Teenage superhero groups have always been popular. Here's why:
1) The characters are all closer to young folks' ages, so fans identify with
them on a certain level even if their comics are terrible. They etch their little
place in comics fandom and stay there. This is true for every group from X-Men
to the Legion of Superheroes to the New Warriors (who were still called that
years after their debut).
2) The girlies in it are drawn really hotly. Sure, Wonder Woman is awesome
to look at, but she's like 30. But Wonder GIRL... she's somebody you might have
a shot at.
"Teen Titans" debuted in 1964 as a group starring Robin and the
other teen sidekicks like Kid Flash and Aqualad that were in vogue during the
time; they even appeared in
a cartoon a couple of years later. But the concept didn't really come of
age until the 1980s, when Marv Wolfman and George Perez revamped it as DC's
reaction to Marvel's phenom "Uncanny X-Men." The book was a huge success.
All the characters had angst, and George Perez drew the hottest freaking woman
in comics, the cleavagy Starfire.
The "Teen Titans" cartoon is directly inspired by those characters.
Every member of the main group from the comics is here: Robin, Cyborg, Starfire,
Raven, and Beast Boy (Changeling in the comics). Missing are former teen sidekicks
Kid Flash and Wonder Girl. The press release says that they wanted a series
that stood alone, that didn't call for viewers to be fans of their other series.
But no ranting from me about that this time, I promise. Kid Flash grew up to
be the current non-kid Flash, anyway. And Wonder Girl has had at least 3 comics
storylines trying to sort out her continuity. Leaving them out may be for the
The Titans were always a product of their era. In the 1960s and 1970s, they
fought a villain called "the Mad Mod" and their HQ was in the basement
of a disco. In the 1980s, their HQ was a gleaming tower paid for by one of their
dads -- very Reagan. So it's perfectly appropriate for the 2000-era toon Titans
to play video games and listen to CDs all day. That's what teens do, technically.
In fact, the cartoon emphasizes the "Teen" more than the comics ever
did. Wolfman and Perez's "Titans" were called "Teen" but
they were all really 18 or 19 at the youngest and trying to move past "teen"
issues as quickly as possible. Their angst was more young-adult than adolescent.
Speedy was a reformed drug addict. Robin and Starfire slept together. (Robin
and a hot alien chick? Obviously overcompensation for all those Bat-rumors.)
Nearly every member of the group resented their father for something. In the
new cartoon, there's no angst. Even poor "I-hate-being-a-freak" Cyborg
is totally cool with his half-robotness.
Each character seems about 14 or 15. Unlike with "X-Men: Evolution,"
the de-aging works because it culls the characters to their essence. Beast Boy
is the class clown, Robin is the class president. The only problem is that mega-hot
boobs-a-poppin' Starfire is now 13. So if you liked her "like that"
back in the 80s, now you're going to feel very weird and conflicted. Best to
stop thinking about her now.
The cartoon series has the same high-quality animation as its Cartoon Network
predecessors, but with brief yet irritating additions referencing cheap Pokemon-level
anime; some reaction shots are direct swipes, where a face turns into two big
saucer eyes and a straight line. Maybe this is supposed to be a visual cue to
fans of the cheapass anime, to make them go, "Hey, this is like that crap
I like." But because these experienced animators can do so much better,
it seems like pandering. Like, "Hey, here's that crap you like. You like
ours too, right? Huh? Please?"
Apart from Starfire's, uh, narrower profile, the biggest change to any character
is to Raven, and it's not that big. Instead of being a sorceress, she's now
a telekinetic. The lack of angst means she won't have any daddy issues with
her devil father Trigon. According to an upcoming episode list, Trigon may be
the only 80s Titan villain who WON'T show up. But then, he'd be pretty hard
to adapt: Raven's mom was in a cult, which summoned Trigon, who ravished her
mother, which begat Raven. And Trigon, a big red devil guy, wore only strips
of cloth. I think he was the first DC villain to show nude pelvis.
So there are devilish characters on other Cartoon Network shows like "Cow
and Chicken" and "Powerpuff Girls," but not a straightforward
superhero show. Weird.
The show does know its source. Marv Wolfman himself is on the writing staff,
so you know that at least they've got his phone number. Fans of the comic will
immediately recognize lots of villains, and especially the shadowy recurring
nemesis. I enjoy the way he's played here.
So the show is good. It doesn't top "Justice League" for me, but
it's fun enough. Not thinking about Starfire. Not thinking about Starfire.
Not thinking about Starfire.