The ‘DC’ in DC Comics stands for ‘Detective Comics’, but they might as well stand for ‘Darker Comics’? On both big and small screens in recent years, their characters are consistently darker than Marvel’s, and perhaps, in that sense, more real and reflective of these dark times? ‘Titans’ (Season 1) characters are not their cartoonish teen counterparts. They are still young, yet already jaded and weary heroes, who are uncertain about being their alter egos.
The Titans’ leader is Dick Grayson, the once chirpy Boy Wonder. He was adopted by Bruce Wayne, who could totally empathise with his similar grief, over his sudden loss of both parents. Heroes are those who rise above their trauma and help others do so too. However, training him to become Robin also infected him with the dark rage of Batman. Grown up now, instead of retaining colourful gleefulness, there are haunting stains of blood and grime.
Contemplating to relinquish his secret persona, due to being on the verge of being instinctively violent when in the pursuit of villains, Grayson develops love-hate of Wayne, indebted to his kindness, yet infuriated over his anger issues. A story arc hints of Batman possibly snapping, needing Robin to rescue him from himself. Yes, all too human heroes sometimes need to save each other from themselves too.
Every one of the Titans – Robin, Hawk, Dove, Raven, Starfire, and Beast Boy struggle with their secret identities and skills, being both curse and blessing. Manage them well and they become heroic. Mismanage them and they become villainous. For instance, Beast Boy who morphed into a tiger to maul a captor felt that the raging beast was not him, but in control of him. Indeed, the constant conflict of good versus evil begins within, to be won with mindfulness.
Although Dove’s mother was killed in an accident, she laments that, ‘It’s not fair that it wasn’t anyone’s fault, that there isn’t anyone out there to blame, to go after, to hate.’ A counsellor replies, ‘Life isn’t fair.’ She retorts, ‘Why not? Why can’t we make it fair?’ Perhaps she should embrace the teachings on karma, to accept that there is cosmic fairness in the big picture after all, with us reaping what we personally sowed, sometimes over many lives.
The universe is not mindless, especially when experienced by those with minds. Even if there is someone else at fault, directing blame, hate and vengeance to that person does not help us to let go of our pain and grief. These only distract us from the true issues within. Heroes transmute their personal suffering from apparent injustice, to become selfless upholders of justice for others, beyond themselves. When transformation is incomplete though, the dark side that craves revenge remains.