Teen Titans and the rest of the DC Cartooniverse

Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1999)
Batman Beyond (1999)
Justice League (2001-2004)
Justice League Unlimited (2004-    )
Static Shock (2000-    )
Superman (1996-2000)
Type: Shared Reality
Group 19

   Ugh. It's one thing to chart simple one to one crossovers that happen. Its a bigger pain when realities get so expansive that they don't necessarily entail two shows doing a straight forward crossovers but instead have multiple shows just lightly bumping into each other. Like I'm going to write one whole Teen Titan/Batman page about Batman and Bruce Wayne being lightly alluded to and then another one for when The Titans were mentioned on Static Shock and then ANOTHER just based on Batman being in The Justice League after being partnered with Robin who is now a Teen Titan. This is why I try to avoid cartoons. DAHHHHH!!! No cartoons unless they have a tie to Prime Time dang it!

   And dang you Batman: The Animated Series for being on Prime Time for 2 seconds and opening the door.

   Lacking a specific big event crossover, let me just explain how and why Teen Titans tie into the major DC cartoon universe that has come into being since the premiere of Batman: The Animated series. Some people even doubt it actually does tie into that universe.

   Okay, quick recap on all the other shows in this world. Back in the early 1990's Batman: The Animated Series premiered on the FOX Network. It was a whole new take on doing Batman cartoons and cartoons in general. Rather than the typical look of a cartoon, this show had a drawing style set to make it look like a cartoon from the 30's. It looked like the old old Superman cartoons. And Gotham City was built to look retro gothic and yet current day as well. Because, again, that describes Batman.

   The show was such a hit that, like I said, it even aired for a bit in Prime Time. After that came a new Superman cartoon with the same drawing style which makes sense since the old Superman toons inspired the style. Metropolis didn't get quite the gothic old school look though since that wouldn't make much sense.

   Then came Batman Beyond. Set in the future the cartoon featured a new teenage Batman wearing a battle suit and whose mentor was former Batman Bruce Wayne. The show was, again, clearly established as part of the existing universe. It retained some of the Batman drawing style but also changed it up to fit the era it was portraying. Instead of retro and gothic Batman Beyond was more Blade Runner style: the future but an old, used and dirty future. This being a look used in much of Japanese anime they gave it a bit of that flavor as well. In fact one of the Batman Beyond films they made even had an artist from the Japanese Sci-Fi classic AKIRA working on it and actually doing a visual homage to their own work!

   Anyway, after that Cartoon Network commissioned the creation of a Justice League cartoon in the same style and clearly part of the same world. It was a more faithful adaption of DC's Justice League comics than the old "Super Friends" show which was basically a really watered down Justice League. With the new show the audience got to see more and more of their favorite DC comic characters than just Bats and Supes, many of them making the jump from comics to the screen for the first time. Then the title was changed to Justice League Unlimited and fans got to see even more heroes. Justice League had had a set roster of heroes with maybe the occasional guest popping up. With Unlimited the idea was that The League had recruited tons and tons of new members and that each week you would get to see many different combinations of heroes fighting side by side. Booster Gold only good for one episode? Well, get him in for that episode, let people enjoy and then don't worry about having him around for other episodes he wouldn't fit into.

   In addition to all these hard line DC shows two other shows also share space in this Cartooniverse. Static Shock was a cartoon based on a non-DC comic that frequently did crossovers with characters from this specific DC Tooniverse. Specific to this page there was even a crossover where, since Static Shock is a teenager, mention was made to him of the existence of The Teen Titans. Then there is The Zeta Project, a cartoon set in the future about a sentient war robot who decides he doesn't want to make war and goes on the run with his trusty human friend Rose. The show was a spin off of Batman Beyond but hardly a part of the standard DC comic book world. And to this day winks and nods are made to the show with robots appearing on Justice League whose design is that of the Zeta robots.


   Okay, now FINALLY we can get to Teen Titans. And I didn't go off into all those other shows without reason. First off they do all end up connecting to Teen Titans either directly or indirectly. Secondly, they all help make my case for why Teen Titans is actually part of the same universe.

   With the success of The Justice League and Superman and Batman out of production, I think the idea was to keep the DC cartooniverse going by simply adapting other comic books and heroes and setting them in the same world. And with Marvel comic's teenage heroes The X-Men making a splash on the big screen and with a cartoon of their own I think it only made sense for DC to bring out a cartoon version of their own teen hero group The Teen Titans.

   Like the X-Men the Teen Titans have had many different members throughout the years. For the cartoon the producers decided to kick it old school with the Titans most remembered lineup. Batman's sidekick Robin broke away from Bruce Wayne and join the team. Beastboy was a green skinned smart ass who could transform into any animal he wanted. Cyborg was a black athlete who had been badly injured and who went the Bionic Man route of becoming half robot. Unlike Steve Austin though Cyborg looked like he was half robot. Raven was the dour and dark, magical, half demon member of the team. Her dad? Yeah, not so nice. You think your dad's bad? Try a giant multi-eyed red demon on for size. Yipes! Finally there was Starfire. Starfire was the team's resident alien and resident hottie. She could fly, throw energy blasts and make the boys drool.

   Now here's where the trouble starts and it all trouble about style. First off, when the show premiered I heard alot of people complaining about how the show had been adapted from the original comics. The characters weren't the same as the comics! They had changed them! They were younger and not exactly the same in look or behavior. Okay, first off, the cartoon ISN'T The comic. Batman: The Animated Series presented a Batman that wasn't an exact match in look or style to everything in the comic and everyone was fine with that. That might be because there is just so much to draw on for Batman, so many styles and interpretations that its hard to call any single one invalid (Except for Joel Schumacher's. Why Joel, why???). But for the Titans I think people had a much more specific view of who they were, how they should look and act.

   That said I think the cartoon take on The Titans is fine on it's own. Are they younger? Yeah. They did youth it up a bit. The aim was to get a younger audience as well as, hopefully, the old fans of the book. Yes Starfire went from being a more confident more, uh, buxom character to being a less confident but exuberant preteen. But guess what? Starfire as drawn in the comics? While teen boys everywhere would have loved her, mom's of America would have burned down TV stations. Raven became more of a regular teen goth chick. Okay fine. Given. Stop whining. She is actually also not a badly written character. And again, full demon child? Not going to be flying in alot of homes.

   One of the biggest complaints though was about the art style. This is also something people point to to say the show is not part of the larger DC tooniverse. I, on the other had, think it proves the connection. Where Batman had that old school 30's drawing style, The Teen Titans style was based on a more anime look. And not the serious cyberpunk AKIRA style but the funky goofy youth aimed style where the characters can have their standard look one minute and then can look very cartoony the next. Where if someone is nervous or embarrassed an oversized drop of sweat will be shown rolling down their face. Where if there is a light hearted fight is going on in Titans Tower the whole tower can be shown bending and swaying like crazy. Many old school fans didn't like the style. I can't argue that. That's a matter of taste. Alot of the people who hated that seemed to love the look of MTV's computer animated Spider-Man cartoon that came out at the same time and that just creeped me out. Can't please everyone.

   The other issue with the drawing style was that some people say that the style is so different from Batman: The Animated series that it clearly can't be part of the same universe. I think the difference in style proves the point. With this group of cartoons the style is always altered to match the tone of the show in question. Batman went with an old and timeless look. Superman went with the classic superman look. Batman Beyond went for anime cyber punk. Teen Titans was a show aimed at young teens (Hello? TEEN Titans) so they went for a style popular with young teens. Still, the characters still look similar enough that I don't think they are out of step with the other DC comic shows.

   Continuity becomes another problem. The Teen Titan's Robin is clearly a teenager. They try to keep things vague by only calling him Robin and never saying specifically which Robin it is (Dick Grayson? Jason Todd? Tim Drake?). I think they did that specifically to skirt the problems I am about to talk about, to give themselves some plausible deniability as it were. The thing is that on Batman: The Animated Series Dick Grayson was not a teenager. He was in college. So it wouldn't make sense for him to be a teenager in the group. Jason Todd can be written off since I don't think he was ever brought into the animated continuity and was blown up real good in the comics. So that would mean the Teen Titan's Robin would have to be choice three, Tim Drake. Only that's a problem too since the whole point was to do the classic Titan lineup which had Dick Grayson as Robin. So the best solution at the start was to just be vague and not say which Robin it was.

   But over time evidence began to accumulate over which Robin it was and it all pointed to Dick Grayson. In one episode Starfire went into the future where she encountered an adult Robin in his new role as the hero Nightwing. Nightwing is the hero Dick Grayson became after he was Robin. There is also a scene taken from Robin's memory showing the death of Dick Grayson's parents. A little weird guy also shows up from a parallel universe saying he is Robin in a parallel universe and is our Robin's counterpart. His name is Dick Grayson spelled backwards. Finally, all the plots, all the little things in the show are almost all drawn from the Dick Grayson Robin.

   But that screws the pooch doesn't it? If it's Dick Grayson then he's too young to be the same Dick Grayson on Batman: The Animated Series, right? Well who says the two shows take place at the same time? The simple explanation is that the stories on Teen Titans chronologically fall before Batman: The Animated series. Why not? What difference would it really make. I don't see anyone gnashing their teeth over Batman Beyond being in a different time frame.

   But still, why assume they are part of the same world? I mean there is a new Batman cartoon called The Batman that utterly reworks Batman again and that is pretty clearly not part of the Tooniverse. Why not assume the same is true of Teen Titans. Because Teen Titans came from some of the same minds behind the other shows, it shares a certain sensibility about using drawing style that the other shows have and it actually went out of its way to blur the whole issue of Robin's identity. Quite frankly if this was a break into a whole new reality they could have made Robin Dick Grayson and have been done with it. The fact that they were seemingly aware of a continuity problem between the shows and took steps to blur the issue says they were thinking about the show in terms of it connecting to the other shows.

   To be completely fair the issue can't be settled 100% until some big crossover happens. But that seems unlikely. Right now the only show that would likely happen with would be Justice League Unlimited. Seeing that they just changed the premise so that they could use any of a zillion Justice League characters, I don't see that they have any real need or drive to bring in guest stars from ANOTHER hero group. Not likely. Plus keeping them separated lets them maintain the vagueness about Robin's identity and at what point in time Titans is set. The other possibility would be for, say, Batman to make a visit to The Teen Titans. But that's a bad idea too. Part of what is cool about Robin in The Titans is that it is a chance for him to stand on his own and not be overshadowed by Batman, to destroy the sidekick "I need Batman" stigma. If Batman shows up for a visit his presence would likely overshadow Robin and The Titans and undo that. I mean what would be the point of his showing up unless he was needed. And if he's needed then instantly the Titans are the kiddie squad who needs Big Bats to save their buts.

   For my money until something glaring happens to prove otherwise, I'm going with Teen Titans being part of the bigger DC cartoon world.

   UPDATE: Did I say... something glaring? Well if not glaring, we did get something damn close to it. The Justice League Unlimited episode Patriot Act had a team of non-superpowered Leaguers under attack by a military man who had turned himself super. Imagine if The Hulk's nemesis General Thunderbolt Ross got injected with super soldier serum but instead of turning into Captain America he turned himself into The Hulk and you get close to the mark. A non-powered League team led by Green Arrow have to face him as every other hero in the league is busy (That's a lot of heroes busy. Bad day in the DC Tooniverse). Eventually some help does arrive in the form of two reserve League members: The Crimson Avenger and Green Arrow's former partner/sidekick Speedy. Needless to say Super-Hulk-Soldier guy was harldy frightened by the added "muscle".

   In the end the villain actually stood undefeated. However, the average people of Metropolis, where the fight happened, managed a minor victory. Hulk Soldier was trying to prove that super powered vigilantes were dangerous and that only by hulking himself up would there be someone to stand against them and protect the public IF they were to go bad. The average people point out to him he is actually the only one present who has superpowers and that he has become what he hates. That's enough to send General Crazy packing.

   What is important for us though is the appearance of Speedy. Prior to this episode Speedy had never appeared on Justice League. He had however been a recurring guest star on Teen Titans. Now that doesn't positively prove a link between the two shows. In the comics Speedy was a Titan and Green Arrow's former partner. It would make sense that some version of the character would exist on both shows even if each show had its own separate reality. Luckily we CAN say it is the same Speedy on both shows thanks to Mike Erwin. Who the hell is Mike Erwin? The actor who provides the voice of Speedy on both Teen Titans AND Justice League Unlimited. Same character on two shows is one thing. Same character played by the same actor? Come on! It's the same Speedy on both shows.

Other Batman: The Animated Series Crossover Links
Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond
Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League
Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited
Batman: The Animated Series and Static Shock
Batman: The Animated Series and Superman

Other Batman Beyond Series Crossover Links
Batman Beyond and Batman: The Animated Series
Batman Beyond and Justice League
Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited
Batman Beyond and Static Shock
Batman Beyond and Superman
Batman Beyond and The Zeta Project

Other Justice League/Justice League Unlimited Crossover Links
Justice League/Justice League Unlimited and Batman: The Animated Series
Justice League/Justice League Unlimited and Batman Beyond
Justice League/Justice League Unlimited and Static Shock
Justice League/Justice League Unlimited and Superman
Justice League/Justice League Unlimited and The Zeta Project

Other Static Shock Crossover Links
Static Shock and Batman: The Animated Series
Static Shock and Batman Beyond
Static Shock and Justice League
Static Shock and Justice League Unlimited
Static Shock and Superman

Other Superman Crossover Links
Superman and Batman: The Animated Series
Superman and Batman Beyond
Superman and Justice League
Superman and Justice League Unlimited
Superman and Static Shock
Superman and Teen Titans

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