Series ‘Titans’: a good show that gets Robin (and Batman) all wrong

The HBO Max show “Titans’ is a valiant effort, but it does not understand the Batfamily.

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Titans, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Nightwing

Jason Todd and Dick Grayson as the appear in ‘Titans’ and Red Hood and Nightwing as they appear in comics.

Caden Melnick, Staff Writer

Superheroes: we all love them, and we all have favorites. Of all those favorites, though, one of the most popular heroes of all time has to be Batman. It should come as no surprise, then, that he has been depicted over 90 times in movies and TV shows, far more than any other superhero.

However, despite the many iterations of Batman, his partners, the Robins, have not been given the same treatment. A new HBO show, Titans, seeks to remedy this by creating a show based on Dick Grayson’s own team, the Teen Titans. (Grayson played the first Robin.) 

The prominent characters in the show include the two original Robins, Dick Grayson and Jason Todd, the first and second Robin respectively. The show, in general, is quite good, however, it has a fundamental misunderstanding of the intended characterization of these two characters, as well as Batman’s morals. This means that the audience, many of whom do not know the source material, will have misinformation regarding the personalities and motivations of these characters.  For a comic book purist, I find this to be a big no-no.  

Dick Grayson (AKA: Nightwing and Robin I) is a character who, despite all the pain and darkness around him, exemplifies hope. In Titans, he is not that character. This is clear from his first appearance in episode one.  He sees a drug deal going on, and immediately jumps in and gives a brutal, bloody beatdown of drug dealers. This is not only completely out of character, it is also opposed to how he traditionally works. 

When dealing with a drug deal in the 1980s series The New Titans, issue 56, Dick tells the third Robin to “keep following each source… until we get to the big supplier, and take them all down at once.” Not only is Dick in Titans incredibly violent, but he is also not depicted as the methodical hero that he is seen as in the comics. 

One thing that is understandable about this live-action portrayal is that for a while, in the comics, Dick had severe anger issues. He was easy to rile up; he would take every failure personally; and he would know that he did the wrong thing and compartmentalize the issues. 

But that is a Dick fresh out of being fired by Bruce. Generally, he did not take his rage out on criminals and other heroes. He decided to instead ignore Batman and Gotham as a whole.

In original portrayals, Dick was at most distant with the second Robin, Jason Todd (both Robins were taken in under Batman’s wing). The two were never very close, but while they had a few moments here and there, Grayson never got to really know the kid before he died, and that is his biggest regret.  

In Titans, Dick acts differently.  He takes his anger at Batman out on the new Robin, criticizes him and tells him that he is not a good Robin. Dick, rather than just being a distant brother who regrets not getting close, is shown in Titans as an outright bad older bro. 

In the comics, Dick’s relationship with the second Robin was about missed opportunity as opposed to outright hostility shown in Titans. Dick is a beloved hero and to see him like this is disappointing.

Jason Todd, the second Robin, is extremely out of character as well as the film portrays him as a overly violent killer. In the comics, Jason dies and comes back from the dead and he represents the “came-back-wrong” trope in action. He had followed all the ideals and rules of his mentor, but they still got him killed.  But he isn’t a psychopath.  He takes a different stance on fighting crime. 

He thinks that by controlling crime, he has a better chance of making sure that innocents don’t get hurt.  Since he knows that to try and end all crime is a hopeless and naive battle, he decides to just control it instead. 

Jason as Robin was never insane. He loved being Robin, he strived to make Batman proud, because as he said in the comic: Batman, issue 385, “being Robin gives me magic!” Jason in Titans is, from the get go, a ‘bad’ Robin.

Further, in Titans, when Jason appears as the second Robin as ‘Red Hood,’ he has had no training beyond Batman, which should not be the case.  In the comic, Red Hood: The Lost Days, issue 3, Jason stated that “there’s a difference” from what Batman teaches and what he needed to learn to be able to succeed as Red Hood. 

He had to travel the globe and receive training from countless sources, outside of even the League of Assassins, training that Batman himself has never seen.  He has trained with mystics, mercenaries, assassins, demolition experts, tacticians, pilots, and many, many more. In the comics, he has the most diverse array of skills of anyone in the world, Batman included. 

Titans ignored that, ignored the threat he posed.  In the comics, he is, simply put, the most dangerous adversary that Batman has ever faced.  Jason Todd is a very complex character, so to see him misrepresented is very sad.

Bruce Wayne (AKA: Batman), is also fundamentally misunderstood in this show. In the comics, He doesn’t want to replace Jason following his death. In fact, it is the last thing that he wants. He does not want to lose another son. 

Even when Tim Drake tells Batman that he wanted to be Robin, Batman refuses. Tim had to force the issue, stating in Batman, issue 442, that “Batman needs a Robin. No matter what he thinks he wants.” 

This is not the case in Titans. Bruce, after Jason dies, immediately decides that he needs a replacement. He actively searches for one. That is an action that proves Batman is heavily misunderstood, but it gets worse. 

After Jason is killed by Joker, Dick confronts Batman about his search for a replacement Robin.  Then, Bruce kills the Joker. That is an act which is so far out of character that it is startling.  

Bruce has, in Batman: Under the Hood, issue 13, stated that “for years all I’ve ever wanted to do was take [Joker]… take him… into a monstrous death… but if I do that, if I allow myself to go down into that place… I’ll never come back.” If Batman were to kill the Joker, he would go down a slippery slope of justifications for killing every villain he faces.

In conclusion, Titans, does not understand the Batfamily.  It does not understand why these characters are compelling. But despite these flaws, it is, at its core, a good show. It is well written and has a great plot.  The issue is that the characters are not written like their comic counterparts, which deserve respect. 

To be true to the original storylines the writers really need to learn more about the characters they are portraying, especially the Robins, because this is, for quite a few people, their introduction to the characters,and to see the characters misrepresented is sad to see.

So check out the show and stick with it. While it starts out a little slow, it soon gets rolling.

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