If you are a child of the early 2000s and 2010s, you probably watched the cartoon “Teen Titans” (2003-2006) on Cartoon Network. Growing up and even now, I consider it one of my favorite shows and have come to appreciate it more upon rewatches because of the complex storylines in the episodes.
I bring up the cartoon because, in 2018, the first season of the live-action “Teen Titans” adaptation called “Titans” was released on the now defunct streaming platform DC Universe. Fans of these characters were worried about how they would be portrayed in live action, especially since, in recent years, DC Comics live action attempts have been a hit or miss.
When the first season came out, and even now, fans unfairly compared it to the cartoon, which they should not do. “Titans” should be judged on its own merits and not on a kids’ show that went off the air over a decade ago.
“Teen Titans” and “Titans” are two completely different things. Even though both are primarily based on the Marv Wolfman and George Perez run of “Teen Titans” called “The New Teen Titans” (1980-1996), where we were first introduced to characters such as Starfire, Cyborg, Raven and Deathstroke.
I will give “Titans” props for putting their own spin on the first “The New Teen Titans” storyline in the first season. The progression of the plot made me want to see how it ended.
“Titans” is not a perfect show; one of its biggest errors came in its marketing. One of the first trailers that dropped had a scene where Dick Grayson, as a newly independent Robin, is fighting criminals and says, “F**ck Batman.” I wasn’t offended by the cursing. I just found it hilarious the writers chose to show that Dick Grayson is grown up is by making him drop an F-bomb. It felt very juvenile. Plus, it gave skeptics of the show a reason to hate it without ever watching an episode.
There are aspects of “Titans” that are done well. The casting of it has been pretty spot on. I particularly like the casting of Anna Diop as Koriand’r/Starfire and Brenton Thwaites as Dick Grayson/Nightwing. The costumes on the show also get a compliment for looking fairly comic book accurate, and once “Titans” moved to HBOMax for its third season the show just looked cleaner.
Season three was the weakest overall and showed one of the show’s major flaws, its dependency on the Batman mythos. Particularly in this season because it takes place in Gotham. The third season primarily adapted the Batman storylines 1988’s “A Death in the Family” (the death of the second Robin Jason Todd), 1990’s “Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying” (the first appearance of the third Robin Tim Drake) and 2005-2006 “Under the Hood” (the resurrection of Jason Todd and him becoming the anti-hero Red Hood).
As you can see, a common recurrence is Jason Todd. Don’t get me wrong; I like the character just fine. But I would rather see Jason Todd have his own show than get shoehorned into another. And that is what is disappointing: “Titans” has a plethora of villains at their disposal, and they still pick Batman villains.
One of the points of the “Teen Titans” comics was seeing Dick Grayson find his identity outside of being Batman’s sidekick. His first appearance as Nightwing happened in the pages of “The New Teen Titans.” How can Dick Grayson grow as a character if he is always in the shadow of Batman?
Season three overall felt all over the place with its multiple subplots. It just didn’t feel focused. It was good in parts, just not in the whole and sure, there were certain parts I did like about the season. I loved seeing Barbara Gordon appear and finally getting a live action Tim Drake.
If you want to see “Teen Titans” villains, season two does have Deathstroke as the main antagonist and season four has so many “Teen Titans” supporting characters and references that it will make your little nerd heart burst.