With “Young Justice” returning to Cartoon Network for a long-awaited third season, the seminal 1984 Teen Titans storyline “The Judas Contract” being adapted as an animated movie, and Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger and The Runaways making the jump to live-action television, the spotlight is on teenage superhero teams like perhaps never before.
Theirs is a long tradition, stretching from Bucky Barnes’ Young Allies during World War II to the Legion of Super-Heroes in the far-flung future. With that proud legacy in mind, we look at the 17 best teen superhero teams in comic books, scouring the fictional universe, from 31st-century Metropolis to the sewers of present-day New York City and from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles to a large cave in Happy Harbor.
17. DANGER CLUB
Earth’s heroes were summoned to far-off space to save the universe from the ultimate evil, but they never came back, leaving the world in the hands of their sidekicks. Within three months, the situation had descended into chaos, with the teenage Olympian Apollo staging gladiator-style battles and declaring himself a god for the abandoned young heroes to worship. It was up to Danger Club — Kid Vigilante, Jack Fearless and The Magician, whose adventures were chronicled in cheery, Silver Age-style comics — and their ally Yoshimi Onomoto to defeat Apollo, and unite the teen heroes and villains to stand against the cosmic threat heading to Earth, all while untangling a deadly conspiracy.
Debuting in 2012 from Landry Q. Walker, Eric Jones and Michael Drake, “Danger Club” was equal parts “Teen Titans,” “Watchmen” and “Lord of the Flies,” utilizing numerous teen-hero archetypes and analogs, led by Robin stand-in Kid Vigilante, whose “super-power” is “I’m always right.”
16. TEEN TEAM
“Invincible’s” answer to DC Comics’ Teen Titans, Teen Team was introduced by creators Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker in 2002, in the second issue of the Image Comics series. Led by Robot, who’s actually a human with drone-controlling cybernetic implants, the group was also composed of the matter-manipulating Atom Eve, the explosive Rex Splode and the mystical, multiplying Dupli-Kate. As is perhaps to be expected from four super-powered adolescents, Teen Team was disrupted by relationship drama, with Atom Eve abruptly quitting after discovering her boyfriend Rex Splode had cheated on her with Dupli-Kate.
Before everything fell completely apart, Robot disbanded the team, and joined the Guardians of the Globe, “Invincible’s” version of the Justice League of America. When the original Guardians were betrayed and most of the roster killed, Robot helped to form a new version, and was joined by Rex Splode and Dupli-Kate. Atom Eve went on to play a key role in the series, but Teen Team never re-formed.
15. FOREVER PEOPLE
Superheroes, like many fictional characters, are frequently products of the time in which they’re created, but perhaps few more so than the Forever People. Introduced in 1971 as part of Jack Kirby’s “Fourth World” epic, which also encompassed “Mister Miracle,” “The New Gods” and “Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen,” the Forever People were five teenagers from the planet New Genesis who were essentially the legendary artist’s interpretation of the hippie movement. These cosmic-powered flower children — Mark Moonrider, Big Bear, Serifan and Vykin — came to Earth equipped with a Mother Box (a “living computer”) and a Super-Cycle in pursuit of their fifth member, Beautiful Dreamer, who’d been abducted by the powerful Darkseid.
While each of the teens possessed his or her own superpowers, together they could touch the Mother Box and say the word “Taaruu” to summon the powerful hero Infinity Man in their place (a la Billy Batson and Captain Marvel/Shazam). “The Forever People” was canceled after just 11 issues — on a cliffhanger, no less! — but these intergalactic hippies still occasionally pop up, spreading flower power throughout the DC Universe.
14. SUPER SONS
A year from now, the fledgling duo of Robin and Superboy would likely rank far higher on the list, but for now — after only one official outing, and just ahead of the launch of DC’s “Super Sons” series — No. 14 will have to do. Debuting in 2016 “Superman” #10, by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray, the combination of Damian Wayne, the son of Batman and Talia al Ghul, and Jonathan Kent, the son of Superman and Lois Lane, is downright inspired.
Undeniably their fathers’ children, Jon is earnest but unsure of himself and his burgeoning abilities, while Damian is confident, calculating and determined to be in control of any situation. Thrown together first by covert surveillance-turned resuce-turned kidnapping, and then by the machinations of their fathers, the “World’s Smallest” don’t exactly see eye to eye, and not only because the younger Boy of Steel towers over the 13-year-old Boy Wonder.
13. GEN 13
Children of the super-powered special-ops unit Team 7, the original members of Gen 13 were the 13th generation of Gen-Active experiments conducted by Project: Genesis. When her abilities manifested, super-strong Caitlin Fairchild escaped the facility with the pyrokinetic Bobby “Burnout” Lane, the gravity-controlling Roxanne “Freefall” Spaulding, and Percival Edmund “Grunge” Chang, who could mimic the molecular structure of any material he touched. They were joined by the weather-manipulating Sarah Rainmaker, and formed Gen 13.
Mentored by John Lynch, the father of Grunge and the leader of Team 7, the teens spent much of their time learning about their parents and, thus, themselves. Introduced in 1993 by Jim Lee, Brandon Choi and J. Scott Campbell, all of the original team except for Fairchild was seemingly killed in the explosion of a Gen-factor bomb (they were, of course, later revealed to have survived the calamity). Gen 13 has been rebooted, and even introduced into DC Comics’ New 52, but none of those versions were ever as popular as the original.
Another new team, albeit operating under a four-decade old name, the Champions brings together some of Marvel’s most popular current teen heroes: Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Nova, (Sam Alexander), Spider-Man (Miles Morales), the Hulk (Amadeus Cho), Viv Vision (the Vision’s teenage daughter) and Cyclops (the time-displaced teen version of Scott Summers). Following the events of 2016’s “Civil War II,” a disillusioned Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel and Nova split from the Avengers and distance themselves from their one-time mentors, pledging to “put the world back together.”
Recruiting the Hulk and Viv, they break up a human-trafficking ring in October’s “Champions” #1, by Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos, with Kamala’s inspirational message to other young heroes going viral, and resonating with Cyclops, who sought out the team. (Mind you, his fiery introduction could’ve gone better). So far, the fledgling Champions have remained true to Ms. Marvel’s call to “start enforcing justice without unjust force.”
11. POWER PACK
Typically depicted as pre-teens for much of their three-decade careers (eldest brother Alex was 12 at the time of their 1984 debut), the four Power siblings were ordinary children until the alien Aelfyre “Whitey” Whitemane and his sentient spaceship Friday crashed near their home while fleeing the reptilian Snarks. Mortally wounded, Whitey imbued each of the Powers kids with one of his abilities — Alex with gravity control, Julie with super-fast flight, Jack with density control and Katie with energy blasts — so they could rescue their parents from the Snarks and save the planet.
Created by Louise Simonson and June Brigman, the original “Power Pack” blended sci-fi adventures with such hot-button issues as drug abuse, homelessness and gun violence, with the team meeting the X-Men, Cloak & Dagger and other Marvel heroes; they even added young Franklin Richards to their ranks. Decades after the cancellation of their ongoing title, the Powers children continue to appear in the Marvel Universe, in their own all-ages miniseries and occasionally, in their older forms, as members of other teams.
10. GENERATION X
Springing from the 1994 “Phalanx Covenant” event, Marvel’s Generation X represented the next generation of mutants (hence, the name). Unlike the X-Men and New Mutants before them, these teens weren’t trained at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, but were instead mentored by Banshee and Emma Frost at the Massachusetts Academy.
The original lineup included former junior X-Man Jubilee; Husk, who could shed her skin, each time revealing a different substance beneath; Chamber, whose energy blasts destroyed part of his face and chest; M, a super-strong telepath who could also fly; the mysterious Penance, with diamond-hard skin and razor-sharp claws; Synch, who could replicate the powers of those near him; and Skin, who, um, had six feet of extra skin. Created by Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo, “Generation X” ran for four years, and even inspired a 1997 made-for-TV movie. Marvel will revive the title this spring, albeit with a different lineup.
9. CLOAK & DAGGER
Introduced in 1982 by Bill Mantlo and Ed Hannigan, Cloak & Dagger were a perfect storm of ’80s social issues, combining the war on drugs with the twin problems of runaways and homelessness. Fleeing from poor South Boston and privileged Shaker Heights, Ohio, respectively, Ty Johnson and Tandy Bowen met in New York City, where they were abducted and used as test subjects by a criminal chemist developing a synthetic heroin.
Although the other teens injected with the drug died, Ty and Tandy somehow survived the experiment and were imbued with superhuman abilities: Ty’s body became a portal to the Darkforce Dimension, and Tandy could emit daggers of light, the only thing that can satisfy his new cravings for life force. As Cloak & Dagger, the two teens battled drug dealers and cultists, as well as less-common foes like Doctor Doom, the Beyonder and Mephisto. After appearing in comics for nearly 35 years, the two are making the move to live-action television with a pilot on Freeform.
8. YOUNG JUSTICE
More than a decade before it was a beloved, if initially short-lived, Cartoon Network series, “Young Justice” was a fan-favorite comic book at first starring Robin, Superboy and Impulse, but ultimately featuring virtually every teenage hero in the DC Universe of the era, from Wonder Girl and Arrowette to Lagoon Boy and Captain Marvel Jr. Yes, that also includes Li’l Lobo/Slobo. Created in 1988 by Todd Dezago and Todd Nauck, with Peter David writing most of their series, Young Justice stepped into the void left by the Teen Titans, whose members had grown into adults.
Based in the Justice League’s original headquarters in Happy Harbor (referred to as Mount Justice in the animated series), Young Justice were mentored by Red Tornado and Snapper Carr, even as they faced such threats as Harm, Klarion the Witch Boy and even Darkseid. Young Justice disbanded in 2003, with Robin, Wonder Girl, Superboy and Impulse going on to form a new incarnation of the Teen Titans.
7. THE RUNAWAYS
Plenty of children have thought their parents were evil, but Marvel’s Runaways discovered theirs actually are; in fact, they’re members of the Pride, a criminal group made up of magic users, mob bosses, mad scientists, time travelers, mutants and aliens. Vowing to stop them, the six kids learn they have secrets of their own: Nico Minoru is a powerful witch, Karolina Dean is an alien, Gertrude Yorkes possesses a telepathic link to a dinosaur and Molly Haynes is a super-strong mutant, while Chase Stein stole his folks’ X-ray goggles and energy-produced gauntlets.
Led by prodigy Alex Wilder, the Runaways take down their parents, and then confront the new threats that popped up to take the Pride’s place. Created in 2003 by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, the team was later joined by the likes of Ultron’s cyborg son Victor Mancha, the shape-shifting Skrull Xavin and the plant-manipulating Klara Prast. Like Cloak & Dagger, the Runaways are also headed to television, with a pilot in the works on Hulu.
6. YOUNG AVENGERS
Their origins involve alternate timelines, the fallout from a 2004-2005 Marvel Comics crossover, and a teenage time traveler seeking to prevent the death and destruction caused by his future self, but here’s the short version: The Young Avengers were formed to fill the void left when the Avengers disbanded, and, hopefully, save the world. The creation of Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, the original team’s lineup had some kind of connection to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Hulkling was the shape-shifting son of Captain Marvel; Wiccan was the spell-casting reincarnated son of Scarlet Witch and The Vision; Patriot was the grandson of Super-Soldier Isaiah Bradley; Kate Bishop assumed the code name Hawkeye; and Iron Lad was that time-traveling teen with Iron Man-like armor.
They were later joined by Scott Lang’s daughter Stature, Wiccan’s brother Speed and a new version of The Vision. However, it’s likely the second incarnation of the Young Avengers, which saw Wiccan, Hulkling and Kate Bishop joined by Kid Loki, America Chavez, Marvel Boy and former X-Man Prodigy come together that’s held closest to the hearts of most fans.
5. NEW MUTANTS
As difficult as it may be to believe, there was a time when Marvel Comics published only one X-Men title. Into that near-pristine world came (in 1982) “The New Mutants,” which introduced Professor Xavier’s new teenage students. Hailing from diverse backgrounds — Cannonball was a Kentucky coal miner, Sunspot the son a wealthy Brazilian businessman, Mirage a Cheyenne from Colorado, Wolfsbane a pious Scot — the young heroes grappled with typical teen problems and more fantastic threats while learning to control their mutant abilities.
Created by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod, the team (and the title) came into its own with the arrival of artist Bill Sienkiewicz and “The Demon Bear Saga,” a storyline that serves as inspiration for Fox’s upcoming film. Fluid virtually from the beginning, the lineup changed dramatically over the years — in the early ’90s, the team was even relaunched as X-Force — but the New Mutants return time and again to the core concept of young mutant heroes-in-training.
4. ORIGINAL X-MEN
Overshadowed by the flashier and more successful team of X-Men introduced more than a decade later — Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler and so on — these five misfit teens were Professor Xavier’s first class, and the mutants who established a winning formula that would spawn countless comic books, video games, films and television series, and generate billions of dollars. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Cyclops, Marvel Girl/Jean Grey, Angel, Beast and Iceman battled prejudice, as well as their archenemy Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, while defending a world that hated and feared them.
With the introduction of the new team in 1975, Angel, Iceman and Beast were free to stretch their wings, joining such groups as the Champions, the Avengers and the Defenders. However, the call of the X is strong, and the original lineup eventually reunited — complete with a “revived” Jean Grey — as X-Factor. They have remained a part of Marvel’s sprawling mutant universe virtually ever since, with the teenage versions of that first class even transported across time, into the present, as part the All-New X-Men.
3. LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
It wasn’t the first team of teenage superheroes in comics — that honor probably belongs to Timely/Marvel’s Young Allies — but the Legion of Super-Heroes is undoubtedly the largest, with its ranks sometimes swelling to more than two dozen at any given time. Initially inspired by the exploits of Superboy, these heroes from the 30th (and later 31st) century unite from all corners of the galaxy to protect the United Planets.
Introduced in 1958’s “Adventure Comics” #247, by Otto Binder and artist Al Plastino, when founders Lightning Boy, Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy traveled through time to recruit Superboy, the Legion soon became integral to the Boy of Steel’s exploits and to the fabric of the DC Universe. However, the team’s greatest foe isn’t the Fatal Five or even Darkseid, but rather alterations to DC Comics continuity, leading to multiple Legion reboots over the decades. The most recent Legion title was canceled in 2013, but with Saturn Girl and the team’s longtime enemy Emerald Empress appearing in the publisher’s current “Rebirth” timeline, the teenagers from the future will likely make a return soon.
2. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
Who could’ve guessed that four little adolescent reptiles would make such a big splash? Created in 1984 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird as an unassuming parody of ’80s comics “Daredevil,” “The New Mutants,” “Ronin” and “Cerebus,” the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles quickly became a full-blown pop-culture sensation, crossing into merchandising, animation, video games and live-action films.
However, crime-fighting teens Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael have remained true to their humble roots — they’re four pet baby turtles mutated by green glowing goo, and raised by the mutant rat Splinter — and close to their home in the New York City sewers. From there they battle such memorable foes as Shredder and his ninja Foot Clan, the mutant warthog and rhino Bebop and Rocksteady, the street gang the Purple Dragons, and the alien warlord Krang — in between training and devouring mind-boggling quantities of pizza. Hey, fighting evil is hungry work.
1. TEEN TITANS
Perhaps the quintessential team of adolescent heroes, inspiring numerous imitators over the the years, the Teen Titans started simply enough, with sidekicks Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad partnering to defeat a mostly forgotten villain (nobody remembers Mister Twister). However, it soon grew into so much more, with first Wonder Girl and then Speedy, Aquagirl and others joining their ranks. Created in 1964 by Bob Haney and Bruno Premiani, the original incarnation enjoyed a respectable-enough run, continuing (with a brief interruption) into the late 1970s. It was with their 1980 revival by Marv Wolf and George Perez that the Titans came into their own.
Led by a more mature Robin eager to step out of Batman’s shadow, the team again included Wonder Girl and Kid Flash, now joined by Changeling, Raven, Cyborg and Starfire. Numerous versions of the team have been introduced in the decades since, but most of them return to a similar formula — although it’s not always the same young heroes assuming the identity of Robin, Wonder Girl and Kid Flash. In fact, the Titans are now on their third Robin as leader.
Who is your favorite teen team? Let us know in the comments!
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