Published on June 21st, 2013 | by David Hunter0
Top 15 Teen Titans Episodes – Part 1
Teen Titans was a continuing of the incredibly popular (and consistently solid) DCAU, standing for DC Animated Universe. The DCAU had already introduced such series as: Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond (which also led to a spinoff movie in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker), The New Batman/Superman Adventures, and Justice League Unlimited.
While the other shows greatly depended on the art deco style of Bruce Timm, the Teen Titans animated series stood out for several different reasons. First were the creators, Glen Murakami and David Slack. Glen Murakami had started working as a character designer and storyboard artist under Bruce Timm from 1991-1993 before taking over the reigns as Art Director on Superman: The Animated Series and The New Batman/Superman Adventures. David Slack was equally accomplished, coming to the series after being a writer for The Jackie Chan Adventures from 2000-2003. He also worked as an art coordinator on the animated Men In Black: The Series in 1997.
Together they developed an anime influenced television show with dramatically altered characters, arguably changed for the better or worse depending upon whom you talk to. In a great interview, Murakami discusses several of the alterations he did from the characters from their comic book inspired counterparts. One of the biggest changes is Robin, who has transformed himself into a cooler character who is not only the notable leader of the group but also different from his own mentor, Batman. It helps separate the Robin character from the historical failures and lackey depictions he had mostly been saddled with both in the film adaptations and cartoon renditions. Equally interesting is the form of strength and power that exudes from Cyborg’s new look, partly thanks to the broader shoulders/chest sculpture, as well as the sleek designs of Starfire and Raven that manage to not be constrictive when in fluid animation. Also Beast Boy greatly resembles the “youngster” of the group whilst being able to also display a wide range of abilities again thanks to the animated format.
The Teen Titans show also had its own signature touches aside from the anime influence including the main theme song, performed by Puffy AmiYumi in both English and Japanese whilst alternating on nearly any episode watched. The show would also later produce a TV Movie called Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo.
With all that said, the series was successful primarily due to the storytelling talents of Murakami and Slack but more importantly the work of the voice actors: Greg Cipes (Beast Boy), Tara Strong (Raven), Scott Menville (Robin), Khary Payton (Cyborg), Hynden Walch (Starfire), Ron Perlman (Slade), and so many others I could list this all day. Unfortunately, I can’t because this is a countdown, folks. A countdown of the Top 15 Teen Titans Episodes (out of a robust 65 not including the movie). Why 15? It was hard enough cutting it down to this many episodes so just accept that you get more words for the glee of reading.
Also, if you don’t know, check out Teen Titans Go!, a 15 Minute Short series that is a spin-off of the show and airs on Cartoon Network on Tuesdays at 7:30/7:45 PM ET.
First, take a look at Senior Editor David Akeroyd’s List. Now onto the countdown or as Robin would say, “Titans Go!”
The Countdown (Spoilers Ahead)
#15: 3×07 Revolution – Aired October 16th, 2004
On the strength of voice acting from Malcolm McDowell, the villain Mad Mod, is a great mainstay if not underused. He has a right proper English accent and just brings a classic, zany sense of fun to the series that marries Britain with both the American structure but also the Anime influence from Japan. What really makes this work is the references to Britain in general and the sheer craziness that the animators have in going balls to the wall in terms of trying to cram as many influences as possible. A particular highlight is the black and white style of the city, bearing a vague influence of the other DCAU shows while being distinctly painting canvas styled. Partly due to the over the top nature of Mad Mod as a villain, the writers don’t have to lean on too much plot, which allows for the artwork to go overtime in playing around on the cartoonish themes of the series including chase scenes, parodies of films like Patton, and parodies of American monuments being turned British.
They just realized the value of the American Dollar
#14: 3×02 X – Aired September 4th, 2004
Primarily on the strength of the character, Red X, initially featured in an earlier Season 1 episode does this one work. The villain of the piece, Professor Chang, is pretty forgettable but the team up between Robin and Red X is a fun one. What also helps is not only call back to the first episode in regards to the Titans distrust towards Robin but a lot of fun artwork as well including the silhouetting in the opening scene beneath the voice-over. The character design is really neat and stands out from the actual Titans costumes along with solid voice work by Scott Menville, impressively portraying Robin and Red X in such contrast that it surprised me to find out it was the same actor. This episode also makes several fun references through its artwork including Dr. Seuss’ “The Grinch.”
Starfire’s heart grew 10 sizes that night… and allowed her body to defy gravity
#13: 2×09 Winner Take All – Aired March 6th, 2004
Just a coincidence that we are working backwards through 2004 but this episode is pretty much a fan boy’s wet dream. Take a group of characters, including Robin, Beast Boy, and Cyborg, and throw them in one-on-one fights. It’s a message board staple of who would win in a fight and this episode not only takes it to the television but also introduced several characters including Speedy (voiced by Mike Erwin) and Hotspot (also voiced by Khary Payton). Again, voice work is impressive as Tara Strong voices Gizmo and Wil Wheaton reprises his role of Aqualad. The episode’s plot is pretty simplistic and much of the fun comes from seeing the actual battles themselves unfold. Fun epilogue at the end as well with the females being taken and showing (at the very least) Starfire, Raven, and Terra along with presumably 5 others.
#12: 1×09 Masks – Aired September 20th, 2003
This was the first episode to feature the Red X character, who would be unveiled as Robin, but also really set up the underling relationship of Slade using Robin as his apprentice later on along with the distrust/cracked relationship he has with his teammates as the end of Season 1 draws to a close. I love the sleek villainous design of Slade’s hench-robot things along with the great set design in the opening scene and the contrast with everything else. Yet again, the artwork is really strong throughout, particularly in the fight scenes. Given that this is one of two Season 1 episodes on my list, it really helps develop Robin’s character is a both a leader but also an obsessive leader, which will later get amped up in another episode in Season 3. The best parts are that upon re-watching, one can really see how much of Robin is still in the Red X character, in particular the first encounter with his friends and how he avoids any physicality with any of them.
#11: 2×01 How Long Is Forever? – Aired January 10th, 2004
A really bleak future episode centered around what happens when Starfire ventures into the future after leaping through a portal created by the villain, Warp. This episode really strongly unifies the bond of friendship that the Titans share with one another while also emphasizing the loss of Starfire in particular, and how her upbeat personality effects the group as a whole. I loved seeing the differences in individual reactions with Cyborg trying to fight the good fight but being tethered to technology, Beast Boy taking up as a carnival attraction mostly to protect himself from others who consider him a freak, Robin going off and completely changing his identity to Nightwing while working solo to fight crime, and finally Raven whom basically shuts herself off from anybody and goes nearly insane as a result of shutting herself in a room for years.
Beads are really a boy’s best friend
The eventual reuniting at the end is fairly heartwarming considering the individual steps that every character has to take to get over their own fears and/or issues just to get to where Starfire and Warp are too. It is also insightful into Starfire’s particular character as she has gotten accustomed to Earth but still holds very strong ties onto her own world customs and at times tries to marry the two worlds together.
#10: 1×13 Apprentice Part 2 – Aired October 11th, 2003
A very fun finale of the first arc of the Teen Titans, with Slade forcing Robin to be his apprentice in order to stave off the killing of his friends through a detonator of probes in their bloodstream. This episode really helps kick off from the earlier mentioned, “Masks,” because there is a real battle that happens between Robin and his friends as he tries to steal a high-tech thermal blaster. The fight scene itself is a lot of fun, throwing in a reference to Wayne Enterprises, and shows off what it’d be like to have the Teen Titans having an all out war if one of their own turned towards the bad side. In a lot of ways, this episode parallels the arc of Season 2. Another fun character development occurs in seeing Cyborg take over as the leader considering what happens in the “future” of my 11th pick.
Batman really skimped on the stealth lesson in his curriculum
A lot of standout artwork including the silhouetting of Robin in smoke on the rooftop just prior to the fight with the Titans. The spotlight on Robin is a fun callback to shots such as from “Mad Love,” and the ending fight scene with Slade is all sorts of greatness to finally see come to evolution from the course of the season. Little moments such as the comic influence on Beast Boy’s thoughts about why Robin has turned bad also help spotlight the great artwork and some of the site designs, such as Wayne Enterprises, are good callbacks to “Batman Beyond.” I also love the final shot when Slade gets his mask cracked and shields his face before running off.
Ron Perlman also really stands out voice wise in this episode and really makes Slade shine as the true villain that he is. Perlman’s voicing ability helps Slade rise up to memorable villain status on the same plane as many of the BTAS rogue gallery.
#9: 1×06 Nevermore – Aired August 30th, 2003
A surprisingly sterling early season episode that really helped expand Raven’s character into somebody who was multi-dimensional as opposed to a single tone character. Beast Boy ends up having to apologize to Raven and inadvertently, along with Cyborg, enters her mind through a mirror portal. A lot of solid little moments throughout make this a memorable episode from the reference to author Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven to the ‘creepy’ out of character (to Robin and Starfire) reaction by Raven later on to Cyborg’s knocking down Raven’s door when he tries to knock.
I’m an admittedly big fan of Raven’s character and it was interesting, especially this early in the series run, to see a dark twist take place when Raven morphs in the opening scene to drag Dr. Light to someplace so terrifying that he’s curled in a fetal position whimpering. A lot of the highlights of the episode come through in Raven’s mind where Beast Boy and Cyborg are. We again see the influence of cartoon chase scenes along with getting different interpretations of Raven through her different personalities, complete with colored costumes and solid vocal inflections by Tara Strong to make each unique.
Her therapist must be making thousands on each personality
The best addition is of course Raven’s father, Trigon, and her, “father issues,” which are much more pronounced in the comics and much darker as well. Teen Titans through the creators and writers manage to distill great comic book storylines into workable fare that maintains the vibe or feel without requiring the darker aspects. Raven’s relationship with Trigon undergoes that metamorphosis as well, but we also see the bond of friendship that becomes a key aspect of most of the arcs in the series (and even individual episodes).
Next week will be Part 2 of the count down, unveiling the Top 8 episodes of the series.
Credit to Johane Matte for the main image