In the '80s, the New Teen Titans was DC's response to what Marvel was doing with the X-Men. The book became a runaway hit, but the team's popularity diminished in the '90s, slowly stepping back into the shadows of comic-book obscurity. Thus, it was surprising to see Cartoon Network release a Teen Titans animated series in 2003. Would it be as big and adored as the other DC animated shows of that era? The answer was a resounding yes.
Series creator, Glen Murakami, explained to Animation World Network how the show came to be. "Sam Register, who came aboard at Cartoon Network, was really interested in developing it since it was a comic he grew up reading. Then I was brought on board. I'm from that generation where those were the characters that I read about growing up too. That led to the decision as to why the 1980s [Marv] Wolfman and [George] Perez [version of the] Titans was chosen. I think we wanted to portray characters that hadn't really been seen before, and we were trying to make something that was different from the Justice League." As we all know, Teen Titans made way for Teen Titans Go!, but the show is still a hot topic among fans. So, we've dug deep into the archives to find out a little more about this legendary DC show. There's a lot of history here, so we hope this hits you right in the nostalgia feels and helps you remember all the good times with Robin and his motley crew of teenage superheroes.
20 POTENTIAL SIXTH SEASON
Ever since Teen Titans was canceled, fans have prayed that it'll make a comeback. In fact, the DC Universe streaming platform would be the perfect home for a sixth season of the popular show. Well, if you watched Teen Titans Go! To the Movies and believe Tara Strong (the voice of Raven), it could happen.
In early June, Strong tweeted: "Wow. Just so y'all know, at a movie session today, they told us that if the [Teen Titans Go! To the Movies] kicks all butts they would do our show at the same time as season six... For reals! So go see it! Even if you hate us!"
19 INITIAL REVIEWS WERE NEGATIVE
In the internet age, it's common to see how the outrage culture trumps logic and reason. It was no different when Teen Titans was released back in the early '00s. Its art style and departure from the source material were some of the things that critics found issues with, as the show received its fair share of negative reviews.
Nowadays, the series is viewed as one of the best DC animated shows ever created, as well as the standard for other programs. See? People just like to complain for the sake of it, and usually change their tune after some time. The same will happen with Teen Titans Go! in the future, too.
18 THE CYBORG AND KIKAIDER LINK
It's as clear as day that Teen Titans is influenced by anime. Even so, Murakami didn't go too wild as he kept most of the characters' visual style similar to their comic-book counterparts – except for Cyborg. Murakami must've realized that Vic Stone's classic appearance looked more Magic Mike than superhero and subsequently tweaked it.
He used the classic Japanese character Kikaider as influence for Cyborg's look, picking a few elements and updating them for the 21st century. Without knowing it at the time, Murakami created the quintessential look for the character. Seriously, do you see anybody screaming for the old Cyborg costume to make a comeback?
17 BEAST BOY'S CHANGE(LING) VOICE
Sharp-eared fans will pick up that Beast Boy undergoes a voice change halfway through the first season. Naturally, you could say that poor Gar experienced one of the pitfalls of puberty, but there's a good reason for the sudden shift in his tone – and it's due to voice actor Greg Cipes.
As it turns out, Cipes tried to do a little too much with Gar's voice in the beginning of the series. It was unsustainable and his voice broke as a result of his efforts. Realizing he couldn't afford to go through this after each recording session, he changed his delivery to give Beast Boy a more high-pitched voice.
16 THE LOST EPISODE
For a while, the internet was abuzz with the topic of the Teen Titans' "The Lost Episode." The good news is, it was never lost, and has been right beneath our noses. As part of an online campaign to promote the series, it was a special episode that was exclusive to the website Postopia.
"The Lost Episode" was finally released on DVD as an extra feature of the feature film Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo. In truth, it was one of the funnier episodes that had Beast Boy best the Sid Vicious-lookalike Punk Rocket thanks to his earwax and poor hygiene. Honestly, we don't get quality TV like this anymore.
15 TRIGON ALMOST DIDN'T MAKE IT
When you're a sadistic demon who is DC's answer to the Devil, you could understand why a children's network might be reluctant to feature you. The Broadcast Standards and Practices department wasn't a fan of Trigon's nefarious look, urging the show to change his appearance – perhaps to that of something less frightening but equally evil, such as a lawyer or Kardashian.
Well, Murakami pulled off a miracle and managed to include Trigon in all his majestic underworld glory. In fact, you could argue that Raven's father looked far more menacing here than in some of his previous comic-book runs. It's good to be bad, especially when you look this cool.
14 STARFIRE DIDN'T GET HER OWN SEASON
One of the things that Murakami pushed for was to have proper character development on the show. He didn't want a procedural animated show where it was mindless heroes versus villains action with no continuous storyline or progression. As such, each season of the show focused on a Titan's specific arc.
Unfortunately, because the show ended after five seasons (and one season was dedicated to Terra), Starfire never received her own season. That said, she did get an expanded role in the film. Maybe if there's a sixth season, there will be a chance to remedy this. After all, Koriand'r is a princess and deserves only the best.
13 THE WRITERS WERE URGED TO BE DARING
When the top dog of a network is a fan of a franchise, it makes all the difference in the world. Sam Register, who was the VP of Cartoon Network at the time, did everything to treat Teen Titans with the respect it deserved, encouraging proper storylines and creativity to take the place instead of silly humor and gags.
It's reported that he told the creative team to be more daring with their ideas and "do things they weren't supposed to do". The message certainly hit home as the team created something different and unique, refusing to fall into the formulaic trap of other shows at the time.
12 THE DIFFERENT TERRA
Hey, Terra was never going to be an easy character to bring to life for a children's show. Her most recognizable arc was in "The Judas Contract," which featured her creepy relationship with the much older Slade Wilson. It was always unlikely that this would be translated beat for beat for a younger audience.
In Teen Titans, Terra is quite different from the source material. There's more to her than being the dastardly villain from the comics books. Instead, we're shown that there's genuine good in her, while her relationship with Beast Boy is sincere and heartfelt. She's a tragic hero, the likes of which we hadn't seen before.
11 THE THEME SONG'S CLUES
To this day, the Teen Titans theme song remains one of the best around. It's right at home next to other classics such as Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men: The Animated Series. And we have Japanese pop-rock group Puffy AmiYumi to thank for the catchy and upbeat nature of this unforgettable song, whether it be in English or Japanese.
The language of the theme song provided a clue about the tone of the episode, though. In the past, it was revealed that the Japanese version is played before the more fun and quirky episodes while the English adaptation is utilized before the serious ones.
10 DOOM PATROL'S DEBUT
As stated above, Teen Titans took significant creative risks. Even in the characters it featured, it refused to focus on safe heroes and recognizable names. One of the surprising appearances was that of the Doom Patrol, who appeared in the two-part "Homecoming".
The show didn't shy away from addressing Beast Boy's links to the team, either, as it introduced Mento, Negative Man, Robotman, and Elasti-Girl to a new generation of fans (unfortunately, the Chief didn't make the cut here). In fact, it's likely that the team's positive reception on Teen Titans is the reason that DC planned a live-action series for the DC Universe, which is set to air in 2019.
9 BATMAN WAS NEVER MENTIONED BY NAME
Even though the show is titled Teen Titans, you'd expect Robin's fabled mentor, Batman, to make an appearance here and there. Due to some legalities, though, the Dark Knight was nowhere to be found on the series or mentioned by name.
So, the show got creative and alluded to his existence via some clever hints and tricks. It's fairly obvious that the Caped Crusader exists in this universe; however, the core focus remains on these young teens. Truth be told, it was a good thing. Other heroes deserve their time in the spotlight and it shouldn't be the usual suspects taking up the bulk of the screen time.
8 THE SUPERHERO BREAKFAST CLUB
The show had a variety of influences, but the most interesting one was The Breakfast Club. Yes, we're talking about the popular 1985 film that was helmed by John Hughes and starred Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, and Emilio Estevez.
"Yeah, that was something I had brought up when I was trying to get the job. To me, the fun always lay in this group of teenage friends hanging out, arguing, having fun. All those things make the show relatable," David Slack, producer and story editor, told fansite Titans Tower. When you think about it, the similarities between Titans and the Hughes classic are rather apparent.
7 TARA STRONG WAS NEARLY STARFIRE
Strong might be best known as the modern-day voice of Harley Quinn, but she has shown her versatility by defining Raven as well. As it turns out, though, this wasn't the part that she initially wanted.
The talented voice actress originally had her eye on the role of Starfire. It made sense since Strong had previous experience playing a similar character in the form of Bubbles on The Powerpuff Girls. However, Hynden Walch impressed everyone with her rendition of Starfire that she received the part almost instantly. The showrunners weren't about to let a talent like Strong go, so she got the role of Raven instead.
6 A CLOCKWORK ORANGE-INFLUENCED VILLAIN
In the comic books, Mad Mod was a fashion villain, which was a little different from the iteration in the animated series. The character did, however, reference the '60s British Mod culture. Surprisingly, he also took influence from another property, which is certainly not for kids: A Clockwork Orange.
Apart from the fact that Mad Mod is voiced by Malcolm McDowell (also from A Clockwork Orange fame), there's a sequence in "Mad Mod" that was lifted straight from the movie. The villain forces Starfire's eyes open and makes her watch the scene play out in front of her, which is exactly what took place in the 1971 Stanley Kubrick classic.
5 RAVEN WAS BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE
You could say the Teen Titans helped make characters like Robin and Beast Boy popular again. What it did for Raven, though, was a complete renaissance. The mystical character had been long gone in the comics for quite some time before the show aired – and it didn't look like there were any plans to bring her back to life, either.
When the show became a worldwide hit, DC realized there was an opportunity there and decided to bring Raven back into continuity. Ever since then she's been a big character in the DC universe and received a recent solo comic-book run. In fact, you can't imagine DC without her now.
4 THE FOOLY COOLY INFLUENCE
It's no secret that Murakami was influenced by anime when he envisioned Teen Titans – Fooly Cooly being a notable and often cited example. If you watch the series carefully, you'll spot countless references and callouts to the Japanese program.
"Anime has been a big influence on the show. The series FLCL was a major influence," Murakami revealed to Titans Tower. "I'm from a generation that grew up watching anime shows like Battle of the Planets and G-Force. I think my generation, and the kids growing up today, will be familiar with some of the style and techniques [we brought] to U.S. audiences on Teen Titans."
3 SLADE'S CENSORSHIP
As expected, the Titans' greatest adversary, Deathstroke, served as the main antagonist of the series. However, considering his name isn't too kid-friendly (and would throw a few parents' heads into a spin), he simply went by his real first name, Slade. Not only did the character receive an upgrade to his name and threads, but he was also depicted differently from his comic-book version.
Slade was no longer an assassin, but a criminal mastermind who used other villains to do his dirty work. In many ways he was a lot like Wilson Fisk, who preferred to menacingly rub his hands in the shadows while the others sweated.
2 WHY WAS IT CANCELED?
It's sad that Teen Titans wasn't released more recently. Had it been, its cancelation could've been fought with online petitions and crowdfunding to keep it going. Unfortunately, we can't turn back time and reverse what happened. But why did it happen, though?
That's a good question and there's no official explanation. Slack said that he was given different reasons for the cancelation, but his belief is that Mattel wanted the show gone because Bandai had the rights to the toys. Considering Cartoon Network announced Mattel as its official toy licensee in 2006, Slack's theory sounds entirely plausible. So, yip, it probably got canceled over greedy corporate deals.
1 THE MYSTERY OF RED X
Initially, Red X was an alternate costume that Robin used to trick Slade. When the look returned, however, there was a mysterious person in the guise. Unfortunately, the true identity of the enigmatic character is never revealed, but fans have long speculated who they believe to be under the mask.
The consensus is that it's Jason Todd, aka Red Hood. There was a minisode that aired on the web which may give credence to this theory as well. In it, Beast Boy screams at Red X that he's Jason Todd. It's not a confirmation, of course, but it shows that the showrunners were reading and listening to fan opinions.