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September 15, 2009

Guilty Pleasures: Teen Titans

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Guilty Pleasures, it is a rather simple thing to wrap your brain around. Almost all of us have them in one shape or form. They are just one of the many parts that make us who we are. Me, I have many. Hell I am rather sure that I have some extra ones sitting around in a box that I can share with you if ya need one. From comics to toys, fast food joints to very very bad cartoons from my childhood, there are things that I keep dragging around with me. So what is this that you have found your eyes scrolling? One part confessional booth one part story telling, this is where you get to know some of us better here at ComicAttack. Like I said we all have them, those things that just make us happy deep down inside that maybe no one else gets or thinks is as cool as we do. So let’s begin.

I am going to kick off what I hope is the first of many great articles with a confession. I was away from comic books for a long time. I was given the choice of either keeping all my subscriptions or having money for college. If I had known how much of a pain college was going to be with all its rules and all those expenses, I would have stuck with the comics (just kidding kids stay in school stay in school). So from the summer of 1996 until about the same time 2006 I was comic book free and living in oblivion. Then I started spending my free time watching a lot of Cartoon Network and there was this show on there that some of you might have heard of called Teen Titans. 300px-Teen_Titans_animated_1At the time I watched it just because it was on when I could watch tv, and it was something different. Then slowly it started to suck me in and before I knew it that spark was ignited again. I could slowly feel that itch for all things comic book related starting to flair up again and there was nothing I could do about it. Now over that ten year time-out from comics, I had from time to time picked up a cool action figure every now and then to put up on my shelf just to have something to look at. This random spending was nothing compared to what was about to happen to my wallet as I dove head first back into the world of comics.

Now I know that some people may not hold Teen Titans up there with the likes of Batman the Animated Series (nothing will ever stand up to that as it is just epic), yet there is something in the spirit of the show that reminds me why I loved comics in the first place. Even stranger for me is that it was a DC product making me feel this way. I had been a die hard Marvel reader, hell you could have made me a poster child for “Make Mine Marvel”. While over the years I had acquired a few DC comics, they mostly came from those wonderful comic bundles you used to be able to get out of the Sears and JCPenny Christmas catalogs (please oh please for the love of stuff bring them back). I had a small collection of Image books as I was still in the game when they leaped up on the stage. True I had opted to sort of jump ship and follow the likes of Jim Lee, but Lee had been, hell still is, my favorite comic book artist. So I did not see it as betraying my Marvel roots so much as me just liking the way Lee did his thing. To be honest come on, Voodoo was just wow, show of hands of who picked up an issue of WildC.A.T.S. just to look at her?

Back to what I was saying though, it took a cartoon that I watched with my then four-year-old to make me get that comic book itch again. It started out with looking for Teen Titan toys for him and then for anything I could get on DVD or VHS (yes they still made VHS back then). It then led me to the DC Comics web page, which led me back to Marvel in an odd way. I had the itch and nothing severs that itch like going back to where it all began. I had to admit I was lost after missing so much over the last 10 years, but that cartoon just kept popping up. In many ways it changed the way I looked at DC comics, and in particular a character that has become possibly one of my favorites of all time: Robin (Dick Grayson). I had for so long only a working knowledge of who Robin was. I, like everyone else, knew he was one part of the dynamic duo but I had never taken any real stock in him. He was as I saw it, just something for Batman to toss at the bad guys to distract them. Why else was his costume so flashy with the red and yellow? This was all changing for me as my kid and I watched episode after episode, as Robin led his Titans against villains of all kinds and dealt with both external and internal threats to his ranks. All the while my kid started to get excited by Beast Boy (because he could turn into a monkey, but he was rather sad that he never tossed poo at the bad guys, must be a kid thing) and I was just enjoying the whole ball of wax. After season one of the show, I had looked up and consumed anything I could on the Titans and Robin in specific. So when I made my mind up to get back into the collecting game, Teen Titans, Robin and Nightwing made up a few of my first subscriptions at my LCS (Local Comic Shop for those not down with the lingo), along with another book which just made me all kinds of happy; but I will talk about Nextwave later.

The more I read and the more I looked for back issues, the more I just liked what I was seeing. I was at first not sure what to make of Tim Drake as Robin, but soon he became one of my favorite characters. I saw in him a younger Dick Grayson with a little less of a chip on his shoulder at times, and his balancing of his public and secret life was great storytelling. No matter what I read everything kept leading me back to that cartoon. That wonderful cartoon, with its great writing and excelling action and animation style that mixed just enough slapstick in there to make it stand out as something special. Yet I know there are the purists out there that have issues with it.

There are those that do not like changes being made to established characters either in name or depiction. I have to start here by saying you have to be insane to think that you can market a cartoon mostly aimed at children with a main antagonist named Deathstroke the Terminator. You can’t have the comic book version of Brother Blood, but what you can have are clever versions of these characters that are just as dangerous and just all kinds of bad ass. teen-titans-the-complete-second-season-20070104011905553-000Slade is still Deathstroke, just with a friendlier name (voiced by Ron Perlman) and that is about it. He is still the same master strategist and still bent on tearing the Titans down both physically and mentally. He still focuses on Robin, the lynch pin of the team, and he still strikes at Beast Boy emotionally through Terra. It still takes all the Titans to take him down, and Robin becomes just as obsessed with stopping him.

Brother Blood’s obsession with Cyborg is very well done and shows just how strong the writing was for the show. They even manage to slide some life lessons in there without being preachy. The show’s handling of Cyborg in general was just excellent. From his self doubt in the beginning that it was the machine that made him special and therefore limited him, to his realization that it was not the machine that made the man but the man inside the machine. That for all the cybernetic parts his human will, his soul, is what makes him powerful and makes him great. It was this that frustrated Brother Blood who gave up his humanity to incorporate Cyborgs into his own body, only to discover the hard way that it was the spirit not the microchip that makes Cyborg a hero.

These are just two examples of how the show’s writers dealt with these loved characters. Beast Boy, Raven and Starfire all receive such treatments; but it is the heart of the Titans, Robin and Cyborg, that receive some of the best story telling in the show’s run. While Beast Boy remains the show’s main point of levity, he does get his just dues and is shown to be more than just a funny little green side kick to Cyborg. Many of the humorous moments involve these two characters, and the depth of the relationship developed over the course of the show is again a tribute to the strong writing. These five characters have such strong relationships 047in the comics, which are depicted just as truthfully on the animated screen. Albeit the romantic relationship between Robin and Starfire is hinted at or generally danced around, you can still tell that there is a special connection between these two that is deeper than friendship. The same can be gleamed at times from the complicated relationship between Raven and Beast Boy. While in the comics both relationships become full blown love affairs, the show dances around this at times in a rather humorous yet heartfelt way. Even so much as to depict Robin as jealous in several episodes over attention paid to Starfire by other guest characters, and vice versa.

In the end though one thing is clear; this show captures what makes the Teen Titans special. They are not just a group of teenage sidekicks or teen hero’s. This for lack of a better term is a family. It is this bond that makes them strong, and it is this bond of friendship that is the core value that viewers take away with them. That through team work and faith in your friends you can accomplish anything. You can stand up to anything that life throws at you if you have the right people standing next to you, who care about you and will walk through hell with you. Which the Titans did when helping Raven deal with her family issues – why is it always the hot moody girl that will get you in the most trouble? You sort of have to feel bad for Beast Boy; he always falls for the girl that will break his heart in the end. No matter where you fall in the social pecking order, and this is especially true for kids and teens, you can find a part of yourself in these characters. You find one that you can adopt as your own and form that special connection with. I have friends that argue to this day over who is the better Robin (Dick vs Tim, no one cares about Jason), and I have had to explain to my kid several times that the Robin from the show is Dick Grayson, who grows up to first be Nightwing and then Batman (if you want to watch a six-year-old’s brain implode drop that knowledge on them). There is just something wonderful though in seeing a six-year-old process that Robin grows up to be Batman. Let alone that these characters age seemed to just freak him out.

For those of you that love the Teen Titans animated, you can pick them up on DVD as all five seasons are out there. If you want even more Teen theteentitansreturnforasecondseasonTitans animated, I encourage you to poke around your LCS or even online for Teen Titans Go!, which is the comic book version of the cartoon. Both the comic and show’s runs may have ended, but if you look you can still get your fix. If you are looking for the show’s characters grown up you can find them in Titans, which is in its current run for DC comics and is just fantastic. You can also find a new generation of Teen Titans as well in their own monthly Teen Titans, also from DC. For me though I will always have a special place in my heart for Teen Titans animated, as it brought me back home to my inner comic book geek. It is what started me on the road that has led me first to an online comic book community, which led years later to the relationships that have brought you the people behind ComicAttack. Like I said, we all have our guilty pleasures that we carry around with us and have that special place in your hearts.

What is up next for Guilty Pleasures? You will just have to check back and see. The best part about this whole experience is that you never know what you will find, but you are sure to find something interesting and special every time. Next month, same Attack channel, all new Attack column from ComicAttack writer Jimmy Hayes. Until then, get ye to a comic store and feed the need!

Jason Fenix




  1. DecapitatedDan

    I loved Teen Titan’s! It’s what I wish every DC book could be. I even added Teen Titan’s Go! to my pull list for 3 issues, then I realized how bad it was. LOL. The show was great but it just wasn’t enough to get me to read DC. That being said I could never watch it again after seeing all the episodes but man I was hooked for a while.

  2. InfiniteSpeech

    I didn’t think i’d like the show at all but started watching it more because my daughter and girlfriend were soooo into it! It was one of the few cartoons done right and had a pretty good balance to it as well

  3. The cartoon is really well done. Even I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen, and I’m really critical about these sorts of things. It’s really cute. Still airs on Cartoon Network, on occasion (it’s not part of their regular lineup anymore though).

  4. billy

    This is a very entertaining show. My kids and I watch it from time to time. I really like Beast Boy. Robin is cool to.

  5. I loved that show, I try to catch it in reruns. I don’t get to see it too much anymore though. I liked the theme song too.

  6. The Movie Lady

    Awesome article Jason. You really got to the heart of why you like this “Guilty Pleasure” and broke it down to show how it could appeal to different people. I like the stuff you said about them being a family. My biggest guilty pleasure is probably Sailor Moon and I can totally relate. Some people might not care for it but I like the sisterly feel the girls have in how they bicker or have major blowouts but always seem to be there for one another when it counts…….. To each his own!

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