Wednesday, February 4, 2015

NEW Teen Titans

On Monday, The Nerdist broke a story about the line-up for TNT Network's Titans series, based on the DC comic book team Teen Titans. The line-up was revealed as Dick Grayson's Robin; wheel-chair bound Barbara Gordon - who may be Batgirl or Oracle - Hank Hall's Hawk and Dawn Granger's Dove; the Rachel Roth Raven from Geoff Johns' run on Titans and Princess Koriand'r of the planet Tameran, Starfire. Titans, on TNT is said to be drawing heavily from the Marv Wolfman and George Perez era, The New Teen Titans. Warner Bros. has declined comment on the story revealing the line-up. Here's the thing, though. This line-up isn't really representative of the Titans. It may very well be the line-up, bringing together different eras through the characters. It just feels like something is missing.

First off, it's very bird-centric. That's the most obvious thing that jumps out at me. "Huh! They're almost all birds!" Robin, Hawk, Dove, Raven, Batgirl. Starfire is the only one that can actually fly, though. It's also very Bat-centric and Gothic. Robin, Batgirl and Raven all fit that very mystic, gothic Batman-family genre. It's also a very volatile team. Hawk, Starfire and Robin are known for the serious "warrior" mentality. This isn't a very well rounded line-up. My first reaction was, Where's Donna Troy's Wonder Girl? Where's Mal Duncan? Where's Lilith? Where's Gar Logan's Beast Boy? I'm assuming that they're not going to be anchored down with Garth's Aqualad. Wally West's Kid Flash is probably licensed to the CW's The Flash series. Roy Harper's Arsenal is on Arrow. I have to confess that I'm not watching Arrow, so I don't know if Mia Deardon is part of the cast. That would mean that Speedy would be completely unavailable to the series. Supergirl is scheduled for CBS, and there's been talk of crossovers with The Flash and Arrow on CW - which is a pretty interesting concept - but no mention in The Nerdist story about a crossover with Titans. Yet.

And then it hit me. The genius of the Marv Wolfman-George Perez era of The New Teen Titans. Maybe you realized it a long time ago.

Victor Stone, codenamed Cyborg, is probably one of the greatest new characters in the history of comic books. He is so important, that he replaced J'onn J'onzz, The Martian Manhunter as a founding member of the rebooted Justice League. He's gone from having cybernetic parts to actually having Boom Tube technology from Jack Kirby's New Gods. With Cyborg as part of the Justice League now, the shift is from science fiction to science technology. The Justice League was very science fiction. Superman, Green Lantern, The Martian Manhunter, all alien in nature. A good majority of the adventures the Justice League had in the Silver and early Bronze Ages were in space. They moved their headquarters from a cave, like Batman's, to a satellite orbiting the Earth. Since the end of the Space Age, and the mothballing of the US Space Program, science fiction and aliens are not that big a deal anymore. But science technology is.

That's why Cyborg was an awesome New Teen Titan. It's pretty confusing that he's still part of the animated Teen Titans Go! series and yet has been added into the Justice League, first through Smallville, the Justice League comic book reboot and is part of the Superman sequel. During the Wolfman-Perez era of New Teen Titans, Vic's adjustment and his personal life was an ongoing sub-plot. He was angry over being handicapped and he was bitter toward his father. How he coped made for some great stories. Plus his friendship with Gar Logan was pretty cool. The pair were a super-hero Odd Couple. From what I've read of the rebooted Justice League - which is just a few issues past the six issue secret origin arc - Vic's Cyborg feels like the odd man out. He's supposed to be the core of this new Justice League just as he was the New Teen Titans. He's taking the place of The Martian Manhunter, who for years maintained a psychic link between all the members. Now, it's a communications link. I don't think I'm the only Titans fan that wishes Vic was back at the kids' table.

In addition to Wolfman and Perez's Cyborg, they created Raven and Starfire. They complimented the gizmos and gadgetry. Raven brought mysticism, and Starfire brought science fiction to the team. The New Teen Titans greatest enemies was Raven's father, the demon Trigon. Another rogue was the charismatic cult leader, Brother Blood. Both were in Raven's mystic wheelhouse. Blackfire, another Titans foe, was Starfire's sister. The Titans fought a couple of alien races bent on recapturing Starfire and enslaving her home planet.

What didn't work in the first two incarnations of Teen Titans was straight-forward super-heroics. The Classic Teen Titans were written by old dudes that were on the wrong side of the generation gap. The stories and dialogue showed that they were trying but really had no idea what young people in the '60's were like. A lot of the stories put the Titans in situations where they took a stand against adults. Forgettable villains like Mister Twister and Ding-Don-Daddy turn the Titans into something like a Beatles movie or a Beach movie with Frankie and Annette. The Titans greatest foe of the Bronze Age was Dr. Light, who was only practicing on them, so he could take on the Justice League. He turned out to be a pretty lame adversary.

I feel sorry for the creative teams that have come after Marv Wolfman and George Perez. They really did something unique. They took the team and made it something more than just a super-hero comic book about hitting bad guys. As a fan, it's hard to see what Dan Jurgens and Geoff Johns have done and what Wil Pfeifer is doing, without comparing it and becoming nostalgic about "the good old days". It's gotta suck when an announcement is made like The Nerdist, featuring the Titans line-up for TNT and see the line saying that the show will rely on the New Teen Titans era of the '80's. Sure, that's pretty much the era that any fan is familiar with.

I'd like to see a live actions Titans series or film that mirrors the great stories that I've enjoyed. Something that encompasses the three new characters that Wolfman and Perez created. Something that involves technology, mysticism and science fiction.

That would be pretty cool. Who knows, maybe these are the characters that can do that. What do you think?

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