7 Things a Successful TEEN TITANS Film Adaptation Needs


Recently, DC Comics fans were overjoyed to find out that the Teen Titans would be coming to the big screen in James Gunn’s new DCU. The property has had a long history in non-comics media, most notably the massively successful Teen Titans animated series from the early 2000s, and its long-running spin-off, Teen Titans Go! In 2018, there was also a live-action Titans series produced for the Max streaming service, which lasted four seasons and ended in 2023. Will the third time be the charm in adapting the comics in a truly faithful manner? Here are the crucial ingredients needed to make the Teen Titans truly fly as a feature film.

Use the Best Teen Titans Roster

DC Comics

The Teen Titans first appeared in 1965, and were not much more than a quartet of “Junior Justice Leaguers” led by Robin, the Boy Wonder. The series was a moderate success, but DC canceled it several times in the ’70s. However, the 1980 revival The New Teen Titans, by creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez, was a runaway success for DC Comics. Although three original Titans remained, the breakout stars were new characters Starfire, Raven, and Cyborg, and a re-imagining of the obscure Doom Patrol hero Beast Boy (then Changeling). This team line-up became iconic, and although other Titans teams have come and gone since, DC always defaults back to a version of this most popular roster.

The modern DC Comics Titans roster, now all adults.
DC Comics

So why is this version the best? Wolfman and Perez made this team a true family, more Fantastic Four than Justice League. Because of this, while there have been other lineups, even decent ones, they almost always paled in comparison. It’s why the animated show mostly used these characters, as well as the live-action show (which left out Cyborg). Currently, the adult Titans title from Tom Taylor is the same lineup as in their ’80s heyday, minus the “teen” part. Some newer additions might be warranted for a film, like Damian Wayne as Robin. Yet DC Studios would be wise to not stray too far from what has worked best for over 40 years when bringing the Teen Titans to the big screen.

Show Dick Grayson’s Transition From Robin To Nightwing

The cover of Nightwing #100, showcasing Dick Grayson various looks over the years.
DC Comics

It just doesn’t feel like the Titans, teen or otherwise, unless it’s got Dick Grayson in the lead. This is why I think the Teen Titans movie should cover Dick Grayson’s transition from Robin, Batman’s kid partner, to Nightwing, his own adult heroic identity. In the comics, it was in the pages of The New Teen Titans where Dick Grayson made the transition from Batman’s sidekick in little green shorts and booties into the popular grown-up superhero that we know and love today. A character who is easily one of DC Comics’ most popular heroes. The show should cover his Robin to Nightwing journey, before spinning him off into a solo Nightwing film.

Teen Titans Must Find a Way to Include Cyborg

The half man/half machine hero Cyborg.
DC Comics

Although a founding member of the New Teen Titans in the comics, as well as a crucial part of the Teen Titans animated series, once DC Comics graduated the character of Cyborg to full Justice League member back in 2011, they totally severed his connection to the team where he debuted for years. He was nowhere to be found in the recent Teen Titans: The Judas Contract animated movie for instance, and wasn’t in the live-action series either. Although DC has somehow let the character remain in Teen Titans Go! on Cartoon Network. In recent years, DC has realized this mistake, and incorporated Victor Stone back into the Titans. Cyborg’s friendship with Beast Boy is also an important element of the team dynamic, one Gunn should absolutely include.

Teen Titans Can’t Forget Wonder Girl Donna Troy

Donna Troy/Wonder Girl, art by Terry Dodson and Nicola Scott.
DC Comics

While the movie will almost certainly include Starfire and Raven, the third most important female member of the team is Donna Troy, a.k.a. Wonder Girl. To some, she may seem like just a junior version of Wonder Woman, and that is how she started. But by the time the New Teen Titans formed she was a crucial balancing role in the dynamic of the team’s primary three ladies. Starfire was the wildly emotional and passionate member. Meanwhile, Raven had to control her emotions to the point of almost being a female Spock. So Donna was the balancing element in the middle of this trio. Plus, having an Amazon like Donna Troy opens up the world of Greek mythology, and that could be super cool.

Don’t Adapt The Judas Contract Right Away

George Perez' cover for Tales of the Teen Titans Annual #3, the conclusion of The Judas Contract story.
DC Comics

The Judas Contract is the most seminal Titans story of all time, even after 40 years. It is to the Titans what The Dark Phoenix Saga is to the X-Men. So it’s got to be tempting for filmmakers to jump right to that story. But they shouldn’t. The 2017 animated film did a pretty good job of adapting it. Yet 80 minutes just scratches the surface where this story is concerned. Like Dark Phoenix, this is a story intended for long-form storytelling. There’s a reason X-Men: The Animated Series is the best version of Dark Phoenix Saga to this day—both the live-action movies rushed things.

The DCU can’t make the same mistake with Teen Titans. The basic premise of The Judas Contract played out over two years in the comics. The Titans welcomed a plucky young teenage girl named Tara Markov who has earth-based powers to the team. The team eventually discovers she’s a mole their deadliest enemy, the mercenary Deathstroke, placed within the team as a spy. This whole saga deserves to play out over several films, not the first out of the gate. If Teen Titans gets sequels, then maybe cover this story.

Teen Titans Should Visit the Exotic Locales from the Comics

The alien world of Tamaran, and the magical dimension of Azarath, key locations in the Teen Titans universe.
DC Comics

With the likely inclusion of both Starfire and Raven on the team, that means we are going to be dealing with the worlds of both aliens and demons. The Titans TV series didn’t have the budget to pull these off. However, a big-budget feature can show us Tamaran, Starfire’s home planet, or Azarath, the magical dimension home to Raven. Wonder Girl’s home is Themyscira, home of the Amazons, which could also be a location. It would be wild if Donna Troy was the new DCU’s way into Greek mythology before Wonder Woman herself arrives.

Make Sure to Use Titan’s Tower

Titans Tower, as seen in the animated movie The Judas Contract.
Warner Bros. Animation

The Justice League has their Watchtower, and their Hall of Justice. The Avengers have their tower and their compound. But the Teen Titans have a famous HQ of their own—Titan’s Tower. Located on an island across the bay from New York (or sometimes, San Francisco), this T-shaped structure is both wonderful and silly, in the best way possible. The movie must use it, even if it’s only at the end of the film. The animated series used a fairly accurate version, while the live-action show had just a standard skyscraper. We think a Teen Titans movie can do better and we can’t wait to see what Gunn and company cook up.

Originally published April 26, 2017.


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