As a kid, one of my favorite series growing up was Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s standard-setting New Teen Titans run. The Justice League was always flashier, with epic storylines that spanned the galaxy, but something always seemed more…mechanical and straightlaced about the League of the time. The Teen Titans, on the other hand, were tight-knit, character-driven personalities that acted like real people trying to grow up, and I’ve always had a soft spot for the band of sidekicks trying to reach independence as a family.
After a number of animated incarnations since the start of the millennium, the Teen Titans have graduated to the growing live-action DC Television Universe with TNT’s order of an Akiva Goldsman / Mark Haines pilot for “The Titans”. Let’s look at some of the history behind the characters that we may see brought to the screen — and some of the glaring omissions from Teen Titans history.
Dick Grayson / Nightwing / Robin
A fixture of the Titans since their early days as the Justice League’s teen team-up, Richard “Dick” Grayson’s leadership of the group was a fixture of the New Teen Titans run — widely considered the most popular incarnation of the team and the one on which much of the “Titans” concept seems to be based — and Robin’s opportunity to take the role of leader, rather than sidekick, gave Grayson the opportunity to grow and mature as a character outside of his much more specific and very different role within Batman’s shadow.
It appears that the “Titans” incarnation of Robin has only recently left the tutelage of the Batman, and is now making his own separate way — a Robin we’ve rarely gotten to see depicted in movies or television, but a vital anchor for a “Titans” show being built in the current, heavily Batman-centric DC mediaverses.
While this Grayson has yet to adopt the Nightwing identity, the iconic “Judas Contract” story of New Teen Titans was the breaking point that spurred Dick Grayson to abandon Robin and adopt his own path. If “Titans” is picked up as a pilot, who knows what might follow?
Barbara Gordon / Oracle
Barbara Gordon originally made a huge splash as Batgirl, the superheroine that — despite wearing Batman’s logo — was neither his sidekick nor his girlfriend, setting her up as an independent, capable, and ultimately very popular character within the DC Universe. After the callous treatment of the character in The Killing Joke, paralyzing Barbara Gordon as an aside to the main plot, the character was left retired and discarded by the DC staff.
The Barbara Gordon that became Oracle, master computer hacker, practitioner of escrima, and intellectual rival of the Batman, is most often associated with Kim Yale and John Ostrander. Under Yale and Ostrander, Gordon recovered her motivation and grew into one of the most masterfully integral informatioon brokers in the DC Universe; as the leader of the Birds of Prey, Gordon found herself as a strong leader, brilliant mind, and, under the care of writer Gail Simone, gave many comic book readers with disabilities an iconic identifying figure.
While Gordon’s recent New 52 reboot and return to the role of Batgirl has irked some, “Titans” appears to have selected Oracle as its Barbara Gordon, which is exciting for anyone nostalgic for the brilliant Babs of old. She and Dick Grayson have always had elements of a romantic affection since their days as “Batgirl and Robin, the Dynamite Duo”, so expect some sparks between the two should this pilot be picked up.
Hank Hill / Hawk
The super-duo of the Hawk and the Dove, originally created as a pair of dissimilar brothers granted powers by the Lords of Order and Chaos, have always had a small but consistent following within DC. Originally consisting of Hank, the strong-willed and combative Hawk, and Don, the high-flying, introspective, and pacifist Dove, the two fought crime and evil as a duo for many years.
After Don’s death at the hands of the Anti-Monitor’s army in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Hank struck out on his own as Hawk; without Don’s calming influence, he became known as an aggressive, problematic anti-hero — one that, in a surprise move by DC in 1991’s Armageddon 2001, resulted in post-psychotic-break Hank becoming the world-threatening supervillain Monarch and, even later, the time-traveling Extant, threatening the fabric of time itself.
The “Titans” version of Hawk harkens back to the days of his partnership with Dawn Granger (see below); it’s hard to know how much of Hawk’s more aggressive and even potentially evil tendencies may come to the fore in a full order of a “Titans” series.
Dawn Granger / Dove
Created as the second Dove after the death of Don Hall, the Hank Hill / Dawn Granger run of Hawk & Dove is perhaps the best known of the duo’s various incarnations. With the less pacifist but still thoughtful Dawn to partner with Hank’s Hawk, the two grew close — so close, in fact, that Dove’s apparent murder at the hands of Monarch in Armageddon 2001 was the event that turned Hawk down the path of becoming Monarch himself. (Time travel. It’s tricky.)
A hallmark of their incarnation as Hawk & Dove was an emphasis on human-based, street-level, modern-day issues and interactions, giving the series a particular cultural appeal; whether this plays into how “Titans” approaches its characters and storylines — well, we can only hope for now.
Rachel Roth / Raven
This addition comes as little surprise — while she apparently receives only a passing appearance in the pilot, Raven’s struggle with her demonic father Trigon was a recurring and crucial struggle in the original New Teen Titans run. Since the series’ end, any time DC has needed a reason to reunite this incarnation of the Titans, Trigongets fished out of the bin and dusted off. Raven’s appearance suggests Trigon and even Raven’s home plane of Azarath may play into what could be an epic “Titans” storyline.
Raven’s time with the original Titans taught her a great deal about humanity, good versus evil, and even love, granting the character a long if difficult and emotional journey over the course of her time with the team, and seeing that growth in a television incarnation is an exciting prospect.
Koriand’r / Starfire
Since her first appearances fleeing her own sister and learning English by kissing a stunned Dick Grayson, Starfire has been a fan favorite in the DC Universe. Though an inordinate amount of attention is often brought to her sometimes over-emphasized sex appeal, (Finding an appropriate image for this article was really difficult. -Ed) Starfire’s backstory is an epic tale of family, betrayal, and struggle. That, and she’s from a star-faring warrior race, which always allows the potential for all sorts of epic space opera.
Given that the comics’ Starfire was at one point engaged to Dick Grayson before their wedding fell apart (and before an evil Raven appeared, promptly killing the priest) the Internet is abuzz with the potential for a Dick / Babs / Kory love triangle. With the character’s recent controversial appearances in the early New 52 Titans, characterizing her as something of a free-wheeling, free-love sort, the potential for her character to devolve into an unfairly one-dimensional fanservice role also exists; hopefully, if the series hews closer to the New Teen Titans version, we won’t have to worry,
Roy Harper / Speedy / Arsenal / Red Arrow
Perhaps the most obvious exclusion, Roy is currently appearing on “Arrow” in his own right; if, as many have suggested, the potential for a Titans/Arrow/Flash crossover exists, then Roy is already taken.
In the comics, Roy has taken many a strange turn as a hero, from sidekick to weapons master to secret agent to heroin addict and back to archery in the footsteps of his mentor; it’s hard to guess in any fashion how close any of these series may come to each other, but it seems unlikely that Speedy will join the Titans roster.
Wally West / Kid Flash
Wally West grew to popularity as Kid Flash, the Flash’s country-born sidekick who grew into an independent character with the Titans. Unlike the other original sidekicks, Kid Flash was conceived primarily for the Teen Titans concept and has always held close ties to the team. With West’s assumption of the Flash role in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally became a hero and mentor figure in his own right.
Wally has had few opportunities to appear in the Titans’ previous TV incarnations, with Barry Allen appearing in the current live-action series and Bart Allen considered the basis for most of the previous animated incarnations.
Wally’s only major television appearance in the 2000s has been in the short-lived but excellent “Young Justice” as Kid Flash; given that a relatively young Barry currently has his own show, it’s a shame that we’re not likely to see Wally get his time as a Titan on this live adaptation.
Vic Stone / Cyborg
Cyborg’s ‘promotion’ to the Justice League in recent years has ensured his appearance in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie, an exciting coup for old fans of the New Teen Titans run — how much of his engaging story in coming to terms with being a human man in a mechanical body appears in the movie, well, I’m not holding my breath — but it also means that the character is unlikely to appear in “The Titans”, even given that the two universes are ostensibly separated.
Gar Logan / Beast Boy
Perhaps the most puzzling omission, Beast Boy has always been a popular character since his attempt to join the team from the earlier Doom Patrol (and rejection, due to being too young). His later admission to the team made him one of the team’s emotional centers; the hot-headed Gar, with the ability to turn into any number of animals, was outspoken and active, even striking up romances with his fellow team members. With the popularity of the recent “Teen Titans” and later “Teen Titans Go!” cartoons, Beast Boy is an even more popular character, and his omission from the “Titans” lineup is unfortunate.
I’m still holding out hope for an eventual “Doom Patrol” series, including Robotman, Negative Man, and Elasti-Girl.
Well, not really. But it’d be fun.
Donna Troy and Cassie Sandsmark / Wonder Girl
Another puzzling omission, the role of Wonder Girl has always been a fulcrum point for the various incarnations of Teen Titans, including the original Donna Troy’s being the centerpoints of such stories as “Who is Donna Troy?” and her wedding to a non-super-powered human. Donna’s relationship to the other original Titans had banded the team together even as they separated and moved into their own titles and adult lives.
Perhaps something can be ascribed to the continual inability of DC’s films to bring Wonder Woman back to the screen; while Gal Godot’s turn as Wonder Woman may help bring about the appearance of Donna Troy in some future storyline, for now, don’t expect her or her fiery, demi-goddess successor, Cassie Sandsmark, in TNT’s “Titans”.
While we don’t know much about where the “Titans” show will go, the appearance of the Titans in the live-action television universe is exciting for anyone that has loved any incarnation of the team. Over the years, the team has always been a more close-knit, family-like team than the sometimes somewhat austere Justice League; if the series is picked up, any fan of “Arrow” or “The Flash” owes it to themselves to check this series out.
Ben Fried-Lee is an actor and technical theater guru who spends most of his time repairing your iPod. He lives in San Francisco.