Every new streaming service will have its moment in the sun, and for DC Universe that moment is coming on Oct. 12 when it begins streaming its first original live action series, Titans (which has already been renewed for a second season). Inspired by the Teen Titans comic book, it brings together superheroes Robin (as in Batman and…), the alien Starfire, Raven (the daughter of a world-threatening demon), and Beast Boy, a shapeshifter who can alter his appearance into any animal of his choosing.
The group, consisting of superhero sidekicks, made its debut in 1964 in the pages of DC Comics, and sputtered along for a number of years, failing to truly catch on in any sort of meaningful way. “The Teen Titans was a second (or third) tier title at DC, falling behind their more successful team books like the Justice League of America and the Legion of Super-Heroes,” explains Glen Cadigan, author of the two-volume The Titans Companion, in an exclusive interview. “In fact, the title had been cancelled twice. Right before [writer] Marv Wolfman and [artist] George Perez launched The New Teen Titans in 1980, the title was in limbo. It was a failed property. That’s why the new version of the group was called The New Teen Titans — both writer Wolfman and editor Len Wein wanted to put as much distance between the new version of the group and the one that preceded it as possible. They had to talk publisher Jenette Kahn into bringing the Titans back, because it was considered such a failure.”
But then, something unexpected happened: The New Teen Titans became DC’s best-selling book by a large margin, and it was the only DC title that could go toe-to-toe with their competitor, Marvel’s X-Men. In fact, in 1982, both teams met in what was then the annual Marvel/DC crossover. “So,” muses Cadigan, “as a comic book series, it went from nothing to number one very fast.
“As far as the lineup went, the new characters they created — Raven, Starfire, and Cyborg — not only maintained the dynamic of the group as more than a collection of former sidekicks,” he adds, “but they made the Titans the equal of the Justice League, not its minor league team. Plus, all of those characters are still around today, and you can’t say that about every character that debuted in 1980.”
Indeed, both Starfire and Raven are among those featured in the live-action Titans, with Cyborg (who has been reconceived in recent years to be a part of the Justice League rather than the Teen Titans) expected to make an appearance in the show’s first season.
“I think the reason Teen Titans has been so great is it’s a surrogate family of superhumans,” Titans executive producer Geoff Johns told TVInsider.com. “There are a lot of superhero television shows and films out there, and we wanted to do something different — something that would be in the spirit of what the Teen Titans first did in the ’80s, taking these different characters from different walks of life and having them crash together to become a surrogate family. From there it deviates drastically. We’re telling the story in a very different way.”
At a live appearance at the Hammerstein Ballroom for a Titans-related event on the eve of New York Comic-Con he added about the show’s tone, “We wanted to do something different from everything else out there. We wanted to arrive at a tone that wasn’t as welcoming as some of the DC shows have been, nor as nihilistic as some of the films have been.”
Scroll down for our in depth look at Titans, including, among other things, a look at who’s who in terms of characters and actors.