All right, kids. Settle down. Class is in session. In 1940, sales of Detective Comics were already flagging. So to revitalize sales writers Bob Kane and Bill Finger (Creators of Batman) and artist Jerry Robinson came up with an idea that revolutionized comic books forever. In Detective Comics #38 (April 1940) Batman’s teenage sidekick Robin was introduced and the comics industry was never the same again. Over the next decade teen sidekicks popped up all over the place becoming a staple of the superhero genre. Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, even direct competition like Captain America all now had a sidekick to help in the “never ending battle”.
After being kept separate for nearly 25 years (1964), in the pages of the DC team-up series The Brave and the Bold, Robin (Dick Greyson), Kid Flash (Wally West), and Aqualad (Garth) teamed up for the first time, becoming a “Junior Justice League” in issue #54. Four issues later and the team was joined by Wonder Girl (Donna Troy) and Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy (Roy Harper) to form the first official incarnation of the Teen Titans! In the following decades the team meet with moderate success, including an animated segment on The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure (1967–1968), but it wasn’t until 1980 that the team really took off. When the team was re-vamped as The NEW Teen Titans, writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Pérez used the original team, now older, experienced, young adult heroes in their own right, and new original young heroes with a variety of unique powers and personalities. With the Titans together they faced new, powerful evils like the assassin Deathstroke the Terminator, the other-dimentional demon Trigon, and betrayal by one of their own in arguably one of the greatest comic book storyarchs of all time, The Judas Contract.
During this time the Titans grew and evolved as a team and as individuals. Most notably Dick Greyson who, as team leader, moved out of the shadows as Batman’s sidekick and grew into a true superhero in his own right as Nightwing (Although, the less said about his original “disco” costume, the better).
The series was a runaway hit. The heroes and other characters were unique and interesting, the villains were truly dangerous and had a lasting impact, and the stories were intriguing adventures that crafted not only the history of the team, but much of the DCU in general. This version was also used as the basis for the wildly popular anime-style 2003 animated series.
An animated series was created by Hanna-Barbera in the early 1980’s, but never picked up by a network. However, the New Teen Titans did make an animated appearance in a single anti-drug commercial in 1984, sponsored by Keebler. So, now you can see why the success of this title holds so much importance during the reboot for a fanboy like me.
Speaking of being a fanboy, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a minute to mention Red Hood and the Outlaws seeing as how it’s also written by the same person doing the Teen Titans reboot, Scott Lobdell, and mentions the original team as having existed in the DCnU. There is already a review for this book on the site and I recommended it to anyone who wants some very good reasons to give this title a chance. I on the other hand closed the book with the single thought, “Sex sells and Starfire is a cheap ho”. I actually don’t have a problem with her being a “free spirit”, but it’s her cold disregard of her old team, especially Dick Greyson, that felt like a knife through the heart. Their star-crossed love affair was truly charming during the NEW era, even if it wasn’t meant to be. I’ll get off my soapbox now.
The reboot of Teen Titans focuses on a second generation of teen heroes. In the DCU, they were following in the legacy of the original team, which may or may not exist in the DCnU if Red Hood is any indication. In any case, this team is being formed and lead by the third person to hold the title of Batman’s sidekick, Tim Drake, now known as Red Robin. This time, however, instead of leading a team looking to uphold a proud legacy, the team is now a group of troubled teens with super powers.
At least Kid Flash is trying to be a hero. The problem is he’s just too…impulsive. Which leads me to question if this Kid Flash is Wally West, hero-worshipping nephew of the Flash, or Bart Allen, the immature, time-displaced grandson of the Flash. I guess we’ll find out later.
Cassandra “Don’t Call Me ‘Wonder Girl’” Sansmark is looking hot as ever, but instead of being a Wonder Woman fan who stood up to Zeus for the honor of fighting at her hero’s side we get a snarky con-artist who uses her powers to steal cars for joyriding. I can see that there will be more to her down the line, but the line “I was really hoping to clock a few skulls together” was just cringe worthy. It’s a mixed metaphor!
I’m okay with the history of Superboy being changed to the “Boy from N.O.W.H.E.R.E.”. I’m going to miss the legacy of his original origin, but if Superman hasn’t died in the DCnU, then he needs a new introduction. Superboy is now the experiment of an evil shadow organization that will have to overcome the reasons for his creation to become a hero with the help of his new friends. I really like where this is going, even if it was lifted from the current animated series Young Justice. Plus I really like the line “Release the Superboy” as the cliffhanger ending.
I really liked seeing all of the other teen heroes on the monitors Red Robin was watching. Static, Miss Martian, Raven, Solstice; it’s nice to see that they exist in the DCnU. Even if it is just a tease I’d like to think at least some of them might make the team at some point.
Speaking of this scene, I found so much wrong with it I actually had to laugh. The problem is not with Red robin “Batmanning” it up and monitoring the news of young metahuman; it’s the fact that he’s doing it in a Lexcorp building and let’s an enemy force sneak in behind him and SEE HIS FACE! Way to be stealthy, Timmy!
I also had to chuckle at the absurdity of the picture he held as he lamented what Batman had “started” with teen heroes. I get that it’s an homage to the original Batman and Robin, but who took a picture of them swinging over buildings? Was Alfred just standing on a rooftop with a camera saying, “Now say, ‘I’m the goddamn Batman’”? I’m surprised it isn’t autographed “To Timmy, Love Bruce”.
Despite that and even if I don’t like/agree with all of the characterizations so far, the writing is actually pretty solid overall and the introspection on the part of Red Robin is very interesting to read. The art by Brett Booth is fantastic and highly detailed. I liked his art in Justice League of America and I like it here too. The only problem I really have with the art is the costume designs. When looking at the team on the cover the costumes seem to vary from far too complicated and detailed to plain/generic 90’s Image Comics. It could just be my personal opinion and I could get used to them over time, but that’s just how I feel at first glance.
On a personal level, I have to say that I do not like the ideas of Scott Lobdell. He has a decent writing style and seems to be building at least an interesting story, but he seems to be trying too hard to make change simply for the sake of change. If it’s just me getting snippy about his changes to my favorite team, that’s just my bag to carry, but I just think a more solid “hero” basis as oppose to “troubled teens” would be better for the book overall. I think the idea of having the team work to improve the nature of young metahumans is a fantastic idea, but it would be nice if the core of the team were still trying to live up to a heroic legacy like every incarnation of the team before it. This legacy does exist in the DCnU. The heroes are there. Of course, I’m basing this on the first issue alone. I could be proven wrong. In fact, I hope I am.
This series already has fantastic art and intriguing writing, regardless of my fanboy longings. I am legitimately interesting in seeing where Lobdell is going with this. Booth’s artwork certainly isn’t going to scare me off. This series has potential, but it also has very big shoes to fill and I am willing to give this series a chance to do so.
Now I take a deep breath and remember my motto: Don’t take life too seriously; you’ll never get out of it alive.