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IGN on Young Justice: Invasion

Young Justice Faces an Invasion
We talk to producers Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti about Season 2 of the superhero show.
by Scott Collura – posted April 27, 2012
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The Cartoon Network’s Young Justice just finished its first season last weekend, but it’s already heading into Season 2 this Saturday with a 20-episode storyline called Invasion. Featuring the adventures of the “sidekicks” of the DC universe, the show’s lineup includes such stalwarts as Robin, Superboy, Kid Flash and Aqualad, plus a never-ending torrent of other familiar and not-so-familiar comic-book characters. For DC devotees and superhero fans alike, the show is a blast.

I recently spoke to producers Greg Weisman (The Spectacular Spider-Man) and Brandon Vietti (Batman: Under the Red Hood) about Invasion, and while they’re a couple of tight-lipped fellows — getting spoilers from these two is like getting the kryptonite out of Batman’s vault — the pair did offer up some interesting insights into Young Justice. We started with the topic of how they approached Season 2, and if they went into it any differently than how they did in Season 1.

“We did,” said Weisman. “For starters, Season 1, we had 26 episodes. We had an arc for the season, but we were introducing characters, concepts, a world. So I think there’s a nice drive to Season 1, but it’s absolutely relaxed compared to Season 2. Season 2, we only have 20 episodes. We have an intense story to tell — really, in some ways, a single story. Each episode still stands alone and tells its own discrete adventure, but it’s all part of the whole. And it really plays like a novel. It’s got a drive to it that’s just exponentially more intense, with more momentum. And we introduce a ton of new characters in Season 2, but this time you’re going to have to get to know them on the fly because we are just pushing through to get to the end of this big, big story.”

Young Justice is of course now part of the network’s DC Nation programming block, which groups it with the Green Lantern animated series as well as various superhero short films each week. Interestingly, the creators feel that the often frustrating hiatuses that plagued Young Justice’s Season 1 airing schedule ultimately proved to be a boon in that they allowed the show to join the DC Nation block early.

“That is, the end of our first season became a part of DC Nation, and it also allowed us to go straight from Season 1 directly to Season 2, which of course we never anticipated,” explains Weisman. “It’s really cool that there’s only a one-week gap between Season 1 and Season 2. It’s pretty neat. And the neat thing about DC Nation is we’re partnered with Green Lantern, which is a show about a human being going out into outer space and facing dangerous aliens out there. And our show [in Season 2] is really about a bunch of dangerous aliens coming to Earth and our heroes being on the front lines and facing them here. I think that makes those two shows really nice companions.”

The producers told me that Season 2 picks up “a minute” after Season 1 ended, and while they were hesitant to reveal any plot details, they did say that they’ve changed up the dynamic of the show — and its characters.

“We changed things up a little bit,” Vietti told me. “In the first season, the team’s all very new. They’re all young teenagers trying to come into their own in the world and be more grown-up heroes. So we explored a lot of relationships between teenage students and adult mentors. That was a big dynamic we explored throughout the course of the first season. In our second season, the team has really proven themselves since the first season. They’re a full-fledged team. They’re sort of the side unit of the Justice League, and they’ve been very successful. They’ve even come up with their own missions and stuff, to the point where they haven’t needed to be assigned tasks to do. I think in the second season, you’re going to see a lot less of that dynamic where somebody has to come give them an assignment. We wanted them to feel like they’ve grown. They’re their own unit, they’re finding their own missions and going out to solve problems on their own.”

One of those problems includes The Light, the villainous cadre of characters who were pulling the strings from behind the scenes in Season 1. Their storyline, it would seem, did not end with the finale that aired last week.

“I think it’s just begun,” hints Weisman. “It’s basically stage one of The Light’s plan in Season 1. At the end of Season 1, Vandal Savage actually says, ‘Let’s begin phase two.’ That launches us off into our second season where we explore more of his plans. You will see The Light [again].”

In the Season 1 finale, Savage memorably calls the Justice League “champions of stagnation … dedicated to maintaining society’s calcified status quo.” The producers explained that Savage and his fellow villains don’t really see themselves as being bad guys at all.

“They see themselves as the heroes of the story,” says Weisman. “I don’t think they see the Justice League as evil; I think they see them as hugely misguided. So I think maybe one of the contrasts for our series, as opposed to other shows, is that our bad guys aren’t particularly interested in killing our good guys. That’s not to say that they won’t kill them if they get in the way or they’re problematic at a specific moment, but there’s no desire to, you know — ‘I’ve got to get that superhero!’ It’s not really about that. Oftentimes, our bad guys see our heroes as useful pawns, and sometimes our heroes are useful pawns. That’s not going to change. The Light has really, really long-term plans, and all that happens in Season 1 feeds into Season 2. And all that happens in Season 2 is part of those plans.”

Another part — or result, perhaps — of those plans is the introduction of even more characters on the show. Exactly which characters, Weisman and Vietti aren’t saying… yet.

“We will have new members come in that join the team,” says Weisman. “Some don’t join the team. Some join the team but don’t make the cut. It’s going to be an ongoing issue throughout the season. And a lot of the dynamics are shifting, as Brandon said, from this sort of mentor/protege, student/teacher dynamic — even a child dynamic — in Season 1 to more of a senior/freshman dynamic in Season 2, where our original characters who’ve been in it from more or less day one are now the seniors of the class. We’ve got some freshmen coming in, and we want to see how that gels. Now the younger kids learn from the older kids.”

A topic that has often come up in the IGN comments section is the construction of the show’s version of Robin, and how he seems to walk the line between the Dick Grayson and Tim Drake Boy Wonders at times. When asked about this, Vietti pretty strenuously disagreed with the notion — and wouldn’t say one way or another if we’ll be seeing any other Robins enter the picture this season.

“I think our Dick Grayson is very Dick Grayson, and … I guess there are two small aspects [that are different],” he said. “His costume has some Tim Drake influence, but frankly, the little elf shorts weren’t going to fly in the 21st century, so anything we did to give him long pants was going to feel sort of Tim Drakey. Then the other thing is that we gave him hacking skills, which we think would just suit the Dick Grayson of the 21st century as well. But personality-wise, I think our Dick Grayson is clearly Dick Grayson. His background is the circus. He’s the acrobat first, martial artist second. … How this evolves going forward throughout this season or potential future seasons, I don’t really want to get into. But I really do feel that aside from a couple of pretty superficial elements, our Robin is and always has been very Dick Grayson and has never been very Tim Drake.”

Having said that, it appears that the Young Justice writers are free to use just about any DC character that they like — so stay hopeful, Damian Wayne and Stephanie Brown fans! That wasn’t always the case, however. When the show first started, there were a “handful” of characters that were forbidden for use by the Time Warner corporate decision makers above.

“You could count them on one hand,” recalls Vietti. “But once [DC Chief Creative Officer] Geoff Johns came aboard to his new position, he said, ‘No, use who you want.’ He’s been great. So going into Season 2, by the time we were fully developing Season 2, we didn’t have anyone we couldn’t use.”

Weisman adds that the series was always conceived as a “DC Universe show.”

“We’ve had tremendous support from our friends at DC,” he says. “And bringing all these characters to life, we counted them up, and I think we have like 240-something characters over the course of two seasons, which is huge. And it’s all good for the characters. We’ve been fortunate enough to cast some lesser known characters from the comics and put the spotlight on them in our show and start introducing these characters to old fans and new fans alike. I think that’s been great fun for us because we just love all these characters, and we want everybody else in the world to love these characters too. So it’s been awesome to have this opportunity and this series to explore so much of the DC Universe.”

As any comic-book fan will tell you, a very important aspect of any adaptation is how the costumes of their beloved characters turn out. As fans themselves, this was also a matter of great importance to Weisman and Vietti — and one they did not take lightly.

“We always start with the traditional costumes from the comic books,” says Weisman. “We don’t purposefully go in and change the comic-book designs just because we want to. I think we basically take the traditional comic-book outfit as a starting point, and then we try to make sure that it works in our world. I think we didn’t want to make everybody look like they were wearing spandex. We set out to create a more realistic world for our characters to be in. There’s a lot of focus on the tailoring of outfits to make them look like real-world outfits. Robin in particular, we wanted him to look like his outfit maybe had Kevlar on it, like it could stop a bullet. Spandex doesn’t give you that. We had to add seams to his costume and stuff to make it look like he’s padded and ready to street-fight alongside Batman. And that’s just one example. We went through the thought process for every character. Their costume designs were based on their abilities and their needs in the field when they’re in battle, things like that. So some of the costumes needed a little more of a tailor adjustment than others. But we always tried to stay true to the source material, because we really respect where these characters come from and the tradition that they’re a part of.”

As for a Season 3 for Young Justice, so far there’s no word. So far…

“Tune in and give us some huge ratings!” is Weisman’s message to the fans. “Who knows, maybe it’ll happen? Maybe we’ll get that third season sooner than later!”

Visit the Young Justice Animated Series Guide for more information.

End of transmission. About this author:  Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author