'Titans' Trailer Proves DC Needs to Embrace the Camp

Do you remember a time when superheroes weren't so serious? When Superman could save a cat stuck in a tree and Batman could foil the plans of the Condiment King? After seeing DC Universe's newest trailer for Titans, I'm not sure DC does. The trailer takes all the Teen Titans you know and love (minus Cyborg since he's big stuff now) and runs them through a Zach Snyder filter of gloomy colors, weird song choices and 90s grittiness.

DC has struggled finding its niche in the modern media landscape. Batman Vs. Superman, Suicide Squad and Justice League all failed to capture the creativity of their source material, instead sticking to traditional story arcs and stereotypical plots that dragged too long. Wonder Woman was a welcome breath of fresh air from these doom-ridden worlds and the new Shazam movie looks like it will embrace the light-hearted side of the character, but it seems those movies might be the exception rather than the rule.

The gloomy atmosphere of Titans' trailer seems like an lousy fit for a group ofteenagers with superpowers, trying to figure out who they are in this crazy, messed-up world. DC works best when it embraces the campy side of its universe. Think of this scene from Batman '66, involving a bomb, a rubber shark, a helicopter and the now classic "Bat-Shark Spray." It allows the writers to have fun with the audience and laugh along with them.

The DC Universe we know today wouldn't exist without this affinity for the ridiculous. The first villain the Justice League ever fought in Brave and the Bold #28 in 1960 was a giant, intergalactic starfish with mind-control powers. Batman '66 with Adam West and Burt Ward embraced the childishness of its source material, opting for more "Boom, Bam, Pows" and less "Fuck Batman."

Batman: Brave and the Bold, a Cartoon Network show that ran for three seasons, is the perfect example of DC camp done for a modern generation. Batman was a self-righteous do-gooder who foiled plans alongside forgotten characters like Detective Chimp and Ambush Bug. In a standout episode, Batmite (who watched the show while also being in the show) feels that the show has "jumped the shark" after Gorilla Grodd turned the world's human population into bananas. He then tries to get the show cancelled, eventually succeeding with the series finale.

Even Gotham, a show with baby Bruce Wayne and his marvelous misadventures, got this right without a green kid that can turn into a talking tiger. You have the best source material ever, the original Teen Titans Cartoon Network show. Just throw in some real life actors, some CG and let Cyborg make a cameo. Boo yah.

"Grimdark" atmosphere might work in some instances, but not for characters who wear bright spandex. The success of the Marvel movies proves that fans prefer a more light-hearted take on their supers, one that isn't afraid to make jokes while still saving the world. It's unfair for me to judge Titans from one trailer, but after seeing the poster for the new Aquaman that looks like it belongs spray-painted on the side of a sketchy van, I worry about the universe that amazing creatives like Joe Shuster, Jerry Siegel, Jack Kirby, Bill Finger and countless more helped to create.