They might be young, but Teen Titans go to some grim places. It makes sense, since half of them are either orphans from long dead worlds, genetic experiments, Hell beings or fantasy New Jerseyeans. Taken together, the young team has some of the most brutal origins ever, but since they're teenage superheroes they're best known for wearing silly outfits and getting into fist fights with an old man in tights. That cartoon (and the recent movie) have helped maintain the Titans' squeaky-clean image, but that doesn't change the fact that these bright and colorful teenagers have had some messed up adventures.
The Judas Contract is widely held as the best Teen Titans story ever, which is weird, because the story itself is so disturbing that if you heard someone describing the plot on a bus, you'd swear they were talking about a Hermione/Snape fanfic. Despite the title, the comic has nothing in common with the Bible, unless you count the horrific betrayals and old leches creeping on teenagers.
Our story begins when a cool new girl joins the squad. Terra boasts fearsome powers that basically make her an Earthbender, but she still manages to be chirpy and fun. Everyone is smitten with her, especially the dudes. The one exception is Raven, who senses a deep evil brewing within the rookie team member. The rest of the Titans laugh it off, presuming that no one who looks like a 1950s Squirrel Girl could possibly be a traitor.
As usual, the Teen Titans should have listened to Raven.
Terra might be spunky, but she's also downright sinister. She infiltrated the Titans at the behest of Deathstroke the Terminator, aka Slade Wilson, aka That Guy from the End of Justice League Who We Will Never See Again. The worst part is this wasn't some late-game shocker reveal. Terra's true intentions are revealed to readers early on, but the heroes don't have a clue. Page after page, we are helpless but to watch as Terra ingratiates herself with the team, going so far as to fool poor Beast Boy into falling in love with her. As it turns out, she prefers older dudes.
It is heavily implied that Terra and Deathstroke have been getting down on the side, to the point where Terra refers to them as "lovers." To put this in perspective, she's about 15 or 16, and Slade is roughly the same age as your average NPR fan.
But Terra wasn't doing dirty just for Deathstroke. As a battle for the fate of the Titans rages on, Terra admits that she wants all of these young heroes dead mostly because their very existence makes her sick. She's not in it for love, or crime, or for the love of crime. Terra simply can't stand the sight of the Teen Titans, and she wants them all dead. Again, this girl is so young she probably doesn't have a driving permit.
Eventually, Terra's rage and hatred get the better of her. Henchmen are vanquished, Slade scoots away, and the former Teen Titan crushes herself with her own seething hatred.
Later, Terra would come back as a zombie. This is a comic book, so that probably goes without saying.
Aside from ruining Aquaman's reputation for decades, the influence of the classic Super Friends cartoon has waned in recent years. But the fact remains that a lot of comics creators grew up watching that goofy show, and sometimes that can surface in surprising ways.
In 2008, Teen Titans had recently brought on Super Friends mainstays Wendy and Marvin. If you remember, they were the annoying kids whose sole purpose was to stand around and be annoying ciphers for the kids watching at home. Arguably their biggest contribution to the team was their faithful pet, Wonder Dog. Unrelated to the Wonder Woman (or the Wonder Twins), Wonder Dog was the same brand of Scooby-Doo knockoff that plagued much of kids shows in the 1970s.
If you're thinking Wonder Dog seems ripe for a grim and gritty reboot, you'd be right. Wendy and Marvin were brought on as mechanics for the Teen Titans right around the time of the financial crisis, and soon after they brought in a cuddly, friendly pooch that they dubbed Wonder Dog. Unknown to them, Wendy and Marvin were literally adopting a transforming murderbeast from hell.
As it turns out, Wonder Dog was a trojan horse of sorts, sent by the son of Ares (as in, the God of War) to kill Wonder Girl. The hellhound was not only deadly, but actually grew in power with every person it murdered -- and its first kill was poor Marvin. Wendy meanwhile was left paralyzed by the attack, and went on to become a protoge for Batgirl/Oracle, back when the latter was still in a wheelchair.
Before that, though, the Titans had to deal with man's worst friend. They ended up going with the ol' "blow them up from the inside" maneuver.
It's been said before, but this just proves that Infinity War would have been a lot shorter if Ant-Man had been around.
Yes, Starfire has a sister, and no, her name is not Earthice. Blackfire is a fellow princess of Starfire's alien world of Tamaran, and as you have probably guessed by her evil-twinged name, she kind of hates her sibling. And to be honest, it's hard not to sympathize with Blackfire just a little. The same day she as born, the Citadel Empire took it upon itself to murder thousands of Tamaraneans, basically just to spite their enemies. And so the citizens of Tamaran basically associated Blackfire with a horrific and deadly attack for her whole life. She was so hated that her royal parents decided that the crown would skip over Blackfire and land on Starfire.
A Lion King situation ensues. Blackfire thinks that she'd be better off ruling the planet Tamaran, especially since it is technically her birthright. After betraying her homeworld to Citadel Empire, Blackfire stormed Tamaran and took her place on the throne. And their parents just sort of let it all happen.
Starfire isn't executed. Instead, she's kept as Blackfire's prisoner for years, subject to all kinds of awful torture before she eventually broke free and escaped to earth, joining the Teen Titans.
But that wasn't the last the DC Comics universe saw of Blackfire. It wasn't long before she located her wayward sister on Earth and stole her away to re-sell back to the Empire, stopping for some, you guessed it, torture. As a bonus, Starfire got to watch her new friends be torn apart in excruciating ways by alien technology.
DC Comics in the 1980s were definitely gritty, but that doesn't mean the 70s was a slouch in the misery department.
Roy Harper has gone by a lot of names, like Red Arrow or Rampage, but Speedy has always seemed to stick. It was an unfortunate name from the beginning. Perhaps realizing this, the 1970s team on Green Arrow/Green Lantern, Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams, decided to embrace his ridiculous name and lean into the druggie iconography. And so comics readers were treated to "Speedy is a Junkie!" (okay, the real story is called Snowbirds Don't Fly, which is... immensely lame). Despite its name, Snowbirds is considered one of the more powerful and important comic stories ever told. And good golly gosh does it go places..
The comic begins with the titular Greens investigating junkies, only to find out -- bum bum bum -- Speedy is shooting heroin. Yes, this freaking 1971 comic has a member of the Teen Titans, a major superhero seen everywhere from Young Justice to CW's Arrow, shooting a member of the Teen Titans, has starred on the CW Arrow show, and is a major member of both the Teen Titans cartoons and the Young Justice cartoon, shooting black tar right into his veins.
As you might expect, the comic doesn't really get into Green Arrow's physical abuse. Ollie just yells at Speedy, Speedy quits, they defeat the evil pharmaceutical CEO behind the spread of the drugs -- because even weirdo comics can be correct about some things -- and everyone lives happily ever after. Except for Speedy's friend, a fellow junkie. Well, a former fellow junkie.
The storyline ends with that junkie's funeral, and the very next issue features the debut of fan favorite Green Lantern John Stewart. Talk about one hell of a transition.
Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke the Terminator might seem like a one-two ripoff combo of Deadpool and Arnold Schwarzenegger's cyborg, but he actually oudates them both. The grizzled, cold-blooded assassin has been around for a good while, and in that time he's managed to have a couple of kids. And raise them terribly.
Though Rose Wilson sometimes goes by the name Ravager, she fights and dresses like her pops. Whereas Slade is most often portrayed as a straight bad guy, Rose bounces back between fighting the Teen Titans and joining them to fight dear old dad. She swung back and forth like that until recently, when she was rebooted as a strip club bouncer/assassin who is used as bait in one of her dad's many fights with Batman.
Compared to Jericho, though, Rose had it easy.
Jericho's origin story has varied over the years, but most continuities share the same beats: Slade's son is taken hostage by an enemy, Slade makes a judgement call, Jericho gets his throat slit by the bad guy in the ensuing chaos. In the DC Rebirth universe, this is where Adeline (mother of Jericho) shoots Slade in the face, giving him his trademark eyepatch. Like his dad, Jericho lives through a likely-fatal injury. In the 80s comics continuity, though, Jericho might have been better off dead.
See, after the incident, Jericho develops a powerful psychic ability that allows him to possess anyone he makes eye contact with. Though he does use this power for good when he eventually joins the Teen Titans to fight scumbags like his dad, Jericho's power fell into the wrong hands when he himself becomes possessed by demons. With no other choice, Deathstroke stabs his own son through the heart.
It's not like Deathstroke is a good dad to his kids while they're alive, either -- this is in a way a culmination of the physical abuse (beating them as children and young adults) and horrific neglect (leaving his child in the snow to hunt, alone). In the end, Deathstroke is just as cruel to his loved ones as he is to his actual targets.