Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Young Justice: "Let it go."

Young Justice is over with, and I know a lot of you are upset about it, and for many good reasons. Least of which, it was the last version of a DC Universe a lot of us were even familiar with. It's where Tim Drake was still a Robin, where we had Apache Chief, Samurai and El Dorado (and they were cool), where everyone didn't wear high collars and seams on their costumes and where Stephanie Brown even existed. It was a fun DC show. But was it the greatest DC show that ever existed?


Sorry to say it, but no. It wasn't. The first season built up this really interesting version of the mythos, where we got to know and like these several characters, all with exception of Robin Kid Flash, we never had any real formal previous introduction to in other shows. This was the first animated version of Conner and Miss Martian, not to mention before this show, barely anyone even heard of Artemis, and last but not least, the show pretty much created Aqualad as the son of Black Manta. We got to know these characters and love these characters. And in time, we got introduced to a variety of other members. They brought in a teenaged Zatanna, with an interesting history with her father and Doctor Fate, they made Red Tornado pretty awesome, and we all loved the interesting mixture of Captain Marvel and Billy Batson, and his little secret he kept from the League as well as the team. (Who didn't love that scene where Wonder Woman called him out, saying that he kept it from the team, and Batman chimes in “I knew.” And Wonder Woman's looks at him like “Oh, of course you did.”) And it also fit into a majority of those DC Direct to Video movies too. I mean, this could easily have been in the same universe as most of them. (They used many of the same character models.) Even Captain Atom, a favorite character of mine played a small but important part too. At the end of the first season, I would have placed this up there with the Justice League show.

Then Invasion happened. And it dropped. It was good but it wasn't great. But if you had asked me before Season Two began, before Invasion, I would have said it was. I hate to admit this, but the second season just wasn't that good. Those six or seven characters we got to intimately know and love, were scattered... And worse yet, scattered off camera by events we didn't even get to see. Robin was now Nightwing and we had not just a new Robin, but there was a Robin in between... But we didn't get to see this. Aqualad had turned traitor and joined his father Black Manta, over the death of Tula... That we never got to see. (Turns out he wasn't really a traitor, but was working for Nightwing.) Conner and Megan broke up, and now she was dating Lagoon Boy... And we didn't get to see it. Kid Flash retired for reasons of insecurity or something, and Artemis and him became serious and were living together... And guess what? Oh, and I sure hope you weren't fond of Rocket. She gets shuffled off to obscurity.

All these guys? We liked them. Bumblebee and
Lagoon Boy? Not so much.
Yeah, yeah. I know what many of you are saying. “But it's the mystery that made it interesting!” No. It wasn't. A mystery is something unknown that we have to figure out. Other than Aqualad not being a traitor, none of those things were mysteries. They just couldn't be bothered to tell us. And instead, we got a bunch of new characters shoved at us, and other than Impulse, Blue Beetle, the the Superfriends Stand-ins, none of them even got enough screen time to really give too much of a crap about. Imagine if you're a kid, and you like Artemis and Kid Flash. Well too bad, kid. Artemis is missing for half the season and then pretends to be a bad guy, and we get an annoying new speedster who says witty catchphrases like “crash the mode!” You'll like that, right kids? Heck, Batgirl got more screentime and character development in the Super Best Friends Forever shorts than she did here. I was supposed to be concerned over the relationship with Guardian (or Herald for people like me) and Bumblebee, but we weren't given enough screentime with them to care that much about their relationship drama. I was supposed to feel some concern over the love triangle between Conner, Megan and Lagoon Boy, but the five year jump, and unseen character development just turned Megan into an insensitive bitch, and Lagoon Boy into a douchebag. I was actually annoyed at the end, when it looked like Conner and Megan might get back together. He deserved better.

The story arc with the Reach invading Earth just wasn't that interesting to me. (I saw it done before, in a single fun Brave and the Bold episode that wasn't drawn out.) The machinations of the Light were convoluted and didn't make a lot of sense. (Even for Lex Luthor's plans!) The Reach Soda, the whole War World incident (which was more impressive than the final episode), and even the various colored Beetles just seemed like they wanted to do a take on the multiple colored versions of the Lantern Power Rings, but with the Beetle Scarabs. Honestly, the show tried to be too much, too quickly. If it had taken it's time and built up to it over a couple of seasons, then we might have had something there. But they didn't. They did the time jump ahead a few years... And I'm telling you right now, that never works in the long run. I think the only exception to it might have been Ben 10, but I don't watch it, so I can't tell you. (I did like Generator Rex though.)

So, why was I supposed to
like this asshole?
One of the reasons we have a set cast is because these are the people we're supposed to care about. You don't make a production where you spend all this time building up characters so we can spend time with them, just to take them away and tell us that these new guys are now who you're supposed to pay attention to. That has NEVER WORKED. (Any Transformers fan that remembers 1986 can tell you that!) To use Star Trek as a reference, you can add in a new member here or there, like an Ensign Ro Laren, and you can start focusing on characters that's been there all along but never in the limelight like Chief Miles O'Brien... but you still tell the majority of stories with Data, Worf and Picard. If you're going to start focusing on a new cast entirely, then you make it a new show: You make a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And before anyone says that Young Justice was a new show... A new show means a brand new production. This was a second season with a new title. You watch the first one and it goes right into the second one. That's the same show. You have to keep the focus on your main characters or you're just going to have people lose interest. (I've learned this the hard way.)

Which leads me to the second issue. There was no clear jump on point. Not everyone is a hardcore nerd who has to see everything. Sometimes they just want to watch some episodes and see if it's something they like. (This happened with me with Adventure Time, but more on that in a second.) Way too often with the show, I had friends ask me where was a good episode to watch, and I had to tell them “Anything in Season One. Season Two is one entire storyline.” And seriously, that is the problem. I know we've all grown up hating the dreaded “filler episodes” but you know what? Those filler episodes are some of the most important episodes of any show. They tell a quick adventure, they can run the range of being fun or serious, they can focus on characterization, and in small ways help build up to the larger overall story arc. Teen Titans did this perfectly for four seasons. Brave and the Bold did it too. They understood that a series does not have to be this super long epic narrative. It doesn't need to be Lord of the Rings or Shogun. It just has to tell it's story and have a good time. Adventure Time is a show where the average episode is 11 minutes long. 22 minutes if it's a big story. That's perfect. You know why?

We have more interesting fanart.
Kids don't have the attention span for something too long. Oh sure, we adults do, but these shows were marketed toward kids. And outside of a few here or there (usually the children of comic book fans themselves) that were brought to the attention of various comic websites, they may have liked the show, but I can probably guarantee you that they were more interested in Princess Bubblegum. And I can prove this, because the show got canceled.

I know we all want to believe it was due to a grand conspiracy, headed by Dan Didio in his hatred for Stephanie Brown and her one episode appearance on the show. Or perhaps it was due to ignorant executives who hates all quality and didn't like the show due to a lack of fart jokes. Or even an evil vendetta against shows produced by Greg Weisman. But this is television. It's crazy, but there's a logic to it all. This isn't like the cancellation of Spectacular Spider-Man, Clone Wars or Wolverine and the X-Men, where they got canceled due to a company buyout, and a re-shifting of focus. The answer is obvious: It was canceled because the advertisement dollars did not justify production costs. It's like why the Scott Pilgrim movie bombed: It was a good movie, but not enough people watched it. They got more ad revenue from reruns of Regular Show and How to Train your Dragon. Kids weren't watching the show. It's as tragically simple as that. It's not a conspiracy or that they're stupid... It just didn't interest them.

There's talks of attempting a Kickstarter type of thing, like with what happened with Veronica Mars, but that show was a Mystery-Drama show. It's not going to have expensive production costs. Animation is expensive. VERY expensive. 150-600K per episode, with some of the higher profile shows being a million each. Even with a truncated season, with a slashed budget, you know how much money it would need to raise to get it made? And it's not like the DVDs were flying off the shelves to convince them otherwise, like with what happened with Family Guy and Futurama, so it's not like it's looking very promising. This isn't the first show that was canceled prematurely, and it won't be the last. (I still want to see a conclusion of the Pirates of Dark Water.) By all means, make a stink and let them know you liked the show... But don't set yourself up for a disappointment. But there's always hope. Superman: TAS ended on a pretty dark note, with Superman having to rebuild the world's trust, after possession by Darkseid. We never got a conclusion to it, until years later with Justice League, and that wasn't planned until AFTER they moved from Kids WB to CN, which was after Batman Beyond ended.

Young Justice was a good show. Even as flawed as the second season had been, it was still really cool to watch. And who knows what the future will bring. But for now, in the wise words of Doctor Henry Jones Sr...

"Let it go."


James W. Suhr said...

Is this the part where I'm supposed to be all duchebaggy and scream you're wrong at the top of my lungs? Well it's not going to happen. That was a good post.

Anonymous said...

Hey, you person, are wrong! First of all, Young Justice Invasion was great. In fact, IT WAS AWESOME. News Flash: Mystery does make everything interesting! We got Impulse's reason to come to the past, Blue Beetle scarab's origin, and other awesome mysteries. Get with the program! FYI: Impulse's catchphrases added on to the mystery. Also, it was interesting to meet new characters in Invasion, thank you very much. And about the "unseen" character development, THERE ARE COMIC BOOKS THAT EXPLAIN EVERYTHING. And maybe the Reach draw-out was not interesting to you, BUT IT WAS INTERESTING TO ALL OF US BECAUSE WE DID NOT SEE BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. Also, a lot of people like the love triangle drama here, and the small screen time of Guardian and Bumblebee. Ever heard of Flinx? And what do the Guardians of the Universe have to do with this? So what the Beetles have color, but it is the planet that counts. And nobody really cares about YOUR opinions. You do not have to care about everybody in the series. And, about your ending... What the heck does Adventure Time have to do with this? I thought we were talking about YOUNG JUSTICE. I mean, do not get me wrong, I love Adventure Time, but STAY ON TOPIC.


Dave Reynolds said...

This is a topic that was written over a year ago. I've never cared if people agree with me or not, only if they were entertained reading it. And that's cool if you like it... But I still disagree with you.

slayme said...

Seems like YOU were the only one letting it go! It's back for Season 3! In production now! Cause fans like me - not like you - never gave up. I do agree about your top 10 The Batman eps though. Now go rewatch YJ - it's crash yo!