Every movie, cartoon and live-action television show with characters from comics needs a story to get them started. It is challenging to create something that appeals to both new and old fans alike. Young Justice was a cartoon that was truly unique in that it wasn’t taking an iconic individual character like Batman or an iconic team like the Justice League, it was taking lesser known characters and making them the focus of a new animated series. They didn’t even base it in the mega-popular DC animated universe that was already established.
Instead, they decided to create the DC Universe from the ground up. What resulted was something that was special for new and old fans alike; a mature animated show with a strong central cast that efficiently and entertainingly introduced us to much of the DC Universe. In fact, efficient is the word that describes Young Justice best. It takes years of stories and distills them into two seasons that are the best version of many of these characters in any medium. So go watch it for the first time or re-watch it on Netflix while it is still streaming to get ready for the upcoming third season and check out why this show is even better than the comics it was based on.
15 DICK GRAYSON IS THE MAN
A critical choice that was made by the Young Justice creators was having Dick Grayson and Wally West be the Robin and Kid Flash joining the more modern Aqualad and Superboy as the original team. It allowed for fans to get to know and appreciate a younger Dick Grayson before seeing him fulfill his potential.
The revelation of Nightwing as a team leader and what it meant for the character’s growth in the five years was one of the coolest moments in the beginning of season two. It is even cooler to see him mentoring the new Robin, Tim Drake and Batgirl throughout the second season. His ability to strategize and work with a double agent Aqualad and Artemis is just icing on the cake. For Dick Grayson fans, it is hard to imagine a more satisfying portrayal.
14 LOVABLE IMPULSE
There are certainly fans that love Bart Allen, and those who find him to be a bit over the top. Recent years in DC Comics haven’t been too kind to Bart. Whether it was his terrible time as the Flash after Infinite Crisis or the criminal posing as him during the Teen Titans farce of the New 52, he hasn’t been his best self in a long time.
Thankfully, Young Justice gets it right. Immediately you know his personality is spot on and his use of future terminology like “crash” and “mode” are constant fun. He also develops a great friendship with Blue Beetle that is totally original and stems from his reason for coming back to the past in the first place. If you miss Bart Allen, watch season two again and you will feel like you reunited with an old friend.
13 MAKING SENSE OF ROY HARPER
The story of Roy Harper in the comic world is one that is shrouded in a couple major events. The most notable was his drug addiction, followed by his relationship with the villain Cheshire that led to their child Lian. This is all on the show, and introduced in a way that is well-paced and makes the character one of the most mysterious of the show.
It all gets more interesting when we find out that the Roy we knew for the first part of the show was a clone and that the real Roy was being held captive. When he is found, his arm has been removed, similar to a terrible comic book story called Justice League: A Cry for Justice. This allows his cybernetic arm to be a replacement and the inspiration for his Arsenal name. It is an efficient retelling of years of comic stories that far surpasses the source material in terms of his character's resonance.
12 OUT IN SPACE
Outside of the planet Tamaran, home of Starfire and Blackfire, space is not usually a big player in Teen Titans stories. Neither of these characters are on Young Justice, but space technology from the underutilized planet of Rann and its hero, Adam Strange, play a large role in season two. The joining of Adam Strange and Alanna with the younger heroes is seamless, despite their not ever being part of the same story in comics.
Rann’s Zeta beam technology is an incredible asset in terms of teleportation for the Justice League. Adam Strange’s expertise in using it proves vital to the team’s ability to save Justice League members accused of crimes. There is also the matter of season two centering around an alien invasion from the Reach, which lends itself to the involvement of other planets’ heroes. All in, the inclusion of these characters and their space-age tech fills a nice gap in the original material that we have loved watching come to life on the show.
11 THE TORNADO FAMILY
Red Tornado spent time as the guardian for the original Young Justice comic team. As an android who just wants to be a real man, he wrestles with his very existence. The Young Justice version takes these two elements and adds some family in to create an intensely emotional conflict.
This Red Tornado has a long history with the Justice Society and the Justice League. He is the third of T.O. Morrow’s androids that were supposed to be part of the JSA. The first was Red Torpedo, who looks similar to Tornado, only did not work well with people. This was followed by Red Inferno, a female android that served well on the JSA with advanced AI. Red Tornado heroically faces his re-programmed “siblings” and eventually faces a third android, the Red Volcano. Throughout this story, Tornado becomes a character you feel for and respect as much as any human on the show, and is integrated beautifully into the Young Justice mythos.
10 THE BEETLES
Jaime Reyes was introduced as the third Blue Beetle in comics during the time of Infinite Crisis. He has had multiple short-lived solo series and forgettable stints with the Titans over time. However, Jaime and other Beetles are the stars of much of Young Justice season two.
Writer John Rogers of the first Jaime-led Blue Beetle book was responsible for introducing the alien race known as The Reach and they play a major role in that run and the show. They are well represented as diplomats who work with the U.S. government and a villainous Black Beetle, both of which take elements from Rogers’ run and spread them out arguably better on-screen. We also get an original Green Beetle who is seemingly a Martian ally to the team, but winds up being another plant of the Reach. The story is another fresh, new spin on characters that have been largely underused by DC.
9 A COMPELLING ARTEMIS/ TIGRESS
While most of the characters on the show had a pretty large comic book history to look back on, Artemis did not. Her comic book history is relatively irrelevant to the character we get on Young Justice. She is still the daughter of Sportsmaster, which is significant throughout both seasons, but now she is also Cheshire’s sister, while her mother was Huntress, not Tigress. It makes her a character that is difficult to trust for viewers and members of the team alike, causing an interesting conflict within the team and the character, herself.
She eventually develops feelings for Wally West and they seem to settle into the civilian life by season two. However, she becomes a critical element to the double cross being played by Nightwing and Aqualad to learn about the Light. Her role as Tigress, the double agent, is another great heroic arc for the character that adds an incredible amount of depth. It will be interesting to see where season three takes her without Wally.
8 A TIME JUMP THAT IS NOT TEMPORARY
There are many examples of stories in comics where we get a glimpse of the future, only to have it be irrelevant shortly thereafter. “The Future is Now” was a Teen Titans arc that would be a good example of this. The story had ramifications, but that is not the actual future anymore. The same could be said for New 52: Future’s End as well, which was a 52-week look at the future that has not had much effect on the stories that follow.
Young Justice season two jumped five years into the future and never looked back. Sure, there were bits and pieces that needed to be filled in, but this was the present of the show going forward, not a glimpse into a possible future. This allowed for intriguing new mysteries, character growth and new faces emerging without having to spend too much time explaining everything.
7 YOU WILL BELIEVE IN MAGIC
The use of magic in DC Comics is widespread and most often associated with the Justice League or JSA. Characters like Shazam, Dr. Fate and Zatanna are some of the major players in this arena. Young Justice uses all of these characters and more to make magic a key element of the show.
First and foremost, using the young Billy Batson among teen characters is simply genius. His juxtaposition of being a kid that can turn into a super powerful man is great for the show. Zatanna being a bit younger and having a romance with Dick Grayson while her dad Zatara works for the League is another great stroke. Throw in some excellent use of Dr. Fate and an evil Klarion and you get a ton of great magic characters interacting with the teen heroes in ways you’ve never seen before, and that don't just rely solely on Raven and Trigon.
6 BLACK MANTA AND SON
One of the founding members of the Young Justice team is Kaldur’ahm, also known as Aqualad. This was an interesting choice because the character was brand new but based on Jackson Hyde, a new creation of Geoff Johns that had not yet debuted in Brightest Day and didn’t even exist for long due to the New 52 relaunch.
However, the show picked up the ball and ran with it. Jackson Hyde and Kaldur’ahm share power sets and the fact that they are the son of Black Manta, the classic Aquaman foe. Beyond that, the character excels on the show as he is elected team leader. He is such a great leader that his path in season two as a double agent for his father just makes his character that much more intriguing. That is to say nothing of the awesome version of Black Manta we get on the show as well.
5 CONNER KENT LIVES ON
Maybe the greatest comic book contribution to the Young Justice series is the characterization of Superboy that comes straight from Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans run. He has the simple, but awesome t-shirt and jeans look and his backstory is set up right from the beginning as his rescue from Cadmus comes in the first few episodes. His time as a comic book Titan was cut short by his death in Infinite Crisis, but that is not the case here.
Conner goes on to be a central character on the show as he deals with Superman, from whom he was cloned, as well as his relationship with Miss Martian, and his huge dog, appropriately named Wolf, who serves a somewhat Krypto-like role for him on the show. In many ways it is another example of the show giving us what “could have been” had certain comic book editorial decisions not been made.
4 MISS MARTIAN
The greatest example of a character being taken from the pages of the comics and given a whole new level of characterization on Young Justice is Miss Martian. As a character that was introduced in the “One Year Later” era of Teen Titans, she never really got a chance to shine. Creative team and lineup shuffles got in the way, but they do not here.
M’gann is the heart and soul of the show due to her being there from the beginning and being one of the most powerful members of the team. Her backstory and its connection to her trademark “Hello, Megan” catchphrase makes perfect sense. Her romances with Superboy and Lagoon Boy, coupled with her misuse of power, drive many of the major arcs of the show. If somebody wanted to learn about this character, the show is light years beyond any of the comic book source material.
3 THE LIGHT
Throughout comic book history, villains have formed all kinds of teams. Most of these teams, like the Injustice Gang or the Secret Society, take on the Justice League, but there are exceptions like the Fearsome Five who face off against the Titans primarily. Young Justice took the threat to a whole new level with a group of villains known as “The Light.”
Their members and motivation are hallmarks of the exceptional storytelling of the show. Vandal Savage and Ra’s Al Ghul are among their members and see the Justice League as a hindrance to the evolution of humanity. This is not only in-character for these villains, but they are joined by Lex Luthor, Queen Bee, Klarion and The Brain to form a balanced group of adversaries with different strengths. Their menace is built up properly during both seasons and makes for a legitimate threat to the many heroes involved.
2 CLASSIC & ORIGINAL RELATIONSHIPS
Any team should have strong relationships that holds it together. Whether romantic or platonic or even familial, these relationships drives stories between conflicts with the latest supervillain. Young Justice gets this and gives viewers relationships that are well done and original. Miss Martian is at the center of much of this with her season-one relationship with Superboy followed by her relationship with Lagoon Boy in season two. The fallout and tension from these relationships makes for great stories within the stories.
For example, Artemis and Wally West give up the superhero game for a bit to pursue their relationship, and a tease of Dick and Zatanna is another one that is simply magic. Friendships shine here, particularly in seeing some of the female characters bond with each other over missions. The bond between generations of Flashes and Robins is also spectacular. You believe in the depths of these relationships, despite not seeing every moment, because the foundations are so well built.
1 JUSTICE LEAGUE AND YOUNG JUSTICE
This is the real difference between the Teen Titans comics and the show. The various incarnations of Teen Titans have almost always been about escaping the shadow of their mentors. On Young Justice, they are frustrated with their mentors, but actually wind up working as a covert operations team for them. The idea makes so much sense because the League is the public face, while the younger heroes learn behind the scenes.
League members also do certain jobs, such as Black Canary training the team to fight or mission planning by Batman. This allows for the team to break into squads based on their needs and varying abilities. The interaction gives the older heroes great moments on the series while still making the younger heroes the focus. The balance is struck so well, you feel like you are totally immersed in the entire DC Universe, not just one small area.
Do you agree? Did Young Justice do it better than the Teen Titans comics or are we WAY off-base? Let us know in the comments!