It’s been said before: the Justice League is a team, but the Titans are a family.
DC’s “Teen Titans” began as a sidekick squad — a young analogue to the more adult Justice League — in 1964. The team’s debut in “The Brave and the Bold” #54, as created by Bob Haney and Bruno Premiani, was only the start of a storied history in the DC Universe. Since the ’60s, the Titans have been a major part of many of the DCU’s watershed events, and rival Marvel’s Avengers for card-carrying members. With over 50 years of history behind them, the Titans have had a number of heroes (and villains) walk through the halls of Titans Tower, but only a few can rise to the top as the greatest Teen Titans in the team’s history.
This list took a number of factors into account, including their length of time with the Titans, their contribution to the team, impact on the DCU through their work with the Titans, and more. So, without further ado…
Tara Markov (better known by her codename Terra), in many ways, doesn’t actually deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest Titans of all time. However, her impact on the team and comics fans in general was so undeniable, it was difficult to not include her.
As the half-sister of Brion Markov (better known to DC scholars as Geo-Force), Terra gained Earth manipulation powers through experimentation, but unlike her more heroic brother, she believed that her powers should be used to gain more power. That’s how she became a mercenary and got into a super creepy relationship with Deathstroke the Terminator (Terra was only 15 at the time — ick!) that led her to infiltrate the Teen Titans, only to eventually betray them.
George Perez, who co-created Terra along with Marv Wolfman, stated that Terra was meant to be a traitor from the beginning, and while she died a traitor, her impact on the Titans was undeniable. She still got a statue in Titans Tower after her death bringing down a H.I.V.E. facility, but the team was shaken to the core. (No pun intended.)
Essential reading: “The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract”
The original Aqualad was a founding member of the original Teen Titans, along with Robin, Wonder Girl, Speedy and Kid Flash. He had already gone through some pretty crazy experiences by that point — including being left to die after his birth because of Atlantean superstition. That said, Aqualad (who took on the name Garth) would come into his own as a hero pretty quickly after becoming a Titan. Not only did he survive a telepathic assault from Mento, but he eventually trained to harness his elemental powers, granting him the ability to control the ambient temperature of water, and blast beams of force from his eyes.
Tempest was a member of the Titans off and on for years, and always responded to the call when the team needed him — in battle, or for a sympathetic ear. Unfortunately, he died early on during the events of DC’s “Blackest Night” crossover event, and hasn’t been heard from until very recently in “Titans: Rebirth,” along with his fellow founding Titans. His legacy also lives on in the animated “Teen Titans Go!” series, where the character is voiced by Wil Wheaton in a few episodes.
Essential reading: “Blackest Night”
It’s very rare for a new character to have such resonance among readers and characters both, but Bunker was one member of the New 52 Titans roster that really made his mark. Created by Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth, Bunker came onto the scene in 2011’s “Teen Titans” #1 as one of the newest characters in the DC Universe — and it was easy to see why he resonated with readers.
Miguel Jose Barragan is an extroverted idealist who actually had love and support growing up in his Mexican village, and when he obtained his ability to create psionic constructs, he actually went looking for Red Robin to become an honest-to-goodness superhero. Bunker is also one of a handful of openly gay superheroes in the DCU, and moreover, he’s completely accepted for it by his friends and community.
Bunker is easily the most memorable of the New 52 Titans, both for his origin story, and his unique, enthusiastic outlook on life.
Essential Reading: “Teen Titans” Volume 4 (2011)
As a clone of Superman from Project Cadmus, Superboy first came on the scene during the aftermath of “The Death of Superman.” However, his true potential wouldn’t come into play until he joined the Titans in 2003 following the events of “Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day.”
As it turns out, Superboy (or Connor Kent, as he would go on to be called) was more than just a clone of Superman — his DNA was half Superman, half Lex Luthor. Although he was brainwashed by Luthor, Superboy’s love for his friends and teammates in the Titans — as well as his strong romantic relationship with Wonder Girl — pulled him out from under Luthor’s influence, and he even started to develop the beginnings of a soul.
Conner’s most heroic moment would come during “Infinite Crisis,” when he died saving the Earth by defeating Superboy Prime. He was eventually resurrected in “Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds,” but he wasn’t able to return to the Titans right away. In fact, Superboy wouldn’t be a Titan again until after the launch of the New 52, as an all-new version of himself.
Essential Reading: “Infinite Crisis,” “Adventure Comics”
11. Kid Flash (Bart Allen)
So many speedsters have taken on the mantle of Kid Flash, but none had such a trial by fire as Bart Allen. Growing up in the 30th Century, Bart’s superhuman metabolism caused him to age at an alarming rate, prompting his parents to raise him in virtual reality so that he wouldn’t develop any psychological or mental issues. He spent time under the name Impulse, and boy did he live up to his name.
After the events of “Graduation Day,” Bart (along with the rest of Young Justice) was invited to become a Teen Titan — but after getting kneecapped by Deathstroke, Bart read every single book in the San Francisco Public Library, and reappeared as Kid Flash, choosing to finally embrace his legacy as the next in line to take on the mantle of The Flash — which he eventually would, following the events of “Infinite Crisis.”
While impulsive, Bart also has the ability no other speedster does: to retain every piece of knowledge he reads at high speed.
Bart would later appear in the New 52 as a completely different version. There’s no telling what’s next for Bart in “Rebirth,” but hopefully there’s a place for him to continue The Flash legacy.
Essential Reading: “Teen Titans” Volume 3 (2003)
10. Wonder Girl (Cassie Sandsmark)
The Titans are a team for young adults to grow and mature into full-fledged adults, and nobody demonstrated that kind of growth than Cassie Sandsmark. As the second Wonder Girl, Cassie started as a member of Young Justice, sporting a black wig and incredibly ’90s character design. Much like the rest of YJ, she didn’t come into her own until becoming a Titan after the events of “Graduation Day,” where she was granted a magical lasso of her own — from Ares, god of war! — and was forced to deal with a number of heavy issues, like the death of her boyfriend, Superboy.
During “52,” Wonder Girl joins a cult who is obsessed with resurrecting Connor Kent, an experience which hardens her emotion so that by the time “One Year Later” hits, she’s no longer a Titan, with a much more aggressive attitude toward crimefighting, but reluctantly rejoins the Titans, and eventually becomes their leader.
During the New 52, Cassie was rebooted into a teenage thief who is actually related to Wonder Woman, for the first time ever.
Essential reading: “Teen Titans: One Year Later”
Tough childhoods are usually a dime a dozen when it comes to superheroes, but it’s unlikely any hero can match how difficult Raven’s childhood — and beyond — actually was. Not only is she the daughter of the immortal evil demon Trigon, but as a result of her demonic parentage, she was forbidden from expressing any emotion during her childhood and adolescence (because Trigon could prey on strong emotion and possess her). It’s a pretty tough situation for an empath.
Raven came to Earth looking for the Justice League, but after they refused to help her, she formed the New Teen Titans. Raven is directly responsible for the modern incarnation of the team — Robin, Kid Flash, Starfire, Cyborg and Beast Boy were all a part of the roster that Raven gathered together, and it was the start of an epic run.
Beyond being a Titan through and though, Raven’s demonic heritage has made her both friend and foe for the team, making her relationship with her friends complex, to say the least. However, she always managed to subvert her father’s influence in the end.
Essential Reading: “The New Teen Titans: The Terror of Trigon”
8. Red Robin (Tim Drake)
There always has to be a Robin on the Teen Titans in order for the team to work. Tim Drake (Robin, then later, Red Robin) got his skills from training under Batman, but made friends with Superboy, Impulse and Wonder Girl during his time in Young Justice. However, following the events of “Graduation Day,” Tim was invited to become a Titan at the behest of Batman, not because he needed more mentoring or training, but because he “need[ed] to see his friends.”
Tim’s friendship with Superboy became the anchor of Geoff Johns‘ “Teen Titans” run in 2003, and like the rest of the Young Justice recruits, he had a lot of growing up to do during his tenure. Not only did he lose his father during the events of “Identity Crisis,” he lost his best friend Superboy during “Infinite Crisis,” and most of his fellow teammates left as well, leaving Robin as the leader of a ragtag crew of new Titans. But he persevered through that adversity to help bring the Titans together during “One Year Later.” While most of his superheroics came through Batman, he made the Titans his family.
Most of Tim’s history stayed in tact following “Flashpoint,” and Red Robin served as leader of the New 52 incarnation of the team.
Essential Reading: “Red Robin”
Starfire was one of a handful of character created specifically by George Perez and Marv Wolfman for “The New Teen Titans,” and she became one of the group’s signature members. In fact, there’s a reason that Starfire is a member of the “Rebirth” team, beyond her recent popularity and solo series: she’s just that cool.
As an actual alien warrior princess, Koriand’r (or “Kory” to her friends) escaped enslavement, and managed to find a new home and a new family in the Titans. She’s loyal to the core, and has gotten the Titans out of more than a few jams with her starbolts and warrior spirit. As for her relationship with Dick Grayson? Well… let’s just say that if Facebook exists in the DCU, it’d be classified as “It’s Complicated.”
After the events of “Graduation Day,” Starfire became a mentor to a new generation of Teen Titans, and stood up for them when the Justice League came calling to Titans Tower for a brief discussion.
Starfire has been accepted as a hero in her own right by the heroic community, and has earned the respect of her peers largely due to her time with the Titans.
Essential Reading: “Starfire”
6. Beast Boy
Beast Boy, the Titans’ Changeling, is a goofball who never really grew up — but man, is he ever a Titan. After contracting a rare virus and getting inoculated with a cure, Garfield Logan gained the ability to shift his form into any animal. After a brief stint as a member of the Doom Patrol, Beast Boy joined Titans West, and eventually became a part of “The New Teen Titans” team assembled by Raven.
While he has incredible power, Beast Boy has always struggled with an inferiority complex, and it’s something that he’s tried to overcome throughout his time as a Titan, both as a teen and an adult. Like Starfire, he also served as a mentor to the next generation of Titans after “Graduation Day.”
However, Gar’s finest moment came during “JLA/Titans: The Technis Imperative” when his best friend Cyborg was out of control. The friendship between the two Titans helped Cyborg to snap out of his crazy, and Beast Boy ended up saving the day.
Essential Reading: “Teen Titans: Beast Boys and Girls”
5. Kid Flash (Wally West)
It should come as no surprise that Wally West — the original Kid Flash — heads up the top five Titans of all-time. Not only was he the primary focus of DC’s “Rebirth” one-shot, but he made his mark as a founding member of the Teen Titans, developing his powers and legacy with the team until he later took on the mantle of The Flash.
As a member of “The New Teen Titans,” Wally ended up walking away right before the events of “The Judas Contract” because his powers were beginning to deteriorate. Perhaps most telling is while he didn’t want to be a Titan in the first place, he always came back to help his friends whenever they needed it, even after he took on Barry Allen’s mantle as The Flash.
In many ways, Wally’s best moments were during his tenure as the DCU’s main scarlet speedster at the hands of talents like Mark Waid and Geoff Johns — but his development as a Titan and his willingness to always come back to the team that he somewhat unwillingly joined is a testament to his loyalty and strength of character.
It’ll be a true pleasure for Wally to return to his roots as a Titan in the current run of “Titans: Rebirth.”
Essential Reading: “DC Universe: Rebirth” #1
4. Arsenal/Red Arrow (Roy Harper)
As Speedy, the teen sidekick of Green Arrow, Roy Harper was impulsive enough, and he went through his fair share of issues. DCU fans might remember that Roy became addicted to heroine after the original Titans disbanded, and had a major falling-out with Green Arrow as a result. Roy has been a drug counselor, a government agent, a private investigator, a father and — like many of his original Teen Titan compatriots — a card-carrying member of the Justice League, taking on his mentor’s legacy as Red Arrow.
It’s Roy’s continuing triumph over his personal issues to continue as a hero that grants him a high rank amongst all the Titans. He was the one to get a team together following the tragic events of “Graduation Day” — the new Outsiders — and he managed to pull Nightwing out of a deep depression as a result. He’s been Speedy, Arsenal and Red Arrow, but at heart, he’ll always be a Titan.
Essential Reading: “The Outsiders” Volume 3
3. Wonder Girl/Troia/Darkstar (Donna Troy)
Donna Troy is the heart of the Titans, providing wise council and a friendly ear for each and every one of her friends. It’s one of the reasons her death hit every Titan so hard after “Graduation Day.” But Donna’s influence goes well beyond emotion: she’s the repository of knowledge for every alternate universe version of herself, and as a result knows about the DC Multiverse. Donna even took on the mantle of Wonder Woman for a time.
Wonder Girl’s compassion is what keeps her on top of this list, as does her importance to many modern DC Universe events. She’s also one of the few superheroes that was happily married and had a family for a time — y’know, before she found out that her unborn child would grow to become a villain named Lord Chaos and everything went to shambles, including the subsequent death of her ex-husband, son and stepdaughter in a car accident.
It’s Donna’s perseverance and love for life and all living things — much like her mentor, Wonder Woman — that lets her continue serving others and working to help make the world a better place. Getting killed by a rogue Superman robot wasn’t even enough to keep Donna Troy down.
Essential Reading: “Teen Titans: The Death and Return of Donna Troy”
The tin man with a heart, Cyborg was one of the new members recruited for Raven’s “The New Teen Titans” team — and in the New 52, a founding member of the Justice League. Victor Stone is more than just his robotic shell, he’s a true hero. Not only is his IQ genius-level with some incredible weapons and gadgets to boot, he’s been with the Titans since he joined, and he never really left until after “Flashpoint.” Even after he became Cyberion (a being of incredible power that merged with an alien race of AI called the Technis), it was his friendship with the core Titans that pulled him back to his humanity.
While all his adventures with the Titans were significant, Victor’s finest hour may have been starting a new generations of Teen Titans, serving as a mentor to the team with Starfire and Beast Boy. It was easy to see how he was the glue that held the whole team together after being severely damaged during “52.” “One Year Later” reveals that the Titans all but fell apart after he was deactivated, and it was only when he returned that the Titans were able to get back on their feet.
Here’s hoping that we see more of Cyborg with the Titans during “Rebirth.”
Essential Reading: “JLA/Titans: The Technis Imperative”
He’s been many things: circus acrobat, sidekick, savior to the downtrodden, spy, hero, and Titan.
The original teen sidekick, and perhaps the oldest legacy DCU character on this list, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Dick Grayson — the original Robin, who for a time was actually Batman, and is better known as Nightwing — tops this list. Dick Grayson will always be the Titans’ leader, regardless of what team he’s on. In fact, Dick took on the mantle of Nightwing during “The Judas Contract,” paying homage to both Batman and Superman.
During his time as leader of the Titans, he even had a falling-out with Batman. While the two would eventually mend their ties, Nightwing’s only family were the Titans for quite some time, leading to a much stronger bond than one might expect. He nearly married Starfire, led the Titans through some incredible adventures, and eventually struck off on his own to defend Bludhaven as the city’s costumed vigilante (and later served as Batman for a time).
His leadership skills, devotion, kindness, and humor from his time as Batman’s pun-cracking sidekick made him the perfect hero to keep the Teen Titans together from their early years through history. It’s no wonder that he’s one of the stars in DC’s “Titans: Rebirth.” There can’t be a Teen Titans without Nightwing, and there’s nobody better to lead the team into the brave new world of “Rebirth” than Dick Grayson.
Essential Reading: “Nightwing” (1996)
Who’s your pick for the greatest Titan of all?
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