Brenton Thwaites as Titans’ Robin.
Image: DC Universe

Say what you will about Titans’ questionable production values, or how odd it’s going to be to see a modern incarnation of the team that doesn’t include Cyborg. There’s one thing that the show seems as if it’s definitely going to get very right: This Dick Grayson isn’t the biggest Batman fan.

That’s exactly how it should be.

It’s easy to understand why the first blood-soaked look at DC Universe’s Titans rubbed more than a few people the wrong way. In one form or another, the Teen Titans have been a fixture of Warner Bros. animation for the past 15 years, and between the original Cartoon Network series and Teen Titans GO!, the team’s adventures have been generally lighthearted and designed with a broad, all-ages audience in mind.

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We’ve seen the Titans do whimsical, we’ve seen them tackle heavy teen emotional drama, and so it makes a fair amount of sense that Titans would take the characters in new narrative and tonal directions. As much as we all may like Teen Titans’ goofy, hyper-competent Robin, it’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to spend time with the Dick Grayson who’s well on his way to stepping out of Batman’s shadow in order to become his own man.

Dick’s Not-Quite-Nightwing period is one of the most interesting points of the character’s life, largely because of the way that he really begins to come to grips with the years of trauma and strife he endured under Batman’s tutelage. Bruce has his reasons, of course, but there’s a point in every young person’s life when they come to see their parents as flawed people who sometimes don’t, or can’t, act in their child’s best interests.

Dick’s first official dismissal from his Robin duties came in Batman #408; his relationship with Bruce grew more and more strained as the two vigilantes couldn’t see eye to eye regarding their approaches to crime fighting. Following the Joker successfully shooting Robin and scaring the hell out of Batman in the process, Bruce comes to the decision that the time’s come for his teenaged ward to hang up his cape—a fear borne out of a concern for Dick’s life. As is often the case with Batman, though, he isn’t at all great at articulating his (very valid) emotions to his partner, and it alienates Dick so powerfully that it pushes him to break off on his own to find himself and spent the vast majority of his time leading the Teen Titans as Nightwing.

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Robin informing the other Teen Titans that he’s giving up his Robin identity in The Judas Contract.
Image: George PĂ©rez, Romeo Tanghal, Dick Giordano, Mike DeCarlo and Adrienne Roy (DC Comics)

The emotional messiness that leads to Batman and Robin’s falling out is precisely the kind of thing that would make someone scornfully insult their mentor the way Dick does in the Titans trailer. He’s hurt—and, on some level, he’s lost in a new city as he’s trying to make a go at being solo hero, an identity he isn’t all that comfortable with yet.

Rather than rushing to get to a point where Robin’s fully secure in his now largely Batman-free life, it makes all the sense in the world that Titans would spend a generous amount of time in this particular space where Robin’s just going through it, emotionally speaking, and stepping on more than a few necks in the process.

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It’s unlikely the Dark Knight will make many (if any) appearances on Titans, and really, he doesn’t need to. It would be infinitely more compelling to watch as Robin gradually begins to resent the parts of Batman he sees in himself (see: the trailer’s brutality) and works to try and overcome them on his own terms and his own time. That’s the sort of satisfying narrative arc that leaves you understanding why a group of superpowered misfits would agree to be led by a baseline human decked out in logo-ridden body armor

Titans is going to be darker and a lot more brooding than any of the incarnations of those characters we’ve seen more recently, but ask yourself this: What kind of worldview would you have if you were raised in a literal cave by an eccentric billionaire who dresses up as a bat?

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