When Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti pitched the idea of an animated series about a group of superhero sidekicks, you could practically feel fan boys and girls around the world give them the collective side eye. They needn’t have worried as Weisman was a seasoned pro; he created the 90’s cartoon classic “Gargoyles” as well as writing for “Kim Possible” and “Spectacular Spider Man.” Two years later, Weisman is having the last laugh as “Young Justice” has quickly become the hottest property on Cartoon Network.
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The series, which originally started with six founding members (Aqualad, Robin, Artemis, Kid Flash, Superboy, Miss Martian) has now flourished into a powerful team that rivals the more senior Justice League. What’s especially impressive in the representation of women and Black members in “Young Justice.” Marvel may be the box office king with this summer’s Avengers but “Young Justice” has it on lock with their progressive take on diversity in the superhero realm.
The Urban Daily caught up with Weisman to get the scoop on Season 2, his decision to include more superheroes of color in the mix, and a possible Young Justice live action movie.
TUD: Tell us about your decision to set Season 2 of “Young Justice” five years into the future.
Greg Weisman: It was actually planned from day one. We had a two season plan from the minute we started. The first season takes place from July 4th to December 31st. Our second season is set from January 1st to July Fourth. There’s a five year gap between the two seasons and what it allows us to do is really show these characters growing up. We wanted to show them taking in these lessons and becoming young adults. Then of course there’s the shock value which I take a sadistic pleasure in (chuckles).
Towards the end of season 1 you introduced two Milestone Comic characters, Icon and Rocket. What was the process behind including these characters into the DC animated world?
I actually read every issue of Icon and Rocket. Rocket has always been a personal favorite of mine, so much so that Denys Cowan (Dreamworks) and I developed a TV show pilot about Rocket, and we tried to sell it but we couldn’t. So I’ve always wanted to do something with her character.
We also wanted a very powerful Justice League and I felt Icon belonged in there. Rocket is a sidekick in a very classic sense, and she fit in perfectly with the Young Justice team. Rocket also allowed us to do something really cool—we had a very complicated 24 episodes and by bringing in someone new, Rocket could ask the questions most of the viewing audience might have. It allowed for some exposition. Plus I really like Rocket’s personality and think she’s so much fun.
The team line up is very diverse in terms of ethnicity and gender. The late Dwayne McDuffie once referred to “The Rule of Three” –if three or more superheroes are black then it’s automatically labeled a “black product” and can’t be marketed to mainstream audiences. What are your thoughts on McDuffie’s statement?
First off I have to say Dwayne had studied that stuff and I haven’t. So if he felt that way, my guess is he’s right. On the other hand, we’re just trying to tell the stories that make sense organically in our universe. For example we felt that this is where Mal Duncan and Karen Beecher (Bumblebee) would be five years later. We introduced them as minor characters in Season 1 as high school students, and when we pick up in Season 2, Karen is a protégée of The Atom and Mal is operations manager for the team since Red Tornado doesn’t live there anymore.
WATCH: Dwayne McDuffie discusses “The Rule of Three”
One of the things I’ve always loved about “Justice League” and now “Young Justice” is how smart they are when it comes to gender politics. The female characters—Miss Martian, Artemis and now Bat Girl, Wonder Girl, Bumble Bee—are all very empowered. As a male writer, what’s the key to writing compelling female characters?
I really love writing for female characters. That goes back to one of my first professional jobs, writing a Black Canary comic book mini-series, which didn’t get published, but she’s always been one of my all time favorite characters. I also incorporated strong female characters in “Gargoyles” and “Spectacular Spider-Man.” That’s always been important to me, and even more now that I have a daughter and son.
I want my female characters to be strong and I want them to be diverse. One of the things I learned from “Gargolyes” was by introducing a strong female villain in Demona and a strong heroine in Angela, it gave me the freedom to do a weak female character with Maggie The Cat, who had to learn to become strong in a non-traditional superhero way. I was almost afraid to write a female character who wasn’t kick-ass because I was afraid I’d be falling into old clichés.
It’s also about balance. We live in a society that from a media stand point, is dominated by white males. It’s easier to set a balance with white men because they’re well represented. It’s harder to set the balance with other groups sometimes, but we’re trying.
In “Dark Knight Rises” Christopher Nolan basically passes the torch from Bruce Wayne to John Blake, who we find out in the end of the film is Robin. If Warner Bros. were to go in the direction of a Young Titans/Young Justice live movie adaption, would you be interested in collaborating?
I’d probably crawl through glass to do that. No one’s brought it up seriously, but if it does happen, I’d love to be involved.
What can we look forward to for the second half of the season in “Young Justice”?
As tough as things have been on the team in the first half of the season, it’s about to get way more difficult. Things are going to go from bad to worse, or I should say from dark to darker. We’re bringing in more characters, we’ll shift the focus back to our original six leads, in particular Aqua Lad and Artemis. We’ve also got a big plot line for Mal and Karen coming up.
We’re going to reveal a lot more, yet create more mysteries. With the exception of four characters, everyone believes Artemis is dead and that’s going to have major ramifications for the team and…. Deathstroke is coming!
“Young Justice: Invasion” returns Saturday, Sept. 29th 10:30A EST on Cartoon Network