George Perez and Marv Wolfman are a collaborative pair unlike any other. In fact, they’re likely the only living creative team with more than 40 years of shared work between them. So when I visited the DC Entertainment offices in Burbank to sit down with the co-creators of the iconic New Teen Titans, it was inevitable that we discuss their friendship, astounding bond, and the secret to a long and fruitful creative partnership. And it was just as delightful and sweet as you’d expect.
For superstar writer Marv Wolfman, their partnership been nothing less than phenomenal. “George isn’t just the artist on anything we’ve done, he’s the co-creator on every level because we talk out the plots,” Wolfman said. “I may come in with a basic idea, but by the end I have no idea who’s pitched what. It’s integral, it’s all connected. Someone will come up with an idea and the other will elaborate on it. It keeps going back and forth, and I think that’s so incredible.”
Wolfman continued on about Perez’s importance to their collaborative efforts, and how the partnership has shaped some of their most famous projects. “He understands the characters, absolutely, [and I understand the characters and that means that we can talk on a different level than, ‘Oh, what are we gonna do now?'” he said. “The Titans was created to be character-driven rather than action, though there is tons of action. Which means both of us are on the same page to start with, along with that he’s sort of a nice guy.”
Perez agreed, returning his partner’s glowing words with some in the other direction. “I’ve said this multiple times publicly, as well as to Marv directly: Marv is the gold standard by which I measure any other collaborative effort,” Perez said. “I’ve worked with a lot of great people, but Marv is the one I measure everyone else by. In addition to being a talented writer, he’s also incredibly generous with sharing the spotlight and encouraging his collaborators to contribute and be a part of the collaborative process.”
As a matter of fact, Perez credited Wolfman with the beginnings of his career as a writer. “Marv was the one who insisted I should start writing. He encouraged me to put more of the personality in. So, like Cyborg—who I had the most in common with because of upbringing—he allowed me a lot of freedom with Cyborg. With all of the characters, but more specifically for that because I had a particular affinity for his background.”
Perez also spoke at length about how his collaboration with Wolfman led to some revelatory moments. “I learned a long time back, and Marv was the person I really learned it from, that story is the most important thing,” he said. “When I would read a letter from a fan, and they would comment on how they loved what happened in this story, I would think, ‘Oh, did they like the art?’ But the thing is, it’s not that they pointed out Marv’s wordplay. They were talking about the story, and as Marv always pointed out, that’s what we’re doing—we’re getting the readers involved in a story. It isn’t my showcase or his showcase, it’s the story.”
Perez continued, “I got asked a question, ‘Which is more important: the writing or the art?’ And that’s like breaking up the comic! Without a story, there’s nothing to draw. Without the art, it’s not a comic. You can’t separate them! One is not more important than the other! And that argument is only from people who need their ego to be stroked!”
The pair have four decades of shared memories, and for Wolfman it’s the more surreal and humorous ones that stand out. “I don’t remember the parts where we came up with stories together, but one of my favorite memories of Titans was sitting in a diner together in Flushing, working out the Terra storyline, and we’re talking about killing this 16-year-old girl and we’re excited talking about all of this stuff and not one person in the diner reported us to the police!” Wolfman cackled. “First, ‘Don’t show the body so the readers will have a momentary thought that she’s still alive, and then dash it!’ And no one [in the diner] cared! We could’ve gotten away with it!”
For Perez, the time they spent on the comics that helped change his output, career, and personal life forever. “My most pleasant memory is our work on the issue that really galvanized how much the Titans meant to me as characters,” Perez said. “It was a personal project—issue #8, ‘A Day in the Lives’—which was just a day in the lives of the Titans that had nothing to do with superheroics; it was more character driven. In fact, that one changed my mind: this was no longer an assignment, this was a project I really wanted to be personally involved in. It also happened to be the book I was working on when I had the first date with the woman who would become my wife! So I always remember that one with a particular fondness. It was a big change in my life!”
Wolfman was quick to agree. “The stories that we remember are the character ones that we worked on together so clearly, like ‘A Day in the Lives’ and the ‘Who Is Donna Troy’ story, which George paced out completely,” Wolfman said. “And the one he was most responsible for was ‘The Wedding of Donna Troy,’ and it was just beautifully put together. Those I remember because it wasn’t just the standard, ‘Let’s bring the characters together for a wedding and then the villains attack.’ There are no villains in that story, which made a double-sized story really difficult to work out!”
Perez smiled before continuing his partner’s thought. “Not only no villains, but the characters never appeared in costume, with the exception of Raven, as she was the only one who didn’t attend the wedding,” he added. “That was fun. I got to cater a wedding! Who would’ve thought that would be something I’d get to do? And another bit of that personal touch: the wedding gown and bridesmaids dresses were all designed by my wife, Carol Flynn!”
The pair have always been close and it’s something that Perez cherishes, to the point that he has gone out of his way to let people know how important their creative relationships is. “When I left the Teen Titans, I made sure I did it publicly at a convention with Marv sitting next to me. I told them that I was leaving the book because I wanted to flex my muscles on something else. The book was selling so well and I was having to take shortcuts to produce a monthly title, and I was afraid that I was being paid a lot of money for doing less than my best work. I needed to be challenged! I made sure that I had Marv next to me so that everyone knew I love this man!” Perez told me.
It’s clear that Perez and Wolfman’s creative collaboration has positively impacted their lives in a way that most of us can only dream of. “One of the greatest joys that I love to brag about with Marv is how in a lot of creative fields you hear these stories about collaborators who can’t stand working with each other and they split up because of creative disagreements. Me and Marv, we’ve been friends for decades!” Perez laughed. “Our wives are friends! And the thing is, the fact that we’re aware of what a blessing it is to even be in this business and to feed off of each other, is absolutely wonderful.”
Images: DC Comics