New York Comic-Con kicked off with an origin story longer than most: the struggle to get Titans onto the screen.
The risky superhero show, which debuts October 12 on streaming service DC Universe, has a long development back story. Producers Geoff Johns and Akiva Goldsman spent seven years trying to crack the material, a pitch-black-yet-rousing story of an Avengers-esque ensemble that includes a certain former Batman sidekick whose civilian name is Dick Grayson.
“You couldn’t do Titans without Robin,” Johns said during a panel after the first two episodes screened to strong response at Hammerstein Ballroom. “So there was a lot of behind-the-scenes work that went into that.” Previous outings, including a feature incarnation, were hamstrung by the rights to Batman being locked up — in this telling, the characters mix and mingle freely, as they have begun to do in the DC universe.
All of the maneuvering appears to have paid off. The producers announced onstage that a second season of the show, which is the flagship program for the new DC Universe service, has been greenlit.
Tonally, “We wanted to do something different from everything else out there,” said Johns, who stepped down in July as DC’s Chief Creative Officer and began a producing deal with Warner Bros. Goldsman agreed, “We wanted to arrive at a tone that wasn’t as welcoming as some of the DC shows have been, nor as nihilistic as some of the films have been.”
The uninitiated may indeed be taken aback by just how violent and gritty the action gets at times. In one signature moment, after dispatching several baddies in a gory back-alley fight, Robin spits the line, “F*ck Batman.” Johns said it was a late addition to the script. Brenton Thwaites said when he read it the morning of production of the scene, “I thought it was perfect. … This is not a show about Batman. It’s a show about Dick.”
The live-action show is one of the featured attractions of the just-launched DC Universe streaming service. Based on the comic of the same name, Titans focuses on Robin’s formation of the Titans after parting ways with Batman. His companions include Raven, Beast Boy, and Starfire. Netflix has come aboard to distribute the show internationally.
Along with Goldsman and Johns, the other A-list writer-producer is the ubiquitous Greg Berlanti. The show’s cast includes Teagan Croft, Anna Diop, Ryan Potter, Alan Ritchson, Minka Kelly, Bruno Bichir, Lindsey Gort and Seamus Dever.
As it continues, Goldsman said, the show will tackle the question, “How are these broken people going to cohere? Or will they?” He called it a “wonderful revolving door” for the creative team to pass through.