Okay, stay with me here, because this might be a bit complicated. In 2003, Cartoon Network launched an animated series called Teen Titans, adapting DC’s Teen Titans comics into a style heavily informed by anime and the network’s own original series, featuring a core cast heavily inspired by characters created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez during their run on the Titans comics in the 1980s.
That same year, DC Comics released a comic book adaptation of the cartoon, called Teen Titans Go!, which lasted through 2008, outliving the cartoon series it was based on by some months.
Last year, the cartoon characters returned in shorts as part of Cartoon Network’s DC Nation programming block, in a more comedy-heavy format in which they appeared in their chibi forms, rather than the more realistically proportioned designs of the original cartoon. This iteration was titled Teen Titans Go! And now DC is publishing a new comic book adaptation of the new iteration of the show, also called Teen Titans Go!
So this is a new comic based on the new cartoon based on the other cartoon that was based on the old comic books.
If you’re picking up this issue at all though, chances are you already know all of that and are interested in these characters, particularly this comic (as in, funny) take on the comic (as in, from a comic book) characters. Despite this being a first issue, there’s not much in the way of introductions or set-up. Rather, it plunges right in with a paper equivalent to the cartoon show, assuming readers know who’s who and what’s what (And if you don’t, the characters are so sharply and simply defined at this point that it shouldn’t take even the youngest readers long to pick up on basics of each: Cyborg is half-robot, Beast Boy turns into green beasts, Raven is magic and “dark,” and so on).
The comic book presents two ten-page stories. In the first, by writer Sholly Fisch and artist Ben Bates, Cyborg’s sandwich is stolen from the refrigerator, and despite his surveillance and booby traps and the World’s Greatest Detective’s sidekick’s sleuthing, the thefts remain a mystery until the surprise revelation that the menace is coming from inside the refrigerator (I don’t want to spoil the ending, although the cover provides a pretty strong clue as to the nature of culprit, if not its exact origins).
In the second, by writer Jeremy Hagan and artist Jorge Corona, the Titans visit a local miniature golf course run by The Riddler and called Crisis In 18 Holes. Each hole is designed as some sort of DC Comics Easter Egg, so there’s a “Bottle Hole of Kandor,” and there are hazards in the shapes of Darkseid or Plastic Man or the Legion of Doom’s Super Friends HQ and so on (I actually noticed more in the background each time I read it). Beast Boy and Robin have made a bet, giving the game particularly high stakes, and with each page the competition gets more intense and insane. This story is perhaps notable for the fact that the entire thing is rendered in the chibi-like style, yet there are repeated instances of chibis within chibis, as dialogue bubbles and thought balloons above the little, abstracted cartoonier versions of these cartoon characters will be filled with even littler, more abstracted, cartoonier still versions of them.
Fans of the cartoon should enjoy this comic book, which is well made and unusual enough compared to the majority of comics it shares rack space with—the closest thing to it I can think of in terms of tone and sense of humor is maybe Boom Studio’s Adventure Time comics—that it may lead readers who have never seen the show to want to check it out.
It’s pretty amazing to see these particular characters, which were created in stories soaked with melodrama and were at the vanguard of the maturation of the DC Universe as the line gradually started to cater to the tastes of adult readers rather than children, having evolved into creatures of pure comedy aimed at children rather than adults. Wolfman and Perez must have done something right in creating Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire, if their superheroes-for-grown-ups can be so effectively recalibrated for kids the same way that the original superheroes-for-kids like Batman, Superman, and Captain America have been recalibrated for grown-ups over the decades.