A TV Entry – I Heart Teen Titans

The animated series, not the comic books.  I’ve never actually read the comic books, but I really loved the series.  I did learn a bit about the comic books though as I watched the series.  The five Titans were not the original team, as I understand it, but the second group that in the comics was brought together by Raven to prevent the demon lord Trigon from entering the world.  The team was Robin, Raven, Starfire, Cyborg, and Beast Boy.  The style of animation was minimalist with some anime influences such as occasionally exaggerated facial expressions.

There were a lot of things I loved about this series.  It had a good mix of serious and funny episodes.  The theme music was the clue – except for one episode, if the theme was sung in Japanese, the episode would be funny; if it was sung in English, it would be serious.  I liked the anime influences in the drawing.  Each Titan got a season with a story arc devoted to them, except for Starfire, who didn’t get a single season arc, and Beast Boy, who got two.  The series covered, as I understand it, the major storylines in the Titans’ comic mythology, including having Wilson Slade (also known as Deathstroke the Terminator) as the main villain, the arc with Terra, and the arc with Trigon.  The series even brought in Beast Boy’s history on the Doom Patrol.

I liked the fact that the Titans were never out of costume.  Even when they were shown sleeping, they were still in costume (and Starfire slept the wrong way on her bed).  Robin was just Robin for over two seasons (Robin was eventually revealed to be Dick Grayson, although this is never explicitly stated and only confirmed in one scene in the episode “Fractured”).  Besides that brief glimpse into Robin’s real name, the only one ever addressed by his real name was Beast Boy and not until Season 5 (although Starfire tells them her name translates to “Starfire” in English [okay, actually Raven was called by her real name, but that isn’t revealed until Season 4]).  I liked the characterizations.  Robin was, well, Robin, which meant he was paranoid and clever and paranoid and well-prepared and did I mention paranoid?  He was the leader but often went off and did things on his own without informing the team, which usually did not have good consequences.  Beast Boy was the youngest (or at least he came across as the youngest to me) and very hyper-active.  His attempts to convert the others to vegetarianism (or probably more closely veganism) were amusing (his reasoning, which made sense, was that he had been all those animals), especially since Cyborg pretty much ate anything (“So I thought, ‘hey free pie!’”).  Cyborg came across to me as the oldest, and I loved his older brother-type relationship with Beast Boy.  Cyborg also was the resident mechanic and inventor.  Raven was dark and brooding and frankly terrifying (as fully shown in Season 4) although Beast Boy made attempts to cheer her up, and there were instances in the show that revealed Raven would have liked to be more cheerful, except for who she was (by the by, Raven’s status in the DC Universe is not “hero” or “villain;” it’s “heroic victim of evil;” I think that pretty much sums up poor Raven in the comics).  Starfire was a cute, shy girl trying to fit in with the Titans and on Earth.  Her characterization was funnier when it was shown that she’s nearly as strong as Cyborg despite looking so petite.  There were a number of one-off gags featuring her misunderstanding of Earthly culture (“I am very much enjoying this tangy yellow beverage!” “Starfire, that’s mustard.”) and featuring her alien sensibilities (like adopting a giant moth larvae as a pet because she thinks its cute [that moth larvae turns into a recurring sight gag]).  I have to say, though, poor Beast Boy has the worst luck of all the Titans in the series.  First Terra, then, well, Terra.  That’s enough said.

Of course, no show or comic or novel works without a good villain, and Slade was a very good one.  Also, Ron Perlman did a good job with the voice acting.  Slade always was dangerous and just a little bit creepy for stalking a group of teenagers.  There was also Brother Blood, who was apparently much more dangerous in the comics, the demon lord Trigon, and a host of other minor villains (Mad Mod, Blackfire, Killer Moth, etc. [Control Freak was one of my favorites]).  The guest heroes were also fun and included Titans West (I love Bumblebee) and Aqualad and by the end of the series pretty much every teenaged superhero/heroine you could name minus the Legion of Superheroes.

I myself preferred the funny shows over the series ones, and “Fractured” may be my favorite of the bunch (also, it has a special theme song).  The overall story arcs were well done as well as the one-off episodes.  All episodes also featured snappy and funny dialogue.  Even serious episodes usually had a number of good one-liners, and there were numerous references to pop culture (see the episode where Mad Mod tries to take over on Independence Day; “The revolution will not be televised;” also one of the chase scenes looks like the backdrop was taken right from the cover of the White Album).  Some things were simply absurd, but still funny (“It’s meatastic!”).  And because I’m the way I am, I also appreciate some of the meta-references (there’s one episode with Control Freak that is particularly self-referential, even down to the episode’s title).

However, I can’t leave this rant without some small mention of the colossal marketing screw-up made by DC with their rebooted universe.  “Teen Titans” was watched by millions of viewers the majority of which probably never heard of these characters before (I had heard of them, kind of).  So when the universe is rebooted, DC had a great opportunity to reboot the characters to make them similar to the familiar characterizations of the cartoon show.  But no.  They completely squandered that because the Powers that Be decided to alienate anyone who liked the “Teen Titans” version of Starfire and continue to market to adolescent boys who can’t afford real porn.  Argh.

Anyway, see the series.  The animation style takes some getting used to, but the writing makes it well worth it.  Also: Robin-mite (“Larry Larry Larry!”).  Enough said.


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S. J. Drew is an aspiring writer who finally entered the blogosphere to shamelessly promote that writing (as evidenced by the title of the blog). Whether or not this works remains to be seen, but S. J. hopes you are at least entertained. And if you're actually reading this, that's probably a good sign.

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