Like any superhero team, the Teen Titans have been on a roller coaster of ups and downs. When they are at their best, they have saved worlds, brought hope to millions, and proudly carried on the valiant tradition began by their elders. But when they are at their worst, they have betrayed friends, injured innocent people, and been through enough trauma to make a whole fleet of psychologists very wealthy. The team roster may have changed considerably since their debut over half a century ago, but every single member of the team has gone through more than their share of bad days — and whether those bad days are caused by their trusted teammates or by the actual villains seems to be a matter of luck.
In this article, we look at 15 of the Titans’ lowest moments that somehow made it past the Comics Code Authority; these include such family-friendly fare as mind control, stalking, murder and assault. Although this list contains only a portion of the rotten things the Titans have done and have had done to them, we trust it is enough to demonstrate why they are in desperate need of both a team psychiatrist and a human resources department.
15. AN INAUSPICIOUS BEGINNING
In Teen Titans #1, our heroes don’t do a whole lot of crime-fighting, because who wants to see superheroics in a superhero comic? Instead, they join the Peace Corps and head down to South America to help build a dam near the village of Xochatan. The construction of this dam will flood an ancient pyramid along with whatever invaluable artifacts and historical knowledge it contains, but no one seems at all worried about that.
This is somehow made worse by the fact that the comic spent half a page explaining how important it is for Peace Corps volunteers to respect local cultures and customs. Apparently, that rule doesn’t apply if it gets in the way of building a really sweet dam, because the only thing the Corps expresses concern about is how their reputation will suffer if the Titans fail to get it built.
Bette Kane, inspired by her Aunt Kathy’s exploits as Batwoman, decides to put her natural athleticism to good use as Batgirl. However, her motives are not exactly pure: she hopes that becoming a superhero will make her longtime crush, Robin the Boy Wonder, fall in love with her. Even after Robin rebuffs her, she continues her pursuit of him with undaunted enthusiasm. She calls it love; most people would call it harassment.
Some years later, Bette changes her codename to Flamebird and joins the splinter group Titans West, but she is still as obsessed with Robin as she’s ever been, despite Robin showing exactly zero interest in her. We’re sure he breathed a big sigh of relief when Bette finally got her act together and decided to focus on crime-fighting rather than stalking.
13. MARVIN (AND YOUR CHILDHOOD) DIES HORRIBLY
If you were a fan of superheroes from 1973 to 1986, you probably watched Super Friends, a pseudo-Justice League cartoon that introduced the characters of Marvin White and Wendy Harris, who served as sidekicks to the team. And if you watched Super Friends, you may want to skip the rest of this entry, because we have some very bad news for you.
In 2006, Marvin and Wendy were introduced into the main DC Universe as caretakers assigned to look after Titans Tower and rebuild Cyborg. Sadly, the pair only lasted a couple of years before they were brutally mauled by an intruder, leaving Marvin dead and Wendy paraplegic. The best part? That intruder was Wonder Dog, another character from the Super Friends cartoon. Sweet dreams!
12. FALLING IN LOVE IN A FLASH
When Raven first arrives on Earth, she warns the Justice League of the danger posed by her demonic father Trigon. The League rejects her out of hand, forcing Raven to initiate Plan B: reunite the disbanded Teen Titans. But the Titans aren’t interested in her tale either, so Raven uses her powers to make Kid Flash fall in love with her. Once besotted, he believes her story and convinces his friends to help her.
One could argue that Raven was only doing what she had to in order to save Earth, but her plan nearly backfires. It only takes a few issues for the Titans to discover what Raven did. They react by walking out on her, and she almost ends up having to face Trigon alone. When Kid Flash leaves the team some time later, he cites Raven’s mind games as one of the reasons why.
11. A ROUGH LANDING
In the infamous “Amazons Attack!” event from 2007, the normally honorable denizens of Themyscira declare war on America for reasons that readers have long since given up trying to parse. No one involved in the event comes out looking very good, and that includes the Titan known as Wonder Girl.
While the Amazons invade Washington, DC, the president tries to escape the carnage by remaining on Air Force One. This does nothing to stop Wonder Girl and Supergirl from punching a hole in the side of the plane and demanding the president come with them to initiate peace talks with the Amazon queen. Shockingly, the president is not inclined to listen to the superpowered teenagers threatening him, and he is seriously injured when the hole-ridden airplane inevitably crashes.
10. NOT JUST A MIRAGE
In the ’90s, the Titans added Miriam Delgado (aka Mirage) to their ranks. Mirage has illusion-casting powers that she uses to change her appearance, and she doesn’t always do it to stop crimes; she is more than happy to use her skills to commit crimes as well. While impersonating Starfire, she decides to take the opportunity to sleep with Starfire’s boyfriend Nightwing, who has no idea who she really is.
When he does find out about Mirage’s ruse, Nightwing is clearly horrified, even as Mirage says it’s all his own fault and walks away laughing. The rest of the team, rather than sympathizing with him and dragging Mirage to the nearest police station, laughs at and mocks him. No wonder Nightwing didn’t tell anyone when he was assaulted again years later in Nightwing #93.
9. SIBLING RIVALRY
Starfire (aka Princess Koriand’r) grew up on the planet Tamaran with her brother Ryand’r and sister Komand’r. Although Komand’r is the oldest of the three, she was born sickly and therefore passed over as heir to the throne in favor of her younger sister. Komand’r doesn’t like that and forms an alliance with the Tamarians’ enemies, the Gordanians, so that she can set the terms of a much-needed peace agreement: give Koriand’r to the Gordanians and the war will end.
As if being handed over to a hostile enemy race wasn’t traumatizing enough, Koriand’r is kept as a slave by her vengeful sister for six years, during which time she is horribly mistreated in every way imaginable. On a hopeful note, in spite of her sister’s cruelty and the years of torment she suffered because of her, Starfire has remained as kindhearted as ever.
8. WORST PUN EVER
“Countdown to Final Crisis” isn’t an event so much as it is several subplots sloppily cobbled together to vaguely resemble a story. In one of these subplots, Donna Troy, Jason Todd and Kyle Rayner team up on a multi-universal quest to find the erstwhile Atom. It is not a harmonious partnership; Jason ends up shooting Donna, though it’s later revealed that he only did so as part of a plan to get them out of danger and that his attack caused no lasting damage.
Even so, Donna doesn’t react well, referring to Jason as “re-Todd” in an obvious pun on an incendiary and hurtful word. Using such language would be beneath anyone, but coming from an Amazon who is supposed to value compassion and understanding, it’s even worse. Does Themyscira not have sensitivity training?
7. DOES YOUR MOTHER KNOW?
Lilith Clay’s happy home life is shattered when, using her newfound telepathic powers, she accidentally reads her parents’ minds and discovers she was adopted. This leads Lilith to run away from home at the tender age of 16. Even runaways need to eat, however, and when she gets to New York, she takes a job as a go-go dancer.
For those not into the club scene, a go-go dancer is a woman — or a man, depending on the club — hired to don a scanty yet eye-catching outfit and dance either on tables or in cages for the audience’s entertainment. Even granting that such dancers must be young, 16 is a little too young to be putting on skimpy clothes and dancing around in a cage for the titillation of drunk club patrons.
6. A REBRANDING IS IN ORDER
One of the more obscure Titans, Duela Dent joined the team in 1976 while calling herself the Joker’s Daughter. Her gimmick was to fight crime with clown-related gear, including white face powder and boxing gloves hidden in her purse. This might seem cutesy to readers, but in-universe, the Joker is one of the world’s most notoriously demented killers. We get that Duela is supposed to be quirky, but naming yourself after a mass murderer seems a little gauche, even if the Joker actually is your father — which, in Duela’s case, he is not.
One would think Robin, who has spent basically his entire career trying to keep the Joker’s body count to a minimum, would object to having a teammate with such a name, but he welcomes her with open arms. Fortunately, Joker’s Daughter would go on to change her name — several times, in fact.
5. DON’T BUG ME
Dr. Abel Weathers is a survivalist, but instead of stocking ammunition and canned beans in his basement, he performs terrifying experiments on his family to make them better equipped for life in a post-apocalyptic hellscape. Since insects will have a better shot at surviving a nuclear holocaust, Weathers turns his own wife into a human/grasshopper hybrid. There’s a sign of true love if ever there was one.
Weathers’ daughter Kole fares somewhat better. Instead of turning her into a Kafkaesque nightmare, her father’s experiments grant her the ability to create and control silicon crystals. But while Kole may have gotten off light in that regard, she still has to deal with the trauma of discovering her parents’ madness and then watching them devolve into bugs.
4. BY JUPITER
Ever wonder how the Titans afford all those nifty gadgets? In the ’60s and ’70s, they did so with the help of millionaire philanthropist Loren Jupiter. But the price for this benevolence was perhaps higher than they expected. In one issue, telepath Lilith Clay accidentally uncovers some of her teammates’ worst fears and tells Jupiter about them. Jupiter decides that, rather than discussing this information with the Titans, he will team up with Lilith to make them all hallucinate that they are experiencing their own personal nightmares in the hopes that this will cure them of their respective phobias before they become liabilities on the battlefield.
This isn’t the only time Jupiter messes with their minds without permission, either. In another issue, he decides they can’t psychologically handle a recent deadly encounter with his own evil offspring and instructs Lilith to erase everyone’s memory of the fight.
3. JERICHO LOSES HIS HEAD
Joseph Wilson (aka Jericho) is among the kinder and gentler members of the team, which is probably why he’s the first character writers reach for whenever they want to make a Titan turn crazy and/or evil. The second time this happened, in Teen Titans #2 (2003), Jericho possesses the body of his father, the mercenary Deathstroke. Deathstroke’s own dubious morals corrupt Jericho’s soul, causing him to go on a deadly rampage.
Jericho’s first victim is Wintergreen, Deathstroke’s longtime servant and friend. Then, just to prove how really evil he is, Jericho cuts off Wintergreen’s head and mounts it on the wall along with his father’s hunting trophies. He goes on to attack his old teammates before Raven stops him; the Titans end up storing his personality on a computer until Raven figures out how to resurrect him minus the bloodlust.
2. ROBBING THE CRADLE
The relationship between founding Titan Donna Troy and Terry Long was built up as one of the truly great comic book romances and culminated in their tying the knot in Tales of the Teen Titans #50. The ceremony was held at a friend’s lavish mansion and was attended by the couple’s many loving and supportive friends. What could be sweeter than that? Yeah, about that…
At the time of their marriage, Donna was only 19 while Terry was about 30. Ten years may not seem like a big deal when the people involved are 70 and 80 or even 40 and 50, but when one person is a college sophomore not even old enough to drink alcohol and the other is her history professor, things get creepy real fast. Unsurprisingly, the marriage ends in divorce.
1. TITANS TOGETHER?
While Rise of Arsenal is probably best remembered for the scene where the titular character holds a dead alley cat, it also deserves to be remembered for the despicable behavior demonstrated by the former Titans and supposed friends Roy Harper and Dick Grayson. Much of Roy’s behavior can be put down to the grief of losing his daughter in a previous event comic, but that’s no excuse for beating a woman as “foreplay,” even if she “likes it rough” as Roy’s narration box assures us.
Dick’s actions aren’t much better. He recognizes that Roy had fallen back into his old drug habit, so what solution does this brilliant young detective come up with? He kicks Roy in the face while insisting “I’m your friend” before abandoning him at a rehab facility, even though leaving him alone helped cause the relapse in the first place. Batman must be proud.
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