Warning: contains spoilers to Future State: Teen Titans #2 and Future State: Shazam #2!
In Future State, two of the Teen Titans‘ new characters are originally from different versions of the famous teenage superheroes, specifically their animated incarnations. Following the events of Dark Nights: Death Metal, which created DC’s Omniverse, it would appear creators are keeping true to their promise of a world where all stories matter and influence each other. These two characters, the anti-hero Red X and the evil entity called the Unkindness, may not be original to the comics, but their introduction into DC’s core reality is significant both for the Titans’ and DC Comics’ future.
The Red X debuted in the animated Teen Titans cartoon, running for five seasons from 2003 to 2006 – as a secret alias for Robin in his attempt to get close to the Titans enemy, Slade. This ruse was further complicated when Slade revealed he knew of Robin’s true identity all along, and Grayson lost the trust of his teammates. The Red X identity was later stolen by a mysterious individual who operated as a recurring antagonist and occasional ally of the Titans, his true identity never revealed. The Unkindness debuted in 2019’s Teen Titans Go! vs Teen Titans animated movie as the all-powerful demon form of Raven after she merged with her counterparts from different dimensions. The Unkindness battled the upgraded version of her father Trigon and, following his defeat and imprisonment, the Titans help Raven regain her consciousness from her demon form before all of the Teen Titans versions returned to their home dimensions.
Future State introduced these characters to the comics, though with a time jump that revealed a world where they’d already had some significant adventures. In Future State: Teen Titans – from Tim Sheridan and Rafa Sandoval – Red X is the Titans’ prisoner, shown in flashbacks to be partly responsible for the Titans accidentally unleashing the apocalyptic Four Riders. He is released by former Titans leader Nightwing and plays a prominent role in their rematch with the villains, giving his life so Raven has enough time to absorb them into her. Raven is ultimately unable to resist the dark power within her, with Future State: Shazam – revealing she has become a cosmic villain called the Unkindness. The Unkindness’ threat continues well into the 853rd century, destroying the mightiest of worlds and their heroes until the future Black Adam is magically sent back in time in hope of destroying the Unkindness before it has the chance to reach full power.
Although not the first time that popular television characters have transitioned into comics (Batman antagonist Harley Quinn being a notable example), this commitment to DC’s promise of acknowledging its wider continuity is both refreshing and promising. In an age where comic creators have to take into account the experiences and expectations of film and television audiences, continuity is best embraced as something with leeway instead of rigidity. DC’s Omniverse means that the DC universe can not only remember but also interact with alternate realities, and it’s becoming clear that any good idea is back on the table. Characters and stories from different media could find their place or even be recreated in the comics.
Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go! were both popular shows in their own respect and having two of their best characters hit the comics is a good way to pull in fans of those shows and bring great ideas back into play. With Red X set to appear in the upcoming Titans Academy series and Future State‘s Black Adam committed to ending the threat of the Unkindness, the Teen Titans will certainly have their hands full as these examples of a looser yet more comprehensive DC continuity show promise of fresh, creative stories in its future.