Young Justice (dubbed Young Justice: Invasion for the second season of the series) is an American animated television series created by Brandon Vietti and Greg Weisman for Cartoon Network. Despite its title, it is not a direct adaptation of Peter David, Todd Dezago and Todd Nauck's Young Justice comic series, but rather an adaptation of the entire DC Universe with a focus on young superheroes. The series follows the lives of teenaged heroes and sidekicks who are members of a fictional covert operation group called The Team. The Team is essentially a young counterpart to the famous adult team, the Justice League. The main setting is the fictional universe of Earth-16, during a time period in which superheroes are a relatively recent phenomenon.
The series debuted with an hour long special on November 26, 2010 with the airing of the first two episodes, "Independence Day" and "Fireworks". Young Justice premiered on September 9, 2011 on Teletoon, in Canada. The series ended alongside fellow DC Nation show Green Lantern: The Animated Series after its second season came to a conclusion during spring 2013. Because of this, their slots were taken by new shows Beware the Batman and Teen Titans Go!, respectively.
Young Justice focuses on the lives of a group of teenaged protégés attempting to establish themselves as proven superheroes as they deal with normal adolescent issues in their personal lives.
The show corresponds to the present time of our world, a time period Vietti has called "a new age of heroes".
The pilot episode (later re-broadcast as the opening two episodes of season 1) aired a month prior to the debut of the regular series and introduced four characters: Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Speedy. It established their desire for greater recognition and respect, namely, a promotion from sidekicks to full-fledged superheroes. Met with opposition from their respective mentors in the Justice League, Batman, Aquaman, Flash, and Green Arrow, the protégés react in different ways. Speedy resigns from being Green Arrow's partner and begins calling himself Red Arrow. The others seek to persuade their mentors of their worth by secretly taking on a Justice League mission to investigate the Cadmus building. During their infiltration of Cadmus' headquarters, the three heroes find a clone of Superman named Superboy. After the discovery, the team finds out Cadmus is creating living weapons called Genomorphs. The episode deals with this revelation, the origin of Superboy, and how this relates to a mysterious group of people called the Light. In the end, Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Superboy negotiate with Batman to organize a covert operations team as a practical contrast to the Justice League, whose celebrity status makes it difficult to maintain secrecy or initiate stealth operations. After consulting with his colleagues, Batman establishes Young Justice in a secret cave located inside a former Justice League headquarters, Mount Justice, a hollowed-out mountain. Here the teens are trained and mentored by the Justice League. Miss Martian makes an appearance at the end of the episode and joins as the fifth member.
Although Young Justice follows a continuity considerably different from that of the mainstream DC Universe, Weisman has stated that the series covers its early stages. Earth-16 was chosen by DC Entertainment for the show because it was largely untapped, freeing the series and its franchise from established continuity restraints set by either the main DC Universe or other worlds in the Multiverse.
There are differences in the line-up of this Young Justice team as compared to the team in the comic series of the same name. Dick Grayson and Wally West were chosen over Tim Drake and Bart Allen/Impulse. Miss Martian was added because the date of her arrival to Earth could still fit in the early DC Universe concept. Aqualad, as opposed to Robin, is established in the beginning as the leader of the team. Furthermore, the Aqualad presented in the show is an entirely new character created by Weisman and Vietti, with Bourassa responsible for the original character design. Arrowette was replaced by Artemis because of the producers' desire to focus on the latter's storylines. Some of the Young Justice characters' ages are tweaked from those of their original counterparts; however, the spirit and intent of the characters are said to be kept.
Characters who are a part of the line-up in the comic will also make an appearance in the show. This includes Garth, the first incarnation of Aqualad who later becomes the third Tempest in DC Comics; Arrowette, the archer of the team in the Young Justice comic book series; and Wonder Girl, whose legal issues originally prohibited the producers from using the character but later allowed her to be included. In the show, Garth features as the best friend of Aqualad/Kaldur'ahm.
Conception and developmentEdit
The series began development in March 2009, when Sam Register, Executive Vice President of Creative Affairs of Warner Bros. Animation (also attached to executive produce), wanted a show based on the concept of a cross between Teen Titans and Young Justice series of comics, but was not solely an adaptation of one or the other. The title chosen for the show by Register was Young Justice, as it was appropriately meaningful to the concept the creative team was looking for. Greg Weisman, whom Register sought immediately after the cancellation of The Spectacular Spider-Man animated television series, and Brandon Vietti, whose work in directing a DC Universe Animated original movie Batman: Under the Red Hood. Register particularly noted, were hired to produce. Register jokingly described the two as being similar in appearance, in addition to being similar in thought. Peter David, who penned a majority of the comic book issues of Young Justice, was approached to write several episodes. Also attached to write are Greg Weisman, Kevin Hopps, Andrew Robinson, Nicole Dubuc, Jon Weisman, and Tom Pugsley—with Vietti heavily involved in the book writing process.
The result of the collaboration of Weisman and Vietti was a show about young heroes based on a combination of the 1960s Teen Titans run and the 1990s Young Justice run, in addition to the recent Teen Titans and Young Justice comics, and revolved around the theme of secrets and lies. In drawing material from a variety of comic book sources, the creative team sought to differentiate the tone of the show from that of the Teen Titans animated television series, which the team believed resembled the tone of the Young Justice series of comics rather than that of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez' New Teen Titans series on which it was based. The concept of a covert operations team has been compared to Impossible Missions Force, a fictional independent espionage agency in the Mission: Impossible series. Together, Weisman and Vietti came up with ideas, characters, and plot points for at least two seasons, although it is unknown as to how many season runs DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation are looking for the series. Although there were several characters the producers were not allowed to use in the first season (a list that has become shorter along the course of the development), they were usually in charge of the decisions determining which DC Universe character would or would not be used. Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment, and Phil Bourassa, lead character designer for the show, also played a role in the conception and development process.
The producers intended to create costumes based in reality to match the tone of the series while keeping consistent with traditional DC Universe continuity. A majority of the art direction was led by Vietti, who established that the costume designs should not only reflect the physical needs of the wearer, but also his or her personality, with Bourassa incorporating these ideas into his designs. In the case of Kid Flash's suit, for instance, the padding serves to reduce the force of impact experienced during skids and collisions, and the leathery texture stabilizes his "human cannonball" momentum.
Vietti cites the differences between the respective costumes of Aqualad and Robin to best illustrate what he calls "unique tailoring". Aqualad's costume is designed for the purposes of quick movement in water, and is composed of a "slick and textureless material", giving the costume its "nearly seamless and shiny" appearance. Robin's costume provides bodily protection (even against bullets) in the streets of Gotham City, and is padded and stitched with seams and sewn-in materials. Batman's batsuit matches the extra stitching lines of Robin's outfit for similar functions, except that the batsuit is more military in style whereas Robin's costume is additionally influenced by athletic outfits to match his youthful energy.
MOI Animation, Inc. animates Young Justice. Warner Bros. subcontracted production to the international studio located in Seoul, South Korea. Artists at the U.S. animation studio in Los Angeles, Warner Bros. Animation, draw storyboards; design new characters, backgrounds, and props; draw character and background layouts; and make animatics. The overseas studio, MOI Animation, Inc., draws the key animation and inbetweens. However, Greg Weisman notes that some storyboards are done in Seoul. In the final stages, ink and paint and editing are done by Warner Bros. Animation.
The initial six main characters were chosen by the producers, from a list of potential candidates of 50 to 60 DC Comics teenaged superheroes. The criteria consisted of age, powers, personality, cultural icon status, and dynamics. An additional regular, Zatanna, was introduced partway through the first season, and Rocket was added at the end of the season.
"The Team" original membersEdit
- Nightwing / Robin / Dick Grayson (voiced by Jesse McCartney) – In Season 1, Dick Grayson, the thirteen-year-old adopted son of Batman is known as Robin, and acts as team leader when Aqualad is unable to. In Season 2 (set five years later), Dick is the team leader and trainer under the identity of Nightwing, and Tim Drake is now Robin. In "Endgame", Grayson takes a leave of absence after Wally's sacrifice, returning leadership back to Aqualad. Grayson does not possess any superpowers, however, he is an excellent hand-to-hand combatant, tactician, and a technological genius. Justice League designation B01.
- Aqualad / Kaldur'ahm (voiced by Khary Payton) – In Season 1, Kaldur'ahm (or "Kaldur" for short) was the sixteen-year-old leader of the team, until Dick Grayson was able to. in Season 2 (set five years in the future), Aqualad is Nightwing's mole in his father Black Manta's organization in order to infiltrate the Light and discover who their partner is. He completes his mission in "Summit", and Nightwing returns leadership to him in "Endgame". He displays super strength, durability, as well as the ability to breathe and speak underwater, typical of Atlanteans. He also possesses the ability to form hard water constructs through the use of his Atlantean water bearers and to generate electricity. Justice League designation B02.
- Kid Flash / Wally West (voiced by Jason Spisak) – In Season 1, Kid Flash is the team's flirtatious sixteen-year-old speedster. He has enhanced speed, although he has not fully mastered his abilities, and does not demonstrate the range of abilities that his mentor The Flash does. Wally and Dick Grayson know each other outside the team, extending to knowing each other's secret identities. In Season 2 (set five years in the future), Wally has given up the superhero life and is in a relationship with Artemis with the two living and attending college together, though he temporarily returns to service in "Bloodlines", "Summit", and "Endgame". In "Endgame", however, Wally sacrifices himself in order to save Earth from destruction, leaving Artemis and his family devastated. Bart Allen soon becomes Kid Flash, continuing Wally's legacy. Justice League designation B03.
- Superboy / Conner Kent (voiced by Nolan North) – Superboy is introduced as a sixteen-week-old clone of Superman (later revealed to be a hybrid clone of Superman and Lex Luthor) created by Project Cadmus. However, it was later confirmed in the 25th episode of season 1 that Superboy was freed from his chamber by Kid Flash, Robin, and Aqualad before Lex Luthor had time to add his DNA to the Superboy project. Although he does not have all of Superman's abilities, he has super strength, super high jump, invulnerability, enhanced hearing, and later: infrared vision. Superboy is typically sullen, ill-tempered, and hates being told what to do. With special "shields" (patches that look like Superman's sigil) created by Lex Luthor. Superboy can suppress his human DNA to gain full access to his Kryptonian abilities; however, this comes at the cost of increased anger and heavy loss of rationality. He becomes romantically involved with M'gann while under cover in Belle Reve. Sometime between Season 1 and Season 2, Superboy ended their relationship, in part due to M'gann's abuse of her telepathic powers, and that he does not outwardly age, though in "Endgame" they patch up their relationship. Five years after the events of Season 1, Superboy has remained with the Team, and has more control over his anger. Justice League designation B04. As a problem for fitting in, Conner doesn't age.
- Miss Martian / M'gann M'orzz / Megan Morse (voiced by Danica McKellar) – Miss Martian is Martian Manhunter's teenaged (by Martian standards, though she is 45 in earth years) niece, as well as being an inexperienced superhero. As a Martian, she has telekinesis, telepathy, and flight. Additionally, she can shape-shift to a limited extent. She has stated that she cannot become intangible as her uncle can, implying that this is an advanced skill; however, by Season 2 she had learned this power. She is kind and optimistic, but has a naive streak born of having learned about life on Earth through television shows. She becomes romantically involved with Superboy while working undercover with him in Belle Reve. While it is revealed to the viewer in the episode "Image" that she is concealing her identity as a non-humanoid White Martian, she finally reveals her true form to the team in the episode "Usual Suspects:. Sometime in the five-year lapse between Season 1 and Season 2, Superboy ended their romantic relationship because M'gann is abusing her powers to get information from her enemies. She then dates Lagoon Boy, but breaks up with him in "Intervention" as they aren't right for each other, and patches up her relationship with Superboy in "Endgame". She has become more confident in her abilities and lost her naive streak. She also adopted Garfield Logan (Beast Boy) as a brother after the death of his mother. Justice League designation B05.
- Artemis / Tigress / Artemis Crock (voiced by Stephanie Lemelin) – Artemis was the team's fifteen-year-old archer. Like Robin, she has no superpowers, but is very skilled with a bow and arrow. She is introduced as Green Arrow's "niece" but it is later revealed she is the daughter of the villain Sportsmaster and the now paraplegic ex-villain Huntress, as well as the sister of Cheshire. In Season 2 (set five years in the future), she and Wally West (Kid Flash) left the superhero life, and are in a relationship, with the two living and attending college together. She returns to duty in "Depths", only to subsequently fake her death so she can go undercover with Aqualad, adopting the identity Tigress, and apparently help him complete his long term mission. In "Summit", her disguise is uncovered. In "Endgame", after Wally sacrifices himself, Artemis is left devastated, and resumes her identity as Tigress in order to "get some distance". Justice League designation B07.
- Zatanna / Zatanna Zatara (voiced by Lacey Chabert) – The daughter of Justice League member Zatara, she first appears in "Humanity" and sporadically through the later episodes. She permanently moves into Mount Justice in the episode "Misplaced" after her father becomes the new Doctor Fate, and was an official member of the team. Her powers, like her father's, are magical, and like her father's, her spells are spoken in reverse order. Zatanna had a relationship with Dick Grayson sometime in between the five-year time gap. Sometime during the five-year lapse between Season 1 and Season 2 she has joined the Justice League. Justice League designation B08, later 25.
- Speedy / Red Arrow / Roy Harper / Arsenal (voiced by Crispin Freeman) – Red Arrow, the adopted son of Green Arrow, is the team's male archer. Like Robin and Artemis, he has no superpowers, but is very skilled with a bow and arrow. Originally Speedy, he left Green Arrow's side in "Independence Day" when he was told he was becoming an official Justice League member when he was still being treated as a sidekick, and adopted the alias "Red Arrow". He refused to join the group in "Welcome to Happy Harbor". However, he still assisted the team, such as in "Targets", and is convinced by Green Arrow to join the team in "Insecurity". In the episode "Usual Suspects", he becomes the first member of the Team to join the Justice League as a full member. However in "Auld Acquaintance", Harper is told by Vandal Savage that he is a Cadmus clone much like Superboy and was the "mole" implanted by the Light, while the original Roy Harper (missing his right arm from the elbow down) is in custody of the enemy. In Season 2, the clone is shown on the edge of a breakdown, still searching for the original Roy Harper. In the episode "Salvage", it is revealed that the cloned Roy married Cheshire and unknowingly fathered a daughter with her. She states that she is willing to help him find the original Roy so as to help the cloned Roy find some peace. Roy and Cheshire flew to Tibet to find the original Roy Harper. They recover him and bring him back to America, where he recovers in a hospital in Star City with the clone and Green Arrow watching over him. Later on he acquires a bionic arm equipped with many weapons, and becomes Arsenal. He shows signs of mental instability due to his long time frozen in cryogenic stasis, which manifests in recklessness and anger issues. Justice League designation B06, later 21.
- Rocket / Raquel Ervin (voiced by Kittie and Denise Boutte) – Straightforward and bold, if inexperienced, Rocket is the apprentice of the superhero Icon. She uses a piece of alien technology called an inertia belt, allowing her to store and manipulate kinetic energy. She generally uses this to fly and grant herself some super-strength and a personal force field. She joins the team in the episode "Usual Suspects", the same episode her mentor joins the Justice League. In the five years between Seasons 1 and 2, she has joined the Justice League and is engaged. Justice League designation B09, later 26.
Reception and legacyEdit
Since its original airing, Young Justice has garnered critical acclaim for its originality as well as its mature and complex storyline. In December 2011, Young Justice was placed at number 20 on IGN's "Top 25 Comic Book Shows of All Time." In March 2012, DC Nation garnered double and triple digit ratings gains versus the previous year for Cartoon Network. It currently holds an 8.6 rating (based on 8,000 votes and 36 reviews) on imdb.com, and an 8.9 rating on tv.com (based on 791 votes). Following cancellation, the entire show was called "mature, intelligent... struck an emotional chord with viewers... incredible".
Many actors have also garnered acclaim for their roles such as Jason Spisak who, according to critic Ava Dordi, "captures the Lighthearted essence of Kid Flash well" as well as Nolan North, who producer Greg Weisman notes provides "good separation" between the dual roles he portrays as Superman and Superboy.
Geoff Johns took a liking to Kaldur'ahm as Aqualad, who was consequently introduced to mainstream continuity altered in comic book issue No. 4 of Brightest Day as the second incarnation of the mantle. In Brightest Day, he is introduced as a teenager from New Mexico by the name of Jackson Hyde who is largely unaware of his Atlantean roots. In addition to his design, many aspects of the new Aqualad's back-story had to be altered to fit within the established continuity of the DC Universe. Artemis was also brought into the main timeline during the early days of the New 52, but was killed within one issue of her appearance, to great fan outcry.
On the program Conan, Conan O'Brien visited Bruce Timm during one of his segments and they developed a super hero named The Flaming C. However, on several occasions, their original creation would be animated in preexisting sequences from Young Justice using the voice acting of whichever character Flaming C was placed over. These scenes were taken from "Fireworks", "Welcome to Happy Harbor", "Schooled", and "Denial". In the comic book Young Justice/Batman: The Brave & The Bold: Super Sampler, the Team is seen watching the Flaming C on television.
In January 2013, Cartoon Network had meetings with potential clients and promotional partners in which they announced their 2013-2014 programming lineup. Cartoon Network has confirmed that the remaining episodes of the second season, Young Justice: Invasion, have aired entirely. Green Lantern: The Animated Series has received the same treatment, and both shows are expected to have their DC Nation slots replaced by new shows, Teen Titans Go! and Beware the Batman. Warner Brothers officially stated that they were not open to a third-party crowdfunding-campaign, intended to result in a third season of Young Justice. Therefore, the ending of the Apokolips-storyline is likely to remain unresolved.