The Teen Titans have proven remarkably flexible since their
mid-1960s debut as a collection of sidekicks. They appealed to the young
readers with Bob Haney’s laughable “hip” language and as the readership grew
up, so too did the members of the team, addressing adult issues with changing
times and tastes.
They were propelled from mid-list to top-seller status by
the Marv Wolfman and George Pérez run starting in summer 1980. These were teens
on the verge of adulthood and had problems and issues that the college-age
readership were drawn to. The blend of supernatural, science fiction, and
super-heroics meant the stories could, and did, go anywhere.
In 2003, things went full-circle as the more mature
incarnation was youthified for younger viewers as the Teen Titans hit
the Cartoon Network in a five-season run. This success led to the even younger
Teen Titans Go! so all the characters and their conflicts were scaled back to
digestible amounts. Both series have their fans although I am not the target
audience and therefore not among their number.
That said, I find Teen Titans: The Complete Series,
out now from Warner Archive, entertaining. The six-disc set includes all 65
episodes and a nice assortment of special features.
The roster was pretty much locked to being limited to Robin
(Scott Menville); Starfire (Hynden Walch); Cyborg (Khary Payton); Raven (Tara
Strong), and Beast Boy (Greg Cipes). All play their archetypal roles with
little variation nor do their civilian alter egos ever factor into the stories.
They are perpetually allies and friends, never unmasking or interacting with
their mentors. Instead, they swell in Titans Tower, located on the west coast
in Jump City.
Their main antagonist is Deathstroke (Ron Perlman) and once
he’s established, the second season loosely adapts “The Judas Contract” with
the infiltration of Terra (Ashley Johnson) into their ranks, minus the icky
sexual exploitation aspect.
For variety, season three brings in Brother Blood (John
DiMaggio) and H.I.V.E. although neither resemble their comic book counterparts.
We do, though, get a Titans East team featuring Aqualad (Wil Wheaton), Speedy
(Mike Erwin), Bumblebee (T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh), and the newly created Más y
Menos (Freddy Rodriguez).
Season four shifted the focus to Raven as the threat of
daddy dearest, Trigon (Kevin Michael Richardson), arrives to enslave the world.
Once he’s defeated, the final season brings in the Brotherhood of Evil. Here,
we meet Beast Boy’s Doom Patrol teammates including Mento (Xander Berkeley),
Robotman (Peter Onorati), Elasti-Girl (Strong), and Negative Man (Judge
Reinhold) as they take on the threat from The Brain (Glenn Shadix), Madame Rouge
(Walch), Monsieur Mallah (Shadix), Jinx (Lauren Tom), and others. This season
brings in Red Star (Jason Marsden) and Kid Flash (Michael Rosenbaum) plus Kole
(Strong), a character creating just to be killed during comics’ Crisis on
In some ways, the fifth season is the strongest and most fun
even if they squander the good mood with a nonsensical final episode. But how
could you not love a season chock full of fabulous heroes and villains including
Ding Dong Daddy, voiced by the great David Johannsson?
The Blu-ray transfer is quite fine with strong visuals and
audio, as one expects from Warner Archive. The discs come with several special
features repurposed from previous single season releases including: “Finding
Their Voices: The Secret Information Behind the Making of Teen Titans ” (7:52);
“Comic Creations: From Comic Book to Cartoon” (21:55), Puffy AmiYumi, the
Japanese pop group that provided the theme song (13:15); “Catching Up With …
Teen Titans” (4:58); “Teen Titans: Know
Your Foes”, shorts on the villains from seasons three and four; and, “Teen
Titans: Friends and Foes” (25:12) from season five.
The 75-minute director to video Teen Titans: Trouble in
Tokyo is included and caps this incarnation’s video run. It’s noisy.
A real treat is “The Lost Episode”, a 12-minute short
featuring the team against new villain Punk Rocket (Greg Ellis). It was
available only through a promotion from Post Cereals involving a token code to
log into their website to watch. In addition to the team, there are appearances
by many other characters throughout the series.