Sunday, October 17, 2010

Young Justice Also May Not Suck!

Two are retired, two are renamed and one stopped wearing a bad wig

So I’ve had time to do research on this “Young Justice” cartoon and I’m pleased to announce that my somewhat downer statement from the Avengers: Earth Mightiest Heroes blog from earlier this month was a bit un-called for. Young Justice will probably be really good as it places a massive amount of DC Comics lore in the capable hands of Greg Weisman also created both The Spectacular Spider-Man and Gargoyles, two shows I’d rank very high on a “Top Cartoons of All Time” list. Plus news from the New York Comic-Con has put my mind somewhat as ease. The most important thing to take in mind with this new show is that it’s not necessarily a horrible adaptation of a underappreciated comic book because, well, it apparently has almost nothing to do with the book it shares a name with. There’s no point in being angry about it then.

Anyway I’d like to discuss the cartoon but before I do that I think I’ll talk a bit about the original comic for the uninformed.

In 1998 DC apparently realized that at that particular moment they had a surplus of teenage heroes/sidekicks running around in their titles, a lot of them with their own series that were doing well. The obvious next step would be take some of these characters and put them on a team and try them out in their own book. Apparently they were hesitant to start yet another Teen Titans reboot so instead they tried something a little different. And so Young Justice: The Secret #1 introduced a team-up involving the third Robin (Tim Drake), Impulse (Bart Allen, currently know…ugh, “Kid Flash”) and the modern version of Superboy. The three were featured in another “pilot” book titled Young Justice: World Without Grown-Ups and soon thereafter they were rewarded with an ongoing series. The trio was later joined by three other heroes: newcomer Secret, the new version of Arrowette and the second or third (Depending on which continuity DC currently says is the proper timeline) Wonder Girl (aka Cassie Sandsmark). Todd DeZago and Todd Nuack created the team (Nuack also drew them pretty much the entire book’s run) but the book and the team is mostly associated with comic writer extraordinaire Peter David who wrote damn near the entire series.

Robin, Impulse and Superboy unaware that its the gritty 90s

Note the lack of guns and pouches

The book was known for being on the silly side of things and being more about having fun than teen angst and the fact is that a lot of fans enjoyed that style. I myself was drawn to the book because I was familiar with Superboy and Impulse (Due to the Superman: The Return of Superman and Impulse: Reckless Youth trade paperbacks) and was regularly reading Robin’s solo title at the time and seeing the three teaming up intrigued me. To this day I have a strong love of Tim and Bart, even if some of the changes to Bart over the years have been questionable, and a certain fondness for Secret. In fact I think we are way overdue for a return of Secret who has been out of the hero biz for the last six or seven years. Anyway the book was eventually canceled with the miniseries Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day which led into yet another reboot of the Teen Titans (By my count the fifth or sixth time) which most of the remaining team ended up joining. That book was darker and a bit more angst filled than its predecessor but also involved characterization that some say were in contradiction to how Peter David (And other writers) had written them previously. Still even to this day Tim (Now known as Red Robin), Superboy, Wonder Girl and…bleh, “Kid Flash” are portrayed as being a tight nit group and regularly guest-star in each other’s titles.

But as I said the new Young Justice cartoon will not have much to do with the comic as it seems to take more influence from various versions of the Teen Titans comic. Only Superboy will appear (At least initially) from the old comic while Robin and…urgh, “Kid Flash” will be Dick Grayson and Wally West for reasons that sounded kind of like B.S. to me, but whatever. It’s not like Dick Grayson as Robin in animated form is cliché at this point or anything.

No wait, I meant it's "extremely" cliche at this point

Anyway new team members include Miss Martian, who’s background seems to have been changed to strengthen her connection to The Martian Manhunter, Atermis, a character who resembles Arrowette and shares a name with a Wonder Woman supporting character but the producers are being secretive about her true identity, and of course the leader of the team Aqualad Black Aqualad, a character created just for this show.

A moment on the new Aqualad, if I may. The character was apparently conceived by the show’s creators in a dubious attempt to provide racial diversity. I won’t touch that today since I’d be here all night if I did. I assume that since there aren’t really a whole lot of viable choices for teenage black super heroes floating around in the DC library they had little choice but to just make someone up and tag an existing name on him. But then again why they chose not to include Static, Cyborg or Black Lightning’s daughters Thunder (Though I guess she isn’t really a teen) and Lightning in the show I have no idea. In fact after randomly naming off four young black DC superheroes off the top of my head that have all been relevant in some form in the last six years I’m downright baffled why they felt they needed to make an African-American version of Aqualad at all. Seriously, the world already thinks Aquaman is a joke; why the hell would they take his sidekick seriously? Because he can make water weapons? Because he has Simon Phoenix from Demolition Man’s haircut? Please. Let’s say Cyborg and Static don’t fit in with the sidekick theme the show seems to be going for. You could still have Thunder or Lightning (The latter being a better choice) and then just add Black Lightning to the Justice League (Who are regular guest stars) and BAM; a double whammy of diversity.

Sorry Static but it's back to obscurity with you

Regardless it’s Black Aqualad on this show and, like it or lump it, he will likely make history. In the devolvement stages of the show A-List comic writer and DC big wig Geoff Johns (Who wrote the Post-Young Justice version of Teen Titans that I mentioned) saw the early designs of the character, thought it looked cool, and decided to bring him to the DC universe proper. Though several comic characters were originally created in other media and later written into the comics (Including Harley Quinn from Batman: The Animated Series, Firestar from Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and recently Chloe Sullivan from Smallville) but I believe he’ll be the first character created by a TV show that ended up debuting in the comics first; simply because the issues introducing him happened to be released prior to the show’s series premier. That’s pretty weird, man. In the comic the character is Jackson Hyde and his story is currently unfolding in the pages of Brightest Day but I heard a strange rumor pegging the show’s BlAqualad as being Cal Durham, a minor Aquaman character from the 70s. Since I can’t find official sources confirming this anywhere for now I’ll assume it’s just pure jibber jabber and Jackson is the man both in the cartoon and books, but should it ever prove to be true then that means that Black Aqualad and Mr. Hyde were NEVER the same guy and that DC and the show’s creators may lack basic communication with each other. Which would be hilarious.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of things to get excited about here. Several aspects of the show were explained after the New York Comic Con and several of them have got me all sorts of eager. For one thing the characters will age. This may not seem too important but really with a lot of serial fiction, comics included, I get pretty sick of the same status quo year after year. Development is the key to good characters after all and frankly a guy who starts the show as being 14 years old and ends it being 18 will not be the same person he started as. That said who knows if it will ever be noticeable. The show is supposedly influenced by our old pal Joss Whedon and has something of a dark tone as a result. Obviously that may or may not be a positive but after that lighthearted/manic Teen Titans cartoon from a few years ago it should be a nice change of pace. There have also been some hints that not all of the team member will survive the first season. I will believe it when I see it; the number of main characters actually killed in a kids cartoon (As opposed to knocked out, in a coma, trapped in another dimension, captured by villains or simply “missing”) is pretty dang low. Also Peter David is apparently signed on to write a few episodes and has implied that he’ll be bringing in some of the spirit of the original comic…and heavily hinted an appearance by Secret, which would be her first outside of the books. Sweet!

The most interesting thing though is that there promises to be tons of cameos and guest appearances by other characters. I LOVE seeing characters show up like that in a cartoon I’m watching. That was part of the charm of Justice League/Unlimited and is the only thing I like about Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Unlike some other shows there are no embargos preventing the writers from using any of the vast characters in the DC backlogs so just about any hero or villain you can think could be featured at some point. We know Captain Marvel will appear at some point which is enough to make me actually watch the show by itself. Also the Wonder Twins will guest star so it’s not all good news I’m afraid.

Pretty, but still super lame

Bottom line is that this show could be extremely amazing. As of now it has all the tools a show needs to be incredible. Technically I think it has more going for it than Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes has, though in EMH’s defense Disney and Marvel Comics have provided significantly less talking about awesome their show will be and more showing how awesome their show will be and are thus winning the war. Time will tell who wins in the end but if what we think we know turns out to be true the real winners will be the fans.

Wesley Snipes & His Amazing Friends

Young Justice premiers November 26th 2010 on that one channel that used to play cartoons all the time Cartoon Network. I can't wait!

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