it is that they're not aware of, but they're aware that something's wrong.
The whole point of the story is to try to unlock the mystery of what's going on.
That places it right in the middle of Rebirth in terms of its importance.
Nrama: Is it right to assume his "message" is about the 10 missing years we learned about in DC Universe: Rebirth, and that the Titans will be among those investigating what happened to the timeline?
Abnett: His message is absolutely that.
Nrama: You must have worked with Geoff a lot on this?
Abnett: Yes, I've spoken to him a lot on it. We've had meetings, face-to-face. He's been great, bringing me into it, in terms of how to connect Titans into what he's doing. So that's been a really fulfilling and terrific experience.
When I got to read what he's done, all I can say is a single issue of a comic has not given me goosebumps like that in years.
Nrama: OK, so Titans Rebirth brings Wally back, and he serves as a messenger to the Titans about the problems with time that he highlighted in DC Universe: Rebirth #1. Do you have to know anything about the Teen Titans history to understand it?
Abnett: No, not at all. From the point of view of old readers, there are some wonderful things happening here that they will be delighted to see. But from the point of view of new readers, we take you by the hand and walk you into this and uncover and explain everything as we go.
That's what the nature of the story is. The whole point of the story is to figure out what's going on.
Nrama: With the launch of the new Titans book, you've got a new #1, but this is also a continuation of the story you're been telling in Titans Hunt?
Abnett: It's still a new #1 that you can pick up without having read the previous issues. But in many ways, Titans Hunt was a prototype, experimental Rebirth book. I didn't realize that when I was asked to do it, but they were sort of trying out what they were going to be doing in a bigger way, which is to reintroduce or account for older continuity.
So although the story doesn't continue, some of the themes do.
For brand new readers, Titans Rebirth and Titans #1 will be a perfectly good place to start. But if you've read my Titans Hunt, you'll have a bit more of the lead-in story.
If we've done our jobs right, it's both a great point to join into these characters, but also a great continuation if you're already there.
Nrama: And these are all still the "New 52" characters, but they're realizing there's more to their history. Right?
Abnett: Right, these are the "New 52" characters moving into a place where they suddenly realize there is more to their history than they knew. And their characters are morphing as they begin to realize this. For example, Donna Troy has gone from a very fierce, two-dimensional character to a much more rounded, questioning, wondering character. And that's true of Garth, that's true of Roy Harper, and of Nightwing even.
I've tried to use some of these inconsistencies, some of the aspects of their lives — Roy's problems with substance abuse, for instance, and the fact that Nightwing has been Nightwing, Robin, Batman, Grayson — and rather than saying, well, that's what the continuity is, I'm saying there's a reason that he's never managed to fix a permanent identity for himself as a hero. And there's a reason that Roy went off the rails. And there's a reason that Garth is angry. And there's a reason that Donna is a ferocious, apparently emotionless creature. Because something has damaged them. And they're all kind of responding to that.
That was what Titans Hunt was about. And now we get to learn why.
Nrama: So now that Wally West is back, there are going to be some answers about what's going on? Is it tied into this idea of missing years that we learned about in Rebirth?
Abnett: Yes, that's part of the story. What happened in Titans Hunt was, we accounted for how they could be a team where they apparently didn't have that continuity in the past. But Titans, as a book, begins with the team assembled, knowing that they were once a team, knowing that they were once friends, but essentially having no memory of it, and realizing that that lack of memory is a big problem. And it's of course tied into Rebirth.
So in fact, their ignorance of their own situation can be shared by new readers. It's as if you're saying, "What's going on?" and the characters turn around and say, "We're not sure, but come with us, because we're going to find out."
Nrama: So while they're figuring it out, readers figure it out?
Abnett: Right. So it's a great way of introducing readers into it, because you walk with the Titans as they discover who they were, and what's going on.
The first arc after Titans Rebirth — so issues #1 through #6 — will be focusing on the immediate ramifications of Rebirth and how it affects the Titans particularly, and what they perceive the threat to be, and how they deal with it.
There will be some returning villains, and there will be brand new villains, but all through it, it's them trying to bond and become the friends they always used to be.
I wanted to have a book with heart and soul, with these young people that had adventures and it was all very serious, but at the heart of it, they're friends. They've got to rediscover that friendship and put the pieces back together again and become a team and everything like that.
Each of them are so different — they come from different cultures. We've got an Atlantean, we've got an Amazon, we've got a Gothamite. There are all sorts of different things coming together. They've got their own sensibilities and outlooks. Writing those characters as a group, or breaking them down into small pairings and trios of people, has been enormous fun to do.
I'm very glad that I got to write Titans Hunt to sort of try that out. They're not the easiest characters in the DCU to write, because in some respects, each one is an echo of another hero. You've got to capture that essence, but make them distinctive. It's been great fun, and I've become very fond of them. I was very much inspired by the early, Nick Cardy era of Teen Titans, that wonderful, almost nightmarish, anything-can-happen approach. Everybody who thinks of the Titans thinks of the Marv Wolfman-George Perez era, which is brilliant. But this, I think, harkens back more to the Cardy era, because we've also got the Teen Titans book, which I think is the natural heir to Wolfman and Perez. This is much more that kind of classic, Silver Age version, retold in a modern setting.
I was really excited and intrigued by the challenge of that, how to make it work for 2016. And as I was trying to make that work, I just really engaged with the characters. And I look forward to writing them every issue.
Nrama: Titans feels like the book that can embrace this new sense of legacy more than anything else. Is that going to be the idea of the team now that old continuity is restored? That they're actually legacy characters?
Abnett: Yes, the Titans, who were originally called the Teen Titans, are in many respects the great legacy team of the DC universe. That is to say, many of them — not all of them — but many of them are the sidekicks or proteges of the classic heroes.
We've got Nightwing, who was previously Robin and therefore was junior Batman. And they're not called this, but we've also got Aqualad, we've got young Green Arrow, we've got junior Wonder Woman. You know, this kind of stuff.
It was the teen version of the JLA, except now they're grown up. And they're all heroes in their own right.
But you're right, it's one of the best books to see the sheer scale and scope of the DC Universe, its wonderful, rich history.
And now they're heroes in their own right. They're no longer qualified by a superior "parent" hero.
It's really exciting to have these characters back at the center of the DCU, together again as a team. I hope it's something readers will really embrace or, if you're a long-term reader, you'll pick it up because it's got all the ingredients you've missed for a long time.