Young Justice (dubbed Young Justice: Invasion for the second season of the series) was an American animated television series created by Brandon Vietti and Greg Weisman for the Cartoon Network. Despite its title, it is not a direct adaptation of Peter David, Todd Dezago and Todd Nauck’s Young Justice comic series, but rather an adaptation of the entire DC Universe with a focus on young teenaged heroes and sidekicks who are members of a fictional covert operation group called The Team.
The main setting is a fictional universe apart from the previous DC Animated Universe and other continuities. The series debuted with an hour-long special on November 26, 2010 with the airing of the first two episodes, “Independence Day” and “Fireworks.” After airing its second season, the series ended alongside fellow DC Nation show Green Lantern: The Animated Series in the spring of 2013.
Despite its cancelation, it remains a very popular show, with a huge following. So, if you’ve missed it, here’s 14 Things You Need To Know About Young Justice.
14. DC’s plans for an animated universe died when it was canceled
The initial premise of Young Justice, that of a Junior Justice League that wouldn’t follow the continuity of the previous Justice League show, caused some fans to question the wisdom of an animated universe reboot, especially as Bruce Timm’s animated DC universe has been lauded by critics and fans alike.
However, as great as those shows (Justice League Unlimited especially) were, that universe wasn’t sophisticated enough to deal with the complex and sophisticated storytelling that Young Justice presented. The kids in “The Team” come from a wide range of backgrounds including broken homes where abuse is hinted at or are orphans dealing with incredible loss. These were real kids, dealing with real issues, superheroes or not.
Had the show continued past its second year, the universe was set to expand with further tie-ins, and as the team members aged and were replaced with even newer members, the original cast could have been the core of a newer and more mature show.
While the show was sadly canceled at the end of season 2, and all plans to continue the adventures of Earth-16 ended with it, some aspects of the show are still around. The character designs for Batman, Blue Beetle, and Deathstroke among others are still in use within the animated movies such as Justice League: War and Son of Batman.
13. There are 7 types of Genomorphs
G-Gnomes: the small psychic creatures. G-Trolls: the huge Genomorphs with enhanced strength. G-Elves: the clawed warriors. G-Sprites: the creatures that are kept in jars and are capable of producing energy. G-Dwarves: worker drones with tentacles. G-Goblin: Dubbilex, capable of telekinesis and speech, and telepathy but this is unknown to Cadmus. Project Kr: Superboy, a genetic clone of Superman.
Of these, two are especially significant. Superboy becomes one of the core members of “The Team”, and XX (or Dubbilex) orchestrated the creation of a secret city beneath Cadmus as well as the events that lead to the formation of The Team itself. His Machiavellian tendencies as well as his psychic powers make him one of the real powers in the show. With an army more or less at his disposal, he could end up being a major player should the show ever return. It remains to be seen whose side he’d be on.
12. Superman and Superboy are voiced by the same actor
It stands to reason that a clone would sound like the original. However, Nolan North’s voice talent does more than show a common genetic ancestry. His Clark Kent / Superman retains a slight Kansas accent while having the authority and stature of the Man of Steel. His Connor Kent / Superboy sounds vastly different. Having not been raised in Kansas, but force grown in a tank in Cadmus Labs, he has none of the subtle accent of his progenitor.
Given his age, and general attitude, he has a tendency to snap at people when he speaks. There’s always a hint of danger behind his words, not surprising given that he has the power of a god in the body of an angry young man. Nolan North captures all this perfectly.
11. The number 16 is referenced throughout the series
The series is set on Earth-16 of the DC multiverse. Miss Martian is 16 in Earth years. Superboy was created in 16 weeks, and is 16 years old. Aqualad, Garth and Tula are 16. In Young Justice #0, Kid Flash takes Superboy to a clothing store called “Forever Sixteen.” Red Tornado’s designation is 16. There are 16 members in the Justice League.
While in real terms, this had little to do with the overall plot, the attention to detail shows just how much thought the creators put into the little details. For instance, there are a number of times computer monitors display information and it’s only when freezing the image, you can see that the information is highly detailed. Even if some pages are Wikipedia articles.
10. It had a great visual aesthetic
While DC’s animated movies, even the straight-to-DVD ones, are often lauded for their quality, serialized shows aren’t known for their quality in quite the same way. While there are tons of great ones, far too many to list here, the sheer volume of episodes means that corners must occasionally be cut.
Young Justice stands out for being simply beautiful. From the redesigned Batsuit to the deliberately retro look of the cave, every element of the shows visuals are deeply thought-out. Batman and Robin’s suits clearly have armoured segments, highlighting their need for greater protection. Kid Flash’s costume is designed for high speeds, while also having stealth tech to aid in The Team’s role as a “black ops” unit. Superboy wears a simple T-Shirt as he refuses to wear an actual costume.
9. It turned sidekicks into stars and allowed the more established heroes to serve as background characters
Back in the days of The Justice League, being a superhero was pretty straightforward. You put on a pair of tights and go and beat up the Joker. Not easy, but certainly more straightforward than being a parent or a mentor.
Each established member of the League gets a chance to show their own style of mentoring. Batman seems to be the best at it, somewhat ironically. He’s firm, but fair, with the team. He’s not afraid to tell them where they’ve gone wrong, but he never lets a chance to praise them go by. He’s incredibly supportive and in many ways is the best background character. When he senses Dick is finding things hard, he actually plays basketball with him. Just like a loving father should. He’s not training a living weapon; he’s raising a son. He even tells the league that he doesn’t want Dick to end up like him.
Aquaman mentors Aqualad in much the way you’d expect from a king. He’s distant, but genuinely shows some affection for his protégé. When Aqualad considers quitting The Team and re-joining his studies in Atlantis, Aquaman respects him enough to make his own choices, yet offers the wisdom you’d expect from one with such heavy burdens.
It’s Superman that surprises. He instantly rejects Superboy. He refuses to train him, or be part of his life. In many ways, the show is about fathers and sons, and Superman’s struggles to accept that he basically has a son now highlights this. Perhaps due to never knowing his biological father he doesn’t know if he can be a role model? After some straight-talk from Bruce Wayne, and seeing Conner (Superboy) prove himself time and again, the two slowly bond. By the end of Season 1, Superman even shares his secret identity with Superboy, showing a bond of trust has begun to grow between them.
8. Its voice cast was incredible
Besides the aforementioned Nolan North doing a splendid job as Superman and Superboy, the rest of the voice cast was equally impressive.
Bruce Greenwood may not be the fan-favorite Batman voice actor that Kevin Conroy is, but he’s perfectly suited to the incarnation of Batman here. He’s stern, authoritative, and his leadership is unquestioned. Despite rarely seeing action, he’s the unquestioned leader of the League. Not bad for someone who does all this with merely his presence.
From the team itself, it’s Danica McKellar that really shines. The girl who launched a million teenage crushes as Winnie on The Wonder Years is perfect as M’gann M’orzz A.K.A Miss Martian. While her “Hello Megan” catch phase is initially annoying, she grows to be the heart of the team. Her tenderness with Superboy is genuinely touching, which makes his rejection of her all the more heart-breaking when she begins to use her mental powers too ruthlessly.
Jesse McCartney’s Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin, steals many scenes not only for his tendency to play with words to lighten the mood, “Feeling the aster” and “Whelmed” have become common slang among fans, but for his moments of genuine emotion when opening up about his insecurities. By season 2, he has matured into his role as Nightwing and leader of the group. He sounds much more confident and has hints of Batman’s authority growing within him.
Jason Spisak’s Wally West not only steals the scenes, but very nearly the whole show. While often seen as a joker in the early episodes, usually lusting after Miss Martian, he becomes a hero as the show progresses. By the end of the second season, he has more or less retired and is trying to live as normal a life as possible. When the season 2 finale ends with him making the ultimate sacrifice, audiences were left with a genuine feeling of loss.
7. It had incredible diversity
The founding four members of The Team are all young men, Dick Grayson (Robin), Wally West (Kid Flash), Kaldur’ahm (Aqualad), and Connor Kent (Superboy). Of the four, three are white with Kaldur’ahm being the exception as an Atlantean of black origin. Quickly, however, the team grows and Miss Martian joins them. While her human form was that of a Caucasian female in her mid-teens, her race was revealed to be that of a “White Martian,” an undesirable caste within Martian society. She goes to great lengths to hide this as it is a source of shame to her, but when her teammates learn the truth, they assure her that such things do not matter to them.
The team is soon joined by young men and women of numerous races, and even species. By the end of the second season, there are team members from around the globe and from other worlds and timelines. Far from being forced in an effort to be politically correct, the addition of each team member feels organic and story driven. There are characteristics in each team member that make them relatable, far more so than merely their ethnic origins.
6. It had series-long storylines
With Vandal Savage at its head, The Light (The secret cabal standing in opposition to the Justice League) furthers its goal to place Earth at the centre of galactic events. Vandal Savage’s philosophy of forced survival of the fittest is diametrically opposed to the Justice League’s philosophy of “All lives matter, save everybody”. His long life has prepared him for his immortal mission and he’s prepared to risk anything and anyone in order to achieve his goals. And he’s nothing if not patient.
Most of season 1 was taken up with the formation of The Team, and their uncovering of the existence of The Light. By the end of the season, The Light had succeeded in gathering various forms of mind-control and had enslaved the Justice League through the use of their sleeper agent, Red Arrow.
Season 2 showed just how much Savage was prepared to risk as he almost hands over the planet Earth to The Reach while leaving Earth defenceless. By the end of the season, it is shown that he’s been using them to bait Mongol into attacking Earth. Once The Reach are decimated and Mongol is taken out by Superboy and the rest of The Team, Savage steals the War world for himself and sets off to meet the greatest evil in existence, Darkseid. It remains to be seen if he’s serving Darkseid, or merely moving him into a position where he can be destroyed by The League also, leaving none to stand against The Light.
5. It didn’t hold back. It dealt with VERY adult issues.
Young Justice wasn’t afraid to “go there.” In season 1, the team undergoes a “Psychic Training” session, where they play out a war game scenario while telepathically linked. The mission goes from bad to worse, but the team are unable to break out of the training session as Miss Martian finds herself unable to differentiate the fiction from reality. While some shows would have gone down the “it’s just a dream” route, Young Justice dealt with the psychological trauma each team member felt. Dick admits that the event changed him. He had always wanted to be Batman one day, but the events, particularly losing people, shook him to the core. He openly admits that he will never be the same person again.
Superboy, the indestructible man who cannot be harmed, shows his very human frailties. For all the emotional blockades he puts up to protect himself, he is forced to deal with why he felt no remorse when he thought his teammates were dead. His fear that he is nothing more than a weapon shows just how much he wants to connect to those around him.
Season 2 initially follows Red Arrow after he discovers that he is a clone of the original Roy Harper. He fights with depression quite realistically for an animated character. His appearance changes, as he hasn’t trained properly and cares less about how he looks. He also steals from thieves in order to sustain himself, something he would never have done before. Once he admits he needs help, he works with his former mentor Green Arrow and begins the road to recovery. His issues aren’t swept under the carpet and were referenced frequently throughout the season.
4. It features the best animated version of lex luthor
While for many, the Lex Luthor of the previous era, voiced by Clancy Brown, simply IS Lex Luthor, the version from Young Justice is just so much scarier. Gone are the insane schemes, the mecha-suit, the borderline insanity. In their place is a man armed with something much more intense, charm.
This is a man that everyone knows is a bad guy, and yet by the end of season 2 has talked his way out of an assassination attempt by Arsenal and gotten half the world to purchase the “Reach” soft drink, which is a cover for a nefarious plan. People are literally eating (or rather, drinking) out of the palm of his hand.
He isn’t prone to the fits of rage of former incarnations either. He is suave, charming, and cool. His effortless charisma diffuses the Realasia war, albeit to suit himself, and he aids the League in ending the doomsday weapon of The Reach. The latter event leading the world to believe he is a saviour.
Had the series progressed, it would have been interesting to see if his alliance with Vandal Savage could have lasted, or would the two men have ended up turning on each other. Which would have been shown to have been playing the other, and who’s “long game” was the superior would have been a fantastic end point for a third season.
3. The Light is a great team of adversaries for the heroes
Midway through Season 1 the identities of “The Light” are revealed. Vandal Savage is shown to be working with Lex Luthor, Klarion the Witchboy, Ra’s al Ghul and others.
It isn’t just a team of the most evil bad guys, or the most powerful either. Savage has put together a team based on their usefulness to his cause. He has sights set on much bigger goals than merely “The Destruction of the Justice League” or “Rule the world.” He is playing a much bigger game and he is setting up the pieces on the board to suit himself.
2. It left too many unanswered questions
Despite everything The Team achieves over the years, including saving the world from the Warworld (a heavily armed satellite) and The Reach, their job was far from over.
What was Vandal Savage planning to do with his stolen Warworld? Was he delivering it to Darkseid? Was he planning to partner with him and then destroy him, as he did with The Reach?
Where do Lex Luthor’s loyalties lie? Is he loyal to The Light, or does he have schemes within their schemes?
Will Kid Flash return from the Speed Force, or is he truly gone for good? Will Connor be able to age, or is he destined to be immortal?
1. Netflix could pick it up for a third season
Thanks to a very active Facebook fan page, “Young Justice Needs a Season 3,” there’s been some serious talk about a revival. Netflix in the U.S has been streaming Young Justice and it was trending a while back.
According to voice actor Khary Payton (Aqualad), the series could return via the online streaming service. If fans continue to binge watch in high enough numbers, we could finally get some answers to our unresolved questions.
Are you a Young Justice super fan? Tell us about your thoughts on the show in the comments!!