Recent Titans Set Photos Illustrate The Need To Engage With Fans Early

by Erik Amaya


Yesterday, a number of photos emerged from the set of the DC streaming service’s upcoming Titans series. Starring Blue Lagoon: The Awakening‘s Brenton Thwaites as Robin, the series will see him assembling a team of younger heroes to face an unspecified foe (which will probably be Trigon). The photos released by DC Entertainment and Berlanti Productions (the entities behind the series) depicting Thwaites as Robin and one featuring the crimefighting duo of Hawk & Dove (Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly) inspired a rare vote of confidence as they revealed a startlingly accuracy to comic book costume design.

Also, you have to give credit to the production’s still photographer, Steve Wilkie, for capturing the costumes in well-lit and well-composed situations. Just compared that to similar costume reveal photos — like most of the CW photos this season — which come off … a little awkward.
After the Robin and Hawk & Dove photos, many expected remaining Titans Starfire (Anna Diop), Raven (Teagan Croft) and Beast Boy (Ryan Potter) to received similar costume reveals. Sadly, these photos never came to be and paparazzi shots emerged of the other three Titans in heavy winter wear. The response from Teen Titans fans was not kind and, in in the case of an unfortunate photo of Diop, downright racist.

But even without the racist rantings and worries of “forced diversity,” one theme quickly emerges: fans losing confidence in the show and the feeling that the producers do not care about the work.
The whole incident is an illustration of something film and television producers are still struggling with: engaging with the audience while a project is in production. Fans want to love the film or TV adaptation of their favorite thing. But once they get the sense of something amiss, they rise up and write off the project. Now, this doesn’t mean a slavish devotion to comics. They are a different medium and the various attempts to bring Hawkman to the screen reveal that fidelity to the comics may not always work. What is usefully, though, is engaging with the audience by controlling when and how they see their favorite characters in (live) action. The Robin and Hawk & Dove photos immediately suggested a level of care an authenticity rarely seen in a live-action production. Both implicitly said “hey, we’re fans, too.”
Contrast this with Marvel Studio’s laissez-faire attitude toward paparazzi photos. When photos of Captain Marvel star Brie Larson revealed a costume lacking the character’s iconic color scheme, the Internet went into a tizzy. The response from Marvel was simply, “Hey, these things happens.” While they certainly have a confident pillar to stand upon, releasing a photo of their own before the production went on location would’ve quieted folks down. This issue is particularly relevant for Captain Marvel, Marvel’s first film with a headlining female superhero. Fans want to be put at ease and want to know their favorite character is being treated with respect. Getting the spirit of the costume wrong is often a sure sign that producers do not care.
Which brings us back to the Titans. While the set photos suggest the characters are in some sort of civilian setting, the lack of correct skin tones on Potter’s Beast Boy and Diop’s Starfire are particularly alarming when you contrast these photos with the earlier photos released by the production. Like Captain Marvel, you would think Warner Bros. Television or DC Entertainment would know the value of getting their own photos out before the show went on location.
In the end, this may be a minor bump in the show’s pre-publicity, but it certainly illustrates the often uneasy relationship between fans and producers. One which could be better if fans were offered more information more often.

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