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Childhood’s End: Peter David on the End of Young Justice

by Alex Segura Jr.
posted November 22, 2002 02:53 PM
courtesy of

After DC’s announcement of a new Teen Titans title featuring many of the characters from Young Justice, it didn’t take long for fans to put two and two together and realize where the title was heading. With a new, “Wolfman-Pérez feel” Teen Titans cartoon in the works and a desire to boost sales on the lagging property, DC has moved some creators, changed some titles and reshuffled their younger heroes around. The odd man out?

Young Justice.

Newsarama sat down with writer Peter David to talk about the news, why Young Justice didn’t need no stinkin’ mission statement and his future plans. Despite the recent news of Young Justice’s cancellation and the creation of a new Teen Titans title with many of the same characters, David has been aware of the impending cancellation for quite some time.

“I knew about it several months ago,” David noted. “I’ve never quite understood when various creators go on websites and announce their books being cancelled, especially if the title is coming out for some months beyond that. Why torpedo interest? My object is to get people to read my stories. If I announce a book’s cancellation prematurely, it might prompt retailers immediately to cut orders, so that fans can’t find the book even if they want to.” Given the lead time, David has definite plans as to how the series will end, and which plot lines will be resolved.

“Young Justice wraps with #55,” David said. “In a way, it suits the ‘novel’ style in which I often write because, knowing the ‘novel’ was coming to an end, I could write it without concern as to what the next issue would be about. The main subplot that’s been percolating for several years is Secret’s wrestling with her fundamental nature, and her emotional seduction by Darkseid. That’s what’s coming to a head with the next few issues. By the time #55 is over, all plotlines are wrapped up…except one. It’s not major, but it’s there in the background if you think about it. Might as well leave myself something to play with, just in case.

“In essence, what brings everything to a boil is Secret’s learning that her father is going to be executed by the state for his killing of his adoptive son,” David explains, “who Secret knows to have been the villainous Harm. She goes to her Young Justice teammates in hopes that one of them will aid her in busting her father out of jail. They all say no, because they’re not about to contravene the judicial system. It’s unique teen logic. Invading a country, that they’ll do. But saving a guilty and convicted man from the electric chair, that’s not a line they want to cross. So they all turn her down…except Slo-Bo, who aids her in springing her father. Hilarity then ensues when Young Justice learns of this and insists he has to go back.”

The series’ end aside, and while logic might suggest David would be the ideal person to write Teen Titans, seeing as how most of the characters are part of Young Justice, he was not approached to carry on the young heroes’ adventures. “No,” David said. “My assumption is that only Marvel is insane enough to relaunch a title with the same writer.”

While not given as a reason by DC for the character shuffle and subsequent cancellation of Young Justice, David said the change is clearly something that spins out of the announcement of a new Teen Titans animated series in development with Cartoon Network. Looking at it in a detached manner, David said the move, which will tie a mainstream DCU book in with an animated series, without the creation of a special animated “tie-in” series Ð a first for DC – is understandable.

“People are asking why they don’t just do a Teen Titans Adventures in the animated style, a la Batman,” David said. “My assumption is that they figure they can get better sales with a mainstream title carrying the Teen Titans banner and an approximation of the animated series cast rather than having a marginalized Teen Titans Adventures book that’s separate. I can understand why the move was made. Obviously it impacts on me greatly, considering it’s my bestselling title and I’ve grown fond of the characters.

“Previously, I was even more upset, because I’d done work on the animated series and believed that my work had gotten the series green lit…meaning that I’d effectively screwed myself. I’ve since learned that it was a very revised bible by someone else that actually got the animated series up and running, so I guess I can take some cold comfort in that.”

The green light for the animated series of course, was also the death knell for Young Justice. “Naturally, my perception is that it was a convenient time to scuttle the current Titans in favor of a new Titans book with the Young Justice characters,” David said. “Presumably the Titans writer would see it a different way.”

Young Justice, though always presented as not a Teen Titans book, was often cited by fans as being the closest to what made the older series great. Now, with the regular Titans series ending, the shift will take place, but with a new creative team. This leaves the question, is Peter David bitter? The scribe says no.

“I’m not bitter because it’s a business,” David explains. “It was a business decision. It’s not one I agree with, and it impacts on me and the fans directly. But it’s not as if Paul Levitz, Mike Carlin and Dan Didio got together and said, ‘You know…Peter David’s getting too popular. We must find a way to bitch slap him into shape. Hey! Let’s cancel Young Justice!’

“I think ultimately the book itself never got a ton of respect from people who never even bothered to sample it. I also did my best to try and vary the tone, and that attracted some people while being off-putting to others. I’d do the series light for a while, then go dark. I’d do a series of one-off issues, followed by a lengthy story arc. For a while I even experimented with concluding storylines in mid-issue and then launching into a new one. Anything to keep the book fresh creatively…at least, to me. I suppose I’m vain enough to think that if I keep it interesting to me, it’ll be interesting to others.”

And while he was keeping it interesting to himself, some readers expected the teen team to announce a purpose or missions statement, which wasn’t needed, David said. “A lot of people never really “got” the team. They’d say, ‘Well, why do these young heroes hang out together?’ And I stubbornly refused to give them a mission statement, because to me, it was an absurd question. Why do any group of teens hang out together? Because they like each other. To me, it’s no more complicated than that. But, just for shits and giggles, in #55 I have Robin address that question directly in a fairly cool speech to a totally gone-bad Secret. It’s one of the more dramatic moments, I think.”

With both Superboy and Impulse getting cancelled prior to the axe falling on Young Justice, David was looking forward to having the chance to have exclusive control over the characters. With the cancellation of Young Justice, that won’t be possible. Still, David is hesitant to reveal what his plans were.

“I don’t generally like to go into detail with ‘here’s what I was going to do,'” David said. “Because then if the writers, two years down the line, go in that direction, fans immediately shout, ‘Hey! They’re ripping Peter David off!’ I saw that happen with Aquaman, when I discussed that I was going to kill him off, keep him dead, and then return him as a water elemental. So DC killed off Aquaman, kept him dead, and the instant fans saw the big watery version of Aquaman, the ‘Rip-off!’ charges started, justified or no. So I think I’m going to steer clear of such things from now on.”

The title’s final issues will focus on the Secret storyline that started in issue #51 when the vaporous Secret was shot and began going through some serious changes.

“The storyline is combined with a storyline in which the DC equivalent of MTV talks Young Justice into being the centerpiece of a new reality series. They’d be the superhero equivalent of the Osbournes. I just try to give the series a real-world sensibility, and it seemed a logical storyline to explore, given the cult of celebrity in this country. I wound up having to truncate it a bit, considering the end of the series, but I think it still works.”

One slight monkey wrench in the final storyline though, concerns Robin. Hey – when your mentor is supposed to be an urban legend, showing up on television isn’t a good idea.

“The biggest problem was always Robin,” David said. “Considering the whole ‘urban legend’ thing. Given the reality series storyline, ‘Robin’ couldn’t be part of such an endeavor. But having just returned to the group, he has no desire to bolt on them again. So he creates a new identity for himself, which should be kind of fun. Part of it stems from when I was a fan, getting a huge kick out of Matt Murdock creating his swinging twin brother, Mike. I decided to do something like that with Robin as well.”

Looking back over the five-plus years on the series, David notes he has plenty to be proud of. “Personally. I liked when Cissie told off the JLA and then hyperventilated,” David recalls. “I liked the camping out issue. I liked the sequence from Arrowette-turns-bowhunter through ‘Sins of Youth,’ which became a much larger story than I’d ever anticipated, but people seemed to like it. I liked the ‘playing baseball to save a planet’ story and the stuff on New Genesis. I liked the Secret vs. Spoiler story, and the story with Red Tornado’s daughter being the victim of racism. And most importantly, I loved working with Todd Nauck.”

Together with Nauck, the two are the only creators the ongoing Young Justice series has ever had. “Readers, frankly, are a puzzle to me,” David said. “They crab endlessly about artists ricocheting from one book to another, or being perpetually late. But I’ve worked with quality people like Todd, and Leonard Kirk, who are there month in, month out, turning out page after page of dazzling storytelling, and they generate no buzz. They’re just taken for granted, and I think it’s criminal.”

Speaking ofÉdifferent behaviors surrounding the book, some fans, bemoaning the cancellation of Young Justice, have threatened to boycott all DC books in retaliation towards the publisher. David sees this as silly, and oftentimes false.

“My reaction is, ‘Yeah, uh huh, right,'” David said. “Heard it, seen it, been there before. Heard the collective screeching when I was shoved off Hulk. ‘Oh, we’ll never buy the book again, oh, we’ll support everything Peter David does from now on.’ Look at Hulk sales now. Look at Captain Marvel sales now. I know their hearts are in the right place, but ultimately, I’m quite certain that if they hear good things about a title or it piques their interest, they’ll be right back there buying the books again. I know that, they know that, and the publishers know that. Besides, ‘we’re dropping all DC titles.’ Great. Swell. That’s just what I need to hear instead of, y’know, ‘Well, now that we have extra money, we’re going to go buy Supergirl!’ Or, ‘What new books from DC is Peter going to have coming out, because we want to support those as well!’

“Boycotting an entire publisher because you’re unhappy they canceled your favorite title isn’t going to hurt the publisher. The retailers who aren’t selling the books, yes. The creative teams whose titles will be hurt by lack of support, yes. But the publisher? No.” The end of Young Justice though, hardly means a reduction of David’s presence at DC. There’s still Supergirl, as well as a few more projects in the works.

“Actually, I have a totally original series in development with DC,” David said. “I’ve had people whose opinions I very much respect tell me that the way to help sales of my titles is to work on mainstream books. I dunno. I wrote the mainstream Hulk for twelve years, and The End sold huge. Didn’t help sales on Captain Marvel. I think I need to work more on things that are completely of my own devising. It helps kick respect for your work up a few notches, I think.

“The new series for DC is tentatively titled, The Fallen Angel. I hate defining projects in terms of other works because it’s so right out of The Player, but people seem to be able to understand things better that way. So think of it as Casablanca meets The Equalizer in the style of Twin Peaks. I won’t say anything about it beyond that right now.”


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