DC Animation Pits "Justice League" vs. "Young Justice," But It's All Love

WonderCon attendees were treated to a boisterous "Justice League vs. Young Justice" panel featuring "Young Justice" Executive Producers Brandon Vietti and Greg Weisman, actors Jason Spisak (Kid Flash), Khary Payton (Aqualad), Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman, "Justice League Unlimited") and Kevin Conroy (Batman), who stood on the table, sat in Payton's seat, and immediately cited the famous "I am vengeance, I am the night" line to roaring applause. Warner Archive Collection podcasters D.W. Ferranti and Matthew Patterson and moderator Gary Miereanu rounded out the panel.

Mierenu clarified that the panel was intended to be a celebration of two great shows, but "vs. is in the air!" That said, they decided to go with a friendly debate. "Please don't hit me, Batman," Payton joked. "And for goodness sake, please don't hit me, Wonder Woman."

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Throughout the presentation, chosen topics of discussion were accompanied by clips from each show, as selected by Ferranti and Patterson. The first topic was titled "Your Parents Are Only Looking Out For You," featuring a "Young Justice" clip of Superboy attempting to bond with Superman, and a clip of Old Bruce Wayne with Older Terry McGinnis. "I feel like this whole debate is rigged," quipped Payton.

Payton asked Weisman how much of the desire to explore family dynamics and the relationships in "YJ" came out of personal experiences. While that was the source for some of the series' plots, they also found inspiration in various comics, occasionally those he wasn't a fan of.

"What always used to bother me -- sometimes the Dick Grayson/Bruce Wayne relationship was adversarial," Weisman explained. He cited a Season One moment where Wonder Woman points out Batman let Robin become a crimefighter at nine years-old, and Batman says it was necessary for closure so he wouldn't turn out like him. "Batman doesn't want to create another him." This contrasted the initially chilly relationship between Superman and Superboy, where everyone kept telling him he was Superboy's father, which was weird. Superman tried to be a big brother because he was uncomfortable with being a forced father and needed time to process it.

Vietti added that "Justice League" was a kind of parent to "Young Justice" and remembers how intimidating it was to be its successor. "How do you follow [that]?" Vietti asked,

"You can't," Conroy deadpanned.

The next topic compared the big threats on each show with a series of clips from each including Karen Beecher looking up to see a second moon in "YJ" and the League fighting an invasion of mechanical space bugs. Both had their fair share of Big Bads but Payton noted the reverence to "JLU" was clear from the very first episode.

Moving to relationships, the video showed the many New Year's kisses on "YJ" juxtaposed with Wonder Woman and Batman discussing a potential relationship while on stakeout. Miereanu noted that any time you bring up any of her costars, Eisenberg discusses how lovely they are, and she followed suit as he rattled off a series of names. The final name was Carl Lumbly, the voice of Martian Manhunter, and Eisenberg confirmed,"There's no man lovelier than Carl on the planet. Or any other planet."

Payton said watching the clips made him realize how timeless "Justice League Unlimited" is despite how long ago the show was produced. "They're still riveting," he said.

While "JLU" stopped at flirting, there were inter-team relationships --and full on make-out sessions -- on "YJ." Spisak said he believes a big part of what made Kid Flash and Artemis' relationship so believable and so compelling was how much they initially couldn't stand each other. Opposites attract in real life and in fiction, which made their post-time jump growth so great.

Spisak and Payton then discussed how they had the actors kiss in a recording session for the sake of realism. According to Payton, Superboy actor Nolan North got extremely flustered having to kiss the then 8-month pregnant Danica McKeller, who voiced Miss Martian, and fled the room after.

Conroy made sure he praised the writers for giving the actors such great material to work with. Asked by Eisenberg if he wanted to say something about Batman's relationship with Wonder Woman, he replied, "Nothing I want to say on this microphone."

Next up was team bonding and fun, using a "Young Justice" clip showing their beach day from Season One and Batman singing "Am I Blue" from "JLU," which Conroy sang along to. When it ended, Payton encouraged him to sing more and he obliged, much to the crowd's delight.

Weisman said there were plans for a "Young Justice" musical episode before "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" aired "Mayhem of the Music Meister" and the producers felt they "couldn't touch it."

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While there's been plenty of talk about "Young Justice" potentially returning for a new season on Netflix, no one was willing to give a definitive answer. Payton said that the team was always about finding their own way so this situation is fitting. He added fans should keep binge watching to show how much interest still remains.

On the topic of teamwork, the next "Justice League Unlimited" clips included a character's return in the last arc of the series and the "Young Justice" scenes featured part of a climactic battle from Season Two. After seeing so many characters in action, the conversation turned to how the writers managed to carefully balance such large casts.

Conroy said the real challenge was keeping each character both unique and active. "And [Batman] is such a loner," he added, "usually he'd be acting alone and them come in [to the story]," wondering aloud how the writers were able to achieve that.

Weisman countered with how impressed he was with the choreography and storyboarding of the scenes. "It's easy for a writer to say 'and then they fight.': He then gave special recognition to "Young Justice" Editor Joe Reyes and Sound Editor Carlos Sanchez, explaining that so much of the pacing, and success, of the show comes from those elements.

The final scenes found Wonder Woman and Batman discussing what gift they got for Superman from "JLU" and the "YJ" League discussing membership (which Weisman mentioned previously) before switching to audience questions.

Asked if there's any question he wanted to answer but was never asked, Conroy thought for a moment and wondered why Batman has resonated for long. He then answered his own question with a story of a fan who thanked him for essentially being her babysitter growing up. By making sure she was home to watch the "Batman: The Animated Series," it kept her out of trouble and she received a scholarship to go to college. Conroy said she put herself on the road of success. But that's the power of animation, "to teach lessons and reach hearts and minds" and affect people positively. He also said the message Batman offers is you can succeed no matter what happens and "nothing can crush you."

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Eisenberg and Conroy were asked if there was a comic book storyline they'd like to see adapted for animation. Conroy said he's already had that opportunity, referencing the upcoming direct-to-video "Batman: The Killing Joke" animated movie. Eisenberg said she enjoys any opportunity to explore her relationships with Hippolyta and Themyscira and would like to do more of that if she's not with the League.

Speaking of relationships, a fan asked Eisenberg how she thinks Diana would introduce Bruce to Hippolyta. "The truth is, I don't see her bringing him home to Themyscira," she said. The actor said the flirtation between those characters was fun but no one wants to see them domesticated. Conroy added that Batman can't really have happiness or emotional resolution and continue crime-fighting. "We're never going to be Superman and Lois," said Eisenberg.

Asked about finding Wonder Woman's voice, Eisenberg credited Voice Director Andrea Romano. "You're being humble," countered Conroy. He said Eisenberg is the great things she brought to the character. Eisenberg recalled what Romano told her about Wonder Woman, that she's regal and powerful and "you can't lose either, ever." If there were moments where she wavered, Romano would help her recalibrate.

A fan asked which episode was the most fun for Conroy to play Batman. He enjoyed "Perchance to Dream" as he got to play Bruce Wayne, Batman, Young Bruce, Thomas Wayne and a drugged Batman -- five "believably distinct but related" voices. While recording he asked Romano if he could do a single take straight through, doing all of the voices at once, which was a fun challenge. Each character was also recorded separately, just in case.

Another fan asked if they were ever given dialogue they didn't think their characters would say. Conroy only remembered being asked about a line once but "when you work with Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, you don't change a comma."

"I'm really bad about not sticking to the script in a lot of my work," Payton admitted, "but not with 'Young Justice.' There may have been one line where I went to Greg before recording but the scripts are so thought out, the line you say in Episode 4 changes a line in Episode 17. It's like if you change a line, you're changing Greg's life." He later said he "freaked out" while reading an early Season Two script and threw it down, immediately texting Weisman. "All I got back was, 'Keep reading.'"

Eisenberg said the late Dwayne McDuffie wrote a some really "grueling" scripts, often with a lot of physicality in them. During recording sessions she would look at him as if to say, "Really?" and he would just smile and reassure her. Her only complaint was the lack of humor written for Wonder Woman. "Every once in a while I wanted a funny line."

A fan asked how the producers handled working with a large cast that was constantly expanding. Vietti said they had the whole DC Universe in which to play and wanted to start small and build from there. Weisman wrote the whole history of the "Young Justice" universe, including birth and death days, which was important since dates were so key in the series.

Payton revealed that there were times so many actors were in the booth that it was difficult to get near a mic, with Weisman adding that recording was done in shifts toward the end of the second season. Eisenberg said Timm has spoken before about really wanting to get more characters on "Justice League" and Conroy endorsed the decision as introducing new characters opens up the world to more stories.

Weisman never worried about running out of stories, noting the "Young Justice" comic told stories that didn't fit into the arcs. They wanted to show the team's growth but "we were pretty much telling stories in real time -- there's a limit to how much a character grows in six months. That's where the time jump helped."

One missed opportunity on the show was a plan to put two more characters in the bridal shower scene in Season Two's "Satisfaction." The original plan was to include Donna Troy and Mary Brumfeld (AKA Batson) but they didn't have time to design both their civilian and superhero identities (Troia and Sergent Marvel, respectively), which meant they weren't able to put Donna and Mary in the finale.

The final question asked at the panel was about how each show dealt with subsequent generations of heroes. Vietti said "Young Justice" Season Two touched on that while Season One was centered more on both the dynamic of parents and children and about coming into your own. The time jump meant Season One's freshmen became seniors dealing with a new incoming class. There are "so many great generations" in the DCU and they were able to explore it, Payton said, adding that the crux of the show was "kids don't stay young forever and you can either help or try to stop them. And one works and one doesn't."

Conroy pointed out "Batman Beyond" covered similar ground, with Batman passing on the mantle and the father/son relationship that evolved between Bruce Wayne and Terry McGinnis.

Spisak said one of his favorite "Young Justice" episodes was "Bloodlines," which featured multiple generations of Flashes. "It was such an enjoyable thing to read about how everybody has their perspective on what it's like to be a hero," he said. "And that perspective changes based on what your life is like at that time -- We're all a hero to someone at some point in our lives. I think that's a universal message. That it doesn't matter how old you are, you can still be a hero to someone."

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