The Teen Titans are getting a fresh start this month, as Damian Wayne forcibly reforms the team to help him battle his grandfather, Ra's Al Ghul.
Written by Green Arrow scribe Benjamin Percy with art by Jonboy Meyers, Teen Titans will show how Damian Wayne brings together several of the young heroes of the DCU, forming a brand new team for the Rebirth era.
New to the team will be the new Wally West, who just became a speedster after being introduced in the New 52. The character will wear a Kid Flash costume from the get-go, even though his heroism is still being developed in The Flash.
How will this team be different than past versions while still honoring the "core" of the Teen Titans, something every "Rebirth" title is trying to do? Newsarama talked to Percy to find out more.
Newsarama: Ben, there have been several iterations of the Teen Titans over the years. How would you describe what you're doing with Teen Titans as you launch a new run on the book in September? What should people expect from this Teen Titans?
Benjamin Percy: There are two touchstones that I've been looking toward: Geoff Johns' run and the [Marv] Wolfman/[George] Pérez run. I'll be channeling that history while also making the series my own.
The thing I've always loved about the Teen Titans, and the thing I'm having so much fun with right now, is it's a turnstile of storytelling possibilities. You've got detective stories available through Robin, and you've got horror stories available through Raven, you've got sci-fi stories available through Starfire, and comedy through Beast Boy.
And there is a sixth member of the team that has not yet been announced, who will open up another environment, another genre possibility.
So what should people expect? A high-octane, adrenaline-fueled soap opera. That's what's always made Teen Titans work in the past, and that's the torch I'm carrying with me into the future.
Nrama: I think one of the newer characters we know about — or at least he's new at being a superhero — is the new Wally West Kid Flash. What can you tell us about the character and how fits into the team?
Percy: He is a rookie. He's coming into the team fresh. He isn't in full control of his powers, and he's looking to test them.
He's also looking for mentorship and community, and that's something that all the Teen Titans are wrestling with in some way. They're outliers.
It's a story about friendship.
So here you have Wally in Central City, and he's chasing after the Flash, and hoping to become a hero of his own. And then here you have him with the Teen Titans. And he's been essentially drawn into the varsity team.
And he's incredulous about this, and he's excited for the chance to show his stuff off, to hone his abilities, and to fight some battles.
He's also somebody who is wrestling with a history, and this is something that is true of all the characters. They have baggage in their bloodlines.
In the case of Wally, he has the Reverse Flash, who he believes right now to be his uncle, and who turns out to be, in fact, his father. And he's going to struggle to overcome that.
How much do your parents or your grandparents (in the case of Damian), how much do they determine who you are, who you might become?
Nrama: Yeah, let's talk about Damian. He's interacted with them before, but this is the first time that he's the ongoing Robin on the team. You mentioned the runs by Geoff Johns and Marv Wolfman, but surely this is a whole different ballgame with Damian in the mix, isn't it?
Percy: We know from the DCU Rebirth issue that Damian has turned 13. And that's a critical juncture. It's the tipping point between childhood and adulthood. And he is going to be growing up before our eyes.
Damian is Damian. He's a tyrant. He is Napoleonic. He's going to make a lot of errors, but the reason people love the character is that behind that sort of jagged armor, there's goodness inside him.
And he is bringing these characters together, not only because he needs their help — and he's doing it in the worst way imaginable by kidnapping him — but because he's trying to save their lives.
It's a common threat.
Nrama: That threat appears to be centered around his past. With you mentioning his birthday, is this a sort of coming-of-age story for Damian? Or are we at least going to see him maturing? Or is it more about the comedy of trying to get these people to work together — or, in Damian's case, forcing them?
Percy: You're going to see him growing up, as the team, slowly and with great difficulty, forms over the course of this first arc.
It's not going to be an easy road.
Nrama: Will Damian play a lead role going forward? Or is it going to be a truly ensemble, team book?
Percy: It's an ensemble book, but every arc is going to focus on a character.
The trouble with reading and writing team books is that characterization can get really thin because of the crowd. So in every arc, we're going to have a focusing agent.
As you mentioned, the first arc belongs to Damian.
The emotional arc of the story, and the thematics of the story, must be about that particular character. So Damian's getting his turn with the first arc.
The second arc is going to belong to the as-of-yet-unannounced character.
After that, we're going to get into Raven. We're going to get into Starfire. And we'll really put them in the spotlight.
Nrama: Are you giving characters like Raven and Starfire a new start with Rebirth? Because Starfire in particular had a few different portrayals in the New 52.
Percy: Starfire is a fantastic character, but I don't know if she's had quite the platform she deserves. I see her as an incredibly fierce, incredibly strong, alienated character who's trying to forge herself a path in this world.
She's somebody who fights — literally — with light on her side.
She gains her energy from the sun, and when you're facing shadows, as she will be in this first arc in particular, you need somebody like Starfire on your side.
If you think about how everybody loves an odd couple, from Kirk and Spock to Abbott and Costello to Sonny and Cher, Damian and Starfire are two adversarial characters who will play off each other in really interesting ways.
So here's a guy trying to wrestle people into submission, and she'll battle against that while trying to find an empathetic connection with this little dictator, and maybe even wrest control of the team away from him.
Nrama: The art by Jonboy plays quite a part in the energy of this book. How would you describe what he brings to the title?
Percy: If you've seen the sample interiors and the covers, you know that Jonboy is a top-drawer talent, and he brings so much energy and passion to his work, and that just carries through the artwork.
I'm glad to have him on my side.
Nrama: OK, as we finish up, I'll just ask if you can reveal anything else about the threat they're uniting against? We've seen some of the covers — including one with Ra's Al Ghul — so we've got an idea of why this concerns Damian in particular. But can you reveal more about that first arc?
Percy: There are so many different reversals and secrets awaiting that I have to be careful about that. But yes, as you've seen on a cover, Ra's Al Ghul is behind it all. So this story is about that old father-and-son thing. You have Damian who is the son of Batman and the grandson of Ra's Al Ghul having to decide who he is, who he will become.
And the fate of the Teen Titans and the world just hangs in the balance depending on the answer to that question.