Monday, September 01, 2008

Can Dan Didio Fix the Titans?

Can Dan Didio Fix the Titans? It was a question recently posed on comicbloc. It's a valid question. Since Geoff Johns left, the series has struggled to find it's way. Sean McKeever and Eddy Barrows have brought some stablility to the book, but last week's issue, featuring a grusome murder of two characters, seems to have outraged some fans who were beginning to embrace the book.

I think the malaise of the TEEN TITANS book is deeper than "we lost Superboy and Kid Flash." Although, that WAS a big loss...

Losing Kid Flash and Superboy hurt the book, no doubt about it. If you go back and re-read the first 30 or so issues, Superboy is one of the lynchpin members. His relationship with Cassie and friendship with Tim made him important even when he wasn't the "star" of the story. For example, an Ares story, although Cassie-centric, still involves Superboy. When Tim stepped down as Robin, it effected Superboy, too.

Kid Flash is less of a loss because he wasn't integrated as much into the Tim-Cassie-Conner trio that emerged. Somehow, he was on the fringe of that. Still, he was the "heart" of the team in the same way Changeling was during the NTT days.

So, yeah, they hurt the book by leaving. But the book could have recovered...

I believe the problems with the book go back to before INFINITE CRISIS. I think TT had a great launch for 23 issues, and then faltered with the INSIDERS arc, and never fully recovered. Geoff took on a lot with INFINITE CRISIS, and TEEN TITANS suffered a bit during that. ONE YEAR LATER was a good, fresh start... but that's just it.. it was just a start...

Since #34 (and we are now on #62), the book has been in membership flux. We get the OYL membership shakeup. Then Jericho joins and Raven rejoins, and then after the horrid TITANS EAST arc, they all quit again. Miss Martian joins. Supergirl joins then quits. Ravager quits. Blue Beetle psuedo-joins, then actually joins. Then Miss Martian quits. Now two more cast members are dead.

This books needs to get OUT of "contstant flux" and get back to telling character driven stories with interesting conflicts. In the wake of the bad TITANS EAST arc, we got what we thought would be a solid roster in #50, only for it to be followed by the also-bad TITANS TOMORROW TODAY arc, followed by Supergirl, Ravager, Miss Martian leaving.

The funny thing is ... the "missing year" Teen Titans were a mess because they were in constant flux... members coming and going all the time. That was meant to convey a team in upheaval. The original idea, it seemed, was the OYL launch storyline would galvanize the Teen Titans together again!! Except, since OYL, the team has been in constant tumult.


I wonder, sometimes, if anyone takes a step back and looks at this stuff in the current DCU editorial offices. Some of their decisions borderline on parody. Issue #62 featured the death of two more characters (more death, sigh) and Miss Martian leaving. The book needs to settle on a direction and a roster soon.

This is EXACTLY the sort of thing that killed the NEW TITANS book years ago. Readers were fine with some shake-ups during Titans Hunt, but then the book never settled down into a solid roster, and devolved into the unforgivable Jaaska era.

I think it's also a problem when all your characters are in a "dark" place (the same problem happened in BUFFY season six..). In NTT, even when Robin was grumpy, Speedy would be flirting. If Cyborg was angsty, Changeling was silly. In the book now, Tim and Cassie are sourpusses, Miss Martian is driven to evil, Kid Devil feels unloved and aliented, etc... there's no balance. Blue Beetle provides a fresh breath of non-angst (and maybe that's just because he has his own title). They need more of those light, human moments for balance to the darker moments and stories.

The book needs a solid roster. The book needs a solid direction and voice. The book needs for Cassie and Tim to stop acting like the worry-wart parents and have them be the capable teens they were before INFINITE CRISIS. Seriously, those two have been so dour since IC, and that's part of the problem... they are divorced from the other characters in the book.

TEEN TITANS isn't completely "broken" as a book. McKeever has tapped into some good stuff since he's taken over. The TERROR TITANS arc was good And after the BLUE AND THE RED issue, I thought the book was on track at last. More of that balance, please.

So, to fix:
-- make a solid roster, and stick with it for awhile
-- start exploring the relationships between all team members, not just subsets
-- lighten up Tim and Cassie
-- balance the dark storyline elements with some lighter, human moments

As for TITANS, #4 is coming out Wednesday. Maybe I'll do an analysis of that book next week. Heaven help me.


  • At 3:58 PM, Blogger Tarcísio Aquino said…

    Agreed 100%, Bill.

  • At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree completely. And the worst part is I worry Dan Didio isn't looking to fix the Teen Titans because he actually believes that the way the kids are supposed to act. I was at WonderCon in San Francisco, and asked about the constant team-shifts that occurred in the book and when Robin and Wonder Girl would stop acting the way they were. I brought up many of the same questions you did about the teams constant shifting dynamic. His response was "Have you ever met teenagers?" As if to say that Teens are always and naturally going to be illogical, abrupt and emotionally unstable and constantly going to behave like this. I know he meant it as a joke, but honestly that was kind of an unfair statement towards teens and towards the characters. The reason the Titans were so liked are because they suffer all the normal problems of teenagers, but manage to still behave like true heroes. I'm not seeing that in the book anymore. And with the death of Wendy And Marvin, I don't care what they say, that was purely shock value. They could have let the characters survive, but instead opted for another cheap death. These character didn't have enough time to develope for their deaths to mean much to people. Most people I bet are pissed off not because they liked the character, but because they didn't get a chance to really know the character.

  • At 4:43 PM, Anonymous justin- said…

    That's a very well thought out post, especially your insight into the OYL arc, and the fact that for more than a year now we've had to endure the turmoil of an unsteady team.

    Can you feel a cancel or reboot a'comin?

  • At 6:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Amen! you are so right! this is so ridiculous! i dropped the book after the titans (which wasnt worth it) but i've been keeping track cause i used to love the titans. your suggestions are absolutely neccessary! we need to start a petition.

    and "have you ever met a teenager?" didio says. HAVE YOU?!

  • At 7:08 PM, Anonymous OLD SCHOOL said…

    To sum it up sean made this title unreadable and this is coming from a fan that has been reading titans for 30 years now.

    great job sean!

  • At 8:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Seems like my subscrptiion expired just in time. I wasn't a huge fan of Wendy and Marvin, but this is ridiculous.

    Didio needs to go. Whoever replaces him will be no prize, for sure. But he needs to GO.

  • At 7:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Didio doesn't give a damn about DC Comics one bit... he's just another corporate mercenary who came in to smile big, talk a lot of huckster crap, and strip-mine the company for his dumptruck full o' money, after which time he'll tip his pork-pie hat and skip down, leaving behind the usual smoldering crater of corporate ruin.

    It's the new American way: wave the flag and screw the future.

  • At 8:54 AM, Blogger Johny Ho said…

    Great insight Bill.
    I was just thinking about it the other day, and the lack of a fixed roster bothers me a lot. They need a roster that really lasts longer than a arc an a half.
    This was actually one of the reasons that NTT was so strong.
    The sad part is that we might actually get this in Winick's title, but sadly he's an awful writer for a Titan title.

  • At 7:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The appeal of a book to me is usually the characters. If you don’t like them, then who cares what happens to them. I liked the friendship between Superboy, Robin, Impulse (or kid flash), and Wondergirl. Since killing off half of those characters they just haven’t managed to create a team I care about. I did not like the Terror Titans arc, and have not read #62 yet, but it doesn’t sound like things are getting better. To be honest both Titans titles are at the bottom of my stack to read. I should cancel them; I just keep hoping things will get better.

    I used to read mostly DC but since Infinite Crisis (which I hated) I have been dropping DC titles and reading more Marvel. I only have so much money to spend on comics and I want to enjoy the ones I read.

    ~ Rick

  • At 3:41 AM, Blogger MetFanMac said…

    #62 made me drop the title for good, even though I was never really into it before then.

    What we need is a new Young Justice.

  • At 9:45 PM, Blogger Mr. Allison Blaire said…

    This current TT series is what got me actually seriously collecting DC Comics as a whole. I'm pretty loyal to the Titans but it hasn't been a book I've really enjoyed, outside of a single issue here or there, in a long time. It's kinda funny that the one and done character-focused issues usually work for me while the generic storyarcs (Titans East, Terror Titans, Amazons Attack, etc) are putting me off. It's just so grim for a superhero book, like 90's Image or something. Just depressing and horrific with no sort of hope to look forward to. Not to mention, Robin and WG, the mainstays, come across really badly now. I almost prefer seeing the team pop up in other books, like the Cyborg mini, where they're actually banding together and doing something somewhat heroic.

  • At 3:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I only really started to read DC comics at the beginning of this teens titans series and i've got to say it's gone from the top book to a pile of poorly planned, written, and drawn crap.

    I was willing to go and see where Johns was taking this post IC. The OYL line-up was interresting and the art was solid.

    But something just went south during titans east (which could have been an amazing arc) but then the creators started playing musical chairs which screws up the flow of the book which in turn resulted in the characters playing musical chairs and leaving us with this shallow shell of what was.

    Wonder Girl and Robin would understandably be bitter about their titans experience but they're not just acting "emo" they're being bi-polar about the team. First it's lets make this work, then this team is crap.

    Under Sean's writing the title has been shot to pieces. He needs to go away with robin and wonder girl and the team needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.

    That might sound harsh or unfair on sean but the man can't write teens. I know people point alot of the problems at DiDio but Johns created a wonderful book under his watch and it worked for quite some time.

    DC needs to wipe the slate clean and start again (with out a massacre or some kind of crisis).

  • At 6:12 AM, Blogger Mr. Allison Blaire said…

    The funny thing about Sean McKeever is that,by judging him on his past work, I would have said he'd be the perfect person for the Titans but this run has felt almost as though he was experimenting is sadism. It's as though he'd never gotten a chance to get really gritty and he wanted to try it out on these characters.


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