Teen Titans. The Über-Guide to the first two seasons on the Cartoon Network. 53 episodes. What the hell am I thinking?
Super-Heroes. Funny costumes. Super-powers. Goofy nicknames. Catch phrases. What is it about comic books and their other media offspring that just end up so god-damn popular? Now before you get the wrong idea...I am not a huge comic book fan. True, several of the movies I've reviewed are from comic books; and yes, I was a huge "collector" (it sounds so much better than geeky addict) of comic books when I was younger. But, why the hell am I reviewing a kid's cartoon based on a comic book? Why? Because, apparently the Cartoon Network has created some sort of surreal cross-cultural mutant that demands to be looked at. I know I tend to call everything completely insane, but trust me...the madness in Teen Titans is a splendid thing all to its self.
So what is Teen Titans? It's the name of a cartoon showcasing the adventures of a superhero team by the same name. I don't know if there was ever a group just known at the "Titans" but the Teen Titans are, well, teen-age heroes. What makes this cartoon different from other, more "well-known" action/superhero cartoons? It's Anime-Americana. The cartoon is based off the old comic books (think 1950 or so) but is drawn and given the Japanese Anime treatment. The style is less about drawing "action" than making everything interesting. Hell, we even get the classic anime "chibi" sequences. (For those not in the know, chibi versions of your favorite characters are small, cute child-like versions of a show's characters that may show up at strange dramatic moments. They tend to look like dolls and are almost dangerously cute. American kids today tend to call them "Super-Deformed" which just scares the crap out of me. Even if the word chibi means "shrunken dog testicle that dangles over your face while you sleep," I'd rather use that word because it's Japanese and I can pretend I don't know that. If only we could get people to translate the word Hentai. Then again there's a reason Haggis isn't called "stuffed sheep intestines". But I digress.) The show takes place in "generic big city" (sort of like Gotham or Metropolis), and every one of our heroes lives in a giant T. As in the letter. They live in a giant letter to signify that yes, the Teen Titans love their T by living in Titan Tower. The joys of alliteration. So the show is half serious (like all action cartoons where the world needs saving), half weird-ass Manga/Anime, half "teen drama" and half bad acid trip. If you do the math, that's like getting a whole extra show!
I'd like to get right into the episode guide and point out when I had to claw my eyes out in shock but I'm guessing that not everyone has seen an episode or even knows about the show. It's time to meet our stars...
Robin. Oh my god. When someone told me that Robin was leading the Teen Titans, I couldn't stop laughing. Batman's little altar boy was being reintroduced to the American public...in a role of leadership? "Trick-Turning Tyrannosaurs, Batman! The Teen Titans are in trouble!" After watching the show, I'd expect the new Robin to say something more like this: "I'm going to crush your skull! You can't talk like that to me! I'm frickin' Robin! AAAAARRRGH!" Robin is insane. Not that "I see a giant rabbit from the future" kind of crazy but more like "I have no superpowers but I'm going to jump off this roof into the giant robot's mouth" kind of crazy. Robin's the scrawny psycho kid that does nothing but practice to make up for the fact that, in the universe of comic books, he doesn't have any powers whatsoever. He's still got the toys, gadgets, and ninja-moves that are in NO WAY just like Batman's. All of Robin's props are red and green (he apparently scraped off the bats and repainted them). Just so you know, Batman does not exist in this universe, or he hasn't been mentioned yet. Come to think of it, the Teen Titans seem to be the only heroes in "Generic Big City." Did they bid to get this deal, or is it just that no city council is going to go against teenagers that can shoot lasers and who wear latex suits all the time?
Just to reiterate: Robin is the "willful leader that hates to lose" as well as "the resident kung-fu ninja." Reminds me of a game called Kingdom Hearts. In the game, random Disney characters join your adventuring party. Peter Pan joins your team, and you're like: "Oh, swell, Peter "crossdresser" Pan is in my party. What's he going to do, give me happy thoughts...OH MY GOD. The BLOOD..so much Pirate BLOOOD!" Peter Pan was apparently all about cutting pirates in half whenever the camera wasn't on him. The game actually got me to say casually: "Peter Pan is so Hardcore." Wow. Robin seems to be the same, being far more aggressive than anything you might have imagined. It's a shame he's still a teenaged crime-fighter named after a little bird.
Cyborg. He's a....cyborg. While not having the most creative of names, he's forgiven because it's been in the comic book for about 40 years at this point. I'm guessing when he showed up, not many people knew what the hell a cyborg was. He's also much cooler than Robin so I'm forgiving his name while still putting a virtual "kick-me" sign on Robin's back. Cyborg is half-machine and half-man. Some people out there think it's important to point out that the man half is also black. Now the whole "black" thing really isn't that important to the character or the show, but apparently it's offended a number of viewers of Teen Titans. I'd just like to point out that while Cyborg does sound like an urban-born African American, he's also voiced by one, and, well, his character is one. There's no racism in the show. In fact, I think people are defining his character all wrong. He's half black MAN. He's the only real testosterone you'll see on the show...Robin's too busy making up for his runty size, and Beastboy (the other guy) is more the comic relief guy than anything else. Cyborg is crazy-strong, shoots lasers out of his hand, and is the general mechanic and doer of "guy stuff" around the Titan Tower. Sure he says "Booya!" a fair amount, but he is indeed "da man," as it were. If you want to talk about racist characters....I got a copy of "The Fantastic Four versus the BLACK PANTHER." Keep in mind that this came out when the Black Panthers fought for Black Power and you might understand how horrible it is to have an all-white team kick the ass of a revolutionary black man. Keep an eye out for an "offensive entertainment" article soon. Let's move on...
Raven. She's the Daria, the Raphael, the nihilist, the dark one, etc. Raven is the sarcastic angsty member of the team...because everyone needs a goth girl around at some point. She's got the power of demons in her (or something), and by saying her magic words she can move objects with her mind, fly, or, well, do neat looking things. She's a Scorpio, is into mediation, and likes long walks on the beach. I'm not sure what else to say. Oh, I know she's the counterpoint in the show to the other girl:
Starfire. Starfire is the "foreign exchange" alien that speaks as if English is her second language...something I have a lot of personal experience with, living in Germany. You get a lot of cross-cultural humor as she explains the holidays and traditions of her world, but since these scenes exist only to have the other character run way or just get confused, you won't hear too much about them. She can fly, shoot bolts of plasma (green stuff that is pretty), and has super-strength. Why the hell is she interesting? She's the perkiest, happiest, jolliest girl you will ever see. She doesn't understand earth and seems to make up for it by imbibing large quantaties of Caffeine and Prozac. It's the only explanation.
Our final hero is Beast Boy. He's the humorous member of the Titan's team with the ability to turn into any animal you can think of. This leads to some interesting fight scenes where he turns into a giant WHALE to crush a bad guy underneath or a skunk to musk a villain. Of course, all the animals he turns into are a toxic-goo-green, but I think that's just to make it easier to spot him in the cartoon or in the comic book panels. Beast Boy is all about the visual gag, turning into all sorts of craziness for the hell of it. He's also vegan, which isn't really that funny.
While there are over a dozen villains in the upcoming episode guide, there is one that appears in all of the "Plot" episodes. Ron Perlman voices "Slade," also known as "Deathstroke the Terminator" from the comic books (or so I'm told). Slade is the secret mastermind behind most of the evil throughout the first 26 episodes of Teen Titans. He's got robots, mutants, spy satellites and a decent smattering of kung-fu, so he's a pretty versatile villain. Bah. Facts aren't funny. Need to move on...I'm so sick of explaining things....it's time I got to the episodes and their lunacy. Here's the rules: These episode are in order with the exception of a few of the "Plot" episodes. They're cool, generally not worth too much analysis on their own. Otherwise, click on the links below and enjoy:
The joys of Aqualad, Robin choosing to actively suck, and flatulent 6-year-olds
Crazier than Season 1! Get ready for an evil Klingon, online gaming Hell, and Mothman's Junior Prom!
Come see Monty Python and the amazing Mind Control Squid!
Ding, Dong, Raven's Dead (with Tofu and more Evil Klingon)
The Final Season, which barely features the Teen Titans at all.