Marvel has always been hipper than DC. That much is indisputable. Marvel’s characters were born of the 1960s. Marvel’s most iconic characters first appeared in print a year or two before the Beatles debuted on the Ed Sullivan Show. They specialize in teen angst and social isolation (see Spider-Man, Hulk). Something about the strivings and anxieties, the hopes and fears of the young are sewn into Marvel’s very foundations.
By contrast, DC is your grandfather’s comic book company. Their origins are bound up with the greatest generation and WWII. Consequently, the contrast between good and evil has always been starker in the DC universe. Superman is Christ in a cape. Batman is a pulp detective in a cowl. Moreover, Aquaman is a king; Wonder Woman is a princess. DC comics is about the powers that be. Marvel is about the revolution.
But then there are the Teen Titans. Perhaps not coincidentally the Teen Titans debuted in 1964 (The Brave and the Bold #54), just as Marvel began making its mark. However, this team of sidekicks and other young heroes really came into its own in the 1980s under Marv Wolfman and George Perez.
The Teen Titans had, and continue to have, a “hip” factor that has been pretty hard for DC to bottle over the years.
There’s an undeniable awesomeness to characters like Superman, but he’s not exactly relatable. The same goes for characters like Green Lantern. The struggles DC has had with its movie franchises in recent years are all about translating that 1930s sensibility to modern audiences. The audience doesn’t understand why characters like Superman and Green Lantern do the things they do. They’re just good guys. That’s because they come from an era where it was okay, even expected of you, to be a good guy. But in the 21st century, we have a harder time believing in good guys who are good for the sake of being good. It’s sad, but true. Marvel, hasn’t had this problem. Their films resonate because their films are extended metaphors about
a) minorities struggling to achieve equal recognition under the law,
b) teenagers reluctantly and unevenly accepting the responsibilities of adulthood,
c) billionaire tech geniuses whose ridiculous success has prompted them to do good works in an effort to justify their staggering good fortune.
Marvel’s narratives have currency and purchase for modern audiences. I think Batman and Superman have similar currency, but it’s less transparent. DC has to work a bit harder to make their characters sympathetic; that’s what tempts DC to “update” its characters so regularly: that’s why Superman turned blue for awhile in the late 90s, and that’s why he killed Zod at the end of Man of Steel.
But back to the Titans. Over the past decade DC has signalled its commitment to the Titans property with two pretty good animated series. The 2003-2006 series Teen Titans and the present, goofier Teen Titans Go!, which premiered in 2013.
DC has swung and missed on a couple of recent screen adaptations. They hit a double with The Man of Steel. They need some home runs. Given that they’ve kept theTeen Titans in the popular consciousness with their animated series, a film adaptation has to be in their sights at some point. Doesn’t it? If not, they’re fools.
The Titans represent one of DC’s coolest and most marketable properties. Done properly a Titans film could do for DC what X-Men and the Avengers have done for Marvel.
If we see a Titans film, you can bet that it’s the Wolfman/Perez version of the team that we’ll be seeing, some combination of Robin/Nightwing, Kid Flash, Donna Troy, Raven, Starfire, Cyborg, and Changeling. The 80s version of the team has always been a fan favourite and that incarnation has staying power. It’s a version of that team that DC has used in both of its animated endeavours.
To you speculators out there, that means that Teen Titans comics from the 80s could become quite valuable. They’re a respectable investment even without the potential of a film, given that the Titans have a loyal fan base and the characters are safely second-tier. They aren’t Spider-Man or Superman, but they’re not Blue Beetle either. We’re probably talking the same kind of fan base that Thor, The Punisher, and Green Arrow command.
If there’s one Teen Titans book you want in your collection, it’s The New Teen Titans #2, which features the first appearance of Deathstroke the Terminator.
It’s funny, just as the Teen Titans are an uncharacteristically youthful team in the DCU, Deathstroke is an uncharacteristically badass super-villain for DC. Villains in the DCU tend to be a bit more “cerebral”: Joker, Two-Face, Luthor, Braniac, Sinestro. DC’s villains are like physical manifestations of their nemeses’ own fears and anxieties. Deathstroke just seems like a different animal. He’s part of that Punisher/Wolverine generation. He’s one of those characters who was born in the Bronze Age but signaled the coming of the Copper Age.
Deathstroke’s first appearance isn’t available for pennies. However, I was recently able to pick up a VF copy from a local collectibles store for $16.00. They can be had.
In summation, I think DC’s surest path to the pop-culture in crowd may require getting behind the Teen Titans in a big way. Collectors may want to jump on board before the train leaves the station.
Copper and Chrome