It's not an alternate earth. It's not an Elseworlds. The original Teen Titans are getting back together — in continuity, and on DC's Prime Earth.
In the new Titans Hunt series starting in October, writer Dan Abnett will add a "secret history" to the "DCYou" history of traditional Teen Titans characters like Dick Grayson, Roy Harper, and Donna Troy. The new story will gives them a Titans-associated connection, something they lost in the "New 52" reboot.
That means characters as diverse as Dick Grayson, who's currently an agent of Spyral, and Donna Troy, who was only introduced to the new DC continuity this year in Wonder Woman, will somehow be part of a brand new Titans story. And although Abnett isn't promising anything about their affiliation, he's trying to honor past Titans stories while filling the new one with lots of easter eggs for long-time fans.
Abnett is working with artist Paulo Siqueira, which he emphasizes is "fresh" and friendly to new fans, while also being respectful to the past of the Titans. Newsarama talked to Abnett to find out more, and give the first look at Siqueira's cover to December's Titans Hunt #3.
Newsarama: Dan, this story is connected to “Convergence"?
Dan Abnett: Yes, in that, during "Convergence" a lot of writers, including myself, were looking at classic continuities, and all the things that have been left behind pre-"New 52." And when DC co-publisher Dan DiDio asked me to do this, he cited my JSA stories for "Convergence" being written as a respectful handling of classic storylines, which is very nice of him.
But what they've given me permission to do is sort of reflect upon classic Teen Titans continuity, and draw upon it for the new continuity.
So the project has come out of "Convergence," and out of a desire by me and the editorial staff to acknowledge more of classic Teen Titans continuity and characters, and integrate that somehow into the DCU as it is today.
But it is the DCU main earth. It is in modern continuity.
Nrama: So this is not an alternate earth?
Abnett: No, it is "New 52." It is DCU Prime Earth. I'm dealing with all the current versions of the characters that have appeared in the new continuity.
It's absolutely smack-dab in modern continuity. It is very much modern and contemporary. But I think long-time readers will find an awful lot in it that pleases them enormously.
Nrama: But that is quite a task, isn't it? Working around the history we already know to add some new connection between these characters?
Abnett: It's a huge task, yes, but one which I'm writing with enormous enthusiasm. It's very nice to be asked to do this sort of thing.
Obviously I've read Teen Titans for many years, but it made me go back and read everything, right from the very earliest stories, to kind of grasp the flavor of it, the interaction of the characters, and to try to find ways of presenting it.
I'm not suggesting for a moment this is a story that reveals that all that former history happened and we don't know about it, but to instead suggest that these characters have more of a history than we're aware of.
And for new readers, who aren't familiar with continuity, it will be a delicious story that unwraps a mystery and then explains all sort of interesting things. But for classic readers, it will be packed full of easter eggs. There will be nods and acknowledgments to all sorts of things that I hope will delight people. It certainly delighted me as I was writing it.
Nrama: So it's not putting the old Teen Titans continuity back as it was, but is putting some sort of history in there that sort of nods to the former continuity?
Abnett: I guess it's a little bit like a movie version, where they take the essence of something and present it in a movie. They've got to get it into a new container for a new audience, but the best ones manage to hit all the right buttons, and you go, yeah, this really is what it's supposed to be. I don't know if I should say that about my own work [laughs], but that's the attempt.
Nrama: With the title “Titans Hunt,” is that the era that you're mainly pulling from?
Abnett: I'm actually looking at just about everything. Clearly the classic Marv Wolfman-George Pérez era is the definitive, as far as I'm concerned, but I'm also looking back at the very early days. Nick Cardy's work on the original appearances, where it was an eclectic book — I think Brave and the Bold and Showcase and that sort of stuff — where it was, let's take all the sidekicks and put them together. And there was enormous charm and great imagination; Cardy is such a great artist.
I suppose it's sort of that again. It's me looking at it and going, OK, knowing everything that's come before, if I was starting again, how would I do it? And how would I try and bottle the lightning, the proper essence of what made a good Teen Titans story a good Teen Titans story?
Nrama: But you have to work around the fact that all these characters are in very different places in the new continuity. Do those form obstacles?
Abnett: I wouldn't call them obstacles, but there are interesting challenges in that the characters I want to use are either placed differently or oddly in the DCU. Dick Grayson is the most obvious example. He's very different from the Robin who was originally a founding member of the Teen Titans. And he has gone through a number of identity shifts. And certainly, at the moment, as Grayson, the agent of Spyral, he's a very different sort of character, but the essence of his character, I think, remains the same.
When we first meet him in Titans Hunt #1, he's operating on a mission for Spyral.
But other characters like Aqualad — Garth — and Donna Troy have appeared in the new continuity, but essentially in very small roles and virtually as villains.
So the chemistry, the alchemy, is not the same.
And in some cases, obviously, they haven't appeared at all. And so there's a way of crafting them freshly so that they fit into that, whilst acknowledging who they probably have been in the past.
Nrama: Lilith seems to be the key to pulling all these characters together.
Abnett: Absolutely. As it stands in the opening issue or two, Lilith is the only one who really knows the truth. She knows more about everything than everybody else, but is also in a position of vulnerability because of that.
So she's very much the fulcrum on which everything else depends. She's the center of things.
But at the same time, she's also, I guess, the vulnerability, because she knows a great deal, and she knows also a lot about the threat they're going to be facing.
Nrama: Besides Lilith, some of these characters haven't been introduced to the DCU. Like Mal, right?
Abnett: I don't think Mal has, or if he has, it's not very much at all. I've also got his wife Karen, who is, in older continuities, Bumblebee.
So there are characters who, if they've been seen at all, it's not very much, and there's a great deal of work to do to establish them.
And some of them haven't been seen, really, at all, and certainly not in the context of a Teen Titans book.
Nrama: And you're working with artist Paulo Siqueira.
Abnett: Yes, and he's absolutely amazing. My editor Eddie Berganza showed me his work, and I thought it was spectacularly good. And the first few pages I've seen really are astonishing.
I'm throwing a lot at him, obviously, because it's a large cast. There's a lot of story and detail. There are a lot of props and visual references in frames, and extra characters in the background, where you might see something that is very significant or is one of these easter eggs. And I've seeded those things all the way through. And he's doing an amazing job of delivering those things.
And his work is very powerful and dynamic and realistic and sort of glamorous. He makes them look really good. They are really, really exciting heroes to look at.
Nrama: This storyline is called "The Secret History of the Teen Titans," so you're introducing a secret history that connects these characters?
Abnett: Yeah. All of the characters, including Lilith to a certain extent, all of them are discovering things about themselves they didn't know before.
And we're going to discover “why” they don't know those things. And therefore we're going to discover a connection between some or all of those characters as the story progresses.
Because you know, they aren't teenage sidekicks of classic heroes. Donna Troy, for instance, is an extremely interesting character because she really is a sort of vengeful Amazonian construct, a being of clay, and she's only really been an adversary of Wonder Woman so far. Garth is also at least a threat, if not an out-and-out villain.
So to actually draw these together and to show why they are what they are makes it more interesting because they've got further to come. I think if it was just a matter of, you know, Robin getting on the Bat-phone and ringing everybody up and saying, "Can I borrow your sidekick for the weekend?," that wouldn't be a very interesting comic book.
This is a much more dynamic, complex story, where who is what and why, and what side they're going to end up on, is far less clear than it would be if it was set in the previous era.
Yet it's an easy-to-follow story, but one full of different strands that are being woven together. And I hope I'm doing a good job, as I write it, of explaining anything that anybody needs to know as they go along so that it is absolutely clear to somebody who's never read Teen Titans before. But if you have read Teen Titans, and you're really invested in those characters and their heritage, you can see those things popping up almost as Easter eggs, where references and acknowledgements are made that I think will please people.
I'm trying to make it immediate and fresh and accessible, whilst acknowledging and not contradicting the great heritage of the Teen Titans.