Titans and Young Justice: Comparison
Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of movies and TV shows in Washington DC that I’ve missed in recent years. I had more time to watch TV, and HBO Max seems to have everything they release, which makes it easier to catch up on everything. Most of the things I saw were mundane and uninteresting, but I came across some great exceptions. I’ve reviewed Doom Patrol before, but here I want to do it a little differently. The two series in question tell similar stories and concepts, and even feature characters from the same series. However, its quality is highly variable. One of my favorite shows, and the other ….. Well, I wouldn’t recommend watching it for anything. Let’s dive in.
Created by Jeff Jones, Brandon Viatti and Gargoyles inspiration Greg Weisman, Young Justice launched in 2010 to rave reviews. It was cancelled after two seasons, but was revived in 2016 due to fan enthusiasm. The series follows the protégés of several prominent members of the Justice League, including Robin (Jesse McCartney), Aqualad (Cary Payton), Kid Flash (Jason Spisak) and Superboy (Nolan North). They strive for independence and mastery of their abilities and face unique obstacles to achieving this. Character lists with time jumps and new characters are available for each season. While new heroes and villains appear, the old ones get lost for one reason or another. The series has a large and dynamic cast and excels at making each character understandable and entertaining, juggling long storylines and small clues. Young Justice currently has three seasons, all airing on HBO Max, with a fourth in the works.
The film The Titans premiered in 2018. Although the trailer and promos for the series were initially met with skepticism and derision, it was followed up and enjoys a decent rating on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. Titans plays Robin/Nightwing (Brenton Thwaites) and follows his adventures from detective in Detroit to reuniting the Titans with new members. Titans currently has two seasons, both airing on HBO Max, with a third on the way (unfortunately for me).
Let’s start with the obvious: Young Justice is far more aesthetically appealing than the Titans. Ironically, I avoided Young Justice for years because I didn’t like the animation style; I didn’t like how different Batman’s character designs were: The Animated Series and Justice League. I always don’t watch things because of the animation and then I regret it. Young Justice is not only beautiful, but the animation evolves as the season progresses. And unlike the revamped animation for The New Adventures of Batman and Robin, I like the changes here. All the villains look scary, especially Vandal Savage. The animation itself is also excellent, and I have to appreciate the amount of detail in each shot. I don’t like any of the Titans’ characters, with the exception of Hawk (Alan Richson), Dove (Minka Kelly) and the Rock Patrol in their brief cameos. Brenton Thwaites (Wicked, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) Robin is just hilarious with his pointy mask and sinister look. That’s why they’re trying to make him an Edgelord who doesn’t need Batman to not run into me. Anna Diop’s character design as Starfire/Kory Anders received a lot of comments when the series was announced. Mostly it was a mixture of racism and slut-shaming, but I admit I didn’t like her clothes or her hair, especially in the first season. I don’t care if she’s dressed provocatively (I’ve always seen this character in scanty clothes anyway), and I don’t mind the alien character’s race. But the bright pink and purple clashed, and her hair was puffy. I find it hard to believe that her boring casual clothes are appropriate for both a princess and a serious government agent. Rachel Roth/Teegan Croft’s Raven has many of the same problems, by the way; the same can be said for Ryan Potter (Big Hero 6) as Beast Boy. The show’s attempts to humanize these characters are disappointing, and the bright colors of their usual wardrobe and hair make you wonder how they fit into everyday life. I honestly don’t get it; I would expect more color in superhero costumes and less in everyday clothing, but Titans takes the opposite approach. The film also has a dark grey hue that creates a dark atmosphere that permeates the entire experience.
As far as characters go, the Titans wasted no time in messing things up, and everyone interested me at first. The first red flag was that Dick, Rachel and Corey are not at all likeable or attractive. Dick’s defining characteristics are his penchant for senseless violence and his overwhelming guilt over the deaths of his parents and former teammates. He constantly mulls over these things, rarely smiles or says anything encouraging. He’s a loser, but worse, he’s a liar who constantly misleads his friends. They play with the idea of Dick getting too close to Batman, but it’s never convincing and seems just as silly. He’s too whiny, complaining about his upbringing and yelling at Batman, who doesn’t even exist. Also, the pleasure he takes in hurting people is more disturbing than understandable or sympathetic. He sleeps with half the women on the show, and I don’t understand what they see in him. Cory is tough and has a big mouth, and that is her character. In the second season, they explore what happens when she loses her powers and her sister Blackfire threatens to attack her. It sounds great, but we have no emotional attachment to Blackfire. Sure, she’s Corey’s sister, but we know nothing about their relationship before Corey’s amnesia. Everything we learn about Blackfire is told in dialogue, not flashbacks or images of Tamarana, so we don’t see what kind of person and ruler she is. The romantic relationship between Cory and Dick lacks both chemistry and development. They don’t support each other much and argue more often. And, as I said before, what does Corey see in Dick? She certainly could have done better. They didn’t even officially meet in the Teen Titans cartoon series, if I remember correctly. But they were still better developed and had more chemistry than here. Rachel has the most tragic story of all. She is the daughter of a demon and a woman who sees her only as a means to an end. Like Dick and Corey, I wish this character wasn’t always so dark. The writing style doesn’t sell the character well enough for me to empathize with her processes, and that’s all she is. All of the characters in this show are a hodgepodge of dissatisfaction with random romantic tension that tends to be just as bad (and extremely fragile).
All this talk about family with the Titans is just sad. Cory often talks about her love for Rachel, taking on a motherly role, perhaps that of a big sister. And Dick is supposed to watch over the Titans like a big brother. The problem is that none of these characters have any chemistry, and this dynamic doesn’t develop naturally, but is expressed directly through dialogue. Characters I really liked in the beginning, like Hawk and Dove, were quickly brought down by poor writing. I was fascinated by their dynamic; the idea of a couple working together as superheroes is pretty cool, and I loved their dialogue. However, it was soon revealed that Dawn/Dove (Minka Kelly) had a past with Robin and that Hawk/Hank didn’t like her for that reason. I hate love triangles, and I hate them even more here because they ruin the subplot I was enjoying. As with Corey, I don’t understand why Dawn is in love with Dick. She has a loving friend who supports her and gives her a thoughtful gift. However, the series is more interested in the memories of her relationship with Dick. By the end of the second season, Hank and Don are gone. Is this really the end for them? It’s the same for me. And while Titans came before Destiny Patrol, this version of the series bored me. Timothy Dalton did not play this Calder, and the other characters have completely different personalities.
Young Justice explores a similar story, but it’s handled differently. In Season 1, Miss Martian (Danicka McKellar) immediately falls for Superboy (Nolan North), and by the end of the season they are officially a couple. Their relationship has many ups and downs, but unlike the Titans couples, these are problems specific to these characters. Conner was mind controlled in Cadmus, where he was created. This left him with a hatred for brainwashing and manipulation in general. When M’Gunn first uses telepathic communication, Conner relents, understandably upset about any invasion of his privacy. Conner, for his part, is an angry man who often exaggerates. These issues become a recurring theme, especially when Conner remembers M’gann’s past transgressions after he supposedly forgave her and moved on. The two have a plausible bond that develops after M’Gann’s first crush. Their dialogues are natural, and the problems they face play out organically, without being forced, with the shoe in for the drama that Titans often chooses to do. M’Gunn and Conner’s plot as a couple also fits their individual characters exceptionally well. At first M’gann struggles to control his Martian gifts, then he uses them to abuse them against his enemies. This in turn leads Conner to worry. M’gann lets loose when she accidentally uses her power on her undercover boyfriend as a villain and breaks his head. Even after helping him regain his talents, she pursues M’gan for at least the rest of season 3. Conner, for his part, has to deal with his character and stands up for the other genomorphs created by Cadmus.
M’gann started out as one of my least favorite characters on the show, along with her… Megan! Buzzword and excessive social awkwardness. Her initial interactions with Conner I found unconvincing; I’m very confused by second hand characters who hit on someone and then reject them. But the explanation of Hello, Megan! was sad, relatable, and explained so much about this character. It also gave context to the seemingly meaningless lines in earlier episodes. For example, Black Canary (Vanessa Marshall) reminds us that M’gann has turned white, much to his momentary horror. It’s very well written, it sets in motion something you have no idea about, but it all becomes clear when it’s revealed. Young Justice did this often; I was always surprised, but the surprises pulled me deeper into the story rather than confusing or discouraging me. By the end of the first season, M’Gunn was not only my favorite character in Young Justice, but also my favorite TV show character that I’ve come to know in recent memory. With the Titans, we usually know what’s going on. When it comes to showing it, it’s not impressive and comes across as condescending.
Another character I’ve come to love is Aqualad/Caldur’am, who has a fascinating storyline through the seasons. The time jumps are an aspect of the series that I found frustrating at first, but now I understand it and think it’s a good idea. We follow these characters over long periods of time and hear from them at critical moments. Caldur went from an insecure man struggling to lead the team in season 1 to a leader of the Justice League in season 3. They’d like to see it. Kudos to Hari Payton, whose portrayal of Caldur is indistinguishable from her voice for Cyborg in Teen Titans, but just as good. I would have liked to see him get more airtime in the Outsiders, but I understand he is no longer part of the core team. I love the dynamics of the team as a whole, from their jokes to the complex interpersonal relationships they develop over the seasons. I never thought Artemis and M’gann would become best friends. In retrospect, I have to appreciate the subtle and compelling way they grew from acquaintances who liked the same boy to best friends. I love how the characters in Young Justice discuss their problems and tell each other their deep secrets instead of constantly escalating the situation. I so dislike mystery and intrigue in Titans, and that’s part of the reason why I can’t believe these characters are friends, let alone lovers or a united family.
Titans is marketed as a more mature dystopian story about young heroes, but the series fails miserably at that idea. The constant attempts to force sex and profanity on the audience betray a lack of understanding of adult storytelling. In Young Justice, there are only sexual scenarios, and the team uses a jargon that they invented themselves and that develops naturally. Young Justice tends to be violent, especially in its third season, The Outsiders. There’s a lot of fighting between the meta-humans in this season, and we see Victor Stone’s horrific transformation into Cyborg. Sometimes shows for adult audiences try so hard to sound adult that they achieve the opposite and come across as a childish interpretation of what adults like. It’s no surprise that Young Justice was created by Greg Weisman, as Gargoyles also excels at exploring adult themes and situations with grace.
There is so much more the young Justice has accomplished that left the Titans in the dust. The little comedy there is in Titans – not funny, cringeworthy, or both. Young Justice’s jokes are hilarious, and my favorite joke in the series comes from Guy Gardner when the Justice League is in space. Either you know what I’m talking about, or I’m not going to ruin your life. I was in tears from laughing and will leave it at that. Young Justice also contains many fun Easter Eggs, such as the appearance of Lex’s sidekick Luthor Otis and a Doom Patrol/Teen Titans Go! A crossover that made me laugh; totally unexpected, which makes it even better. Young Justice also does a better job with its female characters, be they heroes or villains. They have a relationship and show interest in the boys, but unlike the Titans, they don’t exist to prove that Dick Grayson got the game. And as far as female villains go, there’s no struggle. I don’t like any of the Titans villains; he makes a Trigon joke and turns Slade into a moody, whiny broody person. The only bad guys in the Titans are Blackfire (about whom we know nothing), the mother of this killer family, and Rose. Rose freaks out as soon as the boy shows interest in her, and killing her mother isn’t important or even fun for her in the short term. Young Judge has villains like Granny Goodness and Cheshire, who are all very different and have interesting motivations and relationships with each other and with the good guys in the series. I expect Vandal Savage’s daughter, Cassandra, to play a bigger role after she got a lot of attention in season 3.
In that regard, Vandal Savage is an incredible villain. I’ve heard of him and I think I’ve seen him in other DC animation projects, but I’ve never been excited about the character. Season 3, episode 7: Evolution is one of my favorite shows. The alien armada is approaching Earth, and the Justice League is stopped by diplomatic laws. Vandal Savage realizes that he is the only one who can save (his) planet and takes the lead. Again, the show shocked me by taking the plot in this direction, but it was actually the presentation that made me hesitate. Flashbacks throughout the episode show Savage’s early life and how he survived for so long, taking on different nicknames and conquering every place he went. Oddly enough, we know that most of what he does during these flashbacks is wrong, but watching him seems oddly inspiring. It turns out that not only are we witnessing the reproduction of her memories, but one of her daughters is recording her life for posterity. Cassandra, his youngest daughter, reads this book, and sometimes we hear the narration in her voice. Zehra Fazal (who also lends her voice to Halo, a main character in season 3) does a fantastic job in this reading. It would be easy to let the story wear out, especially when it’s sporadic throughout the episode. But it translates well the epic scale of this story that crosses millennia and continents. So far, I’ve enjoyed the various villains in Light. But from then on, Vandal Savage was one of my favorite characters in the series. They showed him how he overcame adversity to become the oldest man in the world and one of the most powerful. I also liked how the Injustice League, with characters like the Joker and Poison Ivy, became a red herring in season 2 to distract the team from the light. It was very smart, inside and out. The Titans don’t even think about their heroes, let alone their villains.
I don’t want to be too hard on the Titans, because I think it’s a hard sell with such stupid things. I loved Brenton Thwaites in Pirates and Villainy, and of course I loved Ryan Potter as Hiro in Big Hero 6 and its derivative series. And a few of the interpretations are actually pretty good, like Alan Richson as Hank and Ian Glen as Bruce Wayne. In general, however, there is little competition. All the main characters in Young Justice are very well done, and the villains range from good to excellent. There’s some odd casting here and there, like Brent Spiner as the Joker. It’s not bad, but it’s not really what I expected. Marina Sirtis and Keith David, two other Gargoyle alumni, do much better as Queen B and Mongul respectively. Bruce Greenwood reimagines Batman after playing him in Under the Red Riding Hood. Personally, after Kevin Conroy (who no one can compete with), Greenwood is probably my favorite cartoon voice for Batman. May Whitman, Gray Griffin, Kevin Michael Richardson, Phil LaMarr, Dee Bradley Baker and many other voice actors are featured in the show. I was happy to hear Steve Blum as Count Vertigo, voiced by Zeb from Star Wars: Rebels, another series Weisman wrote for.
Overall, I was surprised at how much better Young Justice was than the Titans. Don’t get me wrong, I was sure I wouldn’t like the Titans. But I also had no expectations of Young Justice. I shunned this series for years, from the idea of the series (sidekicks as the main heroes) to the animation aspect. Not only was I wrong, but I’m surprised I waited this long to see what is without a doubt one of the best series in recent memory. It has a natural and well thought out character run like Avatar: The Last Airbender, and a large rotating cast like in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The relationships between the characters, whether familial, romantic, platonic or otherwise, develop incredibly well over the course of the series’ three seasons. I can hardly believe they juggled so many characters, good and bad, and gave them all such a good backstory, motives and interpersonal connections. But then I remember who is involved and it makes sense. I can’t recommend this series enough and I’m looking forward to the release of Phantoms season 4. Anyway, if you get a chance to see the Titans, know that it’s as bad as they say. I would avoid it at all costs and save myself all that stress and frustration.
frequently asked questions
Are the Titans in the same universe as the Justice League?
Every member of the Justice League has been confirmed in the DC Universe shows. Justice League has joined the Titans and even confirmed the major superhero movement for the DC Universe streaming world.
Who is stronger in the juvenile justice system?
the youngest and strongest legal system in the world.
Who is the strongest DC Titan?
1. Raven. It’s well documented that Raven is not only the most powerful character in Teen Titans, but also one of the most powerful in DC.
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