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Dan Abnett & Brett Booth Talk Wally West and Bringing Back the Original Titans

Things are returning to what they once were before with DC Rebirth.

By now you've likely read DC Universe: Rebirth. You may have also read Titans Hunt and last week's The Flash: Rebirth #1. That means you're likely aware of the changes the DC Universe has been through and how there's more to the story when the New 52 Universe was formed. If you're not quite sure what we're talking about, you might want to stop reading here and go back and read those other books.

With the truth that a hidden force has taken away some time from the DC characters, we saw the return of Wally West and other familiar elements starting to reemerge. We spoke to Dan Abnett and Brett Booth about Wally's adventures and it all begins with Titans: Rebirth.

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Comic Vine: When you started working on TITANS HUNT, did you know it would lead into TITANS?

Dan Abnett: I didn't have the first clue. I honestly didn't know. I was asked to do Titans Hunt, which was very exciting. It was an opportunity to reinvent or reconstruct a hidden history for the Titans in the New 52 framework. It also was meant to deliberately draw upon the Nick Cardy/60s era rather than the classic Perez and Wolfman era. We wanted to capture some of that spirit and take it back to the beginning. It was only once I got going and the series began to progress I started to ask, "Can I do this?" Occasionally they'd go, "No, you can't do that." I'd ask why not and they'd just say, "Because..."

After a little while, about two or three issues in, they finally began to unofficially tell me that something big was coming down the line and Titans Hunt was a road into it. It was almost like a test case or experiment, but it was also a set up. That obviously made things very interesting. We started to really get into what we should do and what we shouldn't do and what we should leave to set up later.

So I didn't know. When I was first asked to do it, it sounded like a technical experiment on how to build continuity that previously didn't exist into an existing one and have fun with some of the characters. Suddenly I realized it was the cunning spymasters at DC had a much deeper plan in mind. It became very exciting. I think if they told me right off the bat, I would've gotten too excited and wouldn't be able to write anything.

How does it feel to be working on Wally West? He's been gone for so long, and he's such a fan-favorite character. Now he's back.

Brett Booth: It's a dream come true. He's my favorite character and one of Dan's favorite characters. To finally be able to work on him and re-introduce him into the current continuity is unbelievably satisfying and fun.

Abnett: Absolutely. I think we respond to him as readers and fans as much as we do as creators. We're sharing that excitement with so many longterm readers who are delighted to see him back.

Do you feel any pressure?

[laughs]

Booth: Oh, just some pressure. We'll have to stay off social media for a bit.

Abnett: There's the usual regular amount of professional pressure to get something right, I guess. I don't know if we'll ever get a chance to show it, but Wally's absence from Titans Hunt was very very deliberate. I knew he wasn't going to be in there. At one point, I thought we'd actually get to bring him back within the framework of Titans Hunt, but then we realized it'd be a much better thing to stage within Rebirth.

If you go back and look at it, there are things in Titans Hunt where clearly the panel is drawn and a character is missing. They were drawn deliberately to exclude that character. There were other versions drawn with him in it in the hopes at some point we would re-present those events to show what it would've looked like if that character hadn't been forgotten from our collective memories.

It's weird, I've sort of been working with Wally for eight issues prior to Rebirth except he never appeared on the page.

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Brett, what can you tell us about the costume design?

Booth: It was interesting. They told me they needed a design for all the Titans except Nightwing. They didn't tell me—I didn't know if he was going to be Kid Flash or the Flash, so I did one of each. [laughs] I did one with his head covered and I did one with his hair out. They gravitated towards this one because it looks more like Kid Flash and they made a couple of modifications on the lightning on the belt and the gloves. Once we were going with this one, they started talking about the colors. They went with the two-tone red. I was worried the lightning bolts weren't big enough to break up the red, so I went back in and thickened them and added a couple lines here and there to make it pop a little more. That was it.

The other designs were much easier. Omen [Lilith Clay]—I think we did two for her. We actually drew her in her other costume and I got an email from Alex [Antone] that they wanted to revisit the costume again. It was two days before the big event at WonderCon and I went, "Oh crap." I would've had to redraw the cover unless we could pull her out. I said, "What if we just put a cape on her?" I did a quick sketch but didn't like it so I went back in and redid the whole thing.

They originally wanted her more mystical, and the costume she had didn't really work with the mystical stuff. It was more of a street-level, Batman kind of fighting costume. They wanted to go back closer to what she was like originally. Because her costume was pretty simple initially, it wasn't a difficult thing.

Where does the book start? Does it pick up right after Titans Hunt and DC Universe: Rebirth?

Abnett: Yeah, I think it's has to. It definitely has to. Rebirth was such a huge payload of explosive story, threats, shocks, surprises, and also Wally in the middle of it. To be the custodians of the book in which we see what Wally is doing when he returns to the DCU, if we did a Brother Blood story instead, I think people would be horrified. They want to know what's happening next. It's a big story and we're just embarking into it. By a "big story," I mean it's a DCU big story. Titans is right there in the eye of the storm. We are reflecting the events of that one-shot particularly very strongly in our opening story.

Although I'm not hammering the point home to the extent where it's going to be intrusive and over-expositional to new readers, if you read Titans Hunt, that's a great intro. to what we're doing here. It sets up what they've been through and it's referred to throughout. If you've read it, you'll know what they're talking about. If you haven't, it won't matter so much because you'll still understand what's going on.

Will we find out where Wally got his new costume? [Note: this interview was conducted before Flash: Rebirth was released.]

Abnett: We will! Yes we will.

Are you both approaching these characters as their new versions, the old versions, or a combination of the two?

Abnett: I guess a combination of the two is the simplest way of saying it. As far as I'm concerned, they are these classic characters. They are these legacy characters. How far back they go and what continuity you attach them really depends on your standpoint as a reader. These are the incarnations of those characters in the DCU right now. They have just discovered they have areas of continuity in their past that are missing for them. They are the definite article. They are not some sort of rebooted/reinvented versions. That's enormously fun. We feel the sense of connection to them as long time fans and readers ourselves.

Booth: I had to go back in. My mental picture for some of the characters is based on the New 52 stuff. Once Wally interacts with them and they start regaining their memories, I sort of tweaked the way I was drawing them. Aqualad [Garth] was really angry, but once he talks to Wally, he's a little bit happier. Donna Troy was such a stoic character. Once Wally interacts with her and she gets her memories back, she becomes a little more lighthearted like she used to be.

Abnett: I did write Garth and Donna as fierce and angry right away because that's all we'd seen of them in the New 52. Garth had this chip on his shoulder about being this spurned and misunderstood Atlantean. Donna, at that point, her past was so mysterious, murky, and artificial. It occurred to me during Titans Hunt, one of the ways to warm these characters up is to immediately give them friends they didn't realize they already had. It was a way to connect them to the team.

By the time we get Wally, the absolute crucial missing ingredient back into that mix, it allows them to be warmer, more rounded, interesting, and fun characters simply because they got a piece of themselves back. Working with the slightly angrier versions I inherited at the beginning of Titans Hunt, instead of trying to change it immediately, I decided to use that and soften them as we go along. Instead of just writing them as different characters, this shows the nature of their personalities is part of the story we're telling.

Will they spend time hanging out together or go to their separate lives and join up when a mission comes up?

Abnett: They're definitely a bunch of friends. It's like Friends, filmed in front of a live studio audience. They are a team completely bonded together.

So Wally will be calling himself the Flash now along with Barry Allen?

Abnett: Until further notice, he is the Flash. There's been many instances in the history of the DCU where there's been more than one Flash and more than one Green Lantern. It's not unprecedented for there to be more than one. Obviously one of the reasons his costume has a new look is because we want to differentiate him from the other Flash and Kid Flash in the DCU. We can promise he won't get a ridiculously obviously different name just for the sake of getting a different name. We're gonna change his name to Jennifer…[laughs]

Titans: Rebirth #1 is on sale Wednesday, June 15. Check out the unlettered preview pages below and take a look at the Titans' updated costumes.