Saturday, January 22, 2011

The New Teen Titans - Drug Awareness Comic Book Series

The New Teen Titans - Drug Awareness comic book (DC Comics/Keebler Company, Spring 1983) (Subject: Drug Abuse Awareness)

The Teen Titans has definitely become a phenomenon! The US Government saw the potential of the characters and along with DC and other corporate sponsors published three anti-drug comic books which have been sent all across the United States. Other countries have asked for those books to be published in their languages. The comics were special giveaways intended for distribution in schools, and published in co-operation with the President's Drug Awareness Campaign.

Drug Awareness Giveaways:
The New Teen Titans #1 (Drug Awareness Giveaway) (1983)
Story by Marv Wolfman with art by George Pérez.

The New Teen Titans #2 (Drug Awareness Giveaway) (1983)
Story by Marv Wolfman with art by Ross Andru.

The New Teen Titans #3 (Drug Awareness Giveaway) (1983)
Story by Marv Wolfman with art by Adrian Gonzales; scripted by Joey Cavalieri.


George Pérez on the Anti-Drug Issues

[from a George Pérez Interview: Comics Interview #50, 1987]

ANDY: You did two "Runaway" books which were very well received, not only by fandom at large, but by Nancy Reagan. What did you think when you first heard about Nancy Reagan wanting to use yours and Marv's characters, in the drug campaign...?

GEORGE: It wasn't that they wanted to use the TITANS; they wanted to use DC Heroes - until they saw the "Runaways" book - the commission that was handling it. They found out that we had a book dealing with teenage characters, so what better book to do about teenage problems than a book with role models? And when they saw the "Runaways," they decided, "Hey, we'd like to do it with these characters." Marv and I were informed, and I said I would definitely draw it. It was more of a problem than the "Runaways," because the "Runaways" was strictly DC editorial; we could do a stronger story. Unfortunately, with the drug books we were dealing with so many committees, it became a much more watered-down book than it was intended to be. Marv's research on real drugs was muted by a lot of editing down. They didn't want to cause blame here, they didn't want parents to feel intimidated there; a lot of groups were kind of cross-pressuring, until the book became a watered-down version of what it was originally intended to be. Had we produced the same story strictly as a DC book, I am sure it would have been a lot more potent - and probably a lot closer to reality than the book ended up being.

ANDY: So you didn't actually have contact with Nancy, then?

GEORGE: Oh, no. In fact, we were invited to the White House for some kind of conference but I didn't go, anyway. So I can say I turned down the President of the United States for a meeting. (Laughter.)

ANDY: Now that's something John Byrne can't say.

GEORGE: Yep. I was invited to the White House and I turned it down. My schedule would not permit me to go to the White House. Man' did go, and he didn't get to meet the President, either. I believe there was some kind of terrorist activity that prevented the Reagans from actually being there.

ANDY: What did you think of the changes they made in the stories, Kory 's costume..

GEORGE: Kory's costume was my idea to change. I knew that we were dealing with young kids, and I knew that we were going to be going through some kind of committee - why give them ammunition to complain about something that wasn't important to the book? I changed Kory's costume at the bustline a bit, so we wouldn't have to deal with something that we knew would have been a problem immediately. Why ask for trouble. We censored ourselves there.

ANDY: Did you change any other things?

GEORGE: Wonder Girl, her neckline was kept modest, we didn't show her cleavage as much. Basically, that was it. Everyone else was left intact. Raven's costume didn't require anything.

ANDY: That pretty much covers everything.

GEORGE: Exactly. She's a modest character in the way she dresses. But the only other change was that Robin was drawn and inked as leader of the TEEN TITANS because of an incredibly ridiculous bit of trouble with licensing. Keebler, the cookie company, was sponsoring the first drug book, and through the licensing of superhero cookies, Robin was licensed to Nabisco. So we couldn't use Robin on a Keebler-licensed product, even though it was a totally different type of marketing. Dave Manak - who was editing that book - whited out the entire costuming on Robin and drew this costume they quickly designed, and renamed him The Protector. So you have The Protector doing all the Robin-type things, like flying the T-jet, and giving all the orders - and who is this guy? Every single pose he's in, that was Robin in the original pose. Anyone who has the original artwork can see all the whiteout on that Protector figure and, if you hold it up to the light, you' can see Robin's costume underneath.

ANDY: So why did they decide to keep him for the other two books which you did?

GEORGE: Now you had a character where they'd say, "This character was designed specifically for these drug books," to cover their tracks, so he was utilized over and over again, because now he was the binding tie that made these stories different from the TITAN stories.

ANDY: You didn 't design his costume...?

GEORGE: No, no. Dave Manak designed it.

ANDY: An ugly costume.

GEORGE: (Laughter.) The colors were ugly, the mask was dumb.., but that was the breaks.


Marv Wolfman on the Anti-Drug Issues

[from Comics Collector Magazine, Spring 1984]

DC Comics, Inc., joined the Keebler Company to produce this first in a series of anti-drug-abuse comics designed to reach a grade-school audience. School systems who want to use the comics can contact DC Comics, Inc.

By Kim Metzger

1983 saw the publication of a very special Teen Titans book. It made its debut, not on newsstands, but as part of a kit distributed to schools around the country. The kit was co-produced by DC Comics, Inc., and the Keebler Company for use in President Reagan's drug awareness campaign. Its goal was to inform schoolchildren (in particular, fourth graders) about the dangers of drug abuse.

"The idea for the book began approximately in the fall of 1982," said Marv Wolfman, scripter for the regular Teen Titans book as well as this one. "Steve Jacobs, a special consultant for the U.S. Customs Bureau, approached us first about the comic.

"They'd done a comic book before with Campbell Soup and Marvel about energy-saving that used Captain America," Wolfman said. "They felt a comic book was a good way of reaching others."

Originally, the head of the White House drug program approached DC because he had wanted to use one of their better-known characters such as Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman. But those characters were tied up in other projects at the time. Instead, DC recommended The New Teen Titans, the company's best-selling title. The program heads were shown Wolfman's two-issue story dealing with runaway children and were impressed. Best of all, they realized The Titans would appeal most strongly to the age group they wished to reach.

"The book was intended to address the young," said Karen Lippert, public relations director for DC. "Teen-agers are likely to be the role model for that age group. In fact, many of the young children who started on drugs did so because their older brothers or sisters were doing drugs."

After it was decided to use The Teen Titans, Wolfman was approached to write the book. He was interested in the project, in spite of having almost no knowledge of the causes and effects of drug abuse. To overcome this problem, Wolfman attended a meeting in New York with several people, including former drug users who were involved with private programs. He was given more than thirty different pamphlets, books, and slides on the subject. And he went to various organizations, detoxification centers, and a psychiatric ward.

"It was an incredible eye-opener for me," Wolfman said, "one of the most gut-wrenching experiences I've ever been through. At the psychiatric ward, there was a 13-year-old girl who'd been drinking since she was 8. Her father wanted someone to drink with, so he started giving her alcohol. Later, he wanted someone to do drugs with, so she was started on them.

"Her eyes were completely blank, without any feeling at all. She would answer questions and talk to us very freely.

The saddest and most terrifying moment to me came when I asked her if there was anything she thought we could do to keep others off of drugs. She said we should tell them her life story. I then asked if that would've kept her from using drugs. She said it probably wouldn't have. "Another person at the ward was a 22-year-old man who'd found his two-year-old son going through the motions of using a syringe because he'd seen Daddy doing it."

Wolfman also attended a six-hour indoctrination session at Straight, an organization that tries to help users kick the habit. There, Wolfman saw the format he would use in the book. Drug-users sat so that they faced their parents. The users would take turns standing and telling their stories. Then the parents would have a turn to speak. Similarly, throughout the book's story, pages are turned over to the users to tell their stories, with one main difference.

"At the session, the kids would give this incredibly long list of the drugs they'd used, some of which I'd never even heard of before. I figured no one would believe me, if I listed all the drugs they mentioned, so I cut the list down to, at the most, five or six drugs for each user.

"It was very tense. Some of the parents were angry. When it was over (the users aren't allowed to leave until they've put in six hours), one boy jumped up and yelled 'I'm free!"'

As a result of this experience, Wolfman himself felt a strong sense of outrage when he began to write the book. "I used some language in the book I wish I hadn't, calling some of the dealers 'punks' and 'scum.' And I had to he careful to tone down the violence in the book."

There is some violence in the comic, but it's a lot quieter than what appears in some other comic books published today. "President Reagan saw the book before it went out and asked about the violence. We showed him some of the comics on the stands today, and he let it pass. We tend to forget sometimes how violent other comics are today."

One problem cropped up with the book as Wolfman and Titans artist George Pérez began work on it: Robin, the leader of The Teen Titans, couldn't be used. "This book was being sponsored by Keebler, and Robin was already licensed by Nabisco. So I came up with a new character, The Protector. We already had the art done, so Dave Manak did all the corrections to turn Robin into The Protector. He looks pretty much as I envisioned him, except where his costume is purple, I had originally wanted black."

When the book was published, DC printed a million copies. They were distributed, 30 to a kit, to schools around the nation. "We had tests done with the books," Wolfman said. "I was concerned I might have written over the heads of the target group, fourth graders. But we found they understood perfectly what had happened in the book." The response was so good, a second million copies were published to meet the demand and there were even editions for foreign countries.

Wolfman then began to consider the possibility of publishing an edition for the direct-sales market. He knew that since it had been produced by the regular Titans team of artist George Pérez and himself, comics fans would want it, too. He was worried fans might try to get the book from the schools, thus taking it out of the hands of children, something he didn't want.

DC shared his feelings and printed an edition for comic book shops. (The only difference between the direct-sales version and the one published for the program is that the edition sold in shops has a price on it and a banner at the bottom of the cover.) Profits went to the Youth Rescue Fund and the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth, two anti-drug organizations.

Encouraged by the success of the program, more issues are being planned. A second has recently been published, this time with sixth-graders as its target. "This one is a little quieter in tone, since it was written five months after I had my experience with Straight," said Wolfman. "It has some very strong sequences, though, like a scene of two kids on the floor trying to snort up some cocaine that had fallen on it."

Although the second book is sponsored by the National Soft Drink Association, Wolfman decided to continue using The Protector rather than Robin. "The Protector has become a symbol of the drug program. I want to keep using him in the books."

The second book will not be published for comic-book stores, which has Wolfman a little concerned again about collectors. "1 wish DC would print it, but they don't want to overdo it. By the time it would appear in comic shops, there will be two Teen Titans books on the market (one on newsstands, one for direct sales only) DC doesn't want to saturate the market with Titans books."

Pérez is not the artist on the second issue, due to prior commitments. That may lessen demand among collectors. The art was handled by Ross Andru, who has worked in the field for years, drawing Wonder Woman, Superman, and Spider-Man, among others. His pencils were inked by Joe Giella.

A third issue is also in the works, sponsored by IBM. Wolfman, however, is only plotting this one because of demands on his time.

Wolfman intends to do his best to discourage collectors from trying to get these books. "At conventions, I try to make it a practice not to autograph copies not bought at shops. I hope they're not taken out of the hands of the kids."



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