Who are those guys? Captain Comics answers questions about DCUniverse's 'Titans'

Art by Dan Jurgens. Copyright DC Comics.
Titans: Burning Rage reprints stories heretofore seen only in Walmart-exclusive comics, and the first issue stars (from left) Beast Boy, Starfire, Raven and Robin III.

By Andrew A. Smith
Tribune Content Agency

Sept. 10, 2019 -- Titans is back on the DC Universe streaming service, raising questions for those among us who aren’t experts in the history of DC Comics. Fortunately, Captain Comics is here to answer those questions!

Q: “Trigon,” the first episode of “Titans” season 2, felt more like the end of a season than the beginning of one. Why is that?

A: Because Titans Season 2 episode 1 was originally planned to be Titans Season 1 episode 12, the season finale.

"We got into that final episode, or what was the next episode, and started to really look at where we ended this episode and where we wanted to launch and how we really felt it to be a hinge point to do another season,” writer/producer Greg Walker told IGN.com . “[We] didn’t wanna have it stranded at the end of the season, but rather start the new season with it. So we felt that Dick turning dark was such a great cliffhanger for his character, and for where his arc was.”

So it was a deliberate story choice. Not one I agree with, but nobody’s paying me a ton of money to make TV shows.

Q: “Trigon” established what had been hinted at in earlier episodes, that this version of the super-team is the second one to call itself Titans. Does that come from the comics?

A: Short answer: Yes.

Long answer:

Aqualad, Kid Flash and Robin first teamed up in 1964, and when they did a second time in ‘65, they picked up Wonder Girl and the name Teen Titans. That team continued, with one three-year interruption, until 1978, picking up members such as Speedy (Green Arrow’s sidekick, now called Arsenal), redheaded psychic Lilith Clay (a Jean Grey swipe), Mal Duncan (who has gone by Herald, Hornblower and Vox), Gnarrk (a time-displaced caveman), Bumblebee (a Wasp swipe), Golden Eagle (an ersatz Hawkman), Harlequin (no, not the Harley Quinn you’re thinking of), Bat-Girl (no, not the Batgirl you’re thinking of) and Hawk and Dove (back when both were males). Beast Boy and Aquagirl made guest appearances, too.

Using Marvel’s rebooted X-Men as an inspiration, DC decided to upgrade the concept with a slightly older group of heroes. “New Teen Titans” #1 (1980) kept Robin (soon to be named Nightwing), Kid Flash (soon to be named Flash) and Wonder Girl (soon to be named Troia) from the old team, re-introduced Beast Boy (now named Changeling), and introduced Cyborg, Raven and Starfire. That group – which has also picked up an army of members over the years – was enormously successful and has continued off and on to the current day.

The New Teen Titans are probably the most familiar, as they have been the foundation for three animated shows Teen Titans, Teen Titans Go! and Young Justice.


Art by John Timms. Copyright DC Comics.

Young Justice is based on a ‘90s version of the super-team seen on Titans, (clockwise from left) Superboy II, Jinny Hex, Amethyst, Teen Lantern, Robin III, Wonder Girl II and Impulse.

Q: That’s a lot of Titans! Which ones appear on TV?

A: “Trigon” tells us the original Titans were Dove, Hawk, Robin and Wonder Girl – presumably when they were still teens. The new group stars an adult Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites) shepherding teenagers Beast Boy (Ryan Potter), Raven (Teagan Croft) and Robin II (Curran Walters). I imagine we haven’t seen the last of Dove (Minka Kelly), Hawk (Alan Ritchson), Starfire (Anna Diop) and Wonder Girl (Conor Leslie). Future members Aqualad (Drew Van Acker), Jericho (Chella Man), Superboy (Joshua Orpin) and Ravager (Chelsea Zhang) are scheduled to appear in Season 2.

Q: Who was that guy in the hidden room with all the guns?

A: That was Slade Wilson, also known as Deathstroke, played by Esai Morales. That’s true to the comics – the first big bad for the New Teen Titans was this superhuman mercenary. He has his own version of Alfred, a character named Wintergreen, played by Demore Barnes.

Q: Wait – wasn’t Deathstroke a villain on The CW’s Arrow?

A: Yep. He was played by Manu Bennett. This Deathstroke isn’t that Deathstroke, but they are both based on the same character, who first appeared in New Teen Titans #2 in 1980.

Art by Bernard Chang. Copyright DC Comics.

Teen Titans stars the current version of the super-team seen on Titans, (clockwise from bottom left) Red Arrow, Crush, Amethyst, Roundhouse, Kid Flash II and Robin V.

Q: What if I want to read about what these characters are up to these days? Do any of them still appear in the comics?

A: Oh my, yes!

  • Dick Grayson stars in Nightwing, but doesn’t call himself that any more. He still plays superhero in Blüdhaven, but doesn’t have a superhero name (yet) and drives a cab by day as Ric Grayson. That’s because he was shot in the head by the KGBeast and has lost all his memories. He hangs with a foursome who all go by Nightwing, which Ric refers to as Nightwings Blue, Gold and Red (for the primary color in their costumes) and Prime.
  • Jason Todd, the second Robin, grew up to be Red Hood – who has been a villain pretending to be a hero, a hero pretending to be a villain, and pretty much all stops in between. Currently he stars in Red Hood: Outlaw, on the outs with Batman (after shooting the Penguin) and cleaning up Gotham under the watchful eye of Wingman, who is secretly his dad. In the latest issue he accepted an offer from Lex Luthor to train the next generation of villains. Methinks he’s just going undercover, but we’ll have to wait and see.
  • Most of the “older” characters were members of the latest Titans” comic book, but were subsequently phased out in favor a team consisting of Donna Troy (with no super-name), Beast Boy, Green Lantern V (Kyle Rayner), Miss Martian, Raven and Steel II (Natasha Irons). That book ended earlier this year, but don’t worry because …
  • Titans: Burning Rage is a new series reprinting stories that first appeared in the Walmart-exclusive series, “Titans Giant.” This first issue stars Beast Boy, Raven, Robin III (Tim Drake) and Starfire, in a sort of non-specific time unrelated to specific Teen Titans history. Another oddity: This issue was advertised as starring Hawk and Dove, who do not appear. Maybe next issue.
  • Teen Titans is also a going concern, led by the latest Robin, Damian Wayne (son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul). The current team consists of Crush (Lobo’s daughter), Djinn (an actual genie), Kid Flash II (Wallace West, like the one on TV), Red Arrow (Green Arrow’s daughter Emiko, who isn’t evil and dead like the one on TV) and Roundhouse (who can transform into, and I am not kidding, various kinds of balls).
  • Deathstroke has a comic book, too, although in the latest issue he appears to be dead. That’s bound to be temporary, and in the meantime his son Joseph (Jericho) and daughter Rose (Ravager) are battling it out. Why? They’re siblings – they don’t need a reason. (Also, Jericho has accepted an offer from Lex Luthor. That guy gets around.)
  • Young Justice may or may not count, depending on your definition. But this title is published under DC’s Wonder Comics imprint, which means it’s aimed at teens, and isn’t seriously connected to the rest of the DC Universe. It’s based on a 1990s comic book, when Robin was Tim Drake, Superboy was Conner Kent and Wonder Girl was Cassie Sandsmark. None of that is true in the “real” DCU any more, or on TV, or almost anywhere else. But it’s true in this book, which is pretty lighthearted, and includes Amethyst (princess of Gemworld), Impulse (an impulsive speedster), Jinny Hex (the great-great-granddaughter of Jonah Hex) and Teen Lantern (a Bolivian girl who has hacked a Green Lantern power battery). Silly but fun.
  • Speaking of young adult comics, Teen Titans Raven is a new graphic novel by Kami Garcia, co-author of Beautiful Creatures. It stars a Rachel Roth who has lost her family and her memories, but her previous life hasn’t forgotten her – and is coming to her new home in New Orleans. You don’t have to be a teen to enjoy this coming-of-age story.

Q: Can I just enjoy the show without reading all those comics?

A: Oh sure. But why miss out? Watch the show AND read the comics, many of which are conveniently located on DCUniverse.com. It’s win-win.

Find Captain Comics by email (capncomics@aol.com), on his website (captaincomics.ning.com), on Facebook (Captain Comics Round Table) or on Twitter (@CaptainComics).

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