They’re lean, they’re teen, one of them is green and they’re making the scene
this July on Cartoon Network. They’re “Teen Titans!”
Comics2Film/CBR News spoke with Sam Register, Cartoon Network senior vice
president of original animation who helped shepherd DC’s pre-adult heroes to
Register landed the development job at the network about a year and a half
ago. “The first project that I wanted to do was the ‘Teen Titans.’ I picked
up the phone the day I got the job and I called Paul Levitz and said, ‘I want to
do Teen Titans,'” Register told C2F.
Soon work on the show was underway. The series would feature five heroes
pulled from the comic title’s hey day: Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy (more
commonly known in the comics as Changeling) and, of course, Robin.
FOR THE NEW GENERATION
The net had already seen great success with “Justice League,” but
Register found that show wasn’t reaching an important segment of the network’s
“‘Justice League’ is awesome and ‘Samurai Jack’ is awesome and we buy a
lot of anime shows that’re great,” Register said, “but those shows
really are directed more towards the nine to fourteen age group
and the six and seven and eight year olds, were not gelling with the ‘Justice
League’ and some of the more of the fanboy shows.
“The main mission was making a good superhero show for kids,”
he continued. “Now if the fanboys happen to like the ‘Teen Titans’ also,
that’s great, but that was not our mission.”
So what does it mean to design a show for younger viewers?
“That means everything needed to be iconic. Everything really needs to
make sense in the story and in the characters and how they’re represented,”
For example the characters chosen were all heroes who could be easily
described and understood. “One guy is a robot. Kids get that. One girl’s
from space. Kids get that. One girl’s basically a witch. Beast Boy is a shape
changer, can turn into all the different animals. That’s cool and, again, a very
understandable power. Robin, just being the guy who used to work for
“We made up a fictional west coast city, it’s San Francisco meets San Diego
meets Los Angeles,” Register said, adding that the show may have influenced
the setting for Geoff Johns’ upcoming relaunch of the comic. As with the classic
comics, the team inhabits their T-shaped headquarters. “That’s something
kids can totally understand. It’s very iconic again.”
BRING ON THE BAD GUYS
Similarly the villains all had to be very clear. No intergalactic Darkseid or
netherworld Trigon. “The villains stay local. The world is never in
peril,” Register said. Indeed such topics may seem scary in the modern
world anyway. “You can see that for real on CNN. So, on Cartoon Network we
wanted to make the conflict more like your friendly neighborhood Teen Titans.”
The primary villain, who is present in the first 26 episodes of the
show, is Slade (known in the comics as Deathstroke, The Terminator). “We stayed away from Deathstroke, The Terminator because it’s bad for
kids,” Register said, laughing. “What’s cool about him is, he’s sort of the bad Batman.”
Slade will confront the Titans directly in some episodes, where in other
he’ll dispatch a villain to fight them. Register named some of the other
“Dr. Light will show up to be defeated often, just like in the comics, Thunder and
Lightning. We brought Gizmo, Mammoth and Jinx [from the fearsome five] as
teenage superheroes. We have them working for H.I.V.E.”
The show will also feature new villains as well, like a rock monster named Cinder
Block and a goofy magician named Mumbo.
Robin remains the team-leader and guide through the show. While fans know him
as Batman’s sidekick, plans are to keep the Caped Crusader out of Titan Tower.
“There was a question, when we were developing, ‘What about Batman,’ and
‘should the island be off Gotham City,'” Register told C2F. “The feeling was Robin needs to be his
own guy and the minute Batman shows up Robin becomes a sidekick all of a sudden,
instead of a leader of the team.”
Do does Robin live up to being a team leader?
“I think Robin is so bad-ass. This is definitely the coolest, animated Robin
that anyone’s every seen. He’s the one guy on the
team without any powers. He’s just a guy who’s smart and extremely
well-trained,” Register said. “I think he’s the most interesting character of the five.”
And just who is under the mask? Is it Tim Drake? Dick Grayson? Jason Todd?
“He’s just Robin. We never say which Robin he is. To be honest we’ve never
even discussed it,” Register said. “Again, that’s
for clarity for the kids. We’re not doing alter egos. They walk around town in
their suits. They go to movies dressed as super heroes. Everyone sees them
as super heroes. The go to a party as super heroes. They’re super heroes
Although Batman is out, as is the rest of the Justice League, Register tells
us that Nightwing is a possibility and that other Titans from the comics may
make their way into the show.
“We have an Aqualad episode. Wil Wheaton did the voice of Aqualad. We are looking, towards the second season, of introducing some other teenage
superheroes from the DC Universe.”
“Teen Titans” will not mimic “Justice League,” with its
continuing stories and event movies. All the episodes are stand-alone, half-hour
stories. However, there is an over-reaching arc.
“The overall story arc is
slowly introducing Slade,” Register said. “We’re revealing Slade
and Robin’s trying to figure out what Slade’s problem is and why he’s after the Teen Titans
which we reveal in the last two episodes [of season one].”
The adventure will continue in season two. “We have a really cool
story arc…a really great story that we’re pulling from the old
Perez/Wolfman Titans for the second [thirteen episode block]. “
Another way that the show will be different is in the style of animation.
Although Bruce Timm is a producer, the characters won’t look or move like many
of the recent animated DC characters.
“When we decided to do Teen Titans the first thing I
said is, ‘Listen. I want a different looking show. We have a lot of the Warner
Bros. house style. I want something that we haven’t seen before,'” Register
Producer Glen Murakami has worked with Timm on many of those shows, but he’s
also strongly influenced by anime.
“You’ll see that the characters have been really pushed in different
directions when they’re animated. You’ll see a very heavy anime influence, but
it’s not anime. It’s sort of where east meets west. I call the new look ‘Murakanime.’
“I think the backgrounds have a totally different look that you’ve never seen
before, they’re more edgy and scratchy and gritty. The characters definitely have
the influence of being under Bruce Timm, but when you see them animating and see
them reacting it’s definitely a whole new show.”
DC Comics has also influenced the direction of the show. Register reports
that special care had to be taken to preserve the integrity of Robin, an
important DC Universe character.
Comic scribe Marv Wolfman, who made “Teen
Titans” a must-read in the 1980s, penned an episode of the show.
“There was the ‘Too Many Tridents’ issue that Wolfman wrote,”
Register said, recalling one of his favorite issues of the comics. “He kind of went back
and did a new version of that same episode.”
Register tells us he has read many supportive comments from Wolfman, and also got
a good reaction from Geoff Johns when he recently viewed the completed episodes.
“Teen Titans” debuts July 19th at 9 p.m. on Cartoon Network.
as they discuss their plans for the all-new comic book.
Another new show on the Cartoon Network schedule is
“Duck Dodgers.” The show is a sci-fi adventure, spinning out of some
classic Looney Tunes shorts. Daffy Duck stars as the titular hero.
“He’s not Daffy Duck in the show. He’s Duck Dodgers and in the credits we have
it saying Daffy Duck as Duck Dodgers.” Other actors include Porky Pig as
Cadet and Marvin the Martian as Commander X2.
The show is a passion project
for animators Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone, both of whom have experience
animating Looney Tunes characters. The pair developed an animatic, on their own, for the
concept as a feature pitch. “We saw it and it blew us away. We went and green lit 13
episodes immediately which has now been extended to 26,” Register told us.
“It’s awesome. It’s classic Looney Tunes, Daffy Duck vs. Marvin the Martian.
Your hero is an egotistical, maniac jerk and your villain is a diligent, hard-working good guy.”
show has also attracted some interesting voice talent. Tia Carrera (“Relic
Hunter”) is playing the Martian queen. Michael Dorn (“Star Trek: The
Next Generation”) plays the Martian
John O’Hurley (best known as J. Peterman on
“Seinfeld”) plays Star Johnson the guy that
should be the hero of the cartoon. “The true hero of Earth is completely
ignored because they all think Daffy’s great even though Daffy is kind of a
The show will also feature some high-tech effects, including CGI space ships
and gadgets, all part of the plan to make a comedic show that is also truly an
“We said, let’s make a Looney Tunes show that is funny, but lets make the ships and the
action as cool as possible. So we kind of put those two things together and we
think it works really well,” Register said.
“Duck Dodgers” also features a rockin’ opening theme composed by
the Flaming Lips and performed by Tom Jones.
IN DRAKEST NIGHT
One episode of “Duck Dodgers” is certain to be a can’t-miss for
“We are doing one DC crossover episode,” Register exclusively
revealed to C2F. At some point in the first season Daffy Duck will find Hal
Jordan’s Green Lantern costume.
Duck Dodgers hits the airwaves August 23rd.
MORE FUN TOONS
(c) & TM 2003 Lucasfilm Ltd. All
Debuting later this year on Cartoon Network is a project that can only be
described as an animation event.
Genndy Tartakovsky of “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Samurai
Jack” fame, who Register describes as a “star director here at Cartoon
Network,” is working on twenty three-minute animated shorts under the title
of “Star Wars: Clone Wars.”
These short segments will bridge the “Episode II” and “Episode
III” feature films.
“It just looks awesome. We saw the
first animation tests and it blew us away,” Register enthused. “It’s all the Jedis you saw for that one minute inside Episode
II. A lot of those guys get their individual missions.”
The shorts will air as between-show interstitials but Register said that fans
should not worry about having difficulty finding them.
“We’re going to have a system for that. The first 10 are premiering in the
fall. The second 10 are premiering in the spring. We will make it extremely easy
for people to find when they’re on. We’re not going to willy-nilly them.”
Comic fans can also look forward to a certain Kryptonian hero getting his own
show on the Network. No, not Superman. Not Supergirl. Not even Superboy.
other than Superboy’s dog Krypto who is poised to take the spotlight. Alan
Burnett of “Batman: The Animated Series” fame is currently scripting
One final project of note: while it’s not based on a comic book, fans may also get to see a new show
from comic pros Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey and Steven T. Seagle, known
collectively as Man Of
“They have pitched an original show that we are doing an animatic on
called ‘Ben 10,'” Register tells us. “It’s basically ‘Shazam’ meets ‘Dial H for Hero.’ It’s
about a kid who can turn into one of 10 superheroes and he never knows who he’s
gonna get. It’s kick ass.”
Also, Register said he is in talks with Paul Dini, Mark Waid and Andrew Cosby for new
shows in the coming years.