It’s hard to measure the importance and value of the Teen Titans to both pop culture and the DC continuity. The characters, stories, and symbolism that are tied to the brand are just as varied and interesting as any that can be found in comics proper. Its popularity has been supported by fans since their creation as a proper series in the early '60s, compelling readers to like and enjoy the heroes it features ever since. But that forced likeability has a distinct downside; masking fan disagreement from writers. This in turn makes it harder for the bad elements in the comics to be fixed.
After all, if you’re told you have to enjoy something you secretly hate, you won’t inform the creators of your legitimate qualms. And if they don’t know there’s an issue to resolve, then the issue won’t be resolved. This may be a strange phenomenon to comic book fans who typically have no reason to hold back their scathing criticism, but there has to be a reason why characters like Argent, Jericho, and Danny the Street managed to stick around for so long despite serving little to no purpose to the grand scheme of the story.
The comic characters with the greatest staying power are the ones with symbolic significance greater than themselves. Starfire easily falls into this category. As a deposed alien princess, she represents the struggle of immigrants to adopt to new cultures with vastly different values, but also the optimistic hope that they can continue to survive, thrive, and even find love in their new life. And for that, fans have loved her for decades.
That being said, she could stand to use a contraction every once in a while.
Seriously, across over 30 years of comics, two TV shows, and a couple animated movies for good measure, Starfire has maintained a slightly ditzy, overly innocent demeanor that slowly began rubbing readers the wrong way a long time ago. DC’s answer to finally make her character more acclimated? Turning her into a scantily-clad vixen obsessed with casual relationships. Literally the definition of overcompensating.
14 DONNA TROY
Of all the characters in the DC Universe, perhaps none of them have been shafted quite as badly as Donna Troy. Created as a knee-jerk reaction to Seduction of the Innocent, a short-lasting phase of harsh backlash against comics, her cultural relevance lived and died pre-Crisis. She was a latecomer to the first iteration of the Teen Titans. After that series ended, she vanished for a full decade before being resurrected (figuratively) in the early '80s for the new Teen Titans roster where she had the worst romance in comic book history with Terry Long.
Then Crisis on Infinite Earths happened and she was retconned as a amnesiac dimensional traveler. Or something. Nobody was entirely sure what her new backstory was so writers rewrote it monthly, a habit they’ve more or less continued into the modern era. And yet, she’s still important enough that fans have to mask their hatred.
Few characters have been as instantly iconic or immediately popular as Raven. The Teen Titans' resident dark sorceress has been a staple of the series since her debut and has been a compelling force behind several major storylines. Despite being a very niche character, she’s become almost as popular as some characters from the Golden Age of comics. But as time passed, Raven’s many flaws have begun exposing themselves.
First off, her zapid flip-flops between good and evil have made it hard to care about her moral alignment, especially where her demonic father is concerned.
Likewise, outside of the stories involving her heritage, she hasn’t had much critical involvement in major storylines until very recently when she played a part in DC’s "Dark Nights" event. She also has suffered from being a fairly flat character for the majority of her existence, not undergoing any significant changes since the 80s.
Cyborg probably tops a lot of peoples’ lists of favorite Teen Titans characters and he deserves such an accolade. He’s funny, down-to-earth, strong, and has a likeable personality. So why do fans hate him? Well that’s the fault of more recent comics. Starting with the New 52, Cyborg was retconned to be a founding member of the Justice League, graduating from the Teen Titans to the major leagues. This wipes out his tenure in the Titans in the current continuity, meaning his most popular era never existed.
On top of that, his personality was changed, going from a salt-of-the-earth team-player with a tragic backstory and a compelling philosophical purpose to a generic tech genius who feels like he was custom made to be as boring as possible. Though fans still remember the Titan they fell in love with, they’ve been harboring a secret hatred for the character since the reboot.
11 MAL DUNCAN
It’s hard to put a finger on just what Malcolm Duncan brings to the Teen Titans. It’s equally hard to determine just who he is. At various points in his superhero career, he’s been the armored Guardian, the dimension-hopping Herald, and the sonic-power Vox. But no matter what alias he’s operating under, he has an annoying habit of dropping the Teen Titans like a bad habit, sometimes leaving them for the Doom Patrol, to go and be a duo with his girlfriend Bumblebee, or to just flat out quit the hero work.
But despite this, he’s been listed under the Teen Titan brand for the better part of 30 years and even warranted an appearance on the Young Justice cartoon.
That didn’t do anything to increase the character’s popularity however, and it looks like Mal’s involvement with the current Titans line isn’t helping either.
10 NEW 52 SUPERBOY
It would be cheap and lazy to say that the New 52 Superboy was a terrible character because his reinvention was yet another poor decision made in the development of the entire New 52 universe. It would also be staggeringly accurate. Fans could barely tolerate his Tron-style new look and his weird new character and backstory, but then throwing him in with the equally mishandled New 52 Teen Titans?
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Any dream of rekindling his romance with Wonder Girl, one of the most beloved aspects of the pre-Flashpoint team, was squashed when writers realized they’d accidentally set both parties up as polar opposites, both emotionally and ethically. Still, fans tend to give this character the same grain of salt that they give the entire New 52, mostly because it was the only DC product available for a few years.
9 JASON TODD
Jason Todd was only in the Teen Titans for a little while and didn’t leave much of an impact while he was there apart from teasing a romance with Donna Troy. With years of hindsight, fans tend to give him a significant pass considering the narrative value his famous death, subsequent resurrection, and adoption of the Red Hood moniker had for both his and Batman’s mythos.
But here’s the hard, bitter truth that fans have been keeping from themselves ever since he came back: Jason Todd was never, in any context, as good a Robin as Dick Grayson had been. And that went doubly so for the Teen Titans, where Robin went from the cool team leader to a whiny kid. Fortunately, writers seem to have learned from the past as they’ve more or less mastered the same dynamic with Damian leading the current turn.
8 BLUE BEETLE
Teenage superheroes have been around since the inception of the genre. Over the decades, new teen heroes have been introduced with a wide variety of personalities, powers, and motivations. And then all of them were combined into a single character to make the third Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes. He has Raven’s connection to an evil entity (granted an invading alien race instead of a demonic family member), Beast Boy’s youthful energy and humor, and he literally just straight up stole Cyborg’s powers.
On top of that, he was kind of thrust head-first into relevancy, playing major roles in Infinite Crisis, Generation Lost, and Flashpoint not long after his comic debut.
And as any wrestling fan will tell you, an undeserving character plus a hard company push equals a character that you secretly really hate.
Though it comes down to personal taste, most Teen Titans fans tend to agree that the worst era of the team’s history was the incarnation where all the members were half-alien half-human half-siblings led by a de-aged Atom. Thankfully, most of the characters from this period were quickly abandoned when writers realized their mistake. But one of the few characters to make it out of this era was Argent, a generic, shallow popular girl with silver skin who could shoot plasma blasts.
Writers went on to use her a few times outside the series and even in some major stories lines and crossovers. Unfortunately, the only effect that using her had was to remind readers of a veritable dark age in Teen Titans history. It’s not her fault and fans do tend to feel guilty for hating her, but admit it, she takes away more than she adds.
6 DANNY THE STREET
Hoo boy. Danny the Street. Where does one even begin? He’s a sentient, teleporting, cross-dressing, living street created by Grant Morrison. Just take a moment to absorb that sentence. When you’re finished, come back and learn that he’s also a living homeless shelter, keeping the desperate and downtrodden safe by teleporting them around the world to havens in adjacent avenues. At one point, he grew so large that he went to an alternate universe to become Danny the World and was broken down so badly that he became Danny the Brick.
Also, he was briefly a Teen Titan in the New 52.
In his brief time with the team, he served as their mode of transportation as well as a spy for Red Robin. He was certainly useful and surprisingly had a personality to him, but that didn’t keep the weirdness of his concept being hard to understand and enjoy.
Just who is Jericho? It’s a question readers have been asking for decades. Ostensibly, he’s Joseph Wilson, mute, metahuman son of Deathstroke with the ability to jump into people’s bodies through eye contact. He’s also the possessed vessel of the souls of Azarath, who seem to have a timeshare deal with the demon Trigon for his body. On top of that, he took over his father’s body for a period lasting several years, during which he became an active serial killer and organized Titans East, a villainous counter team to the Teen Titans.
Then there was the weird time where his soul was trapped in a computer file because he tried to possess Cyborg. Fans might find a reason to legitimately enjoy Jericho’s presence, but they’d have to admit they don’t really know what he’s about first.
First things first, Bumblebee is one of the most culturally important Teen Titans ever made. First introduced in 1976, Karen Beecher is DC’s first African-American female superhero, a legacy that precedes the likes of Vixen, Rocket, and Thunder.
But fans have secretly hated this character for decades for the sole reason that she has proven herself to be completely, unequivocally useless.
All of DC’s shrinking superheroes have had to justify their places on their various teams because they’re powers are largely made irrelevant by the expansive power sets of others. But at least Atom is a genius scientist who has adventures in subatomic universes, Bumblebee’s most recent incarnation is a literal housewife who’s major motivation is finding her lost memories of…being a housewife. Way to respect one of your most groundbreaking IPs, DC.
An annoying habit among DC writers when making new heroes is that if they can’t come up with a new superpower, they just find a way to clone Green Lantern. The latest example combines this trope with the majestic failings of the New 52 in the creation of Bunker, a hero that should have been compelling but was hindered by the aforementioned albatrosses.
As a character both gay and Mexican, he added a much needed element of diversity to the DC lineup and the Teen Titans in particular, but his lack of defining personality and boring powers, a purple, brick-based Green Lantern, made him a boring addition to an team that was already controversial at best. This isn’t necessarily the character’s fault, but the New 52 is like Vegas. What happens there should stay there. And considering Bunker hasn’t shown up in Rebirth, that seems to be the case.
Quick. Without thinking about it, what’s your favorite Tempest story? Don’t worry, we have all the time in the world. However, if you don’t want to spend all day racking your mind for something that inarguably doesn’t exist, then admit to yourself and others that Garth, aka Aqualad aka Tempest is possibly the most useless Teen Titan of all time.
Not because he doesn’t have good power set or even because he’s a boring character, but he just doesn’t add anything to the team’s stories.
At least Aquaman can bring the Atlantis political theater and royal nuance to the Justice League, Tempest doesn’t even have that kind of pedigree to his name. He might not be the weakest member of the team, but for someone who was on the original roster, he’s certainly the most pointless.
1 BEAST BOY
Ever since he switched over from the Doom Patrol, the green-skinned kid formerly known as Changeling has been the heart and soul of the Teen Titans. Brash yet vulnerable, lackadaisical yet passionate, he perfectly embodies what it means to be a teenager in any era he is depicted in. And maybe that’s why he’s surprisingly the least likable of the classic Teen Titan lineup.
No matter how old he’s depicted as or how adult he pretends to be, he’ll always be the archetypal kid, constantly in over his head, perpetually cracking jokes for the sake of it with no regard to their humorous quality, and never really understanding that other people find his immaturity annoying rather than endearing. If you need more proof, consider that despite the fact that he’s essentially the emotional core of the team, he’s never graduated to another height of superheroics. Admit it, he’s nobody’s favorite.