The world is full of plenty of controversial topics such as the environment, economics, business, etc., so it feels good to tune in for some escapism in the form of an entertaining cartoon. However, if it’s a cartoon featuring the Teen Titans, then the controversy is just beginning! The original Teen Titans cartoon developed a very intense fan following. Fans were so loyal that the show went on for five seasons, and while one more was in the works, sadly, it never got that sixth season. What it did get was a follow-up series... kind of. When Teen Titans Go! was announced, fans of the original didn’t know what to think. It would be bringing back their favorite voice actors and characters, but would the show be the same? In a word: no! Teen Titans Go! quickly established itself as a slapstick show filled with weird comedy and no consistent plot.
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This divided the community quite a bit. Some fans were very vocal about how much they hated Teen Titans Go! and everything it represented. At the same time, the show quickly become one of the most popular cartoons on the air -- clearly, it appealed to quite a few people! Where do we stand on the issue? Well, it’s a bit like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. We like certain qualities of both cartoons, and it’s important to review all of them before making a decision. Want to help us decide? Keep reading to discover 10 reasons why Teen Titans Go is the best (and 10 why Teen Titans is still better)!
Part of why Teen Titans Go! is so controversial is the fact that it stands out. In terms of humor and visuals, it looks nothing like the DC Animated shows that came before. However, we’re going to let you in on a little secret: that’s a good thing.
Ever since Batman: The Animated Series blew us all away, almost all DC animated shows have been going for a similar tone and style. This is why fans revere the original Titans as “more serious”-- codewords for saying it was more like BTAS. But comics and comic media only grow stronger when people try something different. If you want DC entertainment where everything is gritty and uniform, there’s always the Worlds of DC!
Something that is both a strength and a weakness of Teen Titans Go! are the self-contained episodes (more on this in a little bit). By comparison, though, Teen Titans did a much better job with ongoing plots. And in an age of streaming, those ongoing plots simply pay better.
Once upon a time, the logic of network syndication was that every episode could be someone’s first. Therefore, each episode of any given show was a self-contained episode. However, the “golden age of TV” showed us that audiences are hungry for ongoing plots they can binge-watch, and Teen Titans remains the best for this reason.
For this next one, we’ll be the first to admit that your mileage may vary. However, it’s something that we think is pretty awesome. What are we talking about? All of the musical selections in Teen Titans Go! Put simply, these tunes are catchy as hell.
Even if you hate the show (and insist on telling everyone you meet how much you hate the show), songs like “Catching Villains” or the theme music are likely to get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. And maybe for the rest of the week! We ultimately award the show a lot of respect for this: creating original music is a bold choice, and the music being good is just a bonus!
17 TEEN TITANS: DEEP RELATIONSHIPS
Obviously, these Teen Titans cartoons don’t exist in a vacuum. They are based (sometimes loosely, sometimes tightly) on decades of DC comics history. And as much as we love to see the cartoons doing something original, we understand how fun it is to see some of your favorite moments and relationships from the comics translated to the screen.
And “relationships” are one area where we see the original Teen Titans cartoon really shine. For instance, we get to see the famous relationship between Robin and Starfire develop and deepen as the series goes on. In comparison, Teen Titans Go! treats Robin’s affection as just another joke and never bothers to develop the relationship.
When people complain about the look of Teen Titans Go!, there are two words you will constantly hear: “Flash animation.” Haters believe that this process creates a hasty and worse-looking animation style for Teen Titans Go!, especially when compared to the original Teen Titans. However, Flash brings an unexpected upside to this animation.
With Flash, the animators can quickly change things like the tone and texture of characters, the background, and so on. In this way, they create an animation style that is weird and offbeat, which matches the vibe of this show in a great way. And long story not so short? Complaining that this show doesn’t look like what came before is like complaining that not every comic artist draws the same way!
15 TEEN TITANS: MENACING VILLAINS
They say that the best villains are dark reflections of the heroes they fight. However, the villains in Teen Titans Go! are usually lame and disappointing. This is because the show is always in such a rush to get to the next punchline that it cannot help but reduce the villains to jokes.
However, the original Teen Titans did a pretty solid job with villains. And the standout villain was Slade (better known to comics fans as Deathstroke), as the show helped preserve his dignity and his threat level. Just compare this cartoon to Slade’s portrayal in the Teen Titans Go! movie and you will see a “serious” difference!
Look, you knew we were going to say it when you clicked on this article, so don’t act surprised. One of the reasons that we like Teen Titans Go! so much is that it is genuinely funny. And furthermore, the humor in this show is surprisingly deep in both complexity and breadth.
Sure, the show isn’t afraid to dip into lowbrow humor like jokes about bodily functions, but there are other jokes that rely on your knowledge of pop culture, comics history, and even history. It’s tough to find any other DC-related media that can make you laugh so much in a short amount of time, and that’s worth the price of admission.
13 TEEN TITANS: BETTER FOCUS
This next point is an extension of the original Teen Titans show being more serious (most of the time, at least). The final result is that the entire show felt more focused from episode to episode. By comparison, Teen Titans Go! often feels like pure chaos.
Despite being animated ahead of time, Teen Titans Go! often feels like watching an improv show. Some of the jokes land and some of them miss, but either way, they never really end. If you’re not into that kind of comedy flurry, then you’ll probably prefer the focus of the original show.
Obviously, there are two sides to every issue. Earlier, we mentioned that some fans prefer the original Teen Titans for qualities such as the consistent tone and the ongoing story. But what if we told you that Teen Titans Go! is actually following comic structure more faithfully?
In recent years, fans have lamented how comic books have become long, multi-issue and multi-comic marathons that it takes forever to finish. Understandably, they long for the days of “one-shots” that offered a complete and entertaining story. While Teen Titans Go! doesn’t have much in the way of long and consistent arcs, the show perfectly scratches the itch of anyone who wants some bite-sized DC-related entertainment.
11 TEEN TITANS: SOLID THEMES
By now, you’ve probably noticed that several of these points build upon one another. Here’s a good example: earlier, we praised the original Teen Titans cartoon for having a more consistent tone and ongoing storylines. And because of that, they do a better job of delivering thematic stories.
Most of the best Teen Titans episodes are focused on a single theme. And no matter how weird, we get a plot and characterization that helps drive that theme home. This makes each narrative deeply satisfying, especially compared to Teen Titans Go!, a show that is so inconsistent that they will interrupt one random joke to give us one that’s even worse.
It’s a little silly, but all comics fans know what it’s like to be Captain America. No, we’re not talking about having a sick bod or knocking out evil soldiers. Instead, we’re talking about the simple joy of being able to say “I understood that reference!”, and Teen Titans Go! provides a ton of these moments with their frequent cameos and references.
Any given episode (and especially the movie) of Teen Titans Go! gives fans a constant stream of easter eggs. References to characters like the Challengers of the Unknown is a great way to celebrate comics history for veteran readers while introducing younger fans to an entirely new set of awesome characters.
9 TEEN TITANS: GREAT ANIMATION
Earlier, we praised Teen Titans Go! because its Flash animation helps to match its madcap design and vibe. However, being fitting isn’t the same thing as being better. And even we have to admit that the animation of the original Teen Titans cartoon is superior in almost every way.
It’s important to note that this quality level will only get more important over time. Think about how many shows from the "80s and "90s look terrible on streaming and Blu-Ray. With the animation of Teen Titans Go!, they run the risk of looking old and dated well before their time.
As silly as it is, fans of superheroes can’t help but ask a simple question: “what if this happened in real life?” Usually, the answers to this are grim. For instance, Robin (a kid who lost his parents before being raised by a costumed sociopath) would have more issues than a lifetime of therapy could heal.
Part of what makes Teen Titans Go! so good is that they address Robin’s potential issues in a way that is still funny and engaging. His “type A” personality, for instance, is usually the butt of some damn good jokes. And after seeing the live action Titans trailer with Robin exclaiming to... well you know Batman, we’re happy for a sillier take on Robin.
7 TEEN TITANS: BETTER HERO ARCS
While we like the idea of fun, standalone episodes, there is a simple truth at the heart of Teen Titans Go!: the characters are very static. Even after half a decade of episodes and their own movie, characters like Robin are the same now as they were back in the very first episode.
That’s why the original Teen Titans show is superior in terms of characterization. When it comes to characters like Robin, we see him grow and develop as both a person and a hero. As a fan, once you become invested in the character, it’s very rewarding to see him grow from episode to episode and season to season.
We’ve talked a lot about Robin on this list, and there’s a reason for it. The original conception of the Teen Titans was “what if the sidekicks formed a team?”, and Robin has always been the model sidekick. The character was originally created so that young audiences could have someone to relate to.
As much as we hate to say it, this is one area where Teen Titans Go! definitely shines. Many of the “flaws” of these characters are that they"re silly, petty, and just wanting to have fun instead of being a serious hero. If we’re being honest, any given comics fan is much more like these characters than the grim and gritty likes of someone like Batman.
5 TEEN TITANS: IN NO ONE’S SHADOW
If you’re a hardcore fan of these characters, then Teen Titans Go! can often be very frustrating for a simple reason. All of your favorite characters constantly live in the shadow of the older and better heroes. Heck, that was the entire plot of their movie, with Robin’s need to prove that he and the others were real heroes.
In the original Teen Titans cartoon, though, our heroes take the center stage and never look back. The plots focus on them and cause us to root for the characters as they grow and mature. Let’s face the truth: it’s a lot easier to root for Robin and the others when you’re not constantly told they are inferior characters.
When you think about it, comic books are a very quirky medium. There are many strange details, like the old school habit of editors throwing in meta-jokes in their commentary. The result? Readers grow up with comics that are very self-aware at all times.
And that’s one of the things that we love about Teen Titans Go! In addition to the silly jokes, the show and its creators are clearly aware of things like what the haters say about it. By the time you get to episodes making fun of each Titan becoming grim and serious, it’s tough not to root for a show that is actively dunking on its harshest critics.
3 TEEN TITANS: FAITHFUL TO SOURCE MATERIAL
We’ve been talking a lot about comic books here, but that’s to be expected when it comes to TV shows based on comics and comic characters. One issue remains true: when it comes to TV or cinematic adaptations, fans are always going to look for how faithful something is to the original material.
There’s no way around this one -- the original Teen Titans cartoon is more faithful to the comics than Teen Titans Go! will ever be. The show managed to make viewers laugh and cry, sometimes in the same episode. And fans of the comics could look forward to seeing the show deal with arcs from the comics, like those with Slade and with Terra.
Ever wonder why the divide between fans of these shows is so big? We’ve got a theory about that. The original Teen Titans comics offered a nice blend of light humor and dark plot developments. You could go from Beast Boy’s latest prank to destruction and mayhem in the blink of an eye.
In a really weird way, Teen Titans Go! does a better job of continuing this tradition. The show is mostly known for its frequent and absurd humor. But as IGN’s Jesse Schedeen recently noted, the show includes surprisingly dark beats like Robin’s angst and Raven’s demonic daddy issues. Even the easter eggs are filled with “I can’t believe they did that,” including seeing Joker’s Robin-beating crowbar on display in the Batcave.
1 TEEN TITANS: TEENAGE WASTELAND
Obviously, we’ve been singing the praises of Teen Titans Go! quite a bit. However, there’s one way it can never be better than the original show, simply because it has a different audience. What are we talking about? Teen Titans Go! is deliberately aimed at kids, and Teen Titans was deliberately aimed at teenagers.
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Therefore, a teenager watching Teen Titans could see a bit of themselves when characters like Beast Boy had to balance a heroic life and a low-paying job. Or they could see their own tentative romances in the relationship between Robin and Starfire. At the end of the day, the original cartoon represented actual teenage life in a way its successor series could never copy.