For a group of heroes called the ‘Teen Titans,’ you don’t really see them being like teenagers. Sure, Teen Titans Go! portrays them as obnoxious dorks with their own weird hangups, but that leans more on the absurdity of teenagers that you see in one of the many Tumblr posts floating around on Twitter than real young adults. Thankfully, one artist has decided to rectify that situation, and everything has come full circle for him.
Brazilian artist Gabriel Picolo’s “Casual Teen Titans” series on Instagram shows what happens when the young heroes are more teen than Titans, and as a result makes the characters feel fresh and interesting. Make no mistake, this isn’t some fanfic AU where they’re normal kids; they’ve still got their powers, but they’re also shown hanging out in the city and wearing civilian clothes in place of their regular uniforms. It’s doubtful that Titans Tower even exists here. Robin dresses like a high school jock, Cyborg a video game nerd, Raven a goth, and so on.
All of this originally started when Picolo drew Raven in casual clothes, and being a big fan of the original Cartoon Network series, it was only a matter of time before he drew the rest of the teen team.
The positive response to his character redesigns eventually led to Picolo creating a Zine devoted to the Casual Teen Titans, along with a Spotify playlist of songs that reflects the characters and the world they live in.
It’s easy to see why Picolo’s work is so popular; since they first blew up big with the original cartoon, the Titans have gone through various incarnations that put them in one hectic situation after another. Seeing the five teens just relaxing and acting like kids you’d see out on Friday night is more than a little cathartic, especially when the show only briefly showed them able to experience moments of peace. And while other artists have also recently taken time to show the Titans acting like teenagers, Picolo’s still takes the cake for making the heroism seem more like a hobby than growing up and being a teen, as opposed to the normal inversion.
Despite the word “Casual” being in the title, it’s not like Picolo’s artwork only shows the young heroes relaxing, and like all comics, the “timeline” of this little universe is fairly muddy. It’s unclear if this is the Titans during their downtime, or if they’re just superheroes who also go to high school, a la DC Super Hero Girls. But this makes for some fun remixing of elements from the show. Instead of Robin running on rooftops and stealing expensive tech for Slade, his role here is something more akin to a drug mule, but no less concerning. Picolo even manages to briefly allude to the Boy Wonder’s period as fan favorite anti-hero Red X.
The original Teen Titans show didn’t really expand its universe until its fifth and final season, when the team went on a globetrotting trip to recruit more young heroes. Not all of them show up in Picolo’s art — not yet, at least — but the building blocks are there for other high school age young heroes to eventually appear He even manages to get in the classic DC Trinity in this universe as well, with the changes that would reflect them accurately in that universe.
And for those of you still carrying torches for the big ships from the original show–yes, Picolo has drawn them, and they’re as adorable as you’d think.
Instagram and Twitter comments have all declared with each new piece of art that Picolo should be the one drawing the Titans, and it’s hard to disagree with them. Thankfully, karma has come around for Mr. Picolo, as he’ll be drawing the Titans for real with the upcoming young adult book written by Marie Lu for DC’s newly announced Ink imprint. It’ll be some time before we get a real look at that book, but if his online series of art is any indication, the future of the Titans is a little brighter for having him in it.
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