Get to Know DC’s Titans

Ah, SDCC, that font of teasers, trailers, and first looks. Among other things, DC dropped the trailer for their upcoming show Titans, the first new show slated for their proprietary streaming service DC Universe.

It’s…well, it’s dark, which isn’t actually that surprising considering DC’s unfortunate reputation for thinking more gore = more mature. It’s a little weird, since most of the same characters are also hitting the big screen this month in Teen Titans Go to the Movies, which looks like this:

teen titans poster

But hey, it takes all kinds to make a world. I guess.

If you’re intrigued by the Titans (either set) but don’t know much about them, here’s a quick intro to the characters we’ll be meeting in Season One of the show, as well as some of the best Teen Titans comics out there.

Who are the Titans?

Nightwing book coverRobin

Dick Grayson (played by Brenton Thwaites) is the first Robin, a founding member of the original Teen Titans, and one of the oldest characters in comics. The son of circus acrobats, he was adopted by Bruce Wayne when his parents fell to their death after their trapeze was sabotaged. After outgrowing the Boy Wonder label, he took on the codename Nightwing, which he still holds (not counting that brief time he was a costumeless secret agent a couple years back). The show’s version seems to be considerably angrier than his comics iteration, but hey, he’s been around 78 years. There’s room for a range of takes. Even silly ones. *cough*

Further Reading: Batman: The Golden Age, Volume 2Grayson, Nightwing

Starfire book coverStarfire

Princess Koriand’r of Tamaran (Anna Diop) (also yes, she is named after a spice) was betrayed into slavery by her villainous sister, but eventually escaped to Earth, where she quickly joined the Titans and began a relationship with Dick. Kory has super strength, flight, and energy blasts. She is also both a bubbly ray of sunshine and a fearless warrior, and doesn’t totally understand why humans have so many emotional and sexual hangups. She gives great hugs.

Further Reading: Starfire, 52, R.E.B.E.L.S.

Raven daughter of darkness book coverRaven

Raven (Teagan Croft) was conceived when a young woman named Arella joined a cult and was offered in ritual “marriage” to the demon Trigon. The pregnant Arella fled to the pacifist dimension of Azarath, where she had Raven, who was raised to control her magical and empathic abilities. Raven came to Earth to stop Trigon’s invasion of it, and stuck with the Teen Titans after her father was vanquished. Taking the name “Rachel Roth,” she’s currently attempting to live a normal human life despite her fear that she’s secretly evil and also not particularly a joiner. She does not give great hugs.

Further Reading: Raven: Daughter of Darkness, Raven, The Terror of Trigon

the changeling book coverBeast Boy

When Garfield Logan (Ryan Potter) contracted the rare disease sakutia—a disease only survivable by green monkeys—his scientist parents injected him with, um, monkey juice? Basically? Which cured him, but left him with two weird side effects: he was now green, and could turn into any animal. Soon after, his parents died, and he bounced around several abusive backgrounds before being taken in by the superhero team the Doom Patrol, and forming his own superhero identity as Beast Boy. When the Doom Patrol died as well, he moved over to the Titans, where he’s more or less been ever since, brief acting stints on a thinly-veiled version of Star Trek notwithstanding. Despite his excessively tragic background, Gar is the comic relief of the group. Side note: DC already plans to spin a Doom Patrol show off of Titans.

Further Reading: Beast Boys and Girls, The Judas Contract, JLA/Titans: The Technis Imperative

hawk and dove ghosts and demons book coverHawk and Dove

There have been a number of incarnations of Hawk and Dove, but the basic gimmick holds true for all of them: thanks to the mystical Lords of Chaos and Order, they have the ability to transform into the aggressive, warlike Hawk and the gentler, pacifist Dove. They were originally odd couple brothers Hank and Don Hall, who hung out with the Titans occasionally until Don was killed in action and replace by a new Dove, Dawn Granger. Hank eventually went evil and killed Dawn before dying himself. Dawn was later resurrected and resumed her Dove identity with her sister Holly as Hawk, but then Hank came back as an evil zombie and killed Holly before returning to life as a good guy again. Like you do! The show is giving us the Hank and Dawn pairing, and also I guess they’re dating and Dawn (again: a pacifist) likes to slice open people’s hamstrings. I don’t know, you guys, I don’t know.

Further Reading: Hawk and Dove: The Silver Age, Hawk and Dove: Ghosts and DemonsHawk and Dove: First Strikes

The Judas Contract book coverTeen Titans

Okay, you say, but what you’re really looking for is some team books, since that’s what the show is about—and that’s where pretty much all of these characters except Dick have had the bulk of their adventures. Got you covered! This show (and Teen Titans Go!, incidentally) is particularly inspired by the Marv Wolfman and George Perez run from the 1980s, The New Teen Titans. The whole run—groundbreaking in its time for its nuanced, thoughtful portrayals of teen angst and healthy sexuality—is a good read but I’d particularly recommend the fan-favorite The Judas Contract as well the Raven-centric The Terror of Trigon, which the show seems to be drawing a lot of inspiration from.

If you’re looking for a more contemporary approach, Geoff Johns and Mike McKone’s 2004’s Teen Titans: A Kid’s Game is a good jumping-on point, though it doesn’t do much justice to the characters it borrowed from the then–recently canceled Young Justice, and the run deteriorated swiftly after it. Amy Wolfram and Karl Kerschl’s Teen Titans: Year One focuses on the original lineup of Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Aqualad, and Speedy, but it’s vastly less self-consciously Dark ‘n’ Edgy than a lot of other Titans fare, and the art is heavenly. And I’m quite enjoying the current run by Benjamin Percy and a rotating team of artists, and which includes Starfire, Beast Boy, Raven, and a very pissy Robin in the form of Batman’s son Damian Wayne. Fuck Batman, indeed.

Are you excited for the show? What’s your favorite Titans lineup?

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