Beast Boy and Raven

At this year’s BOOK EXPO in New York City, TEEN TITANS fan were treated to a big announcement. The same creators behind the RAVEN graphic novel — now out a few weeks — had their next project lined up. Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo would next turn her talents to the shape-shifting class clone of the Titans, BEAST BOY.

Beast Boy’s status as a beloved character, combined with great early buzz for RAVEN, elicited near universal excitement amongst TITANS fans. DC Ink represented not one but two of the most exciting Titans’ centered projects of the year. While soon thereafter DC will be consolidating all their imprints under the DC Comics banner, killing Ink, the company also made sure to assert that all the projects would still continue. Ink might be gone, but BEAST BOY will continue on. That goes for this EARTH ONE SERIES as well.

For people hungry for a modern interpretation of Garfield Logan, however, no wait is necessary. There already exists a book that brings the Titans into recent times while keeping them recognizable, even without continuity. If you’re excited for BEAST BOY, then you need to check out TEEN TITANS EARTH ONE by Jeff Lemire and Terry Dodson.

What is Earth One?

Beast Boy in the spotlight
Image Courtesy of DC

Earth One is one location in DC’s vast multiverse. Conceived as a playground for marquee creators to tackle recognizable characters in a continuity-free presentation. Arguably it would let them update and take risks that might be impossible within the ongoing established DC Universe.

Writers and artists could draw on the “essence” of the characters but add unique twists. For instance, in the BATMAN: EARTH ONE graphic novels, Alfred presented less as a dryly humorous father figure and more as a gruff veteran-type. In addition to the Batman, the EARTH ONE line has offered Superman, Wonder Woman, and, of course, Teen Titans stories.

Beast Boy and The Dream Team

Beast Boy knocked down by Tara
Image Courtesy of DC

Like many, my main introduction to the Teen Titans was the TV show of the same name that aired on Cartoon Network in 2003. Sporting a different line-up than both the first entirely teen sidekick incarnation or the classic Wolfman/Perez squad, nonetheless, they became the Titans to me and many more. Given early signs, it seems likely Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo came up viewing the TV team as the platonic lineup as well.

EARTH ONE hews very closely to the show’s lineup as well. Beast Boy, Raven, Cyborg, Tara, and Starfire are all there. Sadly there is no Robin as in the Earth One continuity as Batman is a relative rookie himself. In place of the Boy Wonder, Lemire has cast Terra as a defacto team leader. In a rejection of her most famous incarnations, she has replaced her wicked ways with increased teen angst in the Earth One universe.

Deathstroke is in this story too. He acts as both a Titans foster parent and the muscle for S.T.A.R. Labs. He still the same blade-wielding mercenary but with a softer side for the Titans, if only a bit.

A Twist On BEAST BOY and more

The TEEN TITANS show set up the personality in the audience for these characters for many. The TV show created the base reference for the character’s personality that several projects since have utilized to inform their own depictions of the characters. TEEN TITANS GO, YOUNG JUSTICE, and TITANS all use elements the 2000 TEEN TITANS show laid down.

In TEEN TITANS EARTH ONE, the Titans have the same power sets, but the roles they play often differ from that TV show standard. On the close to the show side of things, Starfire acts as the catalyst to why the Titans form.

On the other hand, it is not just a random coincidence that these are the members of the team. They know each other beforehand from school, all but Raven got their powers from S.T.A.R. Labs, and each of their parents was working for S.T.A.R. Labs. Raven plays a more significant role as her premonitions of the Titans play a large role.

The characters feel more personal, as we see their home and high school life before the change. The switches in characterization are subtle. Take Beast Boy himself, for example. Usually the goofball who is not known for his brains. in EARTH ONE, he jumps two grades to join high school still a pre-teen. With the age difference between him and other members more significant now, his role changes. He acts as a more innocent member of the team.

There are more changes as well. Tara is from a troubled home. Raven is a native and shows life on the reservation while keeping her mystical powers. Cyborg doesn’t suffer an accident that turns him to a machine, but rather, he encounters mechanical goop that converts him. Small changes like this add an extra layer of difference that separates this title from the pack of other Titan works.

All The Teen Drama

Raven And Beast Boy enemy Slade
Image Courtesy of DC

A story about teenagers is bound to have drama. Cyborg no longer feels like himself and one can certainly appreciate why. Is he now more machine than man? Tara has issues with her mother that carry throughout the story. Beast Boy is worried about how his appearance changed but not so much that it dampens his excitement about his powers. His enthusiasm for his gifts, in turn, causes friction in a team filled with members who do not feel nearly as bullish about what superpowers have done to them.

In terms of a vibe, I found it very close to Marvel Comics’ RUNAWAYS, both the comic and the Hulu series. They both explore both the ups and downs of being a teen and being a superhero effectively. Additionally, both works show how differences exist even amongst teens. Much in the same way Molly experiences life differently from the other Runaways being in her early teens, so too do various Titans. Cyborg and Raven are facing down the arrival of their twenties soon while Beast Boy has the whole of his teens to look forward too.

Lemire and Dodson Titanic Team Up

Raven Talking to Starfire
Image Courtesy of DC

Earth One prides itself on being vastly different from the mainstay cannon. Free to do whatever they want, the writers and artist don’t small steps in a different direction, but leaps with the stories. That’s more true with this series. EARTH ONE carries a severe tone and a more “realistic” approach with the art. We see this in EARTH ONE SUPERMAN, BATMAN, and WONDER WOMAN. The stories have a darker tone, but TEEN TITANS does it differently.

I’m not saying EARTH ONE TEEN TITANS is a light-hearted tale with no stakes at all. This story has dark themes, and the characters are complex. Its what writer Jeff Lemire does to play with dark tones but keeping it fun and playful that separates it. It feels like a story where these kids are on a journey, experiencing this new world of powers, magic, and aliens all at once. We see the joy and fantastical nature of this world while keeping our feet on the ground.

Terry Dodson, the artist, captures this all too well. The art style is a mixture of cartoonish, allowing us to break this sense of reality and enjoy the fun moments, without sacrificing the full expressions and gorgeous set pieces. We see the in between moments of Beast Boy’s transformations, the beautiful set pieces, and more. Together they make for a great team that understand the tone of the story being created.

Earth One Teen Fun

We here at ComicsVerse are fans of anything Teen Titans. If you have already re-read RAVEN for the tenth time and find your patience for waiting on the arrival of BEAST BOY running out, TEEN TITANS EARTH ONE feels like an ideal solution. There are two volumes available now, and each packs a complete story for your reading enjoyment.

Have your own favorite Teen Titans series? Comment below or tweet us at @Comicsverse

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