The Teen Titans began as the sidekicks of Earth’s greatest heroes.
In the 1980s Marv Wolfram and George Perez relaunched the Teen Titans from their Silver Age version. They dubbed this relaunch the “New Teen Titans.” Now, in the new series Titans, DC is bringing back a grown-up version of the original team.
In the aftermath of the Dark Crisis event, the Titans are moving up to replace the Justice League. The first issue, Out of the Shadows, features the Titans stepping out of their mentor’s shadows.
The Titans are a different sort of team than the Justice League. The Justice League is the all-star team of the greatest heroes but the Titans are family. They don’t just work well together, they live together. In fact, the first issue deals with them all moving into Titans Towers.
The Teen Titans grew out of the shadows of their mentors, and now they fight crime their way. Let’s talk about the characters who make up this family in preparation for this brand-new series.
Who Killed the Justice League?Before we continue, let’s go over some history of how we got here. The Justice League went missing in Dark Crisis due to the actions of the villain Pariah. Pariah is a character from Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC’s original big crossover event. As the survivor of a dead universe, he showed up to help the heroes battle the Anti-Monitor.
Here he returns as a villain, kidnapping the Justice League with the help of the “great darkness.”
The great darkness is just the concept of darkness created at the start of the universe. The Justice League appeared to be dead to the outside world. Secretly though, Pariah’s placed them in pocket dimensions of their ideal worlds.
At the same time, the Great Darkness possessed the Teen Titans villain Deathstroke. He united a group of villains to exterminate Earth’s remaining heroes, starting by marching on Titans Tower, and destroying it. Afterwards, Dick Grayson became the leader of the remaining heroes and fought back against Slade.
In the aftermath, Dick decided to uplift the Titans as Earth’s newest heroes, instead of reforming the Justice League.
Leader of the Teen Titans: Dick GraysonIf you’ve heard of Batman, then you’ve heard of Robin. Robin eventually left Batman behind, moving from Gotham and forming his team. The Teen Titans are the ones who help Dick develop from a sidekick into his hero.
Dick experiences growing pains as a leader. Running a team makes him realize how different he is from Batman. For example, Batman is a lone wolf, whereas Dick is a natural-born leader. Eventually in issue #39 of New Teen Titans, Dick officially gives up the Robin mantle.
Afterward comes the Judas Contract storyline. Terra, the “Judas” of the storylin,e infiltrates the team at the behest of Deathstroke and nearly destroys them. Dick feels he failed his team as a leader, as he is the only one who escaped the initial attack.
This prompts his self-reflection about whom he wants to be as a hero. He returns to save his friends as a new hero: Nightwing.
The name “Nightwing” came from a Kryptonian legend Superman once told him. Dick chooses his name to pay tribute to his past mentors.
I gave up being Robin because that tied me to Batman. But now I want to become someone new who commemorates all those who made me special.
Dick shows what makes the Titans unique. The Justice League might be allies, but the Teen Titans all help each other grow up, which means taking responsibility for failures and drawing on wisdom from mentors, while carving out your own path.
Donna Troy, AKA WondergirlDonna Troy is the first Wondergirl. Wonder Woman actually adopts her and makes Donna into a teenage sidekick. That is all you need to know about her backstory because the rest is a confusing mess.
However, Donna’s backstory is unimportant because her character growth comes from her time with the Teen Titans.
Donna’s journey into adulthood is a tragic one. After leaving Themyscira, Donna tries to settle down into normal life on Earth. This leads to her marrying Terry Long, a college professor ten years her senior. Though their relationship seems golden at first, the marriage quickly falls apart. After a harsh divorce, Terry wins full custody of their child Robert and refuses Donna visitation rights.
Tragedy strikes when Terry and their son die in a car accident, while Donna is off-world.
Which is the real me? What’s the truth? It doesn’t matter what I call myself, or what costume I wear, Terry and Robert are dead. That’s my truth. My baby died because of me…. So I lose and lose and lose and just shut down, is that it? … No… Even for the short time they were in my life I loved those people.
Donna endures a horrific loss. Yet, it’s her friends, the Teen Titans, who help her survive this loss. Donna remains a hero because her friends are in her corner. Grief and loss are part of life that people face more and more frequently as they grow up. Yet Donna’s story shows that grief doesn’t have to cripple us.
Teen Titans: StarfireStarfire is the main character of her own immigrant story.
The events that led to her leaving her home planet and coming to Earth leave Starfire scarred. She begins as the Princess of Tamaran, but her life changes when an alien race invades her planes. They take Starfire as a prisoner of war and she endures years of slavery.
Eventually, Starfire escapes to Earth and meets up with the Teen Titans. Her story is an immigrant’s story, as Earth becoms her new home. A lot of her character’s conflict revolves around the cultural differences between her planet and Earth, reflecting the way growing up involves an expanding worldview. Her friends help Starfire bridge this gap.
Dick: Hey, Kory please. You’re among friends. You don’t have to get angry, you can relax.
Kory: I know that, Dick. But sometimes it’s so hard to forget.
Just like with the rest of the team, meeting the Teen Titans gives Starfire a home. She does not just fight for truth and justice, she fights for her adopted home world.
Beast BoyGarfield Logan is Beast Boy, the green-skinned, wisecracking teammate who can transform into any animal. Needless to say, jokes abound.
However, these jokes hide a deep inner pain. Beast Boy’s powers comes from his parents experimenting on him to cure a rare disease. Soon afterwards, these parents die, leaving him an orphan.
Obviously, Garfield deals with a lot of loss in his life. In Titans #1 he suffers from nightmares from a traumatic brain injury Deathstroke gave him during Dark Crisis. (Deathstroke is also responsible for the death of Beast Boy”s first love.)
As previously mentioned, in Judas Contract, Slade sends a mole to infiltrate the Titans. A teenage girl named Terra acts as his mole, and Beast Boy is immediately smitten with her. They grow close, Terra once even encouraging him with a kiss…
Only for Terra to turn traitor and attempt to kill the Titans.
When Terra died, When I realized what she had done, oh god, it was too much. I just wanted to kill you… My home life’s been hell, and lately it’s been impossible to just laugh it off. Joke-a-minute Gar I can’t do it anymore. I don’t know what to do.
After Terra’s death, Beast Boy struggles with grief and depression for a long time. In fact, he nearly kills Deathstroke to avenge Terra. Ironically, at the time Deathstroke himself talks Beast Boy down from becoming a murderer.
In this first issue, Beast Boy opens up about his trauma with Raven, rather than a supervillain. Which is probably healthier.
This is just yet another example of how the Teen Titans support each other as both friends and heroes. They learn to trust again via each other.
Raven: The One Who Brings Teen Titans TogetherRaven is the reason the Teen Titans come together.
The daughter of the demon Trigon and a human mother, Raven quite literally has the potential for both good and evil. The monks of Azarath raise her to suppress her demonic side by controlling her emotions.
Raven reforms the Teen Titans to fight against her father. Her struggle against her father led to the Terror of Trigon arc. After the Titans initially defeat Trigon, he returns by slowly possessing his daughter.
The Titans do not notice this change in her at first. This is because Azarath raised Raven never to show her emotions and keep her distance from others; hence, they aren’t able to pick up that their friend is in major trouble. Plus, this self-reliance taken to an extreme leads to Raven not believing she can ask for help until it is too late.
Azar, I feel hate now. I feel the urge to kill! You taught me that pacifist was strength, not weakness, but you were wrong Azar. I feel my father’s evil growing within and I am frihtened by my new thoughts…Help me Azar, I desperately wish to stand by my friend at a moment of great happiness, yet because of what I am becoming I cannot.
The Titans fight Raven and her father at the literal end of the world. Working together, they purge Trigon from Raven’s soul. This arc ends when Raven’s soul-self turns white, leaving her free to express herself and connect with others.
After this arc, Raven explores her newfound emotions for the first time and grows closer to her friends. If not for those friends, Raven would be lost to evil. Now, she is growing into a confident hero.
CyborgVictor Stone is Cyborg. Like his namesake, he is half man and half machine. Cyborg did not choose to be a hero; instead, circumstances chose him.
Victor’s father saved his life from a lab accident by replacing most of his body with machine parts.
Due to his cybernetic prosthetics, he faces rejection from everyone in his life. His friends, his coach, and his girlfriend all leave him behind. Cyborg’s experience mirrors the way many people with visible disabilities are treated. (To make this subtext even clearer, Cyborg volunteers at a school for the disabled in his off-time.)
Cyborg eventually finds acceptance among his fellow freaks and geeks in the Teen Titans.
Joining the Teen Titans helped me process that anger. I was around other kids I could relate to. I was accepted and valued for who I was.
His friends are so important to his character that he loses his mind while separated from them. In JLA/Titans Technis Imperative Cyborg fuses with a machine named Technis when desperate to reunite with his friends. He returns to earth and kidnaps every single person to ever be a member of the Teen Titans.
His friends fight against the Justice League at first, because the JL just wants to take Cyborg down. This event ends with both teams teaming up together in order to try and reach Cyborg. They talk him down, convincing him to abandon Technis and return to his friends.
The Teen Titans do not just save the world, they also save each other.
Teen Titans: The FlashWally West is the Flash, another teen sidekick who grew out of their mentor’s shadow. He begins as Kid Flash, the sidekick of Barry Allen. This changes in the event of Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Before this, Wally quit being Kid Flash on multiple occasions because of his home life, and his weaker powers.
Say no more, Robin… and count me out. I’ve quit the super-hero biz. I heard you left college but I’m still going full time.
This changes when he joins the fight during the Crisis. Barry Allen gives his life to save the earth in the same fight. Wally then becomes the Flash to honor his mentor.
Wally stays the main Flash for nearly 20 years, until Barry returns from the dead. After taking on the mantle, Wally marries longtime girlfriend Linda Park and begins raising a pair of super-powered twins. He also takes on Barry Allen’s grandson from the distant future, Bart Allen, as a sidekick.
Wally is an important character because, like Dick and Donna, he shows how much time has passed for these sidekicks. They’ve all grown up and grown into adult responsibilities.
The Not-So-Teenage TitansThe Titans are unique because we as an audience followed them since they were children. Their long history with each other creates their deep group bond.
Dick is a sidekick success story. Donna Troy’s friends helped her through her struggles with early adulthood. Starfire is an immigrant who finds a new home in the Titans. Beast Boy is a depressed kid, who learned to be more open with his friends. Raven learned to be human because of her time with them. Everybody rejected Cyborg, except for the Titans who are equally weird. Wally West went from an inexperienced kid to replace his mentor.
The Teen Titans are unique because of their bond with each other. The upcoming Titans comic will explore these differences, and their struggles to take on the league’s responsibilities. As issue number one is already out, be sure to pick it up to read more about this team!