Announced last November, the day before the election actually now that I’m looking it up, Young Justice made a miraculous return to life by way of a huge fan driven support campaign. The cult favorite animated series ceased production in March of 2013, with its second season entitled Young Justice: Invasion. It was a great show, with some really vibrant takes on a number of characters, by way of Artistic Director Phil Bourassa, and deeply drawn mythology culled from the minds of co-creators Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti. While I generally make an argument for Batman: The Brave and the Bold as my favorite DC Animated series, Young Justice was an excellent follow-up to the studio’s success with Justice League Unlimited – at times going even further down the veritable rabbit hole of DC deep cuts.
It seemed like every six months, there was some noise about a possible revival, or twitter pushes from its various players with hashtags and such, all in the hope that might just finally convince Warner Animation to revive this series that was cancelled all too soon. Finally, it’s at our doorstep, as Young Justice: Outsiders is making its way to the still yet to be named DC Digital Service later this year.
During their SDCC panel, Bourassa, Weisman, and Vietti kept many details close to the chest, but did unveil the above team line-up, which sees a number of fan favorites return (Static, Kid Flash, Robin, Wonder Girl, Spoiler, Blue Beetle, Arrowette, Arsenal and Beast Boy), along with one very notable addition in the Young Justice version of Traci Thirteen who will go by Thirteen in the series.
This trio was equally mum about significant series details and/or spoilers in the press room I attended, and boy did I ever try, but they did share their thoughts about the lead-up to the new series and how their experiences in the previous two seasons helped shape what’s coming next.
On the difficulty of getting back into the creative headspace of the show after the long gap between productions
Vietti: I’ll tell you, I wasn’t sure we would be back, I don’t think I thought that we would. I had been working in animation long enough, and I’ve been a fan of animation long enough to know that if you get a series up and running and it lasts two seasons, that’s a pretty good life-span actually. So I kind of thought, “okay, that’s it, we had our run and it’s over.” And so, I was sad about it, it was the first thing I had been able to produce and write on, it was difficult for me to let it go. In some ways, I worked harder than normal to push the show out of my head so I could just move on, it was almost like therapy for me to move on, and get into the next projects that followed.
So coming back into it, I had to kind of reactivate all these old memories, and I had to binge watch the show myself, just to remind myself of all the things we had done – and get back up to speed. So there were a lot of things that I had almost worked to forget, but there was a lot of it too, where coming back to it, it just felt right to come back. It was always a labor of love for me. I got to do so many different things with the superhero world that I always wanted to do as a fan and as a creator, working in animation – it felt like home coming back to it and getting to work with Greg and Phil again was like getting together with old friends, so it was like no time had passed once we got together in a room and started discussing our stories for the next season.
On how Outsiders will or will not pick up on the threads left behind in Invasion:
Vietti: I am hesitant to say what exactly we’re going to do. What we’ve released is that there is a meta-trafficking threat. And this is a natural progression from our first two seasons. When we got back together and started to figure out what we’re going to do for our third season, first we had to look back at what we had done in our first two. And from day one, we’d been dealing with the creation of Superboy. We’d been dealing with genetic experimentation, creating super powered people that could be used for weapons, [while] our second season had aliens coming to Earth for the exact same reason as humans. “They have something called a meta-gene. What can we do with that? How can we harvest that? And use that for ourselves?” It’s been a common theme. This meta-gene is just out of the bottle. Nobody knew about it in the first season. We’ve progressed through our stories where [in the first season] it was mad science, it was secret government organizations that were exclusively dealing with this. Second season, it breaks up and now we’ve got aliens coming. This is national news now. There’s nobody on the planet, probably, that doesn’t know what a meta-gene is at this point.
That’s our starting point. It’s a very scary world that we’re starting off with in our third season where anybody could be kidnapped, experimented upon, and trafficked into some usage where people are being used as weapons for their superpowers.
Vietti also spoke to the series bible that Weisman has developed, keeping track of the intricate relationships and continuity details of this very complex series:
Greg in particular is extremely good at writing bibles and tracking timelines of characters. Once we decided that we actually wanted to track real time through the show, it became even more important to develop an actual timeline of birthdates for people and when various characters died, and how that might have impacted a certain person going forward as a reference point for story development. So, it’s an incredibly deep bible and we’re tracking everybody in the DC Universe. Greg’s office is the writer’s room, basically, and his office is wallpapered in three- to five-inch cards. I’m not kidding—wallpapered. And on those cards we have all of our characters that we’ve introduced, we have characters that we want to introduce, we have the cities that they live in, and we’re constantly aware of this DC Universe that is around us. What’s not on the wall, of course, is then some of the writing we’ve done together or the timelines that he’s created that tie all of those characters and locations together.
And any time we bring in a new character, we have to look to the wall around us, we have to look to the timelines, we have to make sure that the intersections of any new characters we pull into the show work and make sense. We have to analyze if there are repercussions from bringing two characters together—[whether] we think that there’s ever been a possibility of them having met before, what might that backstory have been. It is incredibly complicated. But I think this is… one of the textures that they like about the show. So, while it is a lot of work for us to track, hopefully it pays off for people when you see it and you feel it in the show.
Weisman spoke with us a bit about the passage of time in the new season, which may or may not echo the time-jump we witnessed in the middle of the show’s second season:
…Time does pass. You know, Mera was pregnant in season one. We haven’t seen their kid but, at some point, as we move through time, you’re going to start seeing some of this progeny.
In season one and two, we had quite a bit of Kirby influence in there. Everything from Sphere to the Forever People to G. Gordon Godfrey, and we revealed Darkseid at the end of season two. The ante is upped on the Fourth World stuff in season three; I don’t think that’s a surprise to anybody. I’m not going to go into any details but, if you like the Kirby DC stuff, then you’ll like season three. It may not be what you’re expecting, though. But the Kirby influence is definitely in there, just as there’s Bill Finger, Siegel and Shuster, and Bob Kane…we are not shy about taking characters from any era and trying to get to the core of those characters and make them more within the Earth-16 context. I go very, very deep when I look for characters so that any named character, with a few exceptions like the Terror Twins…comes from somewhere in the DC Universe.
Speaking of that Kirby influence, Bourassa said something that caught my ear when discussing that very subject:
I love the Fourth World stuff. I like Jack Kirby’s “space odyssey”(ed note: one presumes he’s not talking about Kirby’s adaptation of 2001)—it could be DC’s Star Wars. And we visited that world just for a little bit in the first season and I had a blast looking at Jack Kirby and mixing in some Moebius influences. I’d love to go back there.
I very much need to dip back in and see where those Moebius influences are. We received a few other tiny details, such as Silver Age character Bash Bashford (I had to wiki that one, and I’ve been reading DC Comics my entire life) making an appearance on the series.
But I had to ask one unrelated question, regarding Grant Morrison’s usage of Earth-16 in The Multiversity and if Weisman had read it:
Weisman: I didn’t, I know about it, but I didn’t read it…
Me: It’s good!
Weisman: I’m sure it’s (pause) good. It’s Grant Morrison, so I’m sure it’s good. It’s just that when we asked DC from Day One, “give us an Earth, any Earth”, and they said “16!”, and so we said “okay”. We wanted an unused Earth and then after the fact we found out, “oh, we had done some stuff with Earth-16 before” and I’m like “then why did you pick *that* one?” And it’s too late, so we’re Earth-16, we have to be, because we built that into the DNA of the show, so it felt a little bit like…
Another journalist: It feels like ours…
Weisman: Yeah, but on the other hand, I’m sure he feels territorial about it too…but that’s comics. We’re trying to play nice in everyone’s playground, but that’s kind of where we are. We’re still Earth-16, but he’s still Earth-16, so I dunno.