Wait, the Teen Titans never existed before Tim? Wasn’t there a reference in Red Hood and the Outlaws..?

On October 28th, 2014, /u/kunaal29 said the following on /r/DCcomics, in response to questions about the Teen Titans history in the New 52:

I think tha Dick used to be on an earlier incarceration of the Teen Titans. In a Red Hood and the Outlaws issue (I forgot which one), Jason and Dick talk about how Dick was romantically involved with Starfire and imply that they were on a team together. at least that how I read it.

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[Edit: The information in this post is now no longer (completely) accurate! Make sure you check the update at the bottom!]

UntitledThere is that reference in the very first issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws, Roy even name drops a bunch of former Titans from pre-New 52, like referring to Beast Boy as Gar, as part of a scene meant to highlight that Kori apparently doesn’t remember them due to her being an alien. Or something.

It wasn’t just the Red Hood and the Outlaws book that muddied these waters though. Check out this from the home of pedantry, TV Tropes:

In the first issue of The New 52 Teen Titans, it was stated that Tim Drake kept his history as Robin & that previous iterations of the team existed, with references also being made to past Titans teams in Red Hood & the Outlaws. Come the zero issue of Teen Titans a year later, and … this is the first team of Teen Titans, with the collected edition of the first Titans arc outright removing the details that were retconned out. And as for the previously mentioned members of the Titans in Red Hood, so far the word is, more or less, that Dick Grayson, Starfire, & Arsenal (and possibly some others) hung around with each other, but never called themselves any team name.

More on this on the edit below, but now back to TV Tropes:

  • The references to Gar (Beast Boy) and Garth (Tempest) made by Arsenal in Red Hood can now be considered retconned out, as Garth was later introduced as an infant in the Aquaman title and Gar is a hero just starting out in New 52 continuity (and also red-skinned and red-haired, as opposed to his classic green look). An early appearance of Gar (with green skin and hair) was also edited out in the TPB run of Teen Titans, along with a cameo of Miss Martian (who was recolored to be a white blonde girl).
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Teen Titans #1 references – I’ve highlighted them so it’s easier to spot them. Beast Boy on the left, Miss Martian, before she was edited into a white girl, on the bottom right.

  • A Teen Titans arc also featured the 70’s Titan Lilith rebooted as a villain, with some of the team members seeming to know who she was. This would have been even more of a continuity snarl had Scott Lobdell been allowed to go through with his original plan: The villain was going to be Raven, who was responsible for founding the ’80s team of Titans- who now no longer existed.
  • The removal of the Titans’ history also lead to a comment in Batwoman being altered, where Bette Kane mentions that she’d been a member of the team and had fought Deathstroke. The Titans reference was completely erased in the TPB edition.
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Bette Kane in Batwoman. “I was a Teen Titan. I even fought Deathstroke” in the floppy was changed to “I was a Super Hero. I even fought Deathstroke” in the TPB

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Teen Titans #1 compared to the Trade Paperback. If you can’t read the second word box it now says, “also known as Red Robin, I used to be Batman’s ‘Boy Wonder'” instead of the original “I used to be well-known as Robin, the Boy Wonder”

Unfortunately, and as you can guess from the removal of content, all of this was later said to be a mistake! Scott Lobdell, writer of Red Hood and the Outlaws and then writer of the Teen Titans, actually commented on this too at San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) in 2012:

“…My feeling is that in the DC New 52, yes, these characters have crossed paths before, but there was no previous version of the Teen Titans… originally there was going to be more history with the Teen Titans, but plans changed along the way, and might change again.

The existence, or non-existance, of the Teen Titans was in the same boat as a bunch of other little mistakes like this that were made early on. In some early issues, including Teen Titans itself, it seems there were previous Teen Titans teams, in some it implies Tim’s is the first. Similarly it goes back and forth on whether Tim was first Robin and then later called himself Red Robin later or if he always used the Red Robin name. Hell, in those crazy, early days or the reboot it wasn’t always clear if Ma and Pa Kent were dead.

Since then, however, that’s all been smoothed out a bit – until a further retconning or some in-universe reality craziness occurs – and so:

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Look at that smirk – Lobdell don’t care!

  • Dick was never a Titan and the first Teen Titans was Tim’s team – although he and Kori still did know one another
  • Tim has always been Red Robin
  • Ma and Pa Kent are dead

It was frustrating and confusing for fans, as it still causes weirdness now three years later, and DC totally should have handled it better than they did. That said, I can’t help but also blame the writer involved with all the characters with inconsistencies and whose writing has trouble even just being consistent from page to page, let alone issue to issue or across series – Scott Lobdell.

Curse you, Lobdell!


Update!

So, Nightwing #0 (which featured Dick becoming Robin) and Secret Origins #1 (which also featured Dick becoming Robin) didn’t do a lot to shine more light on the Teen Titans question but in Secret Origins #8 we, once again, get the origin of Dick, but this time all the way through to him becoming Nightwing and then later joining Spyral after he was unmasked Forever Evil.

Why is Dick’s history so important? Well, on the splash page from that comic that you can see below you’ll see that not only was it, once again, confirmed that he and Kori were an item that it also mentions him teaming up with other teen heroes!

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This is the main exciting line:

Grayson occasionally left the city limits of Gotham to team up with other young proteges such as Green Arrow’s Arsenal and other teenaged superhumans

Here he gained leadership as well as teamwork skills.

While, this doesn’t say anything about them actually calling themselves the Teen Titans it’s at least a step in the right direction for DC to introduce more of this history between them and, more importantly, reintroduces Dick’s leadership skills as having some history in the post-Flashpoint universe!

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