A ti­tanic headache

So you think you know the Teen Ti­tans? Think again.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Culture - By AN­DREW A. SMITH

IF you’ve seen trail­ers for Teen Ti­tans Go! To The Movies and you’re not a reg­u­lar Car­toon Net­work viewer, you might be a lit­tle con­fused.

“Wait,” you might say. “Isn’t Cy­borg in the Jus­tice League? Isn’t Starfire black? And isn’t Robin called Nightwing now?”

The an­swer? It’s com­pli­cated. The movie is based on a car­toon, Teen Ti­tans Go!, which has been air­ing on Car­toon Net­work since 2015. And, yes, that show is based on the DC Comics prop­erty “Teen Ti­tans” – a team with a 54-year his­tory that’s had a lot of dif­fer­ent line-ups. Even more con­fus­ing, mul­ti­ple TV prop­er­ties have been based on the Ti­tans, all with a dif­fer­ent premise.

It all started in a team-up book called The Brave And The Bold in 1964. That was when ed­i­tor Ge­orge Kash­dan had the bright idea to team up the side­kicks of sev­eral DC Comics su­per­heroes. The re­sult was an ad­ven­ture co-star­ring Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad, the 1960s part­ners of Bat­man, Flash and Aqua­man.

Ev­i­dently it sold well enough for a se­quel six is­sues later – one in which the trio gained a for­mal name, Teen Ti­tans, and a new mem­ber, Won­der Girl. The lat­ter was pretty baf­fling, be­cause “Won­der Girl” didn’t re­ally ex­ist. There had been sto­ries in Won­der Woman about Won­der Girl, but they were sim­ply ad­ven­tures of the tit­u­lar char­ac­ter from the past, when she was a teenager – and mostly imag­i­nary ones at that.

But writer Bob Haney ei­ther didn’t know that, or didn’t care. With­out ex­pla­na­tion or ex­po­si­tion, Won­der Girl was sud­denly present.

Oc­ca­sion­ally read­ers would bring up Won­der Girl’s non-ex­is­tence. And DC didn’t re­ally have an an­swer.

“Orig­i­nally, Won­der Girl was sup­posed to be Won­der Woman when she was younger,” Kash­dan wrote on the let­ters page of Teen Ti­tans #7. “But our W.G. is an up-to-date, 1967-model teenager. So what’s her re­la­tion to W.W.? That’s some­thing we’re still try­ing to dope out. Any­body out there have any ideas?”

That’s pretty sad. But “Won­der Chick,” as her hep­cat col­leagues called her, even­tu­ally got an ori­gin in 1969. There’s no sense re­count­ing it here, though, be­cause it didn’t stick – and the char­ac­ter has had sev­eral more ori­gins since.

The ad­di­tion of the Teen Ama­zon not only added some much needed sex ap­peal, but also raw power – she was far and away the might­i­est mem­ber of the bunch. Even the 1968 ad­di­tion of Speedy – Green Ar­row’s side­kick – didn’t much change that equa­tion.

An­other odd­ity of early Teen Ti­tans was the bizarre pa­tois Haney came up with to ap­prox­i­mate teen slang. Oc­ca­sion­ally read­ers would ques­tion that as well.

“The way (the Teen Ti­tans) talk, you’d think they were beat­niks or some­thing,” wrote one reader in Teen Ti­tans #11 (1967). “I’m a teenager and I know a lot of other teenagers, but I don’t know any that talk the way the TTs do. All teens talk some slang, but the Ti­tans are too much to stom­ach.”

DC didn’t much care, be­cause it wasn’t shoot­ing for teen read­ers – it was, Haney said in Ti­tans Com­pan­ion Vol. 1, “very cal­cu­lat­ingly aimed at a 12-year-old au­di­ence. We kept it very sim­ple.”

So this easy-reader Teen Ti­tans bar­relled along, with Robin lead­ing his peers in solv­ing the kind of prob­lems teens might have on Leave It To Beaver and bat­tling fad­based vil­lains like The Mad Mod and Ding-Dong Daddy. It took un­til the 1970s for Teen Ti­tans to catch up with the 1960s, and even then it didn’t do a very good job re­flect­ing the teen view­point.

Ti­tans con­tin­ued, adding so many mem­bers that they even­tu­ally es­tab­lished a Teen Ti­tans West in Cal­i­for­nia. But by 1978 the book had run out of steam and got can­celled – which turned out to be a bless­ing in dis­guise. Be­cause that gave writer Marv Wolf­man and artist Ge­orge Perez a chance to re-imag­ine the con­cept.

The New Teen Ti­tans launched in 1980 with three old mem­bers – Robin, Kid Flash and Won­der Girl – and three new, non-side­kick ones – half-ro­bot Cy­borg, mys­tic Raven and alien pow­er­house Starfire. A sev­enth mem­ber from Doom Pa­trol comics rounded out the team: Beast Boy, a char­ac­ter who had guest-starred in Teen Ti­tans a few times, and with New Teen Ti­tans #1 changed his nom du com­bat to Changeling.

It was a huge suc­cess, and spawned a bunch of spin-offs, in­clud­ing Team Ti­tans, which some­how included char­ac­ters from the fu­ture. Hey don’t judge – the first team had a cave­man mem­ber named Gnarrk!

And just as you’ve prob­a­bly read some­where, Dick Grayson dropped the “Robin” per­sona and started call­ing him­self Nightwing (1984). He was re­placed as Robin in the Bat-books by four suc­ces­sive char­ac­ters: Ja­son Todd (now Red Hood), Tim Drake (now Red Robin), Stephanie Brown (now Spoiler) and Bat­man’s bi­o­log­i­cal son, Damian Wayne (still Robin). That’s rel­e­vant be­cause most of them served stints on var­i­ous Ti­tans teams – there’s al­most never a Teen Ti­tans with­out a Robin, or at least a for­mer Robin.

And there have been a jil­lion other char­ac­ters who have ap­peared over the years in the pages of mul­ti­ple ti­tles, not just Team Ti­tans and Teen Ti­tans but also Ter­ror Ti­tans, Ti­tans and Young Jus­tice. There’s no need to list them here; if you’re a comics reader, you prob­a­bly know them, and if you’re not, you don’t care.

But a great many more peo­ple watch TV than read comics, and that’s where main­stream con­fu­sion might come in – be­cause the Ti­tans have lots and lots of TV ap­pear­ances. Go back far enough, and you’ll find the orig­i­nal four Teen Ti­tans on the Su­per­man/ Aqua­man Hour Of Ad­ven­ture in 1967. They’ve ap­peared in sev­eral an­i­mated movies, like Jus­tice League vs. Teen Ti­tans, which fea­tured the Damian Wayne Robin. And there have been no less than three an­i­mated shows based on the Teen Ti­tans con­cept, each of them unique – Teen Ti­tans (200306), Young Jus­tice and Teen Ti­tans Go!, which was launched in 2015 and is cur­rently in its fifth sea­son on Car­toon Net­work.

Teen Ti­tans Go! is the show that pro­duced the cur­rent movie. It’s very loud, com­pletely silly and bears no re­sem­blance to its ul­tra-se­ri­ous fore­bears. Well, ex­cept that it stars the same five char­ac­ters as the first Teen Ti­tans se­ries. And it uses the very same voice ac­tors as that first show.

And just to thor­oughly con­fuse ev­ery­one, the DC stream­ing ser­vice will also air Ti­tans, a new, live-ac­tion show star­ring Beast Boy, Raven, Robin and Starfire. You’ll no­tice the ab­sence of Kid Flash, who has al­ready been es­tab­lished on The CW’s Flash. And there’s no Cy­borg, since DC de­cided in 2011 that he’s now a found­ing mem­ber of the Jus­tice League, and his Ti­tans his­tory of­fi­cially no longer ex­ists. Even though, as you know, he’s still a Titan in Teen Ti­tans Go!.

I did say it was con­fus­ing, didn’t I? – Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Hmm, you might need to come up with a new bat­tle cry, Robin. ‘Ti­tans, Go!’, maybe? — Pho­tos: DC Comics

The orig­i­nal Teen Ti­tans comic wasn’t even tar­geted at teenagers.

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