“It’s Never Too Late to Change”: A Character Analysis on Terra
By: Josella Arriola
Tara Markov, more popularly known as Terra, was created by George Perez and Marv Wolfman for the New Teen Titans comics (1980-1996), from which the 2003 Teen Titans television series was based on. Tara Markov was born out of wedlock to the king of Markovia and an unidentified woman. Tara and her brother Brion, also known as Geo Force, are actually half-siblings. During her time in Markovia, she and her brother served as human guinea pigs for a science experiment conducted by Dr. Helga Jace. As a result of this experiment, both Tara and Geo Force were granted the power of geo-kinesis, the ability to move and manipulate the earth from their fingertips.
Later on, evil people try to take advantage of them by treating them as “freak show attractions” due to their powers. Geo Force attempts to fight them off giving Tara time to escape. On account of her inept ability to control her powers, Tara flees her homeland of Markovia and relocates to a desert area near Jump City changing her name to “Terra”.
Terra is a “free spirit” who comes and goes as she pleases, following the wind wherever it takes her. She is a restless wanderer, always on the run. She never settles anywhere permanently until her stay at the Tower, which finally gives her some sort of stability that she’s sorely been lacking due to her constant traveling. During this time, the Tower becomes a permanent home filled with other people who care about her. The Titans act as a surrogate family assisting her with training in order to control her powers.
One Titan that Terra particularly bonds with immediately is Beast Boy. During their first encounter, Beast Boy is nervous around Terra because he forms a little crush on her. It isn’t until Terra finds him hilarious that he begins to act like his normal self. From their first encounter, Beast Boy grows to be Terra’s best friend.
During her turn on the obstacle course, Beast Boy gives her constant cheers of encouragement acting as her personal cheerleader. One evening, Beast Boy finds Terra skipping stones by herself in front of the Tower and starts to join her. She teaches him how to skip stones into the water. They bond over skipping stones and acting silly since they both share the same sense of humor. Terra reveals to him her deepest insecurity: her inability to control her powers. Immediately after revealing this secret, she makes him promise not to tell anybody else. She doesn’t want the other Titans to think less of her, fearing that they may view her as inferior because they have a better grip on their powers.
During a mission, Terra meets Slade, who exploits her insecurity by playing mind games with her. He insinuates that Beast Boy will break his promise and blab to the rest of the Titans about her lack of control over her powers. Slade continues to provoke her until she has a mental breakdown. Terra retreats into the fetal position feeling helpless, isolated, and misunderstood. In the midst of her mental breakdown, her powers trigger a small hurricane. This causes the Titans to evacuate, although Beast Boy decides to stay behind to comfort Terra.
He brings Terra back to her senses and calms her down, being the only person capable of doing so. But she lashes out at Beast Boy thinking that he broke her trust in telling her secret; in reality, Robin figured it out due to his keen detective skills from Batman. In addition, Terra winds up breaking his trust because of her betrayal, but more on that later. Terra had nearly become a Titan, but this supposed breach in trust compels her to run away once more, leaving behind any stability she gained from living with the Titans.
A month later Terra reappears in the flesh, surprising the Titans in the midst of a volleyball game. She comments, “Which team am I on?” This simple remark could refer to which team Terra should be on for volleyball, but it foreshadows an even bigger issue: Terra’s place. Do her loyalties lie with the Titans or elsewhere with Slade?
Beast Boy and Starfire are beyond ecstatic to see her again, while Raven and Robin are suspicious and skeptical of her intentions toward the team. Terra performs a demonstration highlighting her mastery over her powers. During a mission involving Slade, Terra and Raven clash over attack strategies. She’d rather do things her own way while Raven has no desire to do anything dangerous that will place her friends in harm’s way.
Terra: “If I’m gonna be a part of this team, we have to get along!
Raven: “You’re not part of this team! Not yet! And if you endanger my friends again you never will be. The next time I tell you something’s too dangerous, TAKE MY WORD FOR IT!“
Raven’s line about Terra putting her friends in danger foreshadows her betrayal in the next episode. Trust takes a long time to earn, but it can be easily broken and even harder to regain when lost the first time around. Raven is shown to meditate daily to keep her powers in check which makes it seem suspicious that Terra is able to handle her powers so well.
After their squabble, Raven and Terra end up working together, which allows Terra to gain Raven’s trust by the end. Back at the Tower, Terra is surprised with her own room decorated with stars scattered across the ceiling, since she likes to stargaze at night. In addition, she is given a Titan communicator, solidifying her position as a Teen Titan. A few minutes later, she utters the line to herself, “I don’t believe it, they actually trust me.” Her plan to deceive the Titans and infiltrate their home base worked. The final shot shows Terra’s blond hair covering her left eye, representing her apprenticeship with Slade. Also by having her left eye covered, it implies that Terra’s conscience is troubled, that she’s not seeing straight.