Hey, DC Universe’s Titans Is Right: F**k Batman

Hey, DC Universe’s Titans Is Right: F**k Batman

Brenton Thwaites as Titans’ Robin.Image: DC Universe

Say what you will about Titans‘ questionable production values, or how odd it’s going to be to see a modern incarnation of the team that doesn’t include Cyborg. There’s one thing that the show seems as if it’s definitely going to get very right: This Dick Grayson isn’t the biggest Batman fan.

That’s exactly how it should be.

It’s easy to understand why the first blood-soaked look at DC Universe’s Titans rubbed more than a few people the wrong way. In one form or another, the Teen Titans have been a fixture of Warner Bros. animation for the past 15 years, and between the original Cartoon Network series and Teen Titans GO!, the team’s adventures have been generally lighthearted and designed with a broad, all-ages audience in mind.

We’ve seen the Titans do whimsical, we’ve seen them tackle heavy teen emotional drama, and so it makes a fair amount of sense that Titans would take the characters in new narrative and tonal directions.

As much as we all may like Teen Titans‘ goofy, hyper-competent Robin, it’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to spend time with the Dick Grayson who’s well on his way to stepping out of Batman’s shadow in order to become his own man.

Dick’s Not-Quite-Nightwing period is one of the most interesting points of the character’s life, largely because of the way that he really begins to come to grips with the years of trauma and strife he endured under Batman’s tutelage.

Bruce has his reasons, of course, but there’s a point in every young person’s life when they come to see their parents as flawed people who sometimes don’t, or can’t, act in their child’s best interests.

Dick’s first official dismissal from his Robin duties came in Batman #408; his relationship with Bruce grew more and more strained as the two vigilantes couldn’t see eye to eye regarding their approaches to crime fighting.

Following the Joker successfully shooting Robin and scaring the hell out of Batman in the process, Bruce comes to the decision that the time’s come for his teenaged ward to hang up his cape — a fear borne out of a concern for Dick’s life.

As is often the case with Batman, though, he isn’t at all great at articulating his (very valid) emotions to his partner, and it alienates Dick so powerfully that it pushes him to break off on his own to find himself and spent the vast majority of his time leading the Teen Titans as Nightwing.

Robin informing the other Teen Titans that he’s giving up his Robin identity in The Judas Contract. (Image: George Pérez, Romeo Tanghal, Dick Giordano, Mike DeCarlo and Adrienne Roy, DC Comics)

Robin informing the other Teen Titans that he’s giving up his Robin identity in The Judas Contract. Image: George Pérez, Romeo Tanghal, Dick Giordano, Mike DeCarlo and Adrienne Roy (DC Comics)

The emotional messiness that leads to Batman and Robin’s falling out is precisely the kind of thing that would make someone scornfully insult their mentor the way Dick does in the Titans trailer. He’s hurt — and, on some level, he’s lost in a new city as he’s trying to make a go at being solo hero, an identity he isn’t all that comfortable with yet.

Rather than rushing to get to a point where Robin’s fully secure in his now largely Batman-free life, it makes all the sense in the world that Titans would spend a generous amount of time in this particular space where Robin’s just going through it, emotionally speaking, and stepping on more than a few necks in the process.

It’s unlikely the Dark Knight will make many (if any) appearances on , and really, he doesn’t need to.

It would be infinitely more compelling to watch as Robin gradually begins to resent the parts of Batman he sees in himself (see: the trailer’s brutality) and works to try and overcome them on his own terms and his own time. That’s the sort of satisfying narrative arc that leaves you understanding why a group of superpowered misfits would agree to be led by a baseline human decked out in logo-ridden body armour.

Titans is going to be darker and a lot more brooding than any of the incarnations of those characters we’ve seen more recently, but ask yourself this: what kind of worldview would you have if you were raised in a literal cave by an eccentric billionaire who dresses up as a bat?


  • I don’t like how Dick is dark in the trailer while Jason has pretty much been confirmed to be a part of the season. The difference was that Dick always the better person.

    • Dick went on to become Nightwing. When he did the transition to Nightwing he went on a fairly dark journey. The Titans comics have always had the highest bodycount and some of the highest violence rates of all DC comics. Not sure how many are aware of that? Nightwing himself, is incredibly violent too, especially his early years. Dick may be a decent guy, but he’s not above snapping a few arms, jaws, ribs, fingers and legbones in order to get what he wants.

      • Don’t get me wrong, there was a change in tone when he stopped being Robin during his edgelord days; but he was more of a old school Batman that is ok with breaking backs and leaving crims in comas than Jason Todd’s riddling nonviolent drug dealers with bullets.

        It is part of the reason Jason Todd was seen as an inferior member of the Titans, he didn’t fit in with many of the teams until he became Red Robin and Wingman.

        • WB has already openly said he doesn’t shoot people in that scene, he fires the gun above their heads to scare them and only stomps on the guys jaw. The trailers cut that way just to shock people and that’s it. This is the same as every single time people see a teaser, they flip their lid because it doesn’t conform to the exact thing they build up in their head. The MCU has changed plenty in their movies and netflix shows and it works. We have to wait and see how Titans turns out, hell, even Starfires clothing there has been confirmed only to be clothing she’s wearing when she hides out in a club, not her actual uniform. I’ll just wait and see how it pans out. Besides, he doesn’t wear the costume for Robin long, there’s an episode called NIGHTWING later on where he transitions to the costume 🙂

          • I love your hopeful attitude Weresmurf.

            As a long time Titans fan, the trailer had me laughing but not in a good way. The actress they’ve chosen for Starfire is such a huge miscast (at least looks wise). They said to wait to see what she looks like with the special effects when the first pic was leaked, and now in that trailer we see her and all I’m seeing is the exact same actress with some sparkley effects.

            Ah well… I guess if it does suck no big loss.

          • I just look at it this way:

            They said Heath Ledger would be terrible, that it was going to be a disaster.
            They said Robert Downey Jr was going to be terrible as Tony Stark, that it should’ve been Tom Cruise.
            It was said that Wonder Woman was going to be a disaster, that it was an unmitigated wreck.
            Ant-Man was going to be a giant bomb for Marvel according to ‘fans’ on the internet when they saw the first footage.

            None of this came to pass, because people went into a shitfit each time over a tiny bit of footage, or in some cases, no footage at all. It’s just a case of wait and see. We’ve had complete different castings of characters before that worked out fine, such as Nick Fury (yes, aware of the Ultimates situation, but he’s technically still not the original looking Nick Fury), or even the fact that Marvel themselves have condensed and changed quite a few characters in their time, but they’ve been accepted because they were fleshed out well. All reports so far is that Titans has great choreography, good action and Doom Patrol is already in the works. Berlanti and co. are behind it too, so there’s confidence that’s been earnt already on previous shows there.

            It really is just a case of wait and see, not a case of condemn without seeing first.

          • The difference with most of your examples is that those were Marvel movies. Wonder Woman has been the one, exceptional not-an-unmitigated-disaster movie for DC this side of the Nolan trilogy, yet its plot and character beats were basically lifted up wholesale from a Marvel movie. I have 0 faith in them getting “dark” right after so many failures trying to do exactly the same.

          • No there were 2 DC and 2 marvel. 1 was the beginning of the mcu prior to any knowledge of quality about the product when Ironman was actually expected to bomb even by the studio. Then there was a Nolan movie. Wonder Woman was praised as the *only* good part of bvs after all remember and Antman for some reason, dunno why, attracted so much negative hype from people.

            Fans are weird.

            I’m not saying the show will be good. I’m just saying condemnation prior to seeing it is pointless.

  • And once again CPM and i have drastically different opinions.
    This looks absolutely horrible.

  • WB is creating a new streaming service, and they pull this out of their collective hole is surprising… did the Netflix Deathnote series not prove you can’t use this treatment on a beloved series.

    They took a child friendly and successful series like Titans, (3 series, 2 movies – critically and fan loved), they take the formula of live action adaptation that CW has proven with the Arrowverse formula… so far so good,
    … and then make it gritty like the DCU movies, which has been their biggest failure. WTF!!!

    F@^ Batman is right, not batman in general, but Affleck batman for making DCU a dark ceasepool of lackluster tropes and bad artistic vision of directors who completely miss the vision of superheroes.

    • So, you’ve never read the Teen Titans comics hey? This isn’t based on the cartoons, it’s based on the comics… one of DC’s most violent. Check it out sometime. You’ll realise you’re basing your comment on not knowing anything about the Teen Titans.

      • My framed copy of NTT #1 says that this new Titans show looks like the kind of thing being pumped out during the period Wolfman had his screaming burnout. It looks like crap, something being edgy for the sake of edginess, with none if the nuance or balance W&P brought to the title. NTT was mature, yes, but it was also *fun*. And by removing Cyborg, the carefully and deliberately constructed balance and contrast of themes and personalities and backstories W&P set up is gone completely.

        But moving beyond that, its a major problem for the company that Geoff Johns, as a creative lead for the whole DC, is/was nostalgic for things that are not touchstones for modern audiences. See his – repeated – attempted ressurection of the Most Boring lantern, Hal Jordan, over John Stewart, the lantern today’s audience has grown up with and wants to see (a ressurection which resulted in Cyborg moving to the Justice League, because removing your only black guy and not replacing him is not a great move). Titans is another example. The animated Teen Titans is the touchstone now, not the comics. As much Teen Titans drew from the comic wellspring, and as much as I love the comics, the cartoon surpassed it in terms of reach and popularity. The comics and other Titans media should be looking to bring what was so great about the animated series back in house and expand on that for a new generation of fans, and to feed the more mature tastes of the cartoon’s original audience.

        Titans looks like a horrible misfire and misunderstanding of the property on every level. And that’s even putting aside my distaste for Arrow’s cheesiness.

      • Its children fighting murderers, yeah it gets dark and violent… but Teen Titans has proven success as an animated style that is demographically aimed. They have the data on its success.

        … so why the gritty reboot? Using the one style that has been proven to not work for their movies? Its a streaming service release title, why the risky format? It got instant hate, did they not market test this?

        • *shrug* I guess they’re going for comic accuracy this time. Young Justice worked as a cartoon aimed at a specific audience. Teen Titans Go worked as a cartoon aimed at young kids. Like you said, they’re using data that shows the characters are flexible across a series of genres and styles. If this doesn’t work, they’ll simply axe it and work on something else like Doom Patrol which is currently scheduled to air next year.

  • The problem is not that a Dick Grayson that rejects Batman is unrealistic. The problem is that this seem as /yet another/ version of “X comic book, but it’s all dark and gritty! ooo, that’s cool, isn’t it?” from DC. They have learned absolutely nothing from their own, repeated failures or from the fact that Marvel has kept the momentum of their success by going precisely in the opposite direction (Ant-Man, Ragnarok, GotG).

    People are sick and tired of grimdark. Even edgelord kids don’t find it cool anymore.

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