Saturday, April 11, 2015

Animated Discussions: Teen Titans Go! Appetite for Disruption (Season 2, Part 1)

More than 30 years ago, Marv Wolfman and George Perez gave The New Teen Titans, a mix of sidekicks and new characters that were essentially a younger version of DC’s Justice League. Many of the original Titans grew up over the years, joining the League (Cyborg), changing codenames and patrolling their own city (Robin/Nightwing) or inheriting the mantle of their mentor (Kid Flash/Flash).

But on Cartoon Network, they’ll always just be a pack of goofy kids having Meat Parties and watching Pretty Pretty Pegasus while being all goth.

On a network of quality shows (Adventure Time, Steven Universe, etc.), Teen Titans Go! is easily one of the most watchable, both by my 3-year-old and by his 34-year-old father.

Each of the Titans is a clearly distinct character. Robin, the team’s self-appointed leader, is uptight, tactical and obsessed with Starfire. Cyborg is excitable, afraid of the dark and obsessed with meat. Raven is sarcastic, loves a My Little Pony-like show and rebels against her demon-lord father. Starfire is a sweet, na├»ve alien with a pet prawn who inserts “the” in front of more nouns than is needed. Beast Boy is a lazy vegetarian and best bros with Cyborg.

The cartoon isn’t so much about how they fight supervillains as what they do in their downtime, like throw a dinner party or practice going on stakeouts or help Starfire learn about popular idioms. So it’s not heavy on violence, but maybe a little heavy on bathroom humor. And food humor. We also learn lessons like if you eat too many vegetables, you get abs of steel but turn green. Or that if your friends are all turned into old people and die, if you go to the underworld to try to resurrect them, they will come back as zombies. OK, maybe these are mixed messages.

And sometimes things happen that are never intended to be resolved or explained, such as the time Robin eats Beast Boy after BB transforms into an insect, or how when Cyborg is aged he suddenly has three grandchildren.

TTG has a respectable pedigree in co-creator Michael Jelenic, who previously worked on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, the official second-best Batman cartoon ever created, in which the Dark Knight teams up with random DC heroes to fight villains from the Joker to Gorilla Grodd to space pirate Kanjar Ro. Titans also occasionally features other DC characters, such as Flash villain Dr. Light, classic Titans baddie Brother Blood, and the Brain, a brain attached to a robot body whom the Titans keep calling Brian. Raven’s father, Trigon, also shows up regularly, less so as a scary demon as a father struggling to bond with a daughter who is embarrassed by him.

Batman also shows up, but very, very sparingly and without dialogue, which is great because he has a tendency to pull focus from other characters, intentionally or otherwise, and it’s not his show.

The Appetite for Disruption set is more than four hours long and contains 26 episodes over two discs, which translates to a lot to watch for about $20.

Favorite episodes include “Salty Codgers,” about the team being turned into old people, with the exception of Raven, who finds the aged Titans endlessly adorable; “Vegetables,” in which the team first battles “meat gut” from eating too much meat, then gets addicted to vegetables, gets rock-hard abs and turns green; and “I See You,” in which they practice going on stakeouts and Starfire dons a mask that turns her into a middle-aged man called The Jeff.

Teen Titans Go! Appetite for Disruption comes out this Tuesday, April 14th.

Dan Grote’s new novel, Magic Pier, is available however you get your books online. He has been writing for The Matt Signal since 2014. He and Matt have been friends since the days when making it to issue 25 guaranteed you a foil cover.

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