Nightwing and the Teen Titans are coming to television, thanks to a new DC-focused digital subscription TV serives, and the timing couldn’t be better.
At a time when superhero dramas, particularly DC Comics related ones, are in an almost impossible ascendancy on TV, Titans has the potential to mine some of the best comic storytelling of its era, particularly Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s incredible run on New Teen Titans in the ’80s. Thanks in no small part to the groundwork laid in those comics, Nightwing and the Teen Titans are uniquely suited for cable TV.
Fans have been clamoring to see Nightwing in live-action for nearly twenty years. Sure, they teased us a little in the Joel Schumacher Batman films (notably with elements of Chris O’Donnell’s Robin costume in Batman and Robin), and even more in The Dark Knight Rises (I’d still pay several times to see Christopher Nolan direct Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a Nightwing movie), but we’ve never properly seen Dick Grayson strike out on his own in the black and blue (or black and red, depending on which era you’re reading) garb. Now we’re not only going to get Dick Grayson on TV, but also on the big screen, in an actual Nightwing movie (which has no relation to this project).
Nightwing has proven relentlessly popular over the last 30 years. There’s a combination of factors at work: the cool name, the even cooler costume (not the disco v-neck one), and the fact that Dick Grayson brings a little more swagger and humor to his brand of superheroics than his pointy-eared mentor. Acrobatic showmanship, a hint of martial arts, some tonfa sticks, a sleek outfit, and you’ve got a character who is about as fun and appealing as a superhero can be this side of Spider-Man.
Nightwing is also unique in that there’s an implicit understanding with the audience. All anyone has to know is that “he was Robin” to get the fact that he already has 10 years of crime fighting experience under his belt, and the showrunners won’t have to fill in too many blanks.
While this may seem shallow, it’s still worth pointing out one more time that Nightwing has a perfect, remarkably simple superhero costume that should look terrific in live action. You get someone with the build and athleticism that Stephen Amell brought to Arrow, put him in a functional Nightwing costume, and it will be pretty tough to screw this up. Just take the costume from the Young Justice animated series and duplicate that as closely as possible, and this should look just fine. Remember when The Vampire Diaries’ Steven R. Mcqueen hinted he wanted the part a couple of years ago? You think he’s still interested?
The Batman Connection
Despite the continued success of Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl, the simple fact remains that Batman is Warner Bros.’ safest, most bankable media star. Note who got top billing in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The easiest way to introduce a bevy of lesser-known characters to a TV viewing audience is to anchor them firmly in a world that casual fans understand.
While it’s been years since we’ve last seen Dick Grayson in the flesh on screen, and folks who are less familiar with comic book lore may not know the name Nightwing, they all know the name Robin. For many, the concept of Batman’s kid sidekick growing up and stepping out of his mentor’s shadow will seem like quite a novel concept. And even if we never actually see Batman/Bruce Wayne, the knowledge that he’s only a batphone call away for Dick if the situation (or the ratings) get dire should be enough to keep folks tuning in.
The wording in the announcement said that “Dick Grayson emerges from the shadows.” That probably means we’ll get to see Dick choose his Nightwing identity, but the fact that he’s only recently stepped out of Batman’s shadow should allow lots of teases about Gotham City’s most famous resident.
So far, all we know for sure is that the team will consist of Nightwing, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy. But the announcement indicated that there would be “many others” involved, too. An earlier version of this project also included Barbara Gordon and Hawk and Dove. This probably won’t be the end of it, though. Looking at the most iconic Teen Titans lineup there are some notable omissions.
Could we get Keiynan Lonsdale to as Wally West/Kid Flash on here? Does the fact that Vic Stone/Cyborg is tied up in the Justice League movie mean he’s off limits for the show? And what about Donna Troy/Wonder Girl? At the very least, we’re going to see a significant representation of the most potent Titans lineup, even if everyone can’t make it to the party right away.
We still don’t know if Titans will exist in the same superheroic television universe as the other CW shows, but with Greg Berlanti on board, we know it will at least be part of DC’s TV “multiverse.”
Keep in mind that when Marv Wolfman and George Perez took over creative duties on Teen Titans in 1980, DC Comics wasn’t exactly known for the kind of extended superhero storytelling that Chris Claremont and John Byrne had been busy perfecting over on Uncanny X-Men at Marvel. Wolfman and Perez were “writing for the trade” long before there was such a thing, and several of their stories are so tailor-made for season-long cable TV arcs that you would almost think they were written with exactly that in mind.
“The Judas Contract,” something probably better suited to a show’s second season (and recently adapted as an animated movie), is probably the defining Titans tale. Involving the infiltration of the team by a new young hero and the subsequent betrayal and fallout, it practically reads like a short season of a cable drama.
While we haven’t heard anything yet to officially indicate that Donna “Wonder Girl” Troy will be part of the team, she’s part of the same iconic lineup that includes the confirmed Nightwing, Starfire, and Raven, and it just wouldn’t feel like the Titans without her, right? The “Who is Donna Troy” storyline about Donna discovering more about her difficult past, is another tale that could easily drive a b-plot all season long.
And don’t even get us started on Raven, daughter of a demon, and her Dad, the demon Trigon. In fact, let’s talk about some of those villains…
If there is one substantial stumbling block for Titans, it might be that two of its most important villains were big baddies on Arrow. But while the Brother Blood of Arrow bore only passing resemblance to the supernatural cult leader of the comics (despite a terrific performance by Kevin Alejandro), leaving him open to a more powerful/supernatural interpretation on this show, Arrow did a much more thorough job with Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson (played by Manu Bennett). That one may be a tougher act to follow, unless they’re able to actually use Manu Bennett on this show for the role.
Trigon, Brother Blood, and Deathstroke may not be household names like the Joker or Lex Luthor, but without spoiling any of this for fans less familiar with the comics, each are capable of manipulating an entire season’s worth of twists and turns all on their own. And who knows what lesser villains they may enlist, or who might make their way over from Gotham City to annoy Nightwing?
We’re looking forward to seeing what they do with this, but done right, Titans could end up being the very best of the latest crop of superhero shows.