Fans of the animated Young Justice series were in for a treat this past weekend thanks to Comic Con International, as a stream of new details flowed out of San Diego regarding the upcoming third season of the show, Young Justice: Outsiders. The new season sees the original team of Aqualad, Nightwing, Artemis and Superboy having graduated into fully-fledged heroes in their own right, while their successors are joined by a number of new heroes to take the fight to the Light.
One of the best things about Young Justice has always been its commitment to diversity; more than most superhero shows on television, it committed to having a roster of teenage superheroes that accurately reflected the real world -- but there’s always room for improvement. If the show wants to better reflect its audience and tell new kinds of stories with its roster of heroes, it should take the opportunity with its third season to finally introduce some LGBTQ+ heroes to the Young Justice roster.
It’s something that has come up before, particularly during the long-stretch between Seasons 2 and 3, and mostly on Twitter. In response to some pre-emptive backlash towards the very idea of LGBTQ+ inclusion in the third season of Young Justice, creator Greg Weisman has confirmed “There are already LGBT characters in #YoungJustice.” Further questions about exactly who he was referring to led to him citing “#NoSpoilers,” so it does seem as if it’s something that is not only prevalent on the minds of the Young Justice creative team, but will be explored openly when the show returns.
The most obvious and easiest decision would be to explore more of Aqualad’s personal life and finally confirm his sexuality on screen. The current comics incarnation of Kaldur'ahm is an out gay teenage boy with a boyfriend and a disapproving mother. The Rebirth version of the character has recently joined the newest roster of the Teen Titans, but his backstory hasn’t been explored much, yet. So far, most references to Aqualad’s sexuality have been pretty ham-fisted and outdated; his mother referring to him as “not natural” because he likes boys was especially tired and painful. However, with Aqualad, DC Entertainment has a rare opportunity for synergy across its line and to establish a new iconic queer character for teens to look up to.
It has been hinted at in the past that Aqualad was always intended to be gay, but the stories didn’t get around to confirming it on-screen. In 2013, Weisman responded to a a series of tweets about Aqualad’s cameo in The Flashpoint Paradox animated film, specifically one that referred to Kaldur'ahm as straight. His response was a simple “You sure?” which could mean a lot of things, especially in 2013 when it seemed we were never getting anymore Young Justice. But now the show is well on its way to coming back, Weisman and company have an opportunity to explore Aqualad in the way they apparently have always intended.
A lot of the conversation around Young Justice: Outsiders has centered around the mystery character of Thirteen, and who she is, with many outlets referring to her a new character for the series. However, CBR got the show's creators to confirm on the record that she’s Traci 13, daughter of professional skeptic Doctor Terrance Thirteen AKA The Ghost-Breaker. She’ll fill a role much needed on the team since Zatanna left to join the Justice League, and potentially set the stage for a good old-fashioned love triangle.
A lot of fans will know of Traci from her time as a supporting character in Jon Rogers and Rafael Albuquerque’s Blue Beetle, where she was Jaime Reyes’ long-distance girlfriend and occasional crime-fighting partner. Traci 13 recently reappeared during DC Rebirth as the girlfriend of Natasha Irons, niece of John Henry Irons AKA Steel. If the character currently known as Thirteen takes cues from her current Rebirth counterpart, it’ll give the show a great way to introduce another awesome teen hero from DC’s roster while providing much needed bisexual representation in media aimed towards younger viewers.
It doesn’t even need to be a whole big deal. Although coming out stories will always remain important, they don’t always represent every queer person’s journey. Young Justice: Outsiders doesn’t need to spend a whole episode on Aqualad’s tortured decision to reveal who he is; he can just show up with a boyfriend, and everyone’s cool. That’s the great thing about Young Justice and its time-skips between seasons -- the creators can just get to the cool stuff without the exposition, and trust the audience to catch up.
Aside from those two characters, the DC Universe has so many awesome queer characters it could call upon for Young Justice cameos. Imagine an episode that reflects the current Detective Comics run, with Batwoman taking Robin and Spoiler out on a patrol of Gotham City, or the inclusion of characters such as The Ray, Thunder or Obsidian as new team-members later in the season. Heck, bring in Midnighter and Apollo for an episode to really shake things up; they’d fit right in with Young Justice’s tone, and it would be awesome to see finally animated versions of them.
At Comic-Con International, a question was asked regarding the importance of diversity to the Young Justice team. Weisman responded, “That’s been a priority of mine since I did Gargoyles back in the ‘90s. That’s always going to be an ongoing thing for us.” Hopefully, he and his team commit to inclusivity by introducing a number of awesome LGBTQ+ characters in Young Justice: Outsiders and hopefully DC lets them do it; the fans are crying out for it and it would break down barriers that currently remain up in children’s TV when shows such as Adventure Time and Steven Universe still have to dance around their queer themes. Seeing as Young Justice: Outsiders is debuting on DC’s own streaming service, there’s no one to answer to but themselves when it comes to these decisions. Here's hoping they make the right choice by continuing the great strides the show made in its first two seasons.
Planned as a 26-episode season, Young Justice: Outsiders will premiere sometime next year on Warner Bros.’ new DC Comics-branded streaming platform.