“Fuck Batman,” indeed.
DC Entertainment dropped its first trailer Thursday for Titans, a new television series from DC’s upcoming online streaming service, DC Universe, and as is often the case when it comes to the adaptation of a comics property (especially one of DC’s), reaction has been polarized. Many are taking issue with the “grimdark” tone of the new show and its harsher take on some iconic (and not-so-iconic) teen-hero characters.
I’m a little intrigued and a bit surprised by the more extreme elements in this little taste, but I’m reserving judgment until I get to see the show. However, the teen-angst that drips off the screen suggests to me that I’m not the target audience for this series (despite my decades-long appreciation of the characters). I’m in my late 40s, and overwrought teen drama is pretty much in the rear view for this old fogey. I’m OK with the edgier tone overall, though, as there are plenty of other adaptation options out there for other-media consumers of DC properties (Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, for example).
What struck me the most about the trailer (no doubt released Thursday so it could be unveiled officially at Comic-Con International San Diego this week) was its incredibly poor timing.
DC is always offering radically different takes on its familiar super-heroes in various media, often at the same time. We’ve seen an all-ages friendly Batman alongside somewhat obscure super-heroes being aired at the same time that Ben Affleck’s take on the Dark Knight was asking Superman if he bled. We’ve seen a revival of Batman ‘66 stories in the comics at the same time as a grimmer version of the Caped Crusader is meeting Rorschach.
My point: different interpretations of the same characters for different audiences can co-exist at the same time.
But launching a trailer for this mature-audiences Titans show at this particular moment was a misstep. Why? Because in a week, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies hits theatres.
That movie, based on the Teen Titans Go! cartoon, boasts an understandably different tone from the new live-action Titans show, but they share a lot of characters in common. And that means they share search terms in common. As younger fans and parents start seeking out information and videos related to the big-screen animated movie, the proliferation of chatter and sharing of the new Titans TV trailer is bound to get mixed up in those searches.
That being said, the Titans series, depending on how well the streaming-service is marketed, has a pretty good chance at success, even through cross-promotion. My wife — who’s no comic-book fan — adores Teen Titans Go!, and she’s pumped to take our eight-year-old to see the flick next week. I showed her the TV trailer this evening, and to my surprise, she’s interested in the show. I had expected she’d be put off, since her concept of these characters flows almost exclusively from goofball, brightly coloured cartoon. And while she was taken aback by Robin’s controversial and profane reference to his mentor in the trailer, the trailer piqued her curiosity about these morose incarnations of the teen heroes.
DC Entertainment’s problem isn’t those hating on what they’ve seen, but in the potential for accidentally mashing its different brands and approaches to storytelling. DC has so many platforms, so many producers and so many properties being proliferated out there, it runs the risk of mixing its messages, and it doesn’t look as though there’s much co-ordination among its many cooks.