8 Best Teen Titans Academy Characters That Deserve More Stories

Teen Titans Academy #1 Cover.

Set during DC Comics’ Infinite Frontier era, Teen Titans Academy was a year-plus long series that introduced readers to a plethora of new, young heroes. Written by Tim Sheridan, and drawn by Rafa Sandoval (and later Steve Lieber, Mike Norton and Tom Derenick), this run was a personal favourite of mine when it released and, with the mention of the next generation of heroes getting their own shot at the starring roles in the Dawn of DC, I find myself once again reminded of the Academy kids.

At the time, there was much discussion about the necessity of these additions, given the underrepresentation of classic Titans characters in the years prior. While some fans, myself chief among them, were ecstatic to see what these new characters could bring, others wrote them off out of hand. As a result, many readers missed out on some of the genuinely creative and inventive new members of Titans canon.

Here, we’ll revisit those oft overlooked characters, highlighting which members of the cast would be best suited to follow-up stories – or even solo series of their own! But first…

What’s So Great About the Teen Titans Academy Kids, Anyway?

There’s a lot to be said for how diverse the team is, both in the sense of identity and in design. There are so many characters introduced throughout the fifteen issue run, each with their own unique powerset, origin and issues. And, impressively, even those that at first appear like redundant copies of pre-existing characters are quickly revealed to have inventive twists that turn their archetypes on their head.

Beyond that though, Teen Titans Academy is an excellent launching pad for these new characters because it truly understands the fundamental themes of the franchise. It engages with them, re-examines them in a contemporary context, and creates something that pays great homage to legendary runs of creators like Wolfman and Perez whilst finding something additive to say.

In particular, these characters are designed around two core themes: complicated family relationships, and feelings of otherness. That is, the generic nature of being an outsider that most teenagers grapple with, but also the notion of “the other” in the sociological context.

You’ll notice throughout these entries that the vast majority of the characters introduced are not “passing”. Characters like Stitch and Tress and Gorilla Gregg could not walk down the street and blend into the crowd. And while, in this case, it’s due to exaggerated, superpowered reasons, it stands in as a smart and open metaphor for the kind of alienation that many marginalised people, particularly marginalised youth, still deal with today.

Whether it’s wearing a hijab in a predominantly Christian area, or having a visible disability, or the colour of their skin, there are plenty of things that unfairly mark people (in the eyes of some) with negative social stigmas – contributing to this image of “the other” as something separate and alien to socially constructed opposite of the “the norm”. The Academy kids, in response, take those harmful social constructs and reject them entirely.

Teen Titans Academy takes some of the ideas first explored in New Teen Titans in the ’80s, and expands upon them. It builds out a cast of misfits, burdened with bad but desperate to do good. Also in the tradition of books like X-Men, it creates flawed, human characters that are treated with suspicion and antagonism by the world, but manage to proudly celebrate their identity, every part of it, all the same. They are who they are, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Any group that wants that wonderful sense of self-expression to be viewed as “other”, the book argues, is no group worth being apart of to begin with.

Given the right push, I strongly believe these kids could be the faces that the next generation of readers knows as their superheroes – their Peter Parker, their Tim Drake, their Static, their Miles Morales, their Kamala Khan. Here’s eight of the best of them.

8. Tress Beaumont, A.K.A. Supermane

Teen Titans Academy 6 Stitch and Tress
Rafa Sandoval. Courtesy of DC Comics.

Starting off with a more obscure pick, Tress immediately struck a chord with me in issue #1 of Teen Titans Academy. From her head-to-toe green appearance, reminiscent of veteran Titan Beast Boy, to her Rapunzel-esque hair, Tress Beaumont has an exceptionally simple yet striking visual design, courtesy of co-creator Rafa Sandoval. It’s this incredibly unique silhouette that’s somewhere between a lizard, a snake and an emerald cloud.

What makes her more than just a cool design though is the combination of her powers and personality. Ability-wise, Tress borrows some superpower-DNA from Marvel’s own mistress of the mane, Medusa, Queen of the Inhumans. She has what writer Tim Sheridan terms ‘follicular morphism’, which is to say, she can shapeshift her hair. Combine that with her capabilities of flight, and what initially seems like a quirky but limited skill set actually ends up remarkably powerful. In the right hands, Tress could provide both an interesting visual addition to a given Titans team, but also an extra level of narrative creativity.

More than that though, it’s her personality that stayed with me. While she may not get a lot of page time in the series, Tress’ voice stands out incredibly clear. She’s often opinionated and abrasive, but also fiercely defensive of her friends. She reads like a believable teenager, replete with hastily formed but deeply held beliefs and an innate desire to fit in, even if that means she has to remain out with others. It’s that confluence of passion and fallibility that makes her so endearing (even if what she’s saying on-page is meant to annoy you too).

Tress Beaumont also displays another quirk that adds a little flourish to her charm: she constantly trips over her own arguments. Specifically, when she gets fired up about something, her readiness to engage gives way to a certain clumsiness. Take the scene pictured above, for example, from Teen Titans Academy #6. In Tress’ well intentioned, but utterly unnecessary attempts to defend fellow classmate Gorilla Gregg, she falls foul of malapropism. In this case, she mistakes the word ‘immigrant’ for ‘ignorant’, leading to a highly ironic exchange.

All of these small elements work together to outline a character that, while not overly present throughout the series, leaves a distinct impression on its readers. Between the potential creative uses for her powerset, her dynamic personality and her memorable design, Teen Titans Academy’s Tress would make for a great, if not immediately obvious, addition to DC’s next teen super-team.

7. Summer Zahid, A.K.A. Black Ice

Summer Zahid - Teen Titans Academy
Rafa Sandoval. Courtesy of DC Comics.

Summer Zahid is a fascinating product of the post-Death Metal, pre-5G-then-Future-State landscape at DC. Initially debuting in Endless Winter, Summer is a young Muslim girl whose metahuman abilities activate as a result of the ensuing stress and chaos of the Frost King’s attacks upon the world.

What’s interesting about her introduction is that she’s the only student of the Roy Harper Academy who is set up prior to Sheridan’s tenure on Teen Titans Academy, and the whole Future-State-into-Infinite-Frontier era as a whole. It lends credence to the idea that Summer was potentially being primed as one of those Next Big Things that comics are always on the lookout for, with a soft introduction in one book before being launched to stardom in another.

And frankly, it’s not hard to see why. Summer Zahid (codename: Black Ice, for her cryokinetic powerset) feels like DC’s answer to Ms. Marvel. A young, brown Muslim girl, american born, with a set of abilities familiar to the superhero realm but also inherently visual. In particular, Summer’s powers aren’t just visual, but visually othering, much like her marvelous counterpart.

Whether her creation was spurred on by then-Co-Publisher Dan Didio, or whether it came about naturally from the creators involved, Summer was well set up to enrich the next generation of young heroes with some much needed broadening of what heroism can look like at DC. Only, she didn’t end up seeing much page time since Endless Winter.

What Sheridan, Sandoval and co. manage to convey in the short time they’re able to devote to the character is inspiring. They are able to demonstrate her natural aptitude for leadership (for example, during the fight against the brainwashed townspeople, intolerance and giant psychic gorillas in Teen Titans Academy #6), as well as her strength through compassion. It’s easy to see how she, more than other characters perhaps, could fit into the wider DC landscape.

Maybe with the strength of the launch of the We Are Legends imprint, we might see more books pitched that could feature characters like Summer (whose ethnicity, it’s worth noting, has never been outright stated on the page, but likely has South Asian heritage, making her a prime candidate to be included in the imprint).

6. Matthew Price

Matt Price - Teen Titans Academy
Rafa Sandoval. Courtesy of DC Comics.

Matt Price is a bit of an enigma amongst the Teen Titans Academy cast. Very little is known about his origins, even by himself. Early in the series, he recounts what little he remembers to Cyborg:

I don’t have anyone to miss… I don’t have a home. Or an origin story. Last year, I woke up in the med bay of the U.S.S. Eisenhower. Captain said I “fell out of the sky”. I was lucky they were there to fish me out of the atlantic and save my life.

Matt Price, Teen Titans Academy #2

For the majority of the run, all that’s really known about Matt is that he fell from the sky, he can fly, and he’s nigh invulnerable. Sounds a little like a certain bespectacled reporter from Kansas, no? I, like many others, took this as implication that Matt would become another one of the rapidly increasing numbers of Superboys floating around the DC Universe.

But Matt is no Superman.

In fact, as the final issues of the series reveal, Matt’s genetic origins aren’t found on Krytpon, or in some science experiment gone wrong – he’s actually Apokalyptian. As in, potentially one of grand-villain Darkseid’s numerous progeny. This is such a great twist on a classic formula, that it takes Matt, an otherwise unassuming new addition to canon that fans would likely dismiss as unnecessary, and does something never seen before.

The number of stories that could be told about a boy with the powers of the greatest superhero, born of the darkest heart of the DCU, is immeasurable. There’s even overlap with the man-of-two-worlds deal that Darkseid’s son Orion has going on, teeing Matt up to be such an obvious counterpart to him that it’s genuinely frustrating we’ve never seen it followed up.

Given Sheridan’s return to DC Comics with Alan Scott: Green Lantern, my hope is that he can finally circle back to flesh out this plotline (especially considering he’s already mentioned online about how there was so much story he wanted to tell with the character, that he just never got around to).

5. Dane, A.K.A. Nevermore

Dane vs Red X - Teen Titans Academy
Fico Ossio. Courtesy of DC Comics.

Dane, also known as Nevermore, is a delightful young man with angelic wings. And a flaming sword. And he’s the son of someone called the “Dark Lord”.

Yeah, he’s Lucifer’s kid.

Or at least, he’s as close to being confirmed as such without DC producing his hellborn birth certificate.

Dane, like many of the characters on this list, works so well because he’s filled with complexity. Like Matt, he’s a man born on one path who chooses another. He’s impetuous, mishievous and could wrack up more hours brooding atop gargoyles than even the Dark Knight. But he’s also fiercely loyal, and constantly worried for the safety of his friends – safety that, by knowing him, he often believes he’s in danger of threatening.

While this is true of most Teen Titans Academy characters, it’s particularly true of Dane – the underlying construction of his character is so simple, so archetypal, yet so brilliantly laced with flaws and contradictions that he feels at once so larger than life while also being so human. It makes a character who, like many, jostles for page time not need a lot of it to leave an impression.

Considering his importance and prevalence by the end of the narrative, I’ve kept him out of the top spots. However, it’s worth noting how well integrated he is into the DCU, and how he is perhaps one of the most likely characters to see return. Not only does he go on a road trip to Hell and back with Shazam! in Billy’s own spin-off mini-series, leading to connections to that side of the universe, there’s also the obvious Lucifer connection. Next time the Sandman Universe deigns to bring that character back to the fore, might we not also see Nevermore show his face too?

4. Alinta, A.K.A. Bolt

Alinta "Bolt" - Teen Titans Academy #2
Rafa Sandoval. Courtesy of DC Comics.

Alinta fills a similar quesiton-mark shaped hole as Summer Zahid, in that she too also seemed to be one of those Next Big Things coming out of Future State (the kick-off event to DC’s 2021) and then, surprisingly, wasn’t everywhere all at once. And, for once, I would have been totally ok with it – Alinta is excellently conceived!

Hailing from Australia, Alinta originally gained her speed powers by finding a formula that, when read, allowed her to tap into the Speed Force – DC’s cosmic force that gives the various Flashes their powers. Longtime readers will know this is not as out of left field as it seems – Johnny Quick, longtime ally of the Flash, uses the very same formula Alinta mentions to summon his speed, so this has precedent in-canon dating back decades.

Unfortunately, while she was innocent her family were not. Conscripting her into their drugs business, they employed her as a runner until one day her legs were taken from her by aggrieved parties collecting on her parents debts. This leads to Alinta encountering Amanda Waller, the morally scrupulous brains behind the Suicide Squad, who gives her blades to run on and the promise of a new shot at life – with more than a few strings attached.

This does a few things to really elevate Alinta (who takes the name Bolt as she can only run in short bursts, ‘like a lightning bolt’) above the sea of other speedster characters.

First, there is a dearth of disabled rep in comics. Daredevil and Oracle are the clearest, most famous examples, but even then Barbara Gordon seems to spend more time out of her chair than in it. By all accounts though, Alinta adds to disabled representation in really strong ways. Not only is she visibly disabled and yet highly competent, creating an empowering and inspirational image for young readers, the Teen Titans Academy creative team has also taken great care to think through the nature of her situation.

This level of care leads to the second point that elevates her – how the specificity of her condition interacts with her powers. She can only run with her blades on, and every time she does for a prolonged period of time it takes a lot out of her. Not only does this have direct narrative impact in Teen Titans Academy #2, when she’s ambushed by the Suicide Squad without her blades creating an incredibly tense scene, but it also creates a really relatable character point. For readers to be able to see her struggle but always conquer her limitations is extremely important.

It echoes the classic message of triumphing over adversity that all superheroes should embody, while making it specific enough that a community of readers can feel ownership over, and acknowledgment within, their own version of that story.

3. Gorilla Gregg

Gorilla Gregg - Teen Titans Future State
Rafa Sandoval. Courtesy of DC Comics.

Gorilla Gregg is easily the cutest member of the team, but don’t let his chipper primate demeanour fool you – he’s just as capable and indispensable as anyone other Teen Titans Academy character.

Following in the tradition of Matt, Dane and Alinta, Gregg’s heroic tendencies are born out of villainous origins. His uncle is none other than Gorilla Grodd, long-time nemesis to the Flash. Couple that with his obvious physical differences, alienating him (in his mind) from his human friends, and Gregg’s good nature and humour ends up serving as a mask for some deeply held insecurities.

In issues #6 and #7, Gregg really gets a chance to shine, as readers get to see his tumultuous relationship with Grodd come to a head. On the surface, it’s a remarkably fun, Scooby-Doo inspired escaped, as Gregg, Summer, Tress, Chupacabra and Stitch undermine Grodd’s latest scheme.

Subtextually however, this is something of a thematic crescendo for the series. Not only does the two-parter touch on issues of bigotry, otherness and the power that marginalised individuals can find in community, it also allows Gregg to work through his complicated family dynamics. The pull towards family, no matter how neglectful or abusive, out of a fear of being rejected if one were to step outside of it underlines Gregg’s arc here, brilliantly combining the classic Titans themes of messed-up families with Teen Titans Academy’s re-examination of the franchise’s early themes of searching for belonging.

I’m holding out hope that we may see Gorilla Gregg pop up again in the pages of The Flash, as he represents not just a great addition to any team dynamic, but also a well crafted character in his own right, filled with pathos.

2. The Bat Pack: Bratgirl, Megabat and Chupacabra

The Bat Pack - Teen Titans Academy #2
Rafa Sandoval. Courtesy of DC Comics.

How could there be a list of Teen Titans Academy’s best characters without mentioning the Bat Pack? And yes, technically it’s cheating putting three members in one slot, but this trio is a package deal.

Bratgirl, Megabat and Diego (a.k.a. Chupacabra) are what happens when Gotham’s goth population gets inspired by the world’s greatest detective, and sets out to follow in his footsteps. Wards of Nightwing, the Bat Pack each have their own reasons for joining the academy, and their own baggage. Chupacabra, for example, is the result of illegal experimentation gone wrong, as one of Gotham’s many rogues tried to splice his DNA with that of a bat’s.

Part of the appeal of these characters is how grounded they are. Yes, they can be a little obnoxious (no-one who self identifies as Bratgirl is going to have a small personality), but like Batman they are dogged pursuers of the truth, willing to risk it all to see villains brought to justice and innocents kept safe.

They’d fit in well as guest stars to any Gotham-based mystery book, or alternatively would work brilliantly as candidates for a young-adult centred detective series. Given DC’s parent company also owns Scooby Doo, I’d kill to see a six-issue crossover between them and the Bat Pack.

1. Stitch

Stitch - Teen Titans Academy
Bernard Chang. Courtesy of DC Comics.

Coming in at the number one spot is the only real choice – the breakout success of Teen Titans Academy, protégé to Doctor Fate, leader of Young Justice Dark: Stitch!

From the very first issue, Stitch makes an unmistakable impression. Drawing influence from the Deadpools, Ambush Bugs and Harley Quinns of the world, Stitch has this slightly ironic, often winking-at-the-reader personality that never crosses the line from endearing to frustrating. They’re a wonderful source of comedy, but they never eschew actual character dynamics in place of humour.

Stitch is also a constant source of optimism within the cast, counterbalancing the creeping sense of doom that faces the Academy kids throughout the series. Plus, they’re no stranger to a romantic subplot or two, leading to some adorable moments.

Part of the appeal of Stitch as a character is in how accessible they are. It’s easy to imagine them appearing in a future young-adult book, or a more mystical series like Justice League Dark, or even as a guest star in the pages of titles like Detective Comics or Birds of Prey. Stitch is exactly the type of character that you want to see thrown into weird and wild situations, meeting new heroes and pushing the boundaries of what you can expect from superhero narratives.

In that way, Stitch shares the quality that the very best superheroes have – they’re elastic in design. Much like how you can put Batman in any situation – investigating crime, fighting aliens, travelling through time, skulking through the grimdark or going full Adam West camp – so too can you with Stitch.

Teen Titans Academy #1 - Stitch and Matt Price
Rafa Sandoval. Courtesy of DC Comics.

What’s more, Stitch is the only character that we’ve seen some form of confirmation of them appearing during the Dawn of DC! Pictured alongside Red Canary and Flatline, who recently had stories in Lazarus Planet, the implication is that this Teen Titans Academy alumnus will form a new Teen Titans team in the not-too-distant future.

Hopefully as time goes on more of these fantastic characters will be re-introduced to readers, whether that be in the pages of a Titans book or elsewhere. Sheridan, Sandoval and co. have created a diverse and imaginative cast that are visually interesting, filled with personality and intelligently designed to explore themes that deeply resonate with the readership.


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