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Wednesday, January 22, 2014 

Scott Lobdell can't bring himself to apologize for botching Teen Titans

The New 52 take on Teen Titans is being canceled after 30 issues, and Lobdell, the noted hack writer of the 90s, told Newsarama that he's unrepentant for the poor job he did:
Newsarama: So, DC confirmed the Teen Titans series is ending, but are you writing the end of the team itself? In other words, are the Teen Titans (the team) ending too?

Scott Lobdell: I am working on the Annual this weekend so I will be able to tell you better next week! But... after everything that has happened in the past few months, there is not much of a team left to even disband.
So his work ends with the team in tatters. I get it.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans about Teen Titans?

Lobdell: I know it was a bit of heavy lifting for some of the longtime fans of the core characters on the book — and Newsarama fans haven't been shy about voicing their complaints — but I can't find it in my heart to apologize.

I was hired to write a series that started the team "on page one"... no history, no preexisting relationships, for readers that were not familiar with the concept of Teen Titans. The new continuity being what it was, Bart could not have been Bart Allen from the future, Superboy could not have been a clone who spent the last few months living on the Kent Farm as Ma and Pa had died some 10 years ago, and on and on...

... so while I wouldn't expect anyone to agree with every choice I made or was handed, I will say I remain very proud of the book I've worked on for the last 30-odd issues. And I'm very grateful to DC that they entrusted me with a book that is still standing with its head held high as we shuffle off the stage and let someone else take the spotlight! I, for one, can't wait!
By contrast, I don't even care. There's a case you can make that even if a lot of this was editorially edicted, that still doesn't exonerate the writer for a job badly done. Lobdell is still very much the same hack writer he was when he first began writing comics for Marvel in 1988, and his work here was no better. His declaration he doesn't think he should apologize does make me wonder if Geoff Johns feels the same way for his incredibly poor job on Teen Titans in 2003. Since he's steadily avoided commenting on the quality and tone of his work over the years, I guess the answer is the same. No doubt Lobdell can't find it in himself to apologize for his poor rendition of Starfire in Red Hood and the Outlaws either

But, this confirms what I'd figured would be the case of the former Impulse: he probably isn't from the future, and modern Superboy is not a clone like he was when Kon-El first debuted in 1993. On the other hand, the book was rife with political correctness, as Lobdell tells in this earlier paragraph:
Nrama: Now that you know the ending of your story, what are you most proud of accomplishing during your time on Teen Titans?

Lobdell: I would be lying if i didn't say I'm going to miss Bunker most of all. I just love the guy and how upbeat and even how grounded he is. I love that he's always talking to and about God — and I'm glad that it appears God loves him right back.

I'm also proud that Teen Titans launched with a lot of diversity and new characters. I looked around at a lot of the other relaunches in recent years and most of the companies relaunch their biggest teams with the "classics" — the founding fathers of the books.

But Bobbie Chase and Katie Stewart were very supportive of us developing Bunker and Skitter and using the relatively new Solstice (go JT and Nicola!) on the team. When I think of young people of color or young gay and lesbian readers looking to new comic books and seeing themselves not reflected in team memberships, it always makes me sad. So I'm happy that these three really got their chance in the spotlight.
In other words, he's a bleeding heart leftist. Yeah, I get the picture. But he's not sad if there's somebody out there of Armenian or Finnish descent who don't see themselves reflected in teams or co-starring status? Nope, how could you possibly expect somebody with his upbringing to care that there's descendents of different nationalities in America and elsewhere who may find it surprising their background is not being considered for use in a superhero comic?

The Bunker character was gay, and, as Lobdell hints, religious at the same time, suggesting that in the modern view of leftists, that's the only way religion is considered appropriate. I'm sure this wasn't handled as heavily as Northstar's outing was in 1992, but still, Lobdell's shown he hasn't changed much from the time when he forced the issue down everyone's throats in Alpha Flight, and led to the book's cancellation 2 years later. Now, this volume of Teen Titans is coming to a close as well, and on a very sour note, with no direction whatsoever. It's symbolic of all that's gone wrong with DC in this century. How can it be ending with its head "held high"? It's all more like having its head down in shame.

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When I think of young people of color or young gay and lesbian readers looking to new comic books and seeing themselves not reflected in team memberships, it always makes me sad.

Yeah, Lobdell is SUCH an advocate for "under-represented" populations. That's why he had to apologize for sexually harassing a female peer at a convention not long ago.

Idiot.

Yeah, Lobdell... what a creep.

In slight fairness to Lobdell, I did like the fact he improved the Blackfire/Starfire relationship, as Blackfire is finally something other than default evil sister antagonist she's been for 30 plus years. Otherwise....

I didn't like Bunker, and not because I'm anti-gay or anti-Hispanic: it's because he's a Gary Stu by different means or an unrealistic fantasy, but you can't criticize him without being called "ist." That's the big problem with the new batch of minority characters, these days: because political correctness has made sure they can't be flawed like everyone else or can't be criticized without being demonized yourself. (Because, thanks to the Left and modern discourse, "if you're not X, you are forbidden to speak on Y." If I'm White and straight, therefore I can't criticize Bunker. Fine, but it doesn't exactly stop minority fans from criticizing White characters, as well they might or should. Shouldn't it cut both ways if we're supposed to seek equality? I know, silly question.) Or worse, the writers will make characters from the acceptable target groups completely dysfunctional, while avoiding giving any equal measure to the other groups. (Greg Weisman's Young Justice suffered from this problem as well, even though, I did like Kaldur. And then, Season 2 did things to Nightwing that were beyond the pail, IMO.)

It's amazing Cyborg was made when he was, as he was allowed to be flawed and quick-tempered. Could such a character exist today? He can still have those traits in Justice League, but he's a long established character. But someone new to the game? I doubt it.

And some liberal critics will say, "but comics are written by White males, so what would they know about non-White characters?" Okay, but for the opposite side of the coin, what about the current push for diversity? It then descends for racial bean-counting and so on (which is what I fear with the Ms. Marvel revamp -- more self-pleasing on the diversity itself, rather than "would Ms. Marvel being a non-White Muslim be a boon or a bane" And what about the non-Muslim characters -- will they be treated respectfully?). Vs. writing the best you can, flaws and all. Or, sadly, in this modern culture, it's now all or nothing.

And the Titans will be dealing with this issue for a long time, but I doubt we'll get another Wolfman/Perez set-up, which weighed the pros and cons on this carefully, given what passes for the modern day comic writer.

Well said, Moth.

1. Blackfire reminded me in some ways of Deathbird from Marvel. Not surprising, considering Marv Wolfman worked there as editor-in-chief before going to DC. But I liked her as an antagonist myself.

2. I'm not anti-gay or anti-Hispanic nor am I against having such characters, either, but I don't like forced political correctness, like Bunker. I've heard that he was a massive Gary Stu-type character. It is indeed stupid that we're not allowed to criticize that sort of thing because we're straight white dudes, but it's okay for white liberals and minorities do the same? That doesn't seem right to me.

3. I always liked Cyborg, because of his characterization and the fact that they emphasized him as a person rather than just a black dude.

4. The problem with introducing minority characters today is that they're cardboard cutouts. They're introduced in a ham-fisted way that emphasized their skin color and/or sexual orientation instead of as human beings. The authors always seem to have a political axe to grind. The Muslim Ms Marvel is the very definition of a PC move. They're more obsessed with diversity than they are with good storytelling.

5. I think the Titans are beyond repair now, given what DC has done to them in recent years. They seem to exist only so DC can slaughter a bunch of them in the latest stupid crossover because they assume that people won't care about them.

I've said it before, but even though I have Asperger's syndrome I do not expect comics to create characters specifically for me.

And what did they do to Nightwing in Young Justice? I didn't watch the whole second season.

I was never crazy about Blackfire, but I did like how DC made her more an established player in the occasional space opera in the 00's. But at the same time, I don't dislike the New 52 version, either -- and being more designed toward her 2003 animated series form doesn't hurt.

I can live with the cardboard cutout part in theory, if they didn't go and make all the non-minorities either stupid, evil or both as part of the exchange. But then, if someone, like say, Hudlin did that, can't criticize him, or you're racist, and back to square one. (And, yes, we'll go ahead and cite the Black Panther animated series you guys often mention as proof.)

And I forgot to mention the White liberals, so point there, Carl. Which makes their criticisms amusing and baffling, as if the White comic book liberals had their way, you wouldn't see many or any White characters, at all. But for White liberals or White people generally. There is now becoming an actual fetish about that and damn if I know where it came from.

And, yes, the Titans have had that problem for some time with the over angst and C-List death fodder. In some ways, Weisman's YJ was if the comic Titans were animated in a serious way. Just as the 2003 Titan animated series was more modeled after Young Justice as written in 99, or a more funny series. (And CN passed on YJ, but Titans were free, so they went with that, and I think it was a good idea in hindsight. The Titans needed to loosen up and have non angst adventures.)

As for Nightwing in YJ, I'll explain later, but basically "it's all Nightwing's fault!"

Clarifying:

"In 2002, Cartoon Network was considering a Young Justice series pitched by Peter David, but many things blocked that. But the Titans were free, so they molded the Titans to that kind of series.

And then came the actual Young Justice, several years later, and apparently, became way more dramatic, as a result." Which makes for an interesting exchange.

@Moth, I'm willing to bet no one ever told Dwayne McDuffie or Christopher Priest they weren't allowed to write white characters because they themselves weren't white.

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