Beginning early next year, the tiny titans of the Johnny DC line hit a growth spurt as creators Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani join artist Mike Norton to launch the all-new ongoing series “Young Justice,” which takes its name and characters from the upcoming animated series hitting airwaves this November on Cartoon Network.
The forthcoming comic book ands animated series focus on young heroes Robin – the Dick Grayson incarnation – Kid Flash Wally West, Superboy, Miss Martian, Aqualad and the archer Artemis. Additionally, both take place on Earth-16 as part of the DC Universe Multiverse. Although the spirit of the characters and world remains the same as regular DC continuity, there are some differences between the regular DCU and Earth-16 – mainly that super heroes are relatively new to the world of “Young Justice” and the Justice League itself has only been around roughly three or four years. The comic book partially serves as a tie-in to the show, telling further adventures of the young heroes and follows in the wake of the recent restructuring of the Johnny DC line, with certain titles seeing cancellation and others seeing re-launches.
Despite living on opposite sides of the United States and one of them caught in a rainstorm, both Baltazar and Franco took time out of their schedules to speak with CBR News about how closely their comic relates to the show, their plans for the series and the Tiny Titans/Young Justice crossover that already was.
CBR NEWS: With “Young Justice,” there is your title, but also the upcoming television series. How do these two things tie together, if at all?
Art Baltazar: We kind of stick to the cartoon a little bit. We can’t change things before the cartoon does, so we’re going hand in hand with it. It’s like a companion piece almost. If you watch the cartoon, you get to see further adventures in the comics.
Franco Aureliani: For us, stories are very character driven and as long as you write character, the stories are going to be good because that’s what people get invested in. They are interested in good characterization and if you write a good story, they’ll ride along with you. That’s what Art and I tried to do with “Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam,” and we think we succeed there and [that’s] why they moved us over to “Young Justice.” I think they know that we know the characters and that we’re going to tell a good story. That’s what they’re looking for and what we’re going to try and provide.
Baltazar: Yeah. We’re going to do the awesomest stories ever. You’re not even going to realize that you’re reading an all-ages book when you read our book.
That’s definitely something I wanted to hit on, the idea of all ages. People often think that the Johnny DC line is just for kids, but really, anyone can read these titles. As writers, how do you find the balance between the younger audience and older readers?
Baltazar: We kind of just write what we think is cool. If we don’t think it’s cool, we won’t write it and put it in the book. But as long as it’s cool and it makes sense and it’s a good story. Especially with “Young Justice” and “Billy Batson,” we write stories that we wanted to see as kids. It’s like continuing from where we left off when we were twelve.
Franco: We get that question a lot and we don’t write for kids and we don’t write specifically for adults. If we were going to be writing a Vertigo title or something like that, I’m sure we’d be making adjustments, but the stories Art and I tell are stories that anyone can read and enjoy. So, we literally do write for all ages. Take a title like “Tiny Titans” and we crack up every time we write that thing because it’s just really funny. People can look at that book and say it’s written for little kids, but it’s really not. It’s written for everybody. And the reading level might be a little higher, but you can definitely read the “Young Justice” and “Billy Batson” books to your kids and it’d be fine. Even if they couldn’t read it because of the reading level, you can still read it to them.
I wanted to ask about the format for “Young Justice.” Will these be done-in-one style stories or will there be a larger arc carrying through, sort of like with “Billy Batson?”
Baltazar: Each issue will be a stand-alone story, pretty much, but the stories will interconnect kind of. You can still read them individually though and you’d be fine. We’re trying to stay close to the cartoon, but [the comics] give the individual characters their time to shine in the issues. It’s pretty cool.
Can you say anything about the stories you have planned for the series?
Baltazar: Um, we can say that Miss Martian has a lot to do with the first six issues or so. We don’t want to spoil anything yet.
Franco: We’re basically concentrating on them as teenagers. I know what it was like to be a teenager and I didn’t like it very much. These guys have to deal with all that stuff with being teenagers and being super heroes. So, that’s what our main focus is. What is that like?
Baltazar: And you’re going to see appearances from members of the Justice League, too. There’s going to be mentor and super hero in training sequences. It’s going to be the best comic book. You’re going to want to wait in line in the rain to pick it up.
Franco: I also want to say how awesome Mike Norton is too with the art. Over the course of “Billy Batson” his artwork has gotten tremendously awesome. We’ve seen artwork from the “Young Justice” stuff and it’s just so cool. I want to be Mike Norton.
You guys mentioned the Justice League, and we know that they’ll be featured in the cartoon pretty heavily. They’ll be playing a pretty prominent role in training the Young Justice members and you’ll be seeing them a lot. Will it be the same with the comic book series?
Baltazar: Yes. [Laughs] It’s pretty much the “Young Justice” cartoon’s extended adventures. It’s going to rock. We got to see some stories of what they’re doing with the cartoon and I wish I could tell you everything. It’s amazing the amount of thought that went into this cartoon and everything involved with the cartoon is so good. And we’re going to try to bring all that to the comic. We’re going to try do as much justice to “Young Justice” as possible. This comic will be better than eating food. You don’t know if you’re going to want to go grab a burger or read “Young Justice.”
Franco: You can read the comic and then eat it because I’m sure the paper is full of fiber. [Laughs]
Baltazar: Yes, but make sure you buy two copies if you’re going to do that.
I also wanted to ask about the characters. There are a lot of cool characters in this comic and for each of you, who is your favorite and what is it like tackling this group of characters specifically?
Baltazar: So far for both of us I think it’s Kid Flash.
Franco: Yeah. I like all the characters, but so far my affinity has really been for Kid Flash. He’s just so much fun. We’re only a couple issues in, but so far he’s got the best lines. And him and Robin are shaping up to be two of my favorites. But I like all of them. The new Aqualad is really intriguing. He’s really mysterious and what’s planned for him is really cool. It’s the same thing with Artemis and Superboy and Miss Martian. There are such cool aspects to their backgrounds that you can’t help but think the characters are so cool.
Baltazar: I’m a big fan of Conner, too, because I’m a big Superman movie guy and anything involving Superman, I’m just thrilled. For us to be writing some Superboy stuff is really cool. We know a lot of stuff. It’s going to rock.
Franco: We wish we could tell you everything, but we can’t.
Two points of interest that I wanted to bring up were the new Aqualad, who will be the leader of the team, and Superboy, who in this world is actually only about sixteen weeks old. Is there anything you can say about that?
Baltazar: This is a different timeline, where the DC Universe is a lot younger. Superman has only been Superman for around 10 years.
Franco: Yeah. It’s a lot younger universe than we’re used to, but there is a lot happening all around. As far as the leader of the team, it’s true, yes. [Laughs]
What’s it like working on Aqualad, who is a very new character to the DC Universe? Have you been talking with Geoff Johns about the character and the show creators on how to approach writing him?
Franco: We’ve talked to Geoff about a whole bunch of stuff and briefly about Aqualad, but we’ve gotten the show notes and the show bible, so we know what’s happening with this character. But if I talk about anything, I’m going to give it away, and that’s one of the things we don’t want to do. Suffice it to say, he’s a brand new character, he’s not what you think, and it will be revealed throughout the show and the comic.
Earlier you mentioned how these are teenaged characters. How does that affect their relationship with their respective mentors? Are they going to be more distant and want to separate themselves, or will they be more willing to live up to the name and take advice easily?
Franco: I’ll give you a line that Geoff Johns gives a lot: do you want us to tell you or would you rather find out? [Laughs]
Baltazar: [Laughs] Yeah. Each character is a little bit different. Each character relates to their mentor different than the other guy. The way Robin reacts to Batman is different than the way that Conner relates to Superman.
To close this all out, you guys are working on a number of projects, but along with “Young Justice,” you’re also working on “Tiny Titans.” In that regard, when’s the crossover coming?
Franco: [Laughs] Well, the crossover has already happened because they’re all Tiny Titans when they’re young and then they grow up into Young Justice.
Baltazar: Yeah. They’re the same guys. [Laughs]