Lobdell on Horror and Humor in DCnU SUPERBOY & TEEN TITANS

Lobdell on SUPERBOY and TEEN TITANS

[ to check out new art from Teen Titans and Superboy, or sketches from both, click on the links]

In the first part of our interview with Scott Lobdell, we talked about the circumstances behind the former Uncanny X-Men writer’s current comeback, where he’s writing three of DC’s 52 new series launching in September — Red Hood & The Outlaws, Teen Titans and Superboy.

For the second half or our chat, we go even further in-depth, and talk about his take on each of the “core four” Teen Titans; Red Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and Superboy. Lobdell also shares what we will be seeing soon (other familiar past Titans members) and what we won’t be seeing soon (any familiar past Titans villains).

Newsarama also talked with Lobdell about the Superboy ongoing series, part of DC’s four-book Superman line, and the one seeing the most dramatic changes as a result of the September “DCnU” relaunch. For all this and to find out with Super-Pet he’s looking to sneak into Red Hood & The Outlaws, keep reading.

 

Newsarama: Scott, let's look at the Teen Titans characters individually a bit. You've got Tim Drake as Red Robin (with wings!) and it sounds like he's in a leadership role here. Is that correct? And given how (a) Robin has been a fairly constant presence in the Teen Titans throughout the concept's history, was he pretty much a "must" for your lineup?

Scott Lobdell: I bristle at the thought of a “leadership role” because I don’t even like the notion of leaders in comic book teams. The whole idea feels so archaic to me. (“Storm! Fly up to that window and save those people on that burning ledge!” “Do not tell me what to do, Cyclops! I am the leader of this team! I want you to blast the ledge out from under them, the I will catch them when they fall!” “That is crazy! I was the leader of this team and I know it is better to save them before they fall!” “Perhaps, but I am the current leader of the team and your optic blasts will cause the building to crumble and therefore put out the fire!” “That is an excellent idea, Storm. I am sorry I was so myopic that I couldn’t put my ego aside long enough to see things from your perspective!” What — ?!)

Having said all that, is Tim our entry into the series? Is he the first teenager to notice what is going on and start to act, then yeah, in that way one might argue he is the leader of the Teen Titans, if not its founder.

What I think is really fascinating about Tim (particularly in this role) is the fact he is the one kid in Teen Titans who doesn’t have any super powers. In some ways, he doesn’t have a horse in this race: N.O.W.H.E.R.E. is hunting down teens with super powers, and because of his training as Robin he is in a position to help. The choice he’s made is going to wind up disrupting every part of his life, and I think that is pretty noble.

Was he a “must”? Yes, but mostly because when I was asked to write Teen Titans it was made clear to me that I had to use the Core Four.

On the subject of the wings? LOL! It surprises me the reaction that some people have to them. Tim Drake learned his craft at the hands of Bruce Wayne — one of the wealthiest and most tech-savvy people in the world. He is about to go up against an international organization that is going to throw everything they can at every teenaged superhero around, and it only makes sense that he would prepare himself in every way possible.

Just because Dick or Jason or later Damien didn’t think to add wings to his arsenal of (bat) gadgets doesn’t mean Tim has to shun the idea as non-traditional. He wants to stay alive and he wants to count on himself instead of waiting for a Cassie or a Superboy to grab him by the wrist and fly him somewhere. When I see people getting upset — outraged — threatening to never read a comic book again because Red Robin has wings…? Double Ummm.

Nrama: We've got Kid Flash, who has been confirmed as Bart Allen. Based on the very little that's been revealed thus far, it sounds like the character might be returning a bit more to his Impulse days — or is that way off base?

Lobdell: Maybe we are both off base! [Laughs.] I love the idea that Bart is the only Flash (Kid or otherwise) to maintain the ability to remember everything he’s ever read — and I also love the notion that knowledge and experience are two separate tools that aren’t always used together.

But I also think that what makes Bart different from every other Flash (Kid or otherwise) is that his mind races almost as fast as his feet! I love that Bart is more inclined to speak before he actually thinks about what it is he’s saying. I love that he’s not a Barry who understands instinctually that the quickest way between two points is usually a straight line. I like that Bart’s mind is always racing and I don’t want to ever lose that: is that a trait from his Impulse days? Not exclusively, no.

 

Nrama: Wonder Girl is part of the mix. The words "belligerent powerhouse thief" certainly are surprising — what can you say about the interpretation of the character? She's had romantic entanglements with both Superboy and Tim Drake in the past, will that be touched on here?

Lobdell: Those three words were some of the most oft-repeated when people were talking about the re-whatever.

I would love to assuage everyone’s deepest darkest fears as to what those three words mean… but I won’t! [Laughs.] Because I love that people are talking about her – she deserves to be talked about in ways that aren’t debating whether or not she’s a good leader or how depressed she is over Conner.


But I will say this, I think the Cassie Sandsmark we all know and love is 95 percent present in the series.

And I will also say this: Over the years she has been played as something of a cupcake. That’s over. She is maybe the second or third most powerful teenager on the planet… and she’s going to start acting that way again.

As far as her romantic entanglements, yes, I am sure she is going to be entangled in more than one relationship over the next year or two. Whether she winds up with Red Robin or Superboy? Future cloudy, try again later.

Nrama: We'll talk more Superboy soon, but what made him right for this team?

Lobdell: At first I wondered the same thing – with Wonder Girl as the team’s powerhouse, what is the point of duplicating that with Superboy? But if you look at him, he is the only member of the team who isn’t human — not entirely. This makes him an outsider even among his friends, even if he is the only one who sees it that way. I find that fascinating.

Nrama: And hey! Looks like there are some new characters in the book, too. What can you share about them at this point?

Lobdell: Some are more newer than others!

I will also say this: When I co-created Generation X with Chris Bachalo, we were really invested in not creating another generation of Ken and Barbie mutants: hot bodies who could stop using their powers tomorrow and their whole lives would be better for those choices. Like Mystique drove home in the X-Men: First Class movie, it is a much different experience when your superpower sets you apart from the rest of society.

Similarly, Brett [Booth] and I felt that if we were going to add new characters to the team that teenagers who look different should be represented here as well.

Tim can always take off his domino mask and Bart can stop running and Cassie can chose to never use her powers again… but the characters we’ll be seeing fill out the rest of the team here don’t have those luxuries. It will be interesting to see if that creates any particular tension with the Core Four.

Nrama: Any plans at this point to see some other classic Teen Titans down the line? Your Beast Boys, your Ravens, etc.?

Lobdell: Big plans! Huge plans! And, honestly, for every person who has seen the promo art and were frustrated by the absence of their favorite character – fear not! Chances are they are going to show up sooner or later.

Nrama: Guessing that with a team comes some villains. What kind of threats will the Titans be dealing with early on?

Lobdell: I’d rather not say right now, but I will tell you who will not be showing up: Trigon, Deathstroke, Brother Blood, Blackfire, Titans of Tomorrow. To be clear, these were all great and exciting concepts when they were introduced: but over the years the Teen Titans books have started to feel like a greatest hits album. We want to move away from that.

Those stories have been told, and they were awesome. (Seriously, does it get any better than “The Judas Contract”? Or “The Future is Now”?) Now lets tell some other stories.

Nrama: Teen Titans is a book with a pretty storied history and a lot of famous runs. Are any serving as inspiration for you, even in a vague, thematic type way?

Lobdell: Not yet any way.

I don’t mean that glibly. I just think that each time Teen Titans has been relaunched over the years it has been done with a different voice, a different perspective. In that way, I think, we’ll be “honoring” the past by looking into the future.

Nrama: Obviously the character designs got a lot of attention — how has working with Brett Booth been thus far? What kind of energy is he bringing to the title?

Lobdell: I will say that Brett surprises me and often challenges me with every page he turns in.

We are working the Old School Plot and Script style. Which gives him a lot of room to tell the story in his own way, and he’s certainly taking advantage of that.

His storytelling has never been sharper and I love the work he’s turning in on backgrounds — in a book focused on teenagers it is really important that the series feels like it is taking place in a real world. Brett is batting it out of the park, the parking lot, across state lines, into the upper stratosphere and into orbit around that sun!

 

Nrama: Let's move on to Superboy. Actually, this question involves Teen Titans as well. Since both books have Superboy, and you're writing both (duh), can we expect close ties between the two? It's been established that not all of the 52 post-Flashpoint titles take place at the same point in time — is that the case here?

Lobdell: I kind of see Teen Titans and Superboy as a bi-weekly title. That is, at least for the first few months as you put down one book and pick up the next we’ll be establishing a sort of mini-world for the reader.

That said, you won’t have to pick up both books – they are both their own unique experiences separate and apart from each other – but if you do pick up both titles they will each enrich the other!

Nrama: Past Superboy comics have taken place in Hawaii and Smallville, but based on the solicitation and the initial cover, a lot of people are getting a little bit of a sci-fi type vibe. So basically, a character that's seen a lot of variety. What's your general approach to the series?

Lobdell: I’ve always been fascinated by the stories we’ve never gotten to see about Superboy. That is, when he first appeared he was Superboy. He was flying and using his powers and that was that.

We’re putting Superboy under a microscope. Like the N.O.W.H.E.R.E. scientists who are working on him in captivity, we are determined to see what makes him tick!


(And no, that wasn’t some pun about him being a cyborg or some such! He is still part human/part Kryptonian – still one half Lex and one half Kal.)

Nrama: For a large part of his history, Superboy has been a fun, jokier character and you've written a good deal of lighthearted fare in your career. Can we expect any of that type of tone in the book?

Lobdell: Eventually. The first few issues actually read a little more, like — hold on to your hats — a horror story. Not in a slasher way, but more like A Clockwork Orange or Silence of the Lambs (but without the serial killing!) — it is about reaching into Superboy’s head. Superboy finds himself in a situaion he and we have never imagined before.

If I am going to be true to the situation, humor doesn’t have a lot of room to stretch its wings in the first few issues.

That said, when he meets up with the Teen Titans — and he finds himself, then yeah, I think Superboy has a lot of humor. He’ll be hanging out with his best friends — who doesn’t have fun when that happens?

Nrama: You've got Superboy in two books you're writing. What are you looking to explore in the solo book that you can't do in Teen Titans?

Lobdell: Honestly? Between you and I? I don’t think there is a character in Teen Titans that I wouldn’t want to tell their solo adventures!


God, Wonder Girl is one of the most fascinating characters at DC — she should so have her own series! Sigh.

Where was I? I don’t think I am looking to explore anything as much as Superboy’s “solo” adventures are bound to be different because they are focused on him and not the team. And yes, I put “solo” in quotation marks for a reason. Hmmm.

 

Nrama: Over the years, Superboy's powers have evolved from simply being tactile telekinesis applied in different ways to replicating Superman's nearly exactly. A lot of things are obviously being altered post-Flashpoint, so what can you say about the current state of his abilities?

Lobdell: I am intrigued by your references to post-Flashpoint. I don’t really see anything as post-Flashpoint as I see it as Issue One of Superboy.

I will say this. Superboy is not Mimi-Superman. He is his own character with his own set of super powers that make him unique — powers that only come as a result of his dual heritage, rather than just a manifestation of one side of his genetic background or the other.

Nrama: Back to the "villain" question for this one — what are the main conflicts for Superboy as the series starts?

Lobdell: I’d rather not say.

Nrama: Not only does Superboy have the ties to Teen Titans, he's also, naturally, part of the Superman family. Will this series interact with the other Superman books?

Lobdell: Probably eventually, but I have no plans for the moment. I think Superman and Supergirl are awesome characters and I look forward to reading their books! But I think Superboy has to rise or fall on the strength of his character – and to that end I don’t really have any plans at this point to have him interacting with the other supers.

(And, don’t tell anyone this, but I’m trying to sneak Krypto into Red Hood & The Outlaws as a fellow junkyard stray… but shhhh! If anyone at DC reads this they’ll stop me!)

Nrama: Last question! R.B. Silva is on art, who has "young person connected to Superman" experience from working on the Action Comics back-ups starring Jimmy Olsen. What makes him right for the book? How far into the collaboration process are you with him?

Lobdell: R.B.’s work is breathtaking, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word. LOL! When you see his pencils you just have to stop and marvel. Besides the layout and the acting, he’s just really great at creating a world that is unique to the title. When you see the first issue you’ll see how he juggles the horror of an antiseptic laboratory with the Norman Rockwellian small town America and back again.


As far as our collaboration goes, a gift for English is not one of his primary talents – so we have to speak a sort of game of international telephone between his agents and me and him. That said, he’s just so good about bringing the plot to life I can’t help but think it transcends any natural barriers that may exist!

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