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Cartoon Network’s Sam Register Talks Titans


by Rob Worley, Staff Writer, CBR
Posted: May 8, 2003
courtesy of

They’re lean, they’re teen, one of them is green and they’re making the scene this July on Cartoon Network. They’re “Teen Titans!” Comics2Film/CBR News spoke with Sam Register, Cartoon Network senior vice president of original animation who helped shepherd DC’s pre-adult heroes to animated life.


Register landed the development job at the network about a year and a half ago. “The first project that I wanted to do was the ‘Teen Titans.’ I picked up the phone the day I got the job and I called Paul Levitz and said, ‘I want to do Teen Titans,'” Register told C2F.

Soon work on the show was underway. The series would feature five heroes pulled from the comic title’s hey day: Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy (more commonly known in the comics as Changeling) and, of course, Robin.


The net had already seen great success with “Justice League,” but Register found that show wasn’t reaching an important segment of the network’s audience.

“‘Justice League’ is awesome and ‘Samurai Jack’ is awesome and we buy a lot of anime shows that’re great,” Register said, “but those shows really are directed more towards the nine to fourteen age group and the six and seven and eight year olds, were not gelling with the ‘Justice League’ and some of the more of the fanboy shows.

“The main mission was making a good superhero show for kids,” he continued. “Now if the fanboys happen to like the ‘Teen Titans’ also, that’s great, but that was not our mission.”

So what does it mean to design a show for younger viewers?

“That means everything needed to be iconic. Everything really needs to make sense in the story and in the characters and how they’re represented,” Register said.

For example the characters chosen were all heroes who could be easily described and understood. “One guy is a robot. Kids get that. One girl’s from space. Kids get that. One girl’s basically a witch. Beast Boy is a shape changer, can turn into all the different animals. That’s cool and, again, a very understandable power. Robin, just being the guy who used to work for Batman.

“We made up a fictional west coast city, it’s San Francisco meets San Diego meets Los Angeles,” Register said, adding that the show may have influenced the setting for Geoff Johns’ upcoming relaunch of the comic. As with the classic comics, the team inhabits their T-shaped headquarters. “That’s something kids can totally understand. It’s very iconic again.”


Similarly the villains all had to be very clear. No intergalactic Darkseid or netherworld Trigon. “The villains stay local. The world is never in peril,” Register said. Indeed such topics may seem scary in the modern world anyway. “You can see that for real on CNN. So, on Cartoon Network we wanted to make the conflict more like your friendly neighborhood Teen Titans.”

The primary villain, who is present in the first 26 episodes of the show, is Slade (known in the comics as Deathstroke, The Terminator). “We stayed away from Deathstroke, The Terminator because it’s bad for kids,” Register said, laughing. “What’s cool about him is, he’s sort of the bad Batman.”

Slade will confront the Titans directly in some episodes, where in other he’ll dispatch a villain to fight them. Register named some of the other villains.

“Dr. Light will show up to be defeated often, just like in the comics, Thunder and Lightning. We brought Gizmo, Mammoth and Jinx [from the fearsome five] as teenage superheroes. We have them working for H.I.V.E.”
The show will also feature new villains as well, like a rock monster named Cinder Block and a goofy magician named Mumbo.


Robin remains the team-leader and guide through the show. While fans know him as Batman’s sidekick, plans are to keep the Caped Crusader out of Titan Tower.

“There was a question, when we were developing, ‘What about Batman,’ and ‘should the island be off Gotham City,'” Register told C2F. “The feeling was Robin needs to be his own guy and the minute Batman shows up Robin becomes a sidekick all of a sudden, instead of a leader of the team.”

Do does Robin live up to being a team leader?

“I think Robin is so bad-ass. This is definitely the coolest, animated Robin that anyone’s every seen. He’s the one guy on the team without any powers. He’s just a guy who’s smart and extremely well-trained,” Register said. “I think he’s the most interesting character of the five.”

And just who is under the mask? Is it Tim Drake? Dick Grayson? Jason Todd?

“He’s just Robin. We never say which Robin he is. To be honest we’ve never even discussed it,” Register said. “Again, that’s for clarity for the kids. We’re not doing alter egos. They walk around town in their suits. They go to movies dressed as super heroes. Everyone sees them as super heroes. The go to a party as super heroes. They’re super heroes full time.”


Although Batman is out, as is the rest of the Justice League, Register tells us that Nightwing is a possibility and that other Titans from the comics may make their way into the show.

“We have an Aqualad episode. Wil Wheaton did the voice of Aqualad. We are looking, towards the second season, of introducing some other teenage superheroes from the DC Universe.”

“Teen Titans” will not mimic “Justice League,” with its continuing stories and event movies. All the episodes are stand-alone, half-hour stories. However, there is an over-reaching arc.

“The overall story arc is slowly introducing Slade,” Register said. “We’re revealing Slade and Robin’s trying to figure out what Slade’s problem is and why he’s after the Teen Titans which we reveal in the last two episodes [of season one].”

The adventure will continue in season two. “We have a really cool story arc…a really great story that we’re pulling from the old Pérez/Wolfman Titans for the second [thirteen episode block]. ”


Another way that the show will be different is in the style of animation. Although Bruce Timm is a producer, the characters won’t look or move like many of the recent animated DC characters.

“When we decided to do Teen Titans the first thing I said is, ‘Listen. I want a different looking show. We have a lot of the Warner Bros. house style. I want something that we haven’t seen before,'” Register said. Producer Glen Murakami has worked with Timm on many of those shows, but he’s also strongly influenced by anime.

“You’ll see that the characters have been really pushed in different directions when they’re animated. You’ll see a very heavy anime influence, but it’s not anime. It’s sort of where east meets west. I call the new look ‘Murakanime.’

“I think the backgrounds have a totally different look that you’ve never seen before, they’re more edgy and scratchy and gritty. The characters definitely have the influence of being under Bruce Timm, but when you see them animating and see them reacting it’s definitely a whole new show.”

DC Comics has also influenced the direction of the show. Register reports that special care had to be taken to preserve the integrity of Robin, an important DC Universe character.

Comic scribe Marv Wolfman, who made “Teen Titans” a must-read in the 1980s, penned an episode of the show.

“There was the ‘Too Many Tridents’ issue that Wolfman wrote,” Register said, recalling one of his favorite issues of the comics. “He kind of went back and did a new version of that same episode.”

Register tells us he has read many supportive comments from Wolfman, and also got a good reaction from Geoff Johns when he recently viewed the completed episodes.

“Teen Titans” debuts July 19th at 9 p.m. on Cartoon Network.

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

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