I was recently gifted a subscription to the new streaming service DC Universe. Like Marvel Unlimited, DC Universe offers access to digital content such as movies, TV shows, and comics. While the comic library is not quite as extensive as Marvel’s library, DC’s service includes their massive collection of animated shorts, older films, and complete series of Wonder Woman, Constantine, Lois & Clark, and Young Justice.

Nigthwing Tail

Some fashion questions are better unanswered.

Overall, I’m enjoying the service. I’ve been able to catch up on some series I’ve always wanted to read and have been reminded that the 90’s were just not a good time for comics. (I had completely blocked Nightwing’s ponytail from my mind. Now, I can never un-see.) Unlike Marvel Unlimited, DC Universe offers exclusive access to new television series. Promised shows include Doom Patrol and Swamp Thing. They released the pilot episode of their first effort, Titans, last week.

It’s easy to forget just how much Teen Titans pushed the limits of comics.

Titans jumps off the pages of the comic book of the same name. Former members of the Teen Titans, Robin, Wonder Girl, and Beast Boy, as well as some newcomers like Raven and Cyborg, team up to fight super baddies, all while navigating the angst of their early 20’s. Not only do they have to deal with the evil forces of Brother Blood, but they also must keep their day jobs.

Yes. DC Comics went there.

It’s easy to forget just how much Teen Titans pushed the limits of comics. The book depicted the clearly middle aged Deathstroke in a sexual relationship with a fifteen-year-old Terra. An image of Starfire and Nightwing naked and in bed together raised eyebrows. Think about it. The 80’s didn’t take kindly to un-married, extraterrestrial couplings. 

Titans uses titular characters from the comic series, Robin, Starfire, Raven, and Changeling (aka Beast Boy), and places them in Detroit, Michigan. Like the comic, it looks like it’s going to push some boundaries. I’m can’t say I was a big fan of hearing Robin utter, “fuck Batman,” in the trailer. Gritty for the sake of gritty doesn’t really excite me. Still, I was looking forward to watching the series pilot.

It didn’t suck, but….

The character’s oft stripperific costume works in context.

It’s an adjustment. Given how far the CW’s Arrow wandered from the original source material, you’d think I’d be over “interesting” takes on some of my favorite characters from comics. I survived and am enjoying the re-imaging of Black Canary, for example. Still, certain characterizations of Titans will take getting used to.

This is not the Starfire I’m used to, yet.

Visually, I think Anna Diop, the costuming and special effects crews nail the physical appearance of Starfire. She appears unworldly and they even made the character’s oft stripperific costume works in context. I also know that passions drive the warrior trained Koriand’r and New Teen Titans #1 shows her blasting away enemies. However, watching the rather bloodthirsty Titan’s version of the character snap someone’s neck then incinerate a baddie jarred me. My last exposure to Starfire came courtesy of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner. The cute yet capable “fish out of water” from that story looks nothing like what I saw on the screen.

Teagan Croft portrays a character barely able to function, paralyzed with fear and trauma.

Teagan Croft as Raven

Teagan Croft as Raven.

Likewise, Titan’s vision of a young, frighten Raven shook me. In the comic, the semi-demonic Raven must control her emotions to suppress the evil within. Teagan Croft portrays a character barely able to function, paralyzed with fear and trauma. Here, the special effects crew won another victory. The evidence of Raven’s empathic powers emerging in reflections and dreams feels spot on. As in the New Teen Titans #1, it’s Raven who reaches out to Robin in his dreams with the goal to unite the team. Titans makes that all too common trope work and the character believable.

Brenton Thwaites as Robin.

Titans adds nuance to the character of Robin. Like Starfire’s costume, his “fuck Batman” line makes sense in context. Brenton Thwaites offers us a character in conflict. Dick Grayson struggles against becoming another Batman yet feels hinders by the relative ineffectiveness of his role as a city detective. He can arrest the bad guys as a police officer. He can’t always make sure they get put away. As Robin, he can at least ensure they face some kind of justice. Overall, I get the feeling this is a character due for some serious development. I would love to see a Nightwing emerge from this Robin.

I can’t speak much for Changeling. He only showed up for a moment at the end of the episode. I can’t say I’m a fan of his breaking and entering a big box store to steal a video game, but, once again, the special effect crew did a great job with a CGI, green tiger. I’m willing to watch what happens next.

It’s certainly more like Arrow then Supergirl.

It’s certainly more like Arrow then Supergirl. So far, Titans looks willing to show us a fresh collection of brooding, young superheroes on the small screen, characters we might not always recognize from their recent comic book depictions. The show also offers up some decent production values and top-notch special effects, and a talented cast. It’s already been renewed for a second season. I’ve got to give it at least one more episode, if only to see what they do with two of my favorite characters, Hawk and Dove.

You can find Titans at DC Universe.