I hope wherever you are in the world, you are having a safe and fulfilling holiday.
I’m writing this primarily for those who aren’t planning on activating new subscriptions and will leave sometime before January 21st, when DCU Infinite launches (hilariously enough, following Inauguration Day).
I am not one of those people, but if you are and you’re reading this, I understand. 2020 has been, among other things, a year of vicious change. I am going to miss this quirky little platform almost as much as you are (what is now being referred to as DC Universe Classic).
But I’d like to toss in an anecdotal aside that may help explain how we feel.
Some time ago, in anticipation of of DC Universe Classic’s final days, I put on an episode of 2003 Teen Titans. Fittingly enough, it was the last episode of Teen Titans and perhaps one of the most controversial episodes of the entire series: "Things Change"
Directed by Michael Chang and written by Amy Wolfram, both longtime staples of the show’s creative hivemind, “Things Change” isn’t actually meant to be the finale to the show. That honor goes to the TV film Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo. But it does give both the characters and the audience member a complex, poignant quandry to chew on for the OG toon crew’s last half-hour of television.
Simply put: after spending all of Season 5 on a globetrotting quest to defeat the Brotherhood of Evil, the Teen Titans come back to a Jump City that has changed dramatically since they left. And during a fight with an unidentified monster, Beast Boy sees something he never expects to see: Terra, very much alive and now a high-school student.
But here’s the problem for Beast Boy: she looks like Terra, talks like her, and likely is the real deal (as he finds that Terra’s mummified resting place under Jump City is now vacant). But as she constantly reminds him: she has no memory of being a Teen Titan, or that she ever had powers. Beast Boy’s refusal to accept this is what drives his insistence on her remembering (and his investigation into how she came back) through much of the episode, while the rest of the team chase down the monster terrorizing Jump City.
We are never given a straight answer on whether or not that really is her (a unique storytelling trick in animation that still frustrates fans to this day). But whatever your theory is for this new Terra is ultimately not the concern.
In the closing minutes of the episode, Beast Boy, in a brazen act of desperation, tries one last time to jog human!Terra’s memory. Something, anything that could bring his Terra back to him and by extension, restoring at least part of what he remembers of ‘the good ole days’.
It’s here that human!Terra utters the namesake of the episode and explains it to him plainly: “The girl you want me to be is just a memory. You go. You’re the Teen Titan. That’s who you are. That’s not me, I’m not a hero. I’m not out to save the world. I’m just a girl with a geometry test next period, and I haven’t studied”
Though painful, he accepts this truth, and runs off to join his team on adventures we’ll never see: “Beast Boy to Robin, I’m on my way. Over.”
Remember when I mentioned that this episode was controversial? From what I gather, hardcore fans of 2003 TT hate this episode, for a variety of different reasons. But what I find more fascinating is their blatant disregard for the episode’s central message. It’s all over the place, even spelled out early when the Teen Titans find their old haunts being closed or torn down. Things Change. No matter what we do, no matter how hard we might try, change is inevitable. But recognizing it is part of growing up, and we have to do it if we want to be happy (or at least, stay sane).
This was the lesson Beast Boy learned. Even a robot Slade said as much. In his trying so hard to bring back the past, he was hurting her. More aptly, he was standing in the way of what was potentially a shot at normality, away from the chaos and drama of being a superhero or supervillain. He had to learn this, or he’d never move forward.
It’s…fitting that hardcore fans would balk at this, and spend the next 15 years looking for any sign of a season six, viewing the episode’s intentional ambiguity as plot holes and cliffhangers (their opinion, not mine). They still hope that someone will ‘get the band back together’ and chase the magic of 2003-2006, and will likely insist for the rest of their lives that Teen Titans Go somehow stood in the way of that (that’s a discussion for later).
Now, what does all of this have to do with DCU Classic and DCU Infinite? Well, it goes back to what I’ve said: things change. Nobody says you have to like it, or even accept it. But (and there’s no good way of saying this): We just have to fully recognize that DCU Classic will be gone next year.
There are two things you can do, in keeping with the spirit of the holidays: talk about DCU Classic. Talk about how weird and cool and fun it was. The ups and downs, the flaws and moments of greatness. The inclusive ‘Clubhouse’ atmosphere. Talk about all of it with fans who remember AND fans who might only know DCU Infinite. Hold those memories close and tight. They’re good ones.
That’s the first one. The second? Be smart enough to know when it’s time to move on. Do I wish that DCU Classic stayed around? Yes. Madly so, even now. But to fight what’s coming would be to turn into the knobs on social media that bashed DC Universe for all of its existence, and do what hardcore fans of TT 2003 did: weaponize their memories of something good to try and take down something that will have fans of its own.
That’s NOT what I want to do in life, and you shouldn’t either.
If you feel things have changed too much and you must leave, by all means. I get it. I really do. But before you do, I implore you to be the Beast Boy in that scenario. Cherish your memories, you will need them in hard times like these. But also have the strength to move forward. That goes even for the folks staying.
In closing: one trait that DC is known for is legacy. Ask yourself: how would you want DCU Classic to be remembered?
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and here’s to a better New Year.
I love ya’ll.