By now, word that TNT and Warner Bros. are in discussions to start production on a “Titans” pilot has resounded across the Internet — and it’s potentially great news for longtime Teen Titans fans! There’s a whole universe of under-appreciated characters in the Titans’ lore that could make for fantastic television characters, after all. However, as Warner Bros. continues to expand its reach in television and film, and continues to insist that the two universes are completely separate, the potential for confusion between brands grows. While it’s not so much a problem with the studio’s slate of shows for the 2014-2015 season, “Titans” poses a particularly unique challenge when it comes to character use.
It’s true, the bench on the Titans’ roster is ridiculously deep, exceeding that of the Justice League and is more on par with heroes who have been Avengers. However, not many A-listers have risen through the Titans’ ranks. Undoubtedly, the most famous character on the Titans is Dick Grayson — the former Robin who became Nightwing — and his presence is a virtual given, judging by DC Entertainment chief creative officer Geoff Johns recent tweet, and team mainstays Starfire and Raven are reportedly part of the series as well.
As for the other iconic team members of the Titans, Cyborg, certainly, is way up on the list. He was part of the team when George Perez and Marv Wolfman relaunched the franchise as “The New Teen Titans” in 1980. Not only that, he’s in the New 52 Justice League and thousands of potential viewers have been exposed to him over the past decade thanks to a prominent role on several animated series. However, with rumors circulating that the character is set for inclusion in the upcoming “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” film, it’s easy to see how people might be confused about two different versions of the hero appearing simultaneously.
And what about Wally West? As Kid Flash, Wally was a charter member of both the original “Teen Titans” and the first “New Teen Titans” team. But Greg Berlanti recently indicated that there was an intention to include the character in “The Flash.” Roy Harper, known as Speedy and then Arsenal, is already a major part of “Arrow.” Donna Troy or Cassie Sandsmark, both known as Wonder Girl, would likely need to explain (or explain away) their connection to Wonder Woman at some point.
These are all mainstays of the Titans team — in fact, they’re core members and key parts of what makes the Titans truly special. As is often referenced in the comics, the Justice League is a team; the Titans are a family.
Of course, die-hard comic fans who are used to different continuity and the reboots and relaunches that have come to characterize modern comics won’t really find this to be a problem. Different versions of Roy Harper? It’s a television multiverse! But here’s the thing: Most of you reading this piece are fans of comics. We follow the news of casting, we know the debut date for the next season of “Arrow” and the launch of “The Flash.” We know that the New 52 John Constantine is different from the Vertigo version, and the television and movie takes are separate from each other as well as the comics — but not everyone does. While I was living in a remote location in coastal North Carolina, I found myself reminded on several occasions that the average person is unaware of much that goes on in the comics world, even if they’re a fan of the characters. I had a conversation with someone who wasn’t aware that Marvel didn’t have an active hand in the X-Men and Spider-Man films, and he simply couldn’t understand why they just didn’t all connect.
That’s the thing about the Titans — because of the original team members’ origins as sidekicks to the mainstay heroes of the DCU, they very easily fit into all aspects of the DC Universe. Current DC CCO Geoff Johns used this versatility to great effect in his “Teen Titans” run in 2003, constantly strengthening the tether to the rest of the DCU, and it’s heartening to see that he’s involved in the series. Nightwing is an excellent start to the roster, as are Starfire and Raven — but the potential for confusion is still very high amongst those not used to different versions of comic book characters running around on different networks.
However, even without the DCU mainstays, it’s still very possible for the show to succeed — and that’s where it becomes vital for the showrunners, writers and producers to include characters that will help to highlight the central family theme of the Titans. Bunker — a new creation from the “Teen Titans” New 52 run — would be a slam-dunk for the series, not only as an interesting character, but in his role as a gay latino man. Miss Martian, a character created by Johns and artist Tony Daniel during their “Teen Titans” run, has proved popular not only in the comics, but as a core part of the critically acclaimed — and criminally underwatched — “Young Justice” animated series.
Without the heavy connection to the existing heroes of the DC Universe — heroes like Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Flash — the series will likely have to be more of a Nightwing show rather than one about the Titans. And while that’s a perfectly valid approach to take, and one which could yield interesting and solid results, Warner Bros. and TNT need to be incredibly careful about how these characters are introduced and which versions are used — is Mia Dearden off the table even though she hasn’t been introduced in “Arrow?” What about Bart Allen or Jesse Quick — are either of them set for a debut on “The Flash?” At this point, it’s difficult, touching on impossible, to know who’s available for inclusion in the Titans’ roster due to the number of DC Comics-based projects that are being actively produced and are circling development.
Because of the Titans’ potential, it could be Warner Bros. most challenging DC-inspired television series to date — and it may be most exciting to watch develop, should the deal with TNT go through. In many ways, it’s a riskier play than “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was for Marvel. The potential of not getting the balance right is very strong, but then again, if that balance is hit, Titans fans could be in for an incredible experience.
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