TEEN TITANS WEEK: When there’s trouble, you know who to play with…
Welcome to TEEN TITANS WEEK — an anniversary celebration of comics’ greatest (or at least most entertaining) superteam. The term Teen Titans was coined 55 years ago this year and The New Teen Titans #1 debuted 40 years ago Aug. 14. So all week long here at 13th Dimension, we’ll be featuring a variety of tributes to Robin, Wonder Girl, Speedy, Cyborg, Starfire and all the rest. For the complete index of columns and features, click here.
Chris Franklin is our resident toy maven — he knows more than anyone I know — so it only makes sense that he bring you THE TOP 13 TEEN TITAN ACTION FIGURES — RANKED. (After all, he’s done this with Batman and Catwoman, Batman ’89, Robin, the Joker and Green Lantern.)
By CHRIS FRANKLIN
They debuted with their proper moniker 55 years ago, as a quartet of towering talent. They returned 15 years later as a powerhouse team of dynamic personalities and abilities, setting a template that is still being followed today. The Teen Titans’ popularity has ebbed and flowed over the decades, but the series has endured in the comics, becoming a cornerstone of the DC line. They eventually became a household name, thanks to two successful animated series, an animated theatrical film, and even a live-action TV series. What follows is a list of what this writer feels are the 13 best action figures that represent the team over their history, in particular their original run as related by Bob Haney, Bruno Premiani, Nick Cardy and others, and of course the classic Marv Wolfman/George Perez New Teen Titans era. Each of the figures selected is meant to represent a version relating to a signature look they sported while on the team, in one medium or another.
13. Red X (Robin), Teen Titans – Bandai, 2005. This may seem an odd place to start, but hear me out. Red X was introduced in the Teen Titans (2003) episode Masks. Originally a cover identity used by Robin to get closer to Slade (the show’s version of Deathstroke), the other Titans were deeply hurt when they learned Robin didn’t trust them with his plans.
Some time later, a NEW Red X, sounding exactly like the first (voiced by Robin actor Scott Menville) appeared to perplex the Titans, including Robin. Alternating between enemy and occasional ally, the mystery of who this new Red X is was never answered, although fan theories abound (including one that he is some version of Jason Todd). Red X has a killer design, but he has never made it out of the animated Teen Titans or Teen Titans GO! canon. It seems odd that DC has never tried to capitalize on this fan-favorite character, given the success of villain/anti-heroes like Harley Quinn and Deathstroke himself. Bandai made several figures of the character, but the best was in their deluxe 5.5-inch size, where he came with a somewhat-accurate launcher accessory, and even a swappable Robin head!
12. Bumblebee, Teen Titans – Bandai, 2004. Originally available in a two-pack with fellow Titan Hot Spot, Bandai’s version of Bumblebee is one of the nicest in the line. The character had long been but a footnote in Titans history, mostly only used in group shots when the “middle” era of the Titans (between the Haney and Wolfman/Perez runs) was referenced.
This changed thanks to Perez himself, who suggested to the show producers that he’d like to see Bumblebee used on the show, since he always liked her. The show runners not only brought Bumblebee onto the show, but also made her the leader of Titans East. This gave the character a boost that carried into the comics, and the DC Super Hero Girls franchise, where she’s been seen on toy shelves, in books and animated movies.
11. Raven, The New Teen Titans – Funko, 2018. Subscribers to Funko’s DC Legion of Collectors mystery boxes got quite a surprise when their Titans box came in. Among the goodies were two of four action figures, based on the classic Wolfman/Perez run of the series. All four are great, but Raven beats out Nightwing, Starfire and Cyborg on this list, because in my opinion, this is the best Raven figure made by anyone to date.
Previous Raven figures from DC Direct are practically statues, and the animated style offerings from Bandai usually left a lot to be desired, forgetting one element of both her animated and comic design Funko did not: the shadow from her hood. Perez almost always drew a perma-shadow on Raven’s face when her hood was up, and she just looks weird without it. Funko got it right.
10. Terra, New Teen Titans – DC Direct, 2008. How can you have a Titans figure list without the linchpin of their greatest storyline, The Judas Contract? Terra was the ultimate bait-and-switch, and just when you thought Wolfman and Perez would overturn her betrayal and redeem the character, they doubled down and showed her to be a true sociopath, hellbent on killing not only her teammates, but everyone in sight.
This Terra figure captures that innocent, buck-toothed face that won over the hearts of the Titans, and their fans. Looking like she just floated on a boulder out of a Perez-drawn page, Terra can occupy two places on your shelf: both Titan and villain. She’s a bit of both, actually.
9. Beast Boy, DC Multiverse – Mattel, 2019. Whether you prefer to call him Changeling or Beast Boy, Gar Logan has been a member of the Titans for many years of publishing, despite being perpetually under 20. This figure is based on his more modern look from the DC Rebirth era, similar to his look on the Young Justice animated series.
Mattel really captured the fun character of Gar in the face of this figure. His bright green skin/fur contrasting with his stark red-and-white uniform really make this one pop.
8. Starfire, The New Teen Titans – DC Direct, 2000. The first-ever figure of the Powerhouse Princess was quite a deluxe release from the nascent DC Direct. Not only did they capture the look of George Perez’s curvy interpretation of Koriand’r, they also loaded the figure with some special features.
Press Kory’s belt buckle and her translucent eyes and hair glow. Place her long mane into the flying base, and you can recreate all those classic scenes of Starfire soaring with a trail of flaming hair behind her. The only downside is some very limited articulation in her legs, but at least you can pivot her ankles down for flight. Looks great next to your Robin or Nightwing figures from DC Direct, allowing you to recreate DC’s greatest power couple of the ’80s!
7. Speedy, Young Justice – Mattel, 2011. Ah, Speedy. The Titan who has suffered the most indignities. From his heroin addiction to losing his precious daughter and a limb in the darker days of the DCU pre-Flashpoint, poor Roy Harper has dealt with A LOT.
That suffering continued in the excellent animated series Young Justice, but the creators really did a nice job of reinterpreting Speedy’s classic costume. Simply adding some varying hues of red really updated the look, while still keeping it classic. Mattel did a nice job on their figural interpretation as well.
(Note: The Mego Teen Titans Speedy almost made this list. It’s an excellent figure with great accessories as well. But they infamously got his costume backwards, giving him bare legs, and long sleeves. Figures Toy Company continued this erroneous trend with their reissue from a few years back. That kind of stuff drives me nuts, so this YJ Speedy took his place.)
6. Wonder Girl, Deluxe Action Figure Set – DC Direct, 2001. Packed with a somewhat anachronistic Silver Age Wonder Woman, this figure of Donna Troy features a stunningly beautiful face sculpt from superstar Tim Bruckner. He manages to capture the beauty and warmth of the original Titans’ resident den mother, the one who is somehow more grounded than her teammates, despite her ever-shifting origins. The articulation on this one is a bit of a let down, but the sculpting on her body and costume more than make up for it.
5. Deathstroke, DC Universe Classics – Mattel, 2008. Not quite a Titan (although you can argue he was one during Titans Hunt in the early 90s, and later ran his own version of the team), Deathstroke nonetheless looms large in the group’s history. Debuting in The New Teen Titans #2, Wolfman and Perez created an interesting antagonist and potential anti-hero in Slade Wilson.
His code of honor makes him more than just a mustache-twirling villain, but his taste in underage women is certainly troublesome. His visuals have changed somewhat over the years, but the Four Horsemen Studios managed to capture Perez’s original design perfectly in their DC Universe Classics line. There were two versions available, featuring masked and unmasked heads. The masked one seems harder to find, and is certainly the more desirable, as far as I’m concerned. Armed to the teeth with guns, his staff and his signature sword, Slade proves he’s still the Titans’ No. 1 foe, even if he is constantly being poached by other DC series.
4. Nightwing, First Appearance Series/Robin, The New Teen Titans (tie)-DC Direct, 2005, 2008. Whether you prefer the Robin, the Teen Wonder version of Dick Grayson, or the first iteration of his Nightwing identity, DC Direct has you covered. Both figures perfectly capture George Perez’s seminal portrayal of Dick Grayson at the most important stage of his life and crimefighting career — before and after the big change to his full commitment as Titans leader, and resignation as Batman’s partner.
The Robin figure shows the costume to be a snug fit and it looks great, conveying Perez’s skill in making the potentially childish costume still look fantastic on a grown man. Equally, the Nightwing figure makes great use of Perez’s initial design, often derided under the hands of other artists, no matter their capability.
Simply put, these are two of the best examples of figures ever made of the character of Dick Grayson, and they represent his most important years in the Titans flawlessly.
3. Aqualad Uniform & Equipment Set for Action Boy, Captain Action – Ideal, 1967. History has recorded that Aqualad was the Titan often left standing in the corner, shunted by both his teammates and subsequent writers for his dependency on water-based adventures. But that belies the fact that Titans co-creator Bob Haney also wrote Aquaman at the same time, and definitely had a soft spot for the boy in their earliest adventures. Plus, Garth was a bona fide TV star in the late-’60s. Not only did he appear in the Filmation Teen Titans shorts, he was the co-star of his mentor’s segments in the Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure!
Ideal knew Aqualad was the second-best-known sidekick of the time (after Robin, of course) and drafted him into their Action Boy subset for their Captain Action line. Like the Captain, Action Boy was a pseudo-military superhero who could be transformed into your favorite comic and TV heroes with a quick costume change. Ideal captured artist Nick Cardy’s wavy/curly haired interpretation of the hero in his facemask, and nailed all the costume details, except his curiously absent gloves.
But they packed him with some cool accessories, like a seahorse knife, a shell axe, a swordfish spear, and best of all, a pet octopus named “Octo” (what, no Topo?). Pack all that in a box with beautiful Murphy Anderson art, and you’ve got one of the nicest pieces of merchandise ANY Titan ever saw. You deserve it, Garth.
2. Cyborg, Super Powers Collection – Kenner, 1986. How could we NOT put a figure from Kenner’s beloved Super Powers Collection on any DC TOP 13 list? Well, we really only have two Titans to chose from; Robin and Cyborg. Robin got lots of love in my TOP 13 ROBIN FIGURES list (click here), and he deserved it. He certainly fits in with the NTT era, being an older, Teen Wonder Robin. But let’s give the spotlight to Victor Stone, breaking out from his teammates for the first, but not last, time, both in the figure aisle, and on Saturday morning’s Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians.
Kenner went deluxe with this figure, giving Cyborg’s mechanical parts a chromed appearance that mirrors the company’s Silverhawks of the same period. Beyond that, he came with not only a “Power Action Thrusting Arms” feature, but you could swap out his right hand for two separate attachments, just like in the comics, and on the cartoon. One looked like a powerful claw, the other, perhaps some kind of double-sonic drill weapon? As the series tagline said, “You decide.”
Cyborg also makes the list because he’s a Holy Grail for many collectors, including me. The line was near cancellation, resulting in this final wave being scarce in stores, I saw him once in the wild as a kid, and I passed him up for Captain Marvel (Shazam!). I love both characters, so I can’t say I really regret that, but Cyborg has proven more elusive, and pricey, on the collectors’ market ever since.
1. Kid Flash, World’s Greatest Super Heroes: Teen Titans – Mego, 1977. Wally West beat his mentor Barry Allen to the action-figure finish line. The Flash was strangely omitted from all of Mego’s various DC lines of the ’70s and early ’80s. But when Mego decided to use their 7-inch Lion Rock body to release a set of smaller, Teen Titans companion figures for their adult 8-inch heroes, Kid Flash was along for the ride.
While Aqualad, Wonder Girl and Speedy could shadow their mentors at the Hall of Justice, Wally was strictly a solo act. But that didn’t stop Mego from giving us one of the nicest looking figures in the entire World’s Greatest Super Heroes line. Kid Flash’s head sculpt is dead on, from his half cowl and ear-wings, to his then-comic accurate brown hair (Wally would spray dye his red locks brunette when he went into action back then).
Mego also captured the perfection that is Carmine Infantino’s red-and-yellow masterpiece costume design. With unique boots and a fused chest emblem (not the flimsy paper or fabric stickers most Megos had), Wally had an air of premium about him that his absentee mentor could only dream of.
— The Complete TEEN TITANS WEEK Index of Features and Columns. Click here.
— The TOP 13 TEEN TITANS Costume Designs — RANKED. Click here.
Chris Franklin co-hosts several shows on the Fire and Water Podcast Network, including Batman Knightcast (with Ryan Daly), Power Records Podcast and Superman Movie Minute (with Rob Kelly), and Super Mates and JLUCast (with his wife, Cindy). Chris recently initiated a video edition of his “Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys” series on the Fire and Water Network’s YouTube page, with more to come soon. Like 13th Dimension’s own Dan Greenfield, he contributed an essay to the recently published book, Zlonk! Zok! Zowie! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66 – Season One.