Jonboy is a really cool guy. He loves the rich history of DC Comics and making art that will wow his readers. He is someone who grew up reading the comics, watching the shows, and loves what he does. Most exciting about my interview with him was that it wasn’t really an interview. I was talking with someone about comics, who loves them and reads them as much as me. We had no restrictions when talking really and he absolutely loved telling me about Teen Titans. Every question I could have come up with he would have answered and in fact wanted me to ask more. Here’s what we did discuss about his art and upcoming book.
What can we expect from the team?
Well, without spoiling it, we have come to a point six months after the team led by Tim Drake disbanded and everyone went their separate ways. We have two of the remaining members, Beast Boy and Raven, everyone is lost in this time. This is a story about how the team comes together. Damian is actually the one who pulls the team together. Basically, all of their lives are in danger and it is because of a common interest.
I don’t want to spoil it just yet, but Damian finds out and they are all targets. So, in order to save them he’s like, “Look, I don’t have time to explain things to people,” and he actually kidnaps them all to protect them first and let them know what’s going on. There’s a feeling of a ticking time bomb, like Terminator, where it has to happen and happen fast! The Rebirth special really centers around where the characters are at, how Damian brings them all together, albeit unwillingly. (chuckling) It’s a little questionable like, “Dude, you could have just talked to them.” But that’s not really [Damian’s] way because they don’t know him, he doesn’t know them. He thought, “Well it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.”
It’s basically an origin story about where these characters are at, and them trying to find themselves. They are all teenagers, anywhere from age 13 to Starfire who is 18-19, and trying to figure out where their place in the world is, you know. You have to understand; these characters are not only teenagers but orphans, or from dysfunctional families. Damian brings them all together and over time they become the Teen Titans.
You mentioned that Damian has turned 13, and in Middle-Eastern cultures he is now a man. There has been a lot of criticism where people have complained that Damian has been white-washed and made too white. I love the fact that you are addressing that. What can we expect from that?
Well, I’m a person of color too, so, I think it’s important to represent everybody, you know what I mean. Comics are not just a United States thing, or Canadian thing, it’s a world wide thing. So, the fact that people can relate to a character, and making a character relatable is really important I think. If you can fall in love with a character and it transcends all genres is great.
[Middle-Eastern culture] is gonna play a huge, huge role, because the first arc is about how the Teen Titans come together, but also centers around Damian’s arc first, as a character. He’s such a polarizing character right now, because of his heritage of where he was raised, and how he was raised. So, we want to bring a lot of the Persian influence into it, and Ra’s Al Ghul is in it of course, and Damian’s mother is in it. So it centers on him, like when you hit 13, You kind of become a man. He’s at a weird point in his life where he’s not a kid anymore and is considered to be a man. But does it feel like it? He’s not grown up yet.
Especially in our culture, North American culture where you aren’t a man until you are 16-18 and even then it’s not really.
Legally, like when you’re legal to drink, I guess you could consider that a man, but not really. He’s at this weird point where he’s trying to find himself. Again, everyone is really lost and Teen Titans, at it’s core, is really about family. It’s about how these characters, through this dysfunction find each other and become this whole unit that can depend on one another, like everyone finding a surrogate family so to speak. It’s interesting how we’re gonna get that all to coalesce and it’s a trial by fire thing. The more we can do to put them in different locals and things like that, like, I believe the Titans should be a world wide type of thing.
I know we’re going to have them based out of San Francisco but they will be globe trotting all over the world. We’re gonna have a cast of international characters, new villains, old villains, all these things.
From watching the Teen Titans show, are any of your relationships similar to those characters?
Yeah, you know I can actually relate to Damian quite a bit. His dad is gone a lot, and he has a weird dysfunctional relationship with his dad. He wants to know him but he never has the time to know which is an interesting point. I can relate because I was a military brat, so my dad was always gone on tours for forever and ever and ever. To have him home, you want these opportunities to connect with your father, it’s desperate, you want to get to know this person you call dad.
For me, approaching this series, I can really identify with Damian and his need to find identity. To have a connection to where he belongs. He chooses to be part of his father’s world, but it’s a very cold world. Batman’s life is marked by tragedy and he doesn’t know anything else. Whereas if Damian wants to feel loved and family it’s with Ra’s, but then he needs to be a bad guy. So he knows to do the right thing, his dad’s way. The path of justice will be a very lonely road.
My next question comes from being a fan of the cartoons and the comics, I’m used to the story of Raven and Trigon, even in the recent Justice League Vs. Teen Titans that was the main story. Are you going to avoid that because it has been so told?
I’m totally with you on that. I feel like that story has really been told. I know Ben [Percy] really wants to do it. I’m not feeling that just yet. I feel like, honestly, if we’re going to do a story about Raven and make Trigon a thing, lets build up to it. If I were to do it, I would want to pair her with somebody, like Klarion the Witch Boy. It would be really cool to do a story with him. He’s an evil kid but he’s also a teenager and he needs a connection. Maybe he’s like, “I want a girlfriend, I think Raven would be a great woman to spend eternity with.” Let’s do something different like that, to bring a different angle to the character. I feel like the Trigon story has been done to death. If we are going to do it, let’s make it something special instead of, “Oh, it’s Trigon again.” (Sarcastic shock). Let’s do something a little different and change it up because people have already seen that.
When you’re doing such an iconic book, like Teen Titans, and our base thing that we’re going off of is what the Wolfman/Pérez run did, It’s such an iconic thing so if that’s what we are comparing ourselves to, we better bring our A-game. Story, art, everything, needs to be on par and fire on four cylinders because that’s what we are comparing ourselves to, so that’s what it’s gotta be. If we’re gonna do it, let’s try to make it that type of level, but add our own wrinkle to it. We don’t want to repeat or reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to. If we’re gonna build up to Trigon, let’s make that a thing that is something special. For me I want to do that in a different direction, let’s do a different wrinkle, let’s make it a thing between that personal relationship where this other evil kid, who is similar to her tries to make a connection with her.
At its core, Teen Titans is about family and the relationships between the characters. I feel that if you want those big rough and tumble world changing fights, go to Justice League. Our books are about the characters, and the relationships with teens while they go on these great grand adventures. The core is about how the kids get together, and make a team. The Titans by themselves are not strong, but as a team, when they function well, that is where their strengths lie. That’s where they have the Justice League beat. The League is, at their core, individual characters, where the Titans will play off each others strengths and weaknesses.
A lot of the time, Raven is portrayed as very Goth. The drawings at the DC panel yesterday look a little more punk and interesting, can you comment on that.
For me, she’s a mix of Punk, Goth, and 80s retro type stuff. The thing about her is that even in her design, everything is pointy and sharp. There is no skin, the only thing you see is her face, she even hides behind her hair a little bit. Like, you won’t see her jewel unless she starts moving around. Again, she’s a teen struggling with her whole story. She’s the product of a sexual assault and her dad is a demon who wants to destroy reality and make her the heir to it all. She’s got a lot that she is struggling with, and she tries to keep herself emotionally closed of, which is her way of dealing with things.
When she comes into this family environment, where she’s dealing with kids going through the same thing she is, you’re going to see her evolve as a character. You’ll see her open up a little more, her hood will be down more, and she’ll start to feel more comfortable.
Will Teen Titans and Super Sons have crossovers?
What’s gonna happen with that is that, Teen Titans will happen first. At the same time, we’ll have a crossover. Patrick Gleason and Peter Tomasi will have the big meeting where Batman and Robin will meet Superman and Superboy in issue #10 of Superman. That will allow for the ground work for Super Sons. I can see that Clark’s son will eventually be in Teen Titans but we have to build up to that. We always talked about having Teen Titans with a revolving roster where we have certain core characters. At the moment there is no plans for it, but I can tell you that there will be a cross over eventually in a Superman book. But first, we want to establish these characters first because right now, no one knows Jonathan Kent. The more you can do to build that character in a superman book so that people understand what he’s about, then we can introduce him to the world at large and have him interacting with Damian.
In, the movies, a lot of the time, there are hints at a relationship between Nightwing and Starfire, are we going to get to see them interact?
Oh, yeah, we do a little bit in Rebirth, there’s a little nod to that saying, “hey, look there’s something going on between these two crazy kids.” I think Dick, in this version is 24 maybe and Starfire is 18-19. Tamaraneans age a little slower, so they are closer in age than what she looks, but she still has the teenage mentality. It is definitely a thing and with Damian having a really great relationship with Dick Grayson because they were Batman and Robin for a time so we will see that dynamic in it too. I’m always pushing for that, “hey let’s get Dick in there,” because Starfire is the de facto leader. Damian wants to be, but Starfire has a demeanor about her.
I don’t like a bimbo Starfire, it’s basically saying people of color, or someone from another country should act like an idiot. Foreign people don’t act like idiots, putting someone from China in America, they don’t act like an idiot. They don’t try to eat a beach ball or something. So it doesn’t equate for me. I understand the whole fish out of water thing, but I think we should play it more about the personal relationships. She has this really great relationship with Dick and Dick has a great relationship with Damian. There’s gonna be a point where she’s interacting with Dick and Dick will talk to Damian and I think Starfire recognizes the fact that Damian wants to come out of his shell and lead and I think she’ll try to get him to do that. For her, at her core, she’s a very motherly figure too. Always very supportive, even the way Palmiotti wrote her, a very caring, big hearted person, and there to help people. I can see those roles transitioning as the series progresses.
I personally am extremely excited to be reading Teen Titans at the end of the month and look forward to post my review. Stay tuned for more news about the ever awesome Jonboy Meyers and the amazing and emotional stories he has coming for us soon!