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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I Hate the Teen Titans, I Love the Teen Titans

Even when I was a wee young 'un, I never liked the Teen Titans. I guess I thought the idea was neat, but we all know sidekicks weren't the entryway to adventure they were supposed to be. I don't know anyone who pretended to be Robin on purpose. No matter how young you were, you identified with the main character, not his goofy kid buddy. Most kids I know found sidekicks to be annoying. Hell, people voted to kill one once.

I never got into the Wolfman/Perez thing either. It was like a combination of Claremont-esque writing (which I don't like) and over-detailed Neal Adams progeny art (which I don't like). Didn't see why I should bother. In time, I grew to somewhat resent the characters and the concept. While the JLA or the JSA went out and took care of business, the Titans talked about their feelings. While the Doom Patrol was a bunch of freaks, the Titans were good looking whiners. While the Outsiders were . . .uhhh . . .never mind.

As time went on and Wolfman ran out of things to say about the Titans, the book seemed to lose all focus. Then Dan Jurgens committed the cardinal sin of starting fresh and that was quickly abandoned (it didn't help that the work wasn't his best). But to this day, I can't stand the Teen Titans. I hate the group therapy stuff that seems to permeate its stories. I hate the pseudo-maturity being hung on stories about Batman's sidekick and his goofy friends. I can't stand the bubbly, cheesecake character Starfire, or Cyborg in his robot lingerie and garters or ANY of that stuff. The characters are either vapid or stereotypes (usually gleaned from Marvel works). I mean, any comic whose "quintessential story" involves statutory rape by a man in one of comics' worst costumes OF ALL TIME isn't for me.

But let me tell you something. I love the Teen Titans cartoon. I watch it whenever I remember to be up early enough and my fiancee will let me. It's charming, fast-paced, and full of fun and adventure. The comic adaptation by Mr. J. Torres as well tickles me pink. And both are TOTALLY beloved by my third grade class and their peers. Kids talk about which character is their favorite, and it shows loads about them. Robin is capable but not boring. Raven is dark and shy but not creepy. Starfire is cute and emotional but not fan service. Beast Boy is silly and fun but not grating (unless he's supposed to be). And Cyborg is smart and enthusiastic, not the glum boringster from the DCU.

It's for kids, the way superhero comics are supposed to be. So don't go in expected graphic sexual violations or high body counts. But don't expect to turn your brain off, either. This is legitimate entertainment, clever but fun.

9 Love Letters:

Blogger Eliot Johnson said...

I have never had a chance to catch the show, but I think I now will. I have read the comic and it is, like most things written by J. Torres, very good.

7:26 PM

 
Blogger David Welsh said...

What are your views on Static Shock? I had never seen this before Cartoon Network recently started airing it, and I think it's absolutely terrific. It has great Spider-Man-ish young hero mechanics but with the kind of playfulness that I very rarely find in super-hero comics not written by Dan Slott.

3:26 AM

 
Blogger Joe Rice said...

I've liked what I've seen OK. It's never something I made a point of watching though.

5:37 AM

 
Blogger T. said...

I've gotten reamed on Newsarama for mentioning how the Teen Titans cartoon is infinitely better than WOlfman/Perez. To be honest, if Dick Grayson Robin was portrayed as this capable in the Wolfman/Perez Titans comics he wouldn't be the perennial sadsack character he is now.

Wolfman's idea of maturing characters was to give them huge inferiority complexes. Is it any coincidence that the character that left the book first, Wally West, has fared the best, while Nightwing and the rest are still self-pitying losers decades later?

10:15 AM

 
Blogger Benari said...

The show is great and kids seem to genuinely dig it. It's exactly the type of cartoon I would have loved to have watched when I was a kid. My little cousins love it. And it mixes action, humor, melodrama, and characterization surprisingly well.

I did catch an episode, however, that begins with the Teen Titans battling Dr. Light. And all I could do was think about how sad it is that I couldn't give me little cousins any mainstream DC comic books featuring Dr. Light these days. All things considered. Sad, really. But at least the tv show (and tv-show inspired comic) does it right.

12:53 PM

 
Blogger Joe Rice said...

Wolfman/Perez Titans is some kind of nerd touch stone for many, I think. It was the X-Men for DC nerds. And they went on to make Crisis, so they must be something great! (Except Crisis is an unreadable spaghetti piece of hoo-hah.) I don't think I've seen a single issue of those comics nearly as fun as any given episode of the cartoon.

2:59 PM

 
Blogger T. said...

You said it, Joe.

A lot of fans rave about it because it brought Robin out of "Batman's shadow" and made him into his own man. This is silly praise for two reasons. 1st, after Marvel and increasing realism and characterization in comics, if WOlfman didn't develop Robin some other writer would have. It's not like it was a choice between Wolfman or no characterization for Dick Grayson forever. Second, to turn Dick Grayson from a self-confident, competent and adept well-adjusted kid to a neurotic, self-pitying whining man that gets his ass kicked any half-decent villain is making the character OLDER, sure, but I wouldn't call it progress.

6:14 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The show seems more emotionally honest than the comic, too: no interminable fetishizing of Raven's darkness (God how boring that was!), no endless sad clown bullshit with Beast Boy, no "super-sexy" Starfire, Kid Flash and Speedy problems, etc. These characters are so much more likeable than their comics counterparts it puts the whole W/P run to shame, and the theme song is much better too. W/P tended to adulterate the simple moral of comics stories by adultifying it (I am clever), but here it is nice and simple, and much, much better.

I like to consider it as superseding the comics' own continuity. Just like with Batman: TAS. Gives me a warm fuzzy feeling, and I invite you to try it.

11:44 PM

 
Blogger Joe Rice said...

That's how I feel. Melodrama and hyper-"emotionality" are not realistic at ALL. I've known very few people that act like Wolfman/Claremont characters. And I've soon learned to avoid them.

5:29 AM

 

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