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Comic book fans in the region have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the DC Universe service — the comic conglomerate’s shiny new streaming service that launched in the US in October 2018. But while there’s no word of when the service will be made available in the Middle East, DC Universe’s first production ‘Titans’ is finally making its way here, via Netflix.

Based on DC’s ‘Teen Titans’, a superhero team featuring some of DC’s youngest superheroes, ‘Titans’ is a gritty update to the otherwise (relatively) breezy franchise. The Teen Titans are the sidekicks, the young guns, the upstarts and the cheeky rebels, and they come together as adulthood looms at a safe distance and they’re still learning to enjoy their super powers and abilities. Former members have included Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Super Boy, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, Cyborg, Wonder Girl, Miss Martian, Red Arrow, Green Lantern and Jericho.

Here we take a look at the Titans’ live-action debut and what we can look forward to in the show’s first season, dropping on January 11 on Netflix.

Meet the Titans, with one glaring omission

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‘Titans’ follows Robin and Raven as they come together to deal with an inter-dimensional threat that could wipe out Earth as we know it. To help them in this quest, they’re joined by Starfire and Beast Boy, and together they form Titans. According to reports, all of season one will be dedicated to the formation of the Titans and we’ll only get to see them in all their costumed, crime-fighting glory in season two.

Australian actor Brenton Thwaites plays Richard ‘Dick’ Grayson/Robin, a former circus performer who, after his parents’ death, was taken in by Batman to fight crime as his sidekick. Now in his adulthood and having moved away from Gotham to become a detective with the Detroit Police Department, Grayson is looking to lead his own life away from the shadow of his famed mentor.

’24 Legacy’s’ Anna Diop is cast as Koriand’r/Kory Anders/Starfire. The Senegal-born American actress plays a powerful woman with no memory of her past who pursues Raven looking for clues to it. She eventually learns she is an alien princess from the planet Tamaran, on a mission to stop Raven from somehow effecting the destruction of her planet.

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Teagan Croft plays Rachel Roth/Raven, a teenage mystical empath who wields otherworldly ‘dark’ powers driven by her volatile emotions. The season begins with Rachel finding out that her mother is actually her adoptive mother after the latter is violently murdered by a mysterious man.

Ryan Potter (most famous for voicing Hiro Hamada in ‘Big Hero 6’) plays Garfield ‘Gar’ Logan/Beast Boy — a former member of the Doom Patrol clique, who developed the ability to shapeshift into animals, usually a tiger, as the side effect from a drug, Beast Boy is a fun-loving kid who injects much-needed humour into the otherwise sullen group. And since he’s closer in age to young Raven, the two develop a closer bond.

While the second season — already greenlit — will most probably go on to add more memorable names to the team’s roster, one of the Titans’ most crucial members is notably missing from the first season. Cyborg is nowhere to be seen and fans are not too happy with the omission.

However, the character is all set to be part of DC Universe’s other upcoming digital series ‘Doom Patrol’, members of which also make their debut on ‘Titans’. So, chances are Cyborg could join ‘Titans’ eventually.

Beyond the comics: Small- and big-screen adaptations

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While a variety of animated shows dating as far back as 1967 (‘The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure’) have featured the Teen Titans with varying rosters of characters, their most successful incarnation appeared on Cartoon Network’s ‘Teen Titans’, which ran from 2003-2006 for five seasons. Based on the 80s era comics, this Teen Titans line-up featured Robin, Starfire, Cyborg, Raven and Beast Boy and the show adapted some of the most iconic Teen Titans’ comic book arcs, including ‘The Judas Contract’ and ‘Terror of Trigon’.

In November 2010, the ‘Young Justice’ animated television series was launched, featuring a team of teenaged DC superhero sidekicks who undertake covert operations under the authority of the Justice League. Despite its title, the show is not an adaptation of the Young Justice comic series, but rather an adaptation of the entire DC Universe with a focus on its young superheroes. The television series is based on a cross between the Teen Titans and Young Justice franchises, drawing influences from 1960s Teen Titans run and the 1990s Young Justice run. This month, fans were finally treated to season three of the beloved cartoon series after a long and painful seven-year wait.

A follow-up of sorts to the original CN ‘Teen Titans’ show reunited the voice cast for the brand new ‘Teen Titans Go!’ in 2013, featuring amusing takes on what it’s like to be a Titan when they are not busy fighting crime. Although widely panned by fans for being too silly as opposed to the original Cartoon Network show’s darker tone, ‘Teen Titans Go!’ has its own cult following and was last year adapted for the big screen as ‘Teen Titans Go! To The Movies’.

The show will explore Robin’s inevitable fallout with his mentor and guardian Batman

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When the ‘Titans’ trailer dropped in July 2018, fans were shocked (and excited) when Robin dismisses Batman with an uncharacteristic expletive when questioned by a bunch of gangsters he’s clinically and violently taking out in a dark alleyway. It’s only natural that fans may feel a little miffed by Robin’s uncharacteristic violent tendencies. In all of Teen Titans’ past incarnations, the group has maintained a lighthearted vibe, occasionally addressing dark concepts. How this complete reversal in attitude will fit into Titans canon, only time will tell, but we know for a fact that the Dynamic Duo aren’t doing so good.

In the comics, Dick Grayson/Robin’s transition into the solo-flying and later Teen Titans’ leader Nightwing is a rich mine of character development as he figures out personal as well as crimefighting life away from the protective (albeit inherently abusive) tutelage of the Dark Knight. ‘Titans’ will reportedly explore the cause of the twosome’s painful separation and the effect it has on Robin’s own future relationships, especially as he begins to train young superheroes himself.

The ’Robins’ face off in the new ‘Titans’

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Bat-Family fans will be thrilled to find out that the show features not one but two Robins. While our main hero is, of course, Dick Grayson, in the course of the show, he comes face to face with Batman’s new mentee, Jason Todd aka the new Robin (played by Curran Walters). From promotional, their meeting looks less than friendly. However, Jason’s appearance is momentous, especially since the character is making his first ever live-action appearance with this show. (In ‘Batman v Superman’, we catch a torn-up Jason Todd/Robin suit in Batman’s cave, but the character hasn’t actually shown up in any of the movies or TV shows in the character’s long history.)

In the comic, Jason Todd has proven to be a divisive character and was widely derided for the longest time. He was so hated that when DC set up a readers’ poll to ask if they should kill the character off, and the fans voted ‘yes’, resulting in 1988’s ‘A Death in the Family’ arc where Joker kills Jason Todd, one of DC’s most widely-read storylines, and which also led to Batman’s long-running guilt in subsequent stories.

Trigon (Destroyer of Worlds) makes an appearance in the show

One of the Titans’ most enduring villains, Trigon, who likes to devour entire planets for fun (think Marvel’s Galactus for reference) and also happens to be one of the Titans’ (Raven) father, makes his live-action debut as the series’ lead villain. Despite the fact that he only makes an appearance towards the very end of the show, his spectre looms large over the events that shape the young team’s journey. And despite the fact that he’s always been depicted as a red, gargantuan, four-eyed, horned inter-dimensional demon in the comics and cartoons, in the live-action DC Universe show he looks decidedly human and is portrayed by Seamus Dever (‘Castle’).