13 QUICK THOUGHTS: Why the TEEN TITANS are the Greatest Team Ever

Better than the Justice League. Better than the Avengers. And, yes, better than the X-Men.

Cover by Jonboy Meyers

Cover by Jonboy Meyers

UPDATED 2/4/17: We’re excerpting Michael Eury’s Hero-A-Go-Go!, including a chapter on how DC originally put together the Teen Titans. (Click here.) Got me to thinking about this piece. Dig it.

Teen Titans makes it to the Rebirth starting line this week (9/28), with Teen Titans: Rebirth #1, by Ben Percy, Jonboy Meyers and Jim Charalampidis.

I’m particularly happy with what’s going on with the TitansTeen and otherwise — right now. DC has made what I think is the incredibly wise decision to play off the strengths of Titans history:

With Titans, you get the modern permutation of the original Bob Haney/Nick Cardy team, with Dick Grayson (Nightwing nee Robin); Garth (Tempest nee Aqualad); Original Wally West (Other Flash nee Kid Flash); Donna Troy (nee Wonder Girl); with later addition Lilith, who now gets her own heroic identity as Omen. Plus Bumblebee, who was created in the Teen Titans’ first revival in the ’70s, is coming as well.

Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund

Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund

With the Teen Titans, you get the present-day riff on the Marv Wolfman/George Perez team, with heavy overtones of both latter-day cartoon series. Here, it’s Robin (Damian Wayne), Beast Boy, Starfire, Raven and Kid Flash (the second Wally West). Kid Flash takes the place of Cyborg in the line-up since he’s Justice League in this universe. But that’s cool, seeing as how Kid Flash was on the Wolfman/Perez team too — and was in Young Justice.

Variant by Doc Shaner

Variant by Doc Shaner

It’s the best of both worlds. But then it hit me that it’s more than that. It’s the best of all worlds.

Y’see, the Teen Titans are comics’ greatest team.

And here are 13 QUICK THOUGHTS on why:

1. They’ve always been more interesting than the Justice League. The League is a tough nut to crack. I still think they were the most interesting when they were significantly less powerful — and significantly more funny — as Justice League International 30 years ago. Because even if it gives you a chill to see DC’s biggest all on one stage, it’s not always great for storytelling. And the Titans have always had better chemistry besides.

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2. Because whether they spoke in hokey, faux-hip ’60s lingo (Haney) or in dramatically verbose dialogue (Wolfman), they had better relationships and more compelling personal lives. For one thing, since they were the sidekicks, the writers had more freedom to take chances. If something major happens to Batman in Justice League — a relatively recent phenomenon — the repercussions will play out in his own books. If something happens to, say, Donna Troy, it plays out in the Titans. There’s more room for personal drama.

Nick Cardy

Nick Cardy

3. Who are more interesting — gods or demigods? I’d argue the demigods. The Titans have limits to their powers, making their adversaries eminently more dangerous and interesting.

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4. This.

5. They chafe under the yoke of sidekickdom. Nightwing will never be Batman (at least not permanently). Aqualad (or Tempest) will never be Aquaman. There’s inherent tension in being the one fighting to get out of the shadows. It’s the universal theme of adolescence.

Cliff Chiang

Cliff Chiang

6. At the same time, you get a taste of the mentors’ worlds. Batman’s universe comes into play through Nightwing and Robin. Flash’s world comes into play through the Wallies West. And, in a best-case scenario, Superman doesn’t enter into it (sorry, Kon-El fans). Superman needs to be in the Justice League even as he tips the balance of strength by making it too powerful. But no Supers in the Titans makes them far more compelling.

Bruno Premiani on the left. The rest by Nick Cardy.

Bruno Premiani on the left. The others by Nick Cardy.

7. George Perez’s Disco Nightwing.

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8. There’s greater opportunity to add to the richness of DC Universe. It’s so much easier to create a hero or villain in the world of the Titans. A Justice League hero has to be well established already (unless maybe you’re going the comedic Booster/Blue Beetle route). But the Titans have gone beyond sidekicks with great success. Just look at the heroes I’ve mentioned already. (Oh, and let’s not forget the villainous Deathstroke, who debuted in The New Teen Titans #2).

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9. By the way, I’m not ignoring all the other versions of the Titans (and Young Justice) out there. (Then again, I guess I am.) It’s just that the roots go back to the original Teen Titans and New Teen Titans, the most important frames of reference.

Bill Walko

Bill Walko

Bill Walko

Bill Walko

10. This.

11. The big debate in 1980 was Titans vs. X-Men. That’s no longer a debate with much currency. But I still pick the Titans (obviously), pretty much because of reasons #5 and #6 combined.

Walt Simonson and Terry Austin

Walt Simonson and Terry Austin

12. And I pick the Titans over the Avengers because of reason #3, even if there are now 63 different Avengers teams.

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Mike Allred

13. Nick Cardy’s Wonder Girl

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Author: Dan Greenfield

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3 Comments

  1. Also, don’t forget “Teen Titans, Go” – one of the funniest cartoons on TV!

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    • The Titans are the best because they don’t have to fight galactic enemies every issue. They also seem to be more grounded in their relationships with each other. I wonder if Miguel will be back as I think he was an integral part of the team, although I am glad you dropped Solstice and Skitter.

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