Cinescape Magazine #72: Teen Titans Animated
Young Justice: The 80s-era DC Comics super-teens are
back in the new Cartoon Network animated series.
An Article from Cinescape Magazine #72 [September 2003] by Eric Moro
TEEN TITANS – DC Comics’ crime-fighting team of junior superheroes – have experienced a number of revamps throughout their storied career. There’s the original 1964 team, which launched within the pages of Brave & the Bold #54 and consisted of only Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad (sidekicks to their adult namesakes). Then there’s the team that most Gen Xers remember -1980′s The New Teen Titans from writer Marv Wolfman and penciler George Pérez. The 21st’ century sees another incarnation still – one inspired by the ’8Os, but brought to animated life by creators at the Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. Animation.
“I just felt like the Teen Titans was one of the properties left in the DC Universe that hadn’t been turned into a cartoon yet, but really needed to be,” says Sam Register, Cartoon Network’s senior vice president for original animation. “I don’t remember exactly what my attraction to the comic book was [as a kid], because I’ve gone back and read them and some of it doesn’t quite hold up anymore since it’s been 20 years.” To develop the series, Register tapped Glen Murakami – a veteran in the cartoon superhero game, whose credits include Batman: The Animated Series, Superman and Justice League. Together, the two set out to create a series that would capture a much younger audience than the shows that have come before it.
“Justice League, Samurai Jack and a lot of the anime we buy are great shows that skew a little higher than 6, 7 and 8-year-olds,” notes Register. “What we really wanted was to go back to making superhero shows for kids. The last two superhero shows for kids that I just thought were great were Power Rangers – when they first came out – and before that Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. So instead of doing ‘The world is in peril,’ we really just wanted to be something that was superheroes for a much younger audience!’
Murakami knew that the key to accomplishing this task lay in the characters he chose for the team’s lineup. Consequently, he found himself drawn to the previously mentioned Wolfman/Pérez comic – the book he enjoyed as a child – and called Robin the Boy Wonder, Cyborg (half man, half machine), Beast Boy (a changeling capable of morphing into animals), Starfire (an alien princess) and Raven (daughter to an inter-dimensional demon) into play.
“We picked the characters that we thought were the most conic and the most symbolic,” explains Murakami. “I wanted it to be very, very clear to understand them. Robin’s the leader. Starfire’s the alien, but she’s also the metaphor for the foreign exchange student or outsider. Cyborg’s the strong man. Beast Boy’s the funny one, but he’s insecure. He can be all of these animals, but at the same time he’s still really insecure. Early on, my whole thing was I wanted to understand their flaws because I thought that’s what will make them human. I think sometimes with the Justice League, all the characters are in some ways so perfect it makes it hard to relate to them!’
Of course, the most important element of the series is its overall look – a Westernanime fusion that helps set Teen Titans apart from any other cartoon superhero show on television.
“It doesn’t look like Batman: The Animated Series. It doesn’t look like Superman. It doesn’t look like Justice League,” says Register. “There are elements that you can totally pull from [those shows] and that’s because Glen comes from that world. But one of the criteria for developing Teen Titans was I wanted a whole new look. I wanted to be be completely surprised. I wanted something that kind of popped. And that anime style was going to do that. I have a name for that. I call it ‘Murakanime.’
WILLTHE REAL BOY WONDER PLEASE STAND UP?
Robin, A.K.A. Dick Grayson, is the traditional leader of the comic book Teen Titans. However, the look of the animated team’s leader mirrors that of third-string Boy Wonder Tim Drake. So just who is this Cartoon Network teenager posing as Batman’s former sidekick? “In my mind, it’s Dick Grayson just because that’s what I grew up reading in the comic,” says Glen Murakami. “But I think continuity-wise it might not make sense to people because if it’s Dick Grayson then it’s Like, ‘Oh, well, when does this take place in the Batman animated series?”‘
TEEN TITAN SING-ALONG
Tokyo based duo Puffy AmiYumi maintains a large following among U.S. fans of Japanese anime and manga, and that following looks to increase with their latest “Teen Titans Theme,” an English-language track created for the Cartoon Network series. The song is described as a shout-along classic that blends the spy movie cool of Iohnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man” with the adolescent excitement of the Bay City Rollers’ “Saturday Night”
“Sam Register suggested we use Puffy AmiYumi initially, so I ran out and got their album,” notes Glen Murakami. “I really loved the idea and when I found out that Andy Sturmer was writing and producing for them, I was even more excited as I was familiar with Andy’s work as lead singer of Jellyfish”
Visit the Teen Titans Animated Series Guide for more information. Titans Go!
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Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind titanstower.com. He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author