There are a lot of things to love about Teen Titans Go, but the single best thing about it is how much there is to see in each episode. Well, no, sorry, that's a lie: The best thing about it is that there are multiple episodes that end with the characters growing old and/or dying, but right after that, it's definitely the show's signature look. Art director Dan Hipp has been a ComicsAlliance favorite for as long as ComicsAlliance has existed, and now, he's hard at work filling up the backgrounds of Teen Titans Go with some truly bizarre pieces of the DC Universe.
This week, we got what might be the single best gag of 'em all, so we're counting down our favorites from the series so far!
The DC Hero Cameos
The most obvious thing you'll notice if you're keeping an eye on the backgrounds is that Teen Titans Go is loaded with shots of other DC Universe characters. There are a few specific ones that I'll be getting into later, but just the sheer amount of them that Hipp and the other artists on the show have worked in deserves a special mention all on its own, from the stickers of the Justice League (and the Joker) decorating the elevator all the way down to a clock shaped like Catwoman that hangs on the wall next to the Titans' TV.
My favorite cameos, though, are the ones that crop up whenever we see Raven's room. Not only does everyone's favorite half-demon Titan have photos of magic-type heroes like Zatanna and Etrigan the Demon hanging on her wall, she also has a nice portrait of Ra's al-Ghul. It might not be the nicest thing in the world to keep a picture of the dude who tried to murder your teammate's father figure with a sword on several occasions, but I think we can all agree that being able to pull off the three-piece-suit-and-cape combo is well worth honoring. More on the bad guys later.
My other favorite? Li'l Alfred's Toy Cave:
Finally, we know the answer to the question the Joker asked all those years ago. That's where he gets those toys.
Dog Simulator 2000
Much like Raven, Robin has not left his walls without decoration. Most of the stuff up there is exactly what you'd expect -- press clippings about himself that add to the amplified egomania that the show uses as his defining trait, a picture of Two-Face used for target practice and, in one episode, a truly creepy calendar used to keep track of Starfire's schedule at all times -- but there's one more element that catches my eye every time I see it: Dog Simulator 2000.
Under normal circumstances, I'd be willing to just assume that Robin's favorite video game simulated the thrills of having a pet, like Nintendogs -- which, to be honest, always seemed pretty pointless since there is also a video game that simulates having pets that are dinosaurs made of trees or adorable giant rats that shoot lightning out of their faces -- except for one thing. The poster for DogSim2K features not just dogs, but also a dude dressed as a dog, and that raises a lot of questions. Is it designed to simulate the experience of being a dog? Does Robin escape from the tough, day-to-day life of the endless battle against evil by escaping into a world where his biggest concerns are flea collars and the vacuum cleaner? Or are you meant to aid the guy in the suit in simulating his life as a dog? Is it full of escort missions where you're taking this weirdo to the park and fending off cops while he tries to mark a tree?
These are the questions that keep me awake at night.
Also, the tagline is "OMG SO MANY DOGZ" and that is a model more video game advertisements should follow.
Aquaman: Spokesman of the Seas
I'll be honest, folks: I know it's cliche, but I've never really been a huge fan of Aquaman. I've tried, oh Lord, I've tried, but I just cannot get into his adventures as a superhero. Fortunately, Teen Titans has cast the King of the Seas in a new role. In addition to being one of the only older heroes to actually appear on the show -- he briefly dated Starfire, which is probably best left unexamined -- he appears in a ton of cameos as a pitchman.
There's the obvious, of course: Swimming lessons advertised on the TTG version of Facebook and bus ads for the local aquarium...
...but he also has a clothing store (which is weird for a dude who dresses in orange fishcales and green tights), and, my personal favorite, his '90s incarnation appears as the mascot for soap.
Not a specific soap, mind you. Just the concept of soap.
Old Robin's Surrogate Titans
Remember how I mentioned that a lot of these episodes end with the Titans getting old and/or dying? Well, that's exactly what happens in "Super Robin," and while they might not qualify as background gags, this episode has some of my favorite visual jokes of the entire series.
For one thing, when Robin gets superpowers, it's represented by a Superman-style curl of hair, and for another, after he ends all crime and puts himself out of a job and into a soul-crushing career of drudgery, we see a glimpse of his sad apartment, where he has created surrogate versions of his former teammates. Paper-plate-and-mop Starfire is good, and frowny-potato-sack Raven is better, but the one I missed the first time through that cracked me up like you would not believe is the actual living cat that he has spraypainted green to represent Beast Boy.
Speaking of being and/or feeling super old, there's no gag on the entire show that has made me laugh harder than a look at the Teen Titans' desktop and the fact that they have a folder dedicated to "WAREZ." Is this a term kids these days are still using for their cracked appz and keygens, or are we to assume that Robin is up on the '90s slang seen in what I assume is his favorite movie, Hackers? Either way, it is delightful.
Also delightful? In order to get to the computer, the Titans have to go through a series of Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque doors, starting with Fallout 3's Vault 101:
Why? Because teens... teens never changes.
The Villain Cameos
I covered the heroes (and Ra's al-Ghul) earlier, but I feel like the villains are a whole different category of hilarious whenever they show up. The heroes, after all, are usually just there, but the villains get into some pretty weird stuff.
Case in point: Starfire's collection of DC-themed stuffed animals, which includes a teddy bear dressed as Dark Knight Rises Bane. Why is this not an actual thing that I can buy? Why is there no cuddly pal that will tell me that once I have given him hugs, then I will have permission to sleep? It's a cussin' travesty.
Another quick one that's worth mentioning: A brief appearance of Darkseid in a comic, experiencing... love?
I would pay good money for a Dan Hipp Darkseid comic. Just putting that out there.
Another great villain appearance: The Riddler dotting a question mark when Beast Boy is confused, as he often is:
My all-time favorite, though, is Mr. Freeze's appearance as the mascot for a brand of ice cream:
His catchphrase? "YOU SCREAM."
Watchmen Babies In V For Vacation
Yeah. That's Nite-Owl back there. From Watchmen.
Batman's Newest Movie
It's nice to know that even in the world of Teen Titans, Batman is still the star of a series of movies. Their version of the series, however, seems to have taken a slightly different arc than the one we have; instead of Rising, their Dark Knight Snoozes. And look how darn happy he is about it! That is a billionaire orphan vigilante who is having some pleasant dreams.
Also, quick aside, I would like to live in a world where there are at least three movies about Plastic Man.
Of course, snoozing isn't the only thing Batman does in his movies. When the great Hamburger/Burrito debate breaks out, he picks a side:
Annnnd now I'm hungry again.
Needless to say, superheroes aren't the only things that have movies about them in the Teen Titans Go universe. Judging by the posters on the walls of Titans Tower, there is a series of movies starring a sentient, two-fisted, eyepatch-wearing slice of pizza named Captain Crust who fights in the Pizza War.
This is not surprising given how important pizza is in the world of the show -- and, if we're honest, in all possible worlds -- but it is a little distracting. I mean, I loveTTG, but every time they show one of these posters, I wish I was watching Pizza War instead.
Remember earlier when I said that this week's episode had the best possible Easter Eggs in the background? Well, here they are: Batman's shelf of trophies from various cases he's had over the years, including a couple that I did not expect to see.
Here's a closer look:
In addition to Mr. Freeze's head (which is, you know, Mr. Freeze's actual head), we have Scarface the murderous puppet, a box of bandages used by Hush (a bad guy who dressed like a mummy detective while performing plastic surgery on his face so he could look just like Bruce Wayne), a bucket of Renu-Yu (the substance that turned Matt Hagen into Clayface) and, best of all, Jason Todd's ashes in an urn next to the crowbar the Joker used to beat him to death.
That happened on a show for tiny children. Teen Titans Go ain't cussin' around.