The New Teen Titans:Games
by Marv Wolfman and George Perez , Inks - Al Vey and Mike Perkins
Publisher - DC Comics
Publication Date - September 2011 / Pages - 120 / Price - $24.99
Format - Graphic Novel / Hardcover / ISBN-13 - 978-1-4012-3322-8
Sometimes the story of how a movie or book came to be created can overshadow the story being told. Who fought with who, who dated who, (or both) can be so distracting that the actual story produced gets little attention. In the case of a graphic novel that took twenty-three years to produce, which is the better story; the graphic novel itself or the story behind the story? In the case of NEW TEEN TITANS: GAMES it may be a close call.
The Background. Condensed version. Twenty three years ago original graphic novels from a major publisher were somewhere between rare and unheard of, but the popularity of The New Teen Titans and superstar writer Marv Wolfman with superstar artist George Perez was enough to get DC to green-light the project. There is an inherent problem with a massive project with no set deadline and an extremely in demand artist. George took breaks on drawing GAMES to work on other projects with tighter deadlines. As time pasted, the project was never truly gone but almost forgotten. Other priorities of life got in the way, as they often do. It wasn't until reading the supplemental material in this just published graphic novel that I learned one of the main reasons the book was unfinished for so long. The story written so long ago was not really finished until recently.
George had started drawing the book based on a story outline that the two of them had discussed. This was a method that they were both comfortable with and utilized the artist's storytelling abilities. Normally there would be only a short amount of time between the initial discussion and continued feedback between writer and artist. The expected period of weeks stretched into years. George could not refer back to a completed full script and just continue on when his schedule allowed. Still, he had fully or partially completed over seventy pages of the best art of his career and nobody wanted it to go to waste forever.
So Marv and George finally got together with the existing artwork and re-though major elements, including plot and characterization. Parts of the original outline were kept, parts changed in major ways. This behind-the-scenes story becomes part of the reading experience of GAMES through the inclusion of a forward by Marv, an afterward by George and the original notes on the plot written by the artist with modern day comments by the writer on what survived, what didn't and why.
In many cases all of this would only serve to explain why a complex project with so much promise failed. Not in this case.
NEW TEEN TITANS: GAMES, despite a convoluted path to being published, is a more than solid super-hero story with spectacular artwork. After reading about the history of this book one would think that the story would be a mess. While it does start slowly I think that's a function of introducing a large cast of both Titans and antagonists. When the book hits it's stride the action is fast and furious. We see less of a focus on team play and more spotlights on individual members facing solo foes. While the original outline seems more like an oversized annual from back in the day, the final product has themes and character arcs more in keeping with a modern graphic novel.
Even if the story was unreadable the artwork alone would make this project worthwhile. Perez worked on a larger sized art board and the book is printed in a larger, wider format to help show off the detail in his work. Pencils, inks, and color all come together in a labor of love to showcase some of the best George Perez art ever, and that is saying something. Despite a handful of challengers, super-hero art does not get better than this.
Overall NEW TEEN TITANS: GAMES was worth the wait. You don't need to be tied down to nostalgia for the time period to enjoy the story. The characters are introduced well and given a complete story to play out. It was always intended to stand alone and does. The artwork is a treasure. The behind the scenes material is a fun glimpse behind the curtain showing us what might have been and making us appreciate all the more what we do have. The entire package is a fun super-hero story, enjoyable on many levels. There are many stories in the comic book business about "lost" projects. It's good to know that something of this quality did not languish in a drawer forever unfinished. Find your own copy. You'll be glad you did.
Bill Love / Comic Related Columnist
Bill spent ten years in television production then ten years teaching production and journalism at the high school level. He has over a decade of comics retailing experience and has written, edited and done interviews for Sketch Magazine and other Blue Line Art publications. Together with Robert Hickey, Bill created Graphic Novel Scene to serve the library community as a selection tool in choosing graphic novels for their growing collections.
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