DC’s Superboy, Red Robin, and Kid Flash Reboot For New Teen Titans Book (And I Think of the 90s)

This post is from 2011.  As of 2018, it still gets new views. The Teen Titans, not to mention the entire DC Universe, have gone through many iterations since then.  Why are fans able to accept that continuity is fluid when it comes to comic books, but not when it comes to properties like Star Wars or the Wizarding World?

To be honest, I don’t really accept a living Jason Todd, or a universe in which Tim Drake was never Robin.  But I also know that the pendulum will likely swing back, and that I get to pick what I consider canon.  That’s one of the great things about fiction.

Okay, so I think of the 90s anyway. That said, here’s the picture for the rebooted Teen Titans:

I was chatting with someone today who said this whole reboot reminds him of the 90s, and, specifically, what Marvel tried to do with Heroes Reborn.  The Superboy and Kid Flash designs specifically make me think of 90s aesthetics.  That patch on Bart’s left shoulder?  Reminds me of Jim Lee’s first shot at redesigning Superman, circa 1996:

Kid Flash should be minimalist and throwback.  When Bart Allen gave up the Impulse identity and became Kid Flash, it was in honor of Wally West and his costume reflected the importance of legacy in the Flash mythos:

This is the right look, but the boots are too busy.  The thing going on at the top of this post is just a mess.

As for Superboy. If you were 13 in 1993, you know that the modern incarnation of the Boy of Steel debuted during the Reign of the Supermen arc following Superman’s death. He was punk, and he looked every bit the 90s awesome he was meant to be:

Haters hate, but I think this costume was perfectly awesome for the time.  And yes, after seeing this, I did go home and try to draw Starter jackets for Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, and the Flash.  That said, I think everyone agrees that Superboy’s most recent look is 100% DCAT (Don’t Change A Thing, with thanks to Paul Lukas):

This has become Connor Kent’s iconic Superboy look.  In the solicit picture for the reboot, he’s back to being a scenester.  What’s with the gothy tape job on his back?  The bar-c0de tattoo?  What could possibly tattoo him, anyway? For that matter, how did he pierce his ear in the 90s?  I know, I know: same way he shaves (his own heat vision in a mirror).

Red Robin (Tim Drake, formerly the third Robin before becoming Red Robin in the current DCU) is said to be leading the new new new Teen Titans.  I liked the Kingdom Come-inspired Red Robin costume of the last two years, and I liked the red and black look Tim sported during his final stint as the Boy Wonder.  Now he has feathers.  I want to say I hate it, but I sort of don’t.   Tim’s original costume was, perhaps, the perfect union of 90s re-design and timing.  It was current, believable, and, most importantly, not ridiculous.  The cape was black, the legs were covered.  The R was finally stylized.  He got a bo-staff and real boots. He got his own book and became a sidekick who was always more than that.  Tim was the best of the all the Robins because Tim’s  skill set, intellect, and emotional complexity made Robin a real hero in his own right and a compelling character to boot.  Tim Drake did for Robin what Nightwing did for Dick Grayson.  It makes sense that Tim would keep part of the Robin identity even as he moves on, but I’m not sure about those feathers.  Why not the current Red Robin costume with a domino mask instead of a cowl?  The rest of what’s going on above is way too busy.   I know that the hooded Robin look is being done by Damien Wayne, and Tim’s Robinmobile is called the Redbird.  I get that Tim ought to retain some of that mythos and the feathers signal the Tim (as opposed to Damien) side of things, but still.  Unless he starts to fly (please, no), he really shouldn’t have them.

If the 200os saw DC return to the Silver Age in terms of story and allusion, it feels like September 2011-forward are looking like the 90s redux.  Short from letting Supes fly his freak flag every now and then, I’m not sure that’s the way they should be going.  Then again, I was one of those kids that started reading comics because of the Batman movie and then in earnest with the Reign of the Supermen and the Knightfall series.  One of DC’s immediate goals is to give new readers and brand new point of entry, and the reboot and renumbering certainly provides that chance on a massive scale.  Still, feathers?  You know what? I’ll admit it.  He does look kind of cool.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Scottie Pippen’s Lack of Perspective. Oh, and Also Batman.

Dick Grayson in his original Nightwing costume...
This is why I’m hot.

From the summer of 2011.  A kinder, simpler time.

A few days ago, Scottie Pippen said that while Michael Jordan remains the greatest scorer in the history of basketball, LeBron James might be the best all-around player ever.  And then everyone said “ffffwhat?”” and I thought about Batman.  See, when Dick Grayson, the first and best Robin, got tired of feeling like an underrated sidekick instead of a respected, equal partner, he didn’t go tell Mike and Mike.  First he whined to Superman, then he became Nightwing, the coolest superhero not named Batman.  Dick Grayson, even in his recent stint as Batman, has never been and never will be Batman.  But as Nightwing, he has a little something for himself, and he’s a respected, bona-fide champion of his own burg across from Gotham.

With Pippen, having been Robin is the deal.  There’s no Nightwing role in basketball unless you play right now for the Heat.  Super Sidekick isn’t the job you dream of as a kid, but six rings?  Two three-peats?  Being the second best player on the best team of the 90s, and, as some have it, the best team ever?  Yep, okay.  I’ll take it.  Right now, Pippen is widely considered the best sidekick in recent history almost by default, which isn’t to diminish his own skill set or career.  He wasn’t just in the right place at the right time: he had to be, and was, the right player. He is the greatest of lieutenants, at least by acclamation, which is the same metric everyone uses when talking about Michael Jordan’s own supremacy.

Everyone except Kareem Adbul-Jabbar. He posted “How Soon They Forget: An Open Letter to Scottie Pippen” on his website yesterday.  And if you expect Kareem to take Scottie to task for disrespecting Jordan, you don’t know Kareem.   First, there’s the part where he says Pippen, while possessing a great basketball mind, is ailing from limited perspective.  Wilt Chamberlain, he reminds us, is the greatest scorer ever.  He also talks about how much better the league was back in the day, and says “So MJ has to be appraised in perspective. His incredible athletic ability, charisma and leadership on the court helped to make basketball popular around the world — no question about that. But in terms of greatness MJ has to take a backseat to The Stilt.”

Kareem’s real point, though, is that neither Michael Jordan nor LeBron James nor even Wilt Chamberlain can lay claim to the mantle of greatest player ever.  He doesn’t exactly say so, but he’s squarely in the Bill Russell camp in this discussion.  “The ring’s the thing,” he says, and we all know Russell has eight straight.

Kudos, I say, to Kareem for being the grumpy old guy in the corner who says “the 90s schmine-ties. Back in my day ____.”  Kudos for questioning all of this acclamation business.  Somewhere, Skip Bayless is just wishing Kareem would have called Pippen a “prisoner of the moment.”  Negative points, though, for being kind of rude and passive aggressive about it. That’s part of the deal, I suppose.  Minus a few more points also for not also saying what he’s making everyone else point out:  that he, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, is the NBA’s all-time points leader and by that metric alone should be at least second on everyone’s three-person list of greatest scorers.  By making Chamberlain’s case, Kareem is also making his own and he’s about as subtle as a skyhook.   Come on, now, friend.  You think we didn’t catch that?