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Adventures of Robin and His Merry Band of Mega Friends

Adventures of Robin and His Merry Band of Mega Friends
An article from NY Times TV Magazine July 20, 2003 by George Gene Gustines

FOLLOWING in the super-powered footsteps of the animated “Justice League” heroes, a squad of younger champions from the pages of DC Comics, the Teen Titans, made their debut on Cartoon Network last night at 9. “I think comics and animation and even the new superhero movies have started to skew really adult,” said Glen Murakami, who as the producer of “Teen Titans” oversees every aspect of the series. “I think the show skews younger, but it doesn’t talk down to you. I think adults will enjoy it too.”

The history of the Teen Titans dates back to July 1965, when the superhero sidekicks Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Wonder Girl first joined forces, primarily to combat problems faced by fellow teenagers. The team’s popularity, however, did not explode until 15 years later with the publication of “The New Teen Titans.” This more mature incarnation of the team was composed of former members and new heroes, whose stories, written by Marv Wolfman and illustrated by George Pérez, were both epic and emotional.

It is this 1980’s version of the team that the “Teen Titans” animated series draws upon. “I think we kept the spirit of the Pérez/Wolfman comics,” said Mr. Murakami. “We tried to find a nice balance of powers and personalities. Our story editor has used the analogy that they are kind of like ‘The Breakfast Club.’ ”

The “Teen Titans” quintet includes Cyborg, a trustworthy half man/half robot; Starfire, an alien with power bolts who is relatively new to earth; Beast Boy, a fun-loving shapeshifter who can assume animal forms; Raven, a telekinetic shrouded in mystery; and Robin, the trusted partner to Batman, who serves as the team’s leader. “It’s an interesting dynamic to play the different personality types against each other,” said Mr. Murakami. “Starfire being so light and happy, Raven being so dry. Beast Boy is obviously the funny one, but everyone has their chance.”

Besides action and humor, interaction will be an important part of the series. “Every story has a moral that I think kids can relate to,” said Mr. Murakami. “The third episode, ‘Final Exam,’ is kind of about being bullied. ‘Sisters’ is about sibling rivalry and Starfire learning about herself. And I think the Titans’ problems are something that kids have to deal with.”

While there will be an overall arc to the stories (and a shadowy mastermind in the background who seems to be pulling the strings), each episode will stand on its own. And because the cartoon’s overall style has been influenced by Japanese anime, it will have a different look than that of “Justice League,” or even “Batman: The Animated Series,” for which Mr. Murakami was a character designer and a storyboard artist.

“We just felt like that was the natural progression. I think it’s new to comic-book fans and superhero animation fans because no one has gone in an anime direction with traditional episodes,” Mr. Murakami said. “I think it’s a pretty natural fit. It’s not dead-on anime, but it’s definitely a hybrid.'”

“If you had seen it 10 years ago,” he added, “it might have been really jarring, but now it’s pretty palatable.”

– George Gene Gustines

CONNECTIONS, part of Cartoon Network, features an episode guide, character biographies and games. has information on the new Teen Titans comic book, the first issue of which debuted last Wednesday, and other Titans-related publications. is an information-packed fan site devoted to every Titan, from Aqualad to Wonder Girl.

Visit the Teen Titans Animated Series Guide for more information. Titans Go!

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