GeekDad was lucky enough to get an advance look at DC’s new all-ages graphic novel Teen Titans Go! To Camp. Writer Sholly Fisch was kind enough to answer a few questions about the first long-form TTG graphic novel, and DC provided an exclusive excerpt from the book. Read on for our interview and review, with the pages from the graphic novel along the way!
Answers from Sholly Fisch
1. This comic certainly captured the chaotic feel of summer camp – well, with an Apokaliptan twist. Did you go to camp as a kid, and what are the memories that stick out from there?
“With an Apokaliptan twist”? You mean your summer camp didn’t have volcanic fire pits and savage parademons? Weird…
I did indeed go to camp for a bunch of years as a kid, although it was day camp, rather than sleepaway. That gave me lots of experiences to draw from while writing the graphic novel, and it was a lot of fun figuring out how to twist those experiences in bizarre ways to fit the dark, demonic setting of Apokolips. I mean, I probably did have a food fight or two in camp, but our food never fought back.
Most of my favorite camp memories are the usual, like swimming and arts and crafts. Since this is a graphic novel about super heroes going to camp, though, I’ll mention that my most heroic camp moment was probably knocking down a bully in the swimming pool. He was older and bigger than me, so in retrospect, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done. But I didn’t get beaten up for it — not because he admired my bravery, but because I had terrible sunburn on my shoulders. The second he jumped back up and grabbed my shoulder, I wailed loudly in pain, and he panicked for fear of getting in trouble. Who says sunburn is bad for you?
2. One of the biggest highlights of “Teen Titans GO! to Camp” was the parade of unique cutaway gags and letters to home by a diverse team of artists. How was the process of picking so many collaborators in addition to main artist Marcelo DiChiara?
I’d love to take credit for the astonishing range of guest artists on the letters from camp, but that idea really came from Editor Supreme Kristy Quinn. Kristy did all the hard work, and I just got to be pleasantly surprised by the mix of artists, which ran the gamut from old friends to artists from regular DC Universe series, and even one of the artists from Sandman: The Dreaming! (I won’t spoil which artists they are, because the surprises are half the fun.) Quite a departure from what you might expect in Teen Titans Go!
But I don’t want to overlook the amazing artwork that Marcelo and colorist Franco Riesco created for the main part of the graphic novel either. Over the past few years, Marcelo, Franco, and I have done a bunch of stories together for the regular Teen Titans Go! comic book, and they’re always great at capturing the series’ manic fun — not to mention slipping in lots of little Easter Eggs that not even I was expecting. For the graphic novel, though, they really went ‘way above and beyond, with tons of stunning spreads and visual effects that I just had to keep showing to my family as the pages appeared in my e-mail.
It’s pretty nice having so many talented people make me look so good.
3. This was a very Robin-focused story as he had to overcome his desire to be the best at everything. Will he be the lead in the upcoming second OGN, “Roll With It” as well, or is someone else taking the lead for that story?
Well, I’m not writing “Roll With It,” but the word I hear from behind the scenes is that Robin starts out running the Titans’ favorite role-playing game — but only until the others get tired of his shenanigans and replace him. Of course, their new Basement Boss might not be the wisest choice in the world…
4. What were your favorite episodes of the original Teen Titans cartoon and Teen Titans Go that influenced this story? And were there any other DC books that influenced your portrayal of a rather chaotic (and more kid-friendly than usual, natch) Apokalips?
Naturally, anytime you write anything set in Apokolips, your biggest influence is bound to be Jack Kirby’s original stories that introduced the characters and their world. As I was plotting out the graphic novel, I went back and re-read the old Kirby comics for inspiration (and because it was a good excuse to re-read my collection of Kirby comics). Apart from obvious villains like Granny Goodness or Mantis, that’s where I found more obscure characters like Devilance the Pursuer. Actually, I think we gave Devilance more space than he’s had since 1972. I also really enjoyed the recent Mr. Miracle series, which inspired the recurring “Darkseid is” jokes. You know, people in Apokolips really do need to finish that sentence someday…
Since I’ve written lots of Teen Titans Go! comics (and an episode of the TV show), I already had a good handle on the Titans themselves. But most Teen Titans Go! stories are pretty short — ten pages in the comics or eleven minutes on TV. So the real challenge here was to figure out how to make a full-length, 128-page graphic novel work equally well, with a story that would be substantial enough to be satisfying but still feel like an episode of Teen Titans Go! To help figure out how to do it, I re-watched the feature film Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, paying attention to how they tackled similar kinds of challenges of balancing plot, subplots, character arcs, and gags. We did it differently than they did, but it was very helpful to be able to dig into the movie’s structure as an example.
5. Cyborg’s obsession with musical numbers was probably my favorite running gag here. Tell us, from behind the scenes – what are Vic Stones’ favorite movie and Broadway musicals?
The musical numbers were a big favorite for me, too — not to mention my youngest daughter, who’s obsessed with Broadway musicals.
Cyborg’s favorite movie and Broadway musicals? Well, let’s see…
Certainly not Singin’ In the Rain. Too much rust.
On the other hand, he loves The Wizard of Oz. He identifies with the Tin Man.
And, of course, Hamilton, given Cyborg’s lifelong dream of becoming an 18th-Century politician. Besides, who doesn’t love Hamilton?
And now, the review.
Teen Titans Go! To Camp – Sholly Fisch, Writer; Marcelo DiChiara, Agnes Garbowska, Dario Brizuela, Abigail Larson, Emma Kubert, Leila del Duca, Erich Owen, Jamal Igle, Franco, Artists; Franco Riesco, Silvana Brys, Marissa Louise, Colorists
Ray – 8/10
Ray: I’ll be honest – I’m not a Teen Titans Go fan. I could never quite get into its unique brand of super-random comedy told in short bursts, and the characters are too far from their comic book versions for me to connect with them. I also freely admit I’m out on a limb with this, and the show is wildly popular, to the point where it basically takes over Cartoon Network at points. There have been many comic book spinoffs, but this is the first long-form graphic novel based on the property, and I was intrigued for one reason – Sholly Fisch, master of DC all-ages books and the man who wrote every issue of Scooby Doo Team-Up, was writing it. So did Teen Titans Go! To Camp make me a TTG fan?
Yes and no. I doubt I’ll be doing any binging of the cartoon any time soon, but this graphic novel is a clever and funny expansion on the property that’s taken to the next level by an all-star team of artists, led by frequent Fisch collaborator Marcelo DiChiara, who perfectly captures the manic energy of the main characters. The story centers around another summer as the Titans prepare to head off to summer camp – one year after Robin’s disastrous attempt to one-up Speedy at S’mores led to them apparently being banished from the Justice League’s summer camp. So they’ve picked another one – on Apokalips. Pitting the TTG characters against the full forces of Darkseid’s army as part of a summer camp comedy seems absurd, but that’s what this series does.
This is very much a Robin story, and if you’re not familiar with the characterization of him in TTG, it can be a bit disorienting. A brash egomaniac who is constantly trying to prove himself the best hero, he’s obsessed with Speedy and his rivalry leads him to do reckless things in pursuit of glory – or Starfire. The other Titans are mostly supporting characters, although Beast Boy gets in some great visual gags. Raven and Starfire are mostly there to provide a contrast to the chaotic boys, but it’s Cyborg who gets the book’s best running gag thanks to his obsession with musicals. Poor guy really wants to go to band camp.
The main story is a lot of fun, paired with great easter eggs, but Sholly Fisch pulls an amazing hat trick with the great little stories-within-the-story he scatters through the book. Told in the form of letters from each of the campers – not just the core five, but the Titans East campers and a few villains – he shows us the story through different eyes and matches each segment with a different artist that perfectly suits the character. Franco’s surprise segment at the end was my favorite, but in terms of art alone, it was a pleasure to see Jamal Igle’s work on a DC book again.
Overall, Teen Titans Go! To Camp is going to be an acquired taste, because it’s definitely very much in the cartoon’s bizarre style of humor. But Fisch and his team of talented artists have much more room to play than the animators do in each segment, and have taken these oddball takes on DC’s top teen heroes and given them a chaotic and hilarious story that fits them perfectly. It should be a must-buy for any parent with a TTG-loving kid.
And read below for a Q&A with author Sholly Fisch!
To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.
GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.