Ever since DC rebooted its universe in 2011, there's been some confusion about whether the current Teen Titans team was the first of its kind. Was there a Titans team in the past, when Dick Grayson was Robin, or wasn't there? And if there was, who was on that team, since some of the original, pre-reboot Titans didn't even exist yet in the new universe?
Now DC is addressing the question head-on — and even giving an in-story reason for the confusion — with Titans Hunt, a new series by writer Dan Abnett and artist Paolo Siquiera. As this week's first issue revealed, there was a team of Titans in the past, but for some reason, the heroes involved lost their memory of the team-up.
Now it looks like Dick, Roy, Gnarrk, Garth, Donna, Mal and Lillith will not only start investigating the truth behind their Titans past, but they could be even getting the team back together.
And according to the writer, there are more characters "we're yet to meet" involved in this story. Could the Titans reunion involve more?
Newsarama talked with Abnett to find out more about the Titans reunion, their secret history and what's coming up next.
Newsarama: Dan, in Titans Hunt #1, it's made very clear that this is the current DC universe, which I think will still surprise some people. There's a secret history between these characters. How difficult was that to weave into the current DCU?
Dan Abnett: First of all, it was a specific request from Dan DiDio that I blended those things together, that it wasn't an out-of-continuity thing, it was part of the core "New 52" continuity. And the more I thought about it — and obviously, i said yes, this is what they want the project to be — but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that that would be a good thing to do. I think there's enormous validity in telling stories that explore all different iterations of the DCU.
But the "New 52" is the core, and it was a great opportunity to take a very, very beloved chunk of DC continuity — the Teen Titans continuity — and actually establish it firmly in the main universe, rather than saying, "Oh, this is something you can visit occasionally, but it didn't happen in the same universe; it's a side thing."
I really wanted to say, no, this is great stuff and this is going to be "real" DCU, not an imaginary story, not an Elseworld, not any of those things. This is going to be part of the continuity, and this is how we reveal that.
It really was, I suppose, a case of taking that original continuity that is now 50 years old and trying to find a way of connecting it to the "New 52."
Nrama: But there are some real problems with doing that, aren't there? I mean, for example, Donna Troy is not only a villain of sorts in the new universe, but she's only been alive a little while. She was made in a cauldron or something…
Abnett: That's right.
Nrama: How could there be this secret history? You have to explain that, right?
Abnett: Yeah. I mean, not everything is going to fit. The continuity going back to 1965 is still that continuity and belongs to that Earth. What I'm saying is, there is an echo, a parallel continuity that people will find very reassuring and familiar, that has existed in the "New 52," that we don't know about.
And there is more to some of these characters — Donna included — than we already know from the stories that have been published in the new universe.
But this is a little different. There will be some people who say, this is not the real thing, or whatever. But it was a matter of looking at it and going, how can I present that and the essence of it and the great aspects of it in a way that fits as neatly as possible to "New 52" continuity, and reveals secrets and surprises.
So it's not a perfect fit, but I hope it's going to be a really, really, really entertaining way of saying there's more to these characters than we already know.
Nrama: In the first issue, we learn that there are already connections between some of these characters. For example, there's a connection between Lillith and Roy. Others are just happening upon each other for the first time — well, actually, the first time they know about.
Abnett: First time they know about, exactly, yeah.
Nrama: But what you've clearly established in this first issue is that there are lost memories or faded memories. Roy has a memory of that water tower, for example. And he kind of stops when he hears the name Speedy. So is it fair to assume, from this first issue, that the "secret history" is something that exists in their memories, but they can't quite remember it for some reason?
Abnett: Yeah, absolutely. These characters, and others that we're yet to meet, are bound by a shared experience that, for reasons that the story will reveal, they have either forgotten or chosen to forget. And it's hard to do that. It's particularly hard for somebody like Roy, who is basically struggling with that. He doesn't know what's bothering him, but this simple act of forgetting is bothering him.
And other characters that won't be aware that they're troubled by anything will realize that their lives have been determined and altered and influenced by the hidden past that they shared.
It's sort of boiling to the surface, and it can't really be contained. And it can't be contained because they're all, ultimately, human and flawed and have imperfections. So that deliberate veil of secrecy will break eventually, but also, there are forces working on them to break it.
So it's their own mortality that's causing the memories to resurface and also the actions of others on the outside — again, that we have yet to meet.
Nrama: These "forces on the outside" — I assume that's who Lillith is addressing when she says, "I know you're watching. You can't have them. Not this time."
Abnett: Yes. Yes.
Nrama: But we're not supposed to know who that is yet.
Abnett: No. There are some fairly heavy-handed hints as to who that could possibly be. But then again, I might just be double-bluffing everybody.
Nrama: I assume one of the hints is the children playing… what is that game called?
Abnett: Yes, what is that game called?
Nrama: [Laughs.] OK, Twister. That's a hint, obviously.
Abnett: Yes, there are quite a lot of references to that kind of phenomenon. So yes.
Nrama: I'd say that's one of the heavy-handed hints.
Abnett: Is that one of the heavy-handed hints? Or am I just playing with everybody?
Nrama: There are a few others.
Abnett: Yes there are a few others. Roy with the tower, and when he hears the — spoiler warning — twister sirens, when he gets called Speedy, when Dick sees the whirlpool (which again is a form of spiral) and of course he works with Spyral. Donna has come to this beach, this shoreline — why has she come there? And, oh, what's the other one…?
Abnett: Right, Mal sees this strange, spiraling staircase. I mean, there are so many moments that are sort of brought up in the middle of their lives, making them go, why's that bother me so much? So they're all not necessarily dreaming the same thing, but I think you can see a sort of pattern there between the various things that are arresting their attention, particularly moments when they're meant to do be doing something else, concentrating on something else, and something snaps their concentration and they're completely caught up in something that they don't know why it fascinates them so much.
Nrama: OK, the filing cabinet at the end, and the picture we see that I assume is from this secret history they have. Is that an indication that Lillith is the only one that's aware of this history, so aware she keeps files on the whole thing?
Abnett: Yeah. Lillith doesn't necessarily know everything, but she knows an awful lot more than the others. And she's sort of the keeper of the flame, I think. Somebody had to sort of retain the secret to protect it, and she's the one who knows. So that filing cabinet and its contents are a clear indication that she's in command of more information than the others.
Nrama: And it's got a big "T" on the front, so…
Abnett: [Laughs.] Of course it has! It's the Teen Titans! Everything's going to have a big T on the front!
And the picture you see at the end — they are essentially the characters that we've already seen in the course of the issue, but these are the, presumably, these are the way they looked when they had the experience that led them to this story. This is them as the characters that they were before.
Nrama: Going forward, I assume there's a long-term plan with this. It's a cool concept to think there's a secret history in the past, and that they're hunting for their past, but is there a future for these Titans?
Abnett: One would hope so. One would hope, if nothing else, that this book would generate enough enthusiasm and positive response from the readership that they'd want to see more stories with these characters once I've put them through whatever ringer I'm going to put them through.
But yeah, it shows that in their past there is a future that they could reclaim. And that future will be a team line-up that very closely resembles our original memories of the Teen Titans.
So yeah, there is definitely a plan. Any comic is carefully planned as it's going on, so with this major story, this is plotted out in my head like a novel. So we're reading the chapters of a novel. It's not necessarily a slow build, but it's complicated one. I mean, you can tell, from the number of points of view and the number of characters we're dealing with here, this is not a quick, two-issue, "oh, we all remember we used to be the Teen Titans, and everybody, let's go and have an adventure." This is a much more considerable and possibly grueling story than that. And the characters are not going to have an easy ride of it.
So yes, this is probably planned in more intricate detail than almost anything I've done for a long time.
Nrama: Anything you can tease about the next few issues? It looks like Roy and Dick are going to team up. We'll see more of that?
Abnett: Yeah, one of the plans, which will come as no surprise to anybody, is that these characters will be drawn together. I want to put them together in small groups that then meet other small groups. So we get some interesting pairings and interesting contrasts between people.
Although, at this stage in the story, for the first few issues, they are hunting for the secret that is haunting them, they don't necessarily know that's what they're actively doing.
Some are more active than others. Roy is sort of aimlessly looking for relief from his demons, really, but Dick, because he's detective trained, is actually actively looking to find out what on earth that was all about. So we'll see him reverting to, I guess, Robin or Batman mode as he becomes the great detective trying to work these things out and trying to track these things down.
Probably the least engaged so far is Garth, who doesn't realize, really. He's just there because he's angry and he's got scores to settle.
So some of these characters, when they meet, are not just going to go, great, we're doing the same thing. There is going to be a great deal of internal conflict between them as they cross paths.
And obviously, a character like Mal doesn't even know he's anything other than a film composer.
Nrama: Then to wrap up, anything you want to tell people who checked out the first issue?
Abnett: I hope they enjoyed the first chapter. I think it's a great looking book. The art and the color is fantastic. I hope the story's intriguing enough. I cannot believe that the long-term Teen Titans fans won't be really, very very curious to see where it goes, and hopefully pleased by the surprises and references and twists that have been put in there. So yeah, I hope you'll stay with it and I hope it's been enough of a start to make you go, gosh, I want to see what happens next.