Why do bad things happen to good fans? Whether it’s atrocious art, ridiculous writing or something else entirely – some crimes against fandom cannot go unanswered. When that happens, it’s time to say ”BLAARGH!”
A press release from Cartoon Network last week laying out it’s new and returning series had some notable absences in the “returning” category, namely Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice. It didn’t come as much as a surprise seeing as how both series had been bounced around by the network, dropping new episodes here and there without any kind of regularity and often with longs gaps of time between them. While the loss of both series is frustrating for fans of DC’s animated characters, Young Justice’s cancellation ends an animated depiction of the entire DCU rather than just a corner of it like Green Lantern: TAS.
Young Justice had a relatively bumpy start as it found it’s way in it’s first season, thanks in no small part to the fondness fans had for Justice League Unlimited and the entire “Timm-verse” of animated DCU characters, but eventually it settled in as an entertaining and engaging look at the entire DC universe. Like many animated programs today it struck a balance between being accessible for young adults, parents, and older fans. Most importantly it gave an introductory look at the DC universe for folks that may be unfamiliar with it beyond Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman (he may not get a lot of respect from the layperson, but everyone seems to know him). This kind of exposure for their properties is essential if DC is going to keep up in the market share “cold-war” with Marvel. Few people knew much about Thor or Iron Man before their movies hit the big screen and since then they’ve captured the imagination of every super-hero loving young person. Without a successful film franchise (that’s not grim, gritty and full of murdering clowns) what does DC have to promote their brand to new fans?
The scuttlebutt behind this move is that many at DC comics and DC Entertainment weren’t pleased with the fact that Young Justice basically depicted a pre-New 52 DCU. One can hardly blame them for that, given how long the lead time is for animated programs and how short it is for comic books. I can imagine that it could make DC editorial uneasy that they’ve made so much of returning their characters to their “iconic natures” and there’s this cartoon in the background reminding kids of pesky characters like Wally West, Impulse, Miss Martian and Aqualad (the Aqualad situation is doubly amusing, seeing as how he was put into the comics right as the character was announced as being in Young Justice). There’s a lot to argue about the notion of what a character’s “iconic status” is (in fact every fan probably has a slightly different notion for every character) but does quibbling like that really warrant shutting down the only line-wide representation of your product that exists in mainstream media? This seems to be yet another tragic case of “vertical integration” ruining creative storytelling. It’s interesting that in it’s place the much younger-skewed Teen Titans returns as Teen Titans Go!, especially since it wasn’t that long ago that the pre-New 52 Teen Titans book was launched under the guidance of Geoff Johns with a cast that reflected that show.
There’s no confirmation that the “old 52-ness” of Young Justice led to its demise (the probably almost certainly lies with ratings, as is the case with everything on television) but one can imagine some sighs of relief from DC editorial that they don’t have to compete with a DC universe that seems . . . fun. That, perhaps, is where Young Justice succeed the most: showing a DCU that has a cohesive history, connections and friendships among characters that the New 52 still seems to lack. Young Justice isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination; it’s had an explosion of new characters that have had to share the spotlight with one another and plenty of sappy young-adult fiction style romance subplots but on the whole it told well put together superhero stories set in a pre-existing world that the viewer was dropped into and explained organically. Most importantly, Young Justice treated the legacy nature of DC’s superhero families as an asset rather than a hindrance and that’s the kind of vertical integration DC editorial should be looking into.
Filed Under: BLAARGH!