UPDATE: Games was published September, 2011. It


By Marv Wolfman

The story of “GAMES,” the NEW TEEN TITANS graphic novel that almost never was, goes back to sometime between 1986 and 1989. After spending my entire life in New York, I had relocated to Los Angeles, not to break into movies or TV, but to get away from the harsh New York weather. I was writing a number of comics including The New Teen Titans which I had co-created in 1980 with extraordinary artist and fellow co-conspirator, George Perez. You can read how we created it here: ORIGIN OF THE NEW TEEN TITANS and you can see some early concepts as well as the first drawing of the Titans headquarters here: TITANS TOWER.

Missing only one issue, George had drawn the Titans through issue 50, plus five issues of our new, better-printed, more expensive “Baxter” edition, plus numerous covers, annuals and specials, staying on a series longer than most any other artist at the time, but he was finally ready to move on to other pastures.

George went on to re-create WONDER WOMAN and did an appropriately wonderful job both writing and drawing her adventures. George and I also continued working together on the history making CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS as well as the definitive HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE. Though George did come back to the Titans for another short run, he and I both believed that despite the Titans phenomenal popularity, we had never gotten the chance to do a graphic novel. Working with Titans editor, BARBARA KESEL, DC signed us up for a 120 page graphic novel. Now the problem was to figure out what to do.

I came back to New York to meet with George and Barbara at George’s house in Jamaica, Queens. I knew I had to have an idea before we met. That was the way George and I usually worked. Nine times out of ten I’d have the rough idea for a story, sometimes more, sometimes less, before we worked out the details together over lunch, dinner, or sometimes both, depending on how long our meeting went. I knew this had to be something really special, but what?

I had been going through a pretty bad writer’s block back then, my first, and thankfully only one, although it did last for a very painful five years. Where I used to be able to come up with new ideas at the drop of a pin – hence more than 70 creations at Marvel and God knows how many at DC – the writer’s block made thinking difficult and creation nearly impossible. Also, I used to be the “go-to” guy if someone else’s book was late because I was a lightning fast writer. Now I was late on everything. So this book had to be great, to show them I still had it, which, of course, only added to the pressure.

But the basis of an idea began to form. It wasn't a lot, but there was a beginning on which we could hang a story. Honestly, I don’t remember the details, but I do remember having a rough concept which I told George and Barbara. I was, of course, nervous if they’d like it. When you have a writer’s block you have no real idea if what you’re doing is good or, let’s be charitable, less than good. But George and Barbara really liked the idea and we spent the rest of the day and some time afterwards working out the details.

Ideas came to all of us faster than expected. Things fell into place. This wasn’t going to be just another issue of the Titans, great as they had been. This was going to be a novel told in graphic form. The idea, pacing and structure were all different from a 22 page story or even a several part story that had to have cliff-hanger endings to lead you to the next issue.

We came up with some incredible twists and turns and, most of all, real surprises. George had to start drawing immediately, so rather than have me go home and, with a writer’s block, try to pound out a full story which at that point I simply couldn't do, certainly not on schedule, George took what we came up with and actually paced and plotted out the story. George then typed up a rough plot and went to work.

I was home and every week or so I’d get Xeroxes of George’s pencils. They weren’t the typical 10X15 size of original comic book art but almost double that. He wanted to put in special detail that required a much larger drawing page. The drawings George did were mind-boggling. His previous Titans work as well as his Crisis art, was usually extraordinary, but these pages blew away everything he had ever done before. I couldn’t wait to get started.

But I did wait. For two reasons. The first was I was hoping my writer’s block would go away, as eventually it did. But the second reason, and the more important reason, was that I knew it would take George a few months to draw the book and I didn’t want to write five pages this week, then five more pages two weeks later, and continue to write them in dribs and drabs for possibly several months until all the art was done. Also, I was writing other books at the same time, and I was afraid I would lose my way if there was too much else to think about. If this book was to be special, I wanted a flow to my words and a consistency of thought behind what I was doing. I thought it would be better for the book if I took one or two months straight to write it and nothing else.

George drew more than 70 pages even though the last batch weren’t in sequential order. That George was drawing ahead, picking scenes he wanted to do that hadn’t come up yet in the plot should have been a sign something was wrong. As I had a writer’s block, George was starting to go through a Titans block. He had done so many pages, so many characters, and had so much pressure put on him, he just couldn’t draw another Titans page. He called and told me what was going on and as I was still under my writer’s block, I was easily able to sympathize. Besides, I hoped he would get past it in a few weeks and get back on the horse.

Alas, that didn’t happen. My block lasted, as I said, for about five years. George’s at least that long. By that point, he had also moved onto other things and the thought of going back to finishing those old pages became inhibiting. We had more than seventy brilliant pages of Perez’s best art ever, but the book was officially dead.

George and I remained friends. When I was at Disney he did some work for me. We saw each other at conventions, occasionally spoke on the phone, but we both had other work to do.

Still, every so often I’d see the Xeroxes that had been sent me laying on a shelf in my closet and I’d take them out, drool over them, and call whoever was the most recent Titans editor and beg him to revive the graphic novel. We could have whoever was currently drawing the Titans finish the graphic novel, I thought. Hell, we could have everyone who ever drew the Titans do a chapter here or there. The editors all loved the idea, but DC never said yes. The graphic novel had to be by both George and me and by nobody else.

I bothered every editor up there for fifteen years, getting them excited until they got shot down. As late as July, 2003, I spoke with DC who kept saying graphic novels shouldn't be treated like a monthly book. They needed to be an artistic expression. It was hard, if not impossible, for me to fight that logic. They knew they could make a fortune doing a new Titans graphic novel with even half of it by George and me, but they made a decision not based on economics but on artistic integrity. Since I wanted the book printed, I may have hated hearing that, but as much as I tried, I couldn’t fight it. The Titans had always been a special comic because George and I were left alone to do what we did best. We had a vision and nothing stopped us from realizing it. A vision can be shared by the two creators but not by a host of fill-in artists, no matter how great they may individually be.

So I had finally come to accept that the Titans graphic novel was a dead parrot and decided I’d no longer bother any future Titans editor. I knew they’d prefer it that way and, in a way, so would I. Despite what everyone says, it doesn’t feel better when you stop hitting your head against a wall. It feels better if you never hit it against the wall in the first place.

Cut to September, 2003. My wife, Noel and I, along with a number of friends, made our annual trek to the Los Angeles County Fair. Suddenly, my cell phone vibrated. I usually forward my home phone to my cell when I’m out. So I am in the middle of a very crowded exhibit hall when I answer the phone and it’s George on the other side. “Marv,” he says, “Would you be available if I call DC and say I’d like to finish drawing ‘Games,’ the Titans graphic novel?”

The County Fair pigs, five buildings away, were blown out of their sties by my squeals of delight.

For various reasons Games was no finished at that time. But seven years later, in 2010, George and I finally started work on finishing the graphic novel. Neither of us could remember the original plot so, using the finished art as a guide, I came up with a new story that could use the art but add in new villains, change the identity of the master villain, and make this story far more character driven than the original story. George and completed the new story during the summer of 2011 and it was published the end of September, 2011. The reviews were wonderful and within a few weeks the book went into a second printing.

I, for one, am completely pleased with the completed book. I think the story is much stronger than it would have been had we finished it back in 1987, and the writing is much sharper. And of course it looks incredible. You can find the book on sale at your local shop or through amazon.com. I hope everyone who was ever a Titans fan picks it up and I’m looking forward to all your comments.

-Marv Wolfman, January, 2012.

©  2010 Marv Wolfman

All artwork © 2003 DC Comics. All Rights reserved.

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Marv Wolfman