Superhero costume masks in movies and television have always had the actor wear black makeup around their eyes, a wardrobe element rarely acknowledged, much less addressed, within the world of the story, but that looks to be changing with Titans. The upcoming new show offers a dark and edgy variation on the Teen Titans, including classic DC characters like Robin, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy. In Titans, Robin sports black face paint around his mask like many costumed heroes before him — but the faded and smudged look of the black around his eyes makes it seem like the angry Titan has applied it himself.
Titans is far from the first superhero show to have its heroes wear black eye makeup around the eyes. This styling makes the mask look cooler and more cohesive, and it creates a more classic comic book look. However, the makeup almost always magically appears and disappears as the mask is taken on and off, rather than being addressed.
As superhero films and TV shows have trended towards more realistic and gritty superhero looks, the makeup trick gets more and more strange. It's one thing if makeup magically disappears when Batman removes his mask in a campy film like Batman Forever, but it feels more out of place when it disappears in The Dark Knight.
While The Dark Knight smudged and faded the Joker's classic makeup to give the character a more gritty appearance, it never addressed or acknowledged that the caped crusader was also wearing dark face paint around his eyes - even though it's just as logical of a costume component as the mask itself. Christian Bale transitioned from Bruce Wayne to Batman and back without adding or removing makeup, even though he was clearly wearing makeup around his eyes as Batman.
Titans seems to be taking a different approach to makeup, more akin to The Dark Knight's treatment of the Joker than Batman. Instead of ignoring the transformation, the show draws attention to the use of makeup by having eye makeup be a part of the in-universe superhero costume. Robin's eye makeup is darker and cleaner in some scenes and smudged and faded in others, even thinning out in some areas, treating it just like the rest of the costume, which also gets dirtied, scuffed, and torn. Perhaps he will even be shown putting on or taking off makeup along with his mask and suit in the upcoming series.
Superhero costumes in movies have come a long way from the early days of comic book movies, but the insistence on making the face paint an element of movie magic instead of an actual part of the costume has only gotten more noticeable as the rest of the costumes become more grounded. Maybe Titans will start a trend and the magically appearing/disappearing makeup will go the way of tights and immobile cowl necks.