Fifty years ago, an up-and-coming creator named Marv Wolfman turned in his first script, and though no one knew it at the time, the DC Universe was about to be changed forever. Believe it or not, the mind that helped co-create such massive events like CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS and THE JUDAS CONTRACT actually started pretty small, all the way back in August of 1968 with a script for an issue of BLACKHAWK, setting into motion a chain of events that would permanently shift the course of superhero comics for better and for always.
To celebrate the anniversary of Marv's monumental contributions to the genre and to DC's rich history, we've compiled a list of some of our favorite Wolfman collaborations from across his fifty-year career.
You'd be hard pressed to find a more instantly iconic Teen Titans story than “The Judas Contract.” Originally published in in TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS #42-44 and co-created with artist George Perez, it took a sinister and brutal look at the more manipulative side of the Titans’ arch nemesis, Deathstroke the Terminator, all while providing the grounded and challenging storytelling Wolfman and Perez's NEW TEEN TITANS series had become known for.
Simply put, “The Judas Contract” didn't pull its punches. Ever. And in the process, it paved the way for even more Titans-related drama to be mined for years to come. From Tara Markov's shocking betrayal, to the Wilson family's twisted, manipulative backstabbing, this was a story that will be a touchstone of Titans history forever.
The formal introduction of Tim Drake, the third Robin, came in BATMAN #440-442 in another Wolfman/Perez joint called “A Lonely Place of Dying.” Shortly after the death of Jason Todd, Tim stepped in to make his impassioned plea to Dick Grayson that "Batman needs a Robin," a moment that would go on to become one of the foundational exchanges for the modern Bat-family.
Tim's career as Robin became one of the most prominent threads in Gotham City during most of the ’90s, and it's thanks in part to Marv's work on the script that he got such a great and fondly remembered start.
You'd be hard pressed to find another twelve issues in all of DC history with as much lasting impact as Crisis on Infinite Earths. Not only did it completely redefine the DC Universe as we know it for the better part of a decade, it redefined the entire concept of a Crisis-level event. No longer were "crises" stories where two or more Earths in the multiverse interacted with one another—they were stories that reshaped and reformed time and continuity itself.
Marv and George set out to use Crisis on Infinite Earths as a way to streamline the DCU after it had become too bloated and complicated, and in doing so, created a touchstone for any and all major cosmic upheavals that were yet to come.
Through his career, the name Marv Wolfman has become synonymous with a few different characters and teams in the DCU, but none more so than the New Teen Titans. Together with Perez, Wolfman shepherded in a whole new era of teenage heroes, and it all started with NEW TEEN TITANS #1-5 back in 1980.
Not only did this story introduce characters like Raven, Cyborg and Starfire, it also formed the foundation on which Titans stories are built to this day. Even the wackiest incarnations (you know, like the one that just went to the movies) of the team owe their DNA to the concept that Wolfman and Perez constructed here.
Not every influential Wolfman story was a multi-issue epic. Take NEW TEEN TITANS #8, for example. "A Day in the Lives…" was a one-shot issue that took the time to dive deep into the less-than-superheroic side of the new Titans team as they dealt with things like day jobs and relationship troubles.
Letting a superhero have a relatively mundane out-of-costume existence may seem like something obvious today, but back in 1981, it was revolutionary, and something that further helped to set the tone and the narrative that would define the Teen Titans for a generation to come. These weren't your average superhero stories and they never pretended to be.
Wolfman wasn't just interesting in solving the continuity tangles of entire universes. Sometimes he set about to straighten out the histories of single characters. Together, he and Perez created "Who is Donna Troy?" in THE NEW TITANS #50-54, an attempt at fixing one of the biggest sidekick debacles in the DCU—Wonder Girl. Poor Donna has been through a lot in her publication history, and over the years, her past became a bit of a quagmire of contradictory stories and theories.
"Who is Donna Troy?" was a sci-fi epic full of new world building, interpersonal conflict and exposition on a grand scale, all designed to get Donna back on track in a way that made sense for future Titans stories. It remains to this day one of the biggest and most iconic moments in her history.
Do you have a favorite Marv Wolfman collaboration? Share it in the comments below!
For more on Marv Wolfman, be sure to read our interviews with him and his frequent collaborator, George Perez. We recently spoke with them about the importance of Crisis on Infinite Earths and on the lasting popularity of Deathstroke.