The setting for the press event for the upcoming animated series “Young Justice” and “Green Lantern” was a bit more informal than other New York Comic Con gatherings. The producers of each show just went from table to table talking to various journalists. First up for Newsarama was Team Young Justice, producers Brandon Vietti and Greg Weisman.
Vietti described the show as their attempt to present “a realistic take on super heroes. We’re trying to tell the story of young super hero sidekicks as they come into their own. We’re going to tell coming-of-age stories,” he said.
Weisman, who last worked on the stellar and vastly underappreciated “Spectacular Spider-Man” animated series, said the idea for “Young Justice” came about like one of those old-school Bronze Age team-up books.
“Sam Register, our boss at Warner Animation, teamed us up,” Weisman said.
“We wanted to do a team show,” added Vietti, “but ‘Teen Titans’ was so recent. So this was the idea we came up with to work on.”
Vietti said they wanted to take a team show in a different direction than DC’s other adaptations. “We didn’t really want to tread into Teen Titans territory or go near where Bruce [Timm] went with the “Justice League” series.”
“The more we worked on it, the more we found a different direction to take the show in,” said Weisman.
“It’s supposed to be a show about teenagers who happen to be superheroes,” said Vietti.
Weisman discussed how the show is going to focus on realism.
The first rule I had was that I didn’t want the superheroes to appear as if they shopped at the same store,” said Weisman. “For instance, Aquaman and Aqualad would have very sleek uniforms, with no seams or shoes.”
The six heroes who make up Young Justice are: Aqualad, Kid Flash, Artemis, Superboy, Mrs. Martian and Robin. The Boy Wonder, in case you’re wondering, will be Dick Grayson. Why Grayson?
“Because they are the first, we had to do Dick Grayson as Robin,” said Weisman. “[Dick] was the original comic book sidekick, and it just felt wrong to have Tim Drake be Robin instead of Dick.”
Weisman also said that, sticking to the realism they’re aiming for, that the relationship between Batman and his underage sidekick will come into question.
“There is an episode early on in the show, where Batman is asked to justify letting a 13-year-old boy put his life on the line to fight crime. And he answers the question,” he said.
Raising such questions isn’t typical for superhero cartoons, which is exactly the point, according to Weisman.
“We’re trying to produce the show in such a way that it works on multiple levels. If you’re a kid, you’ll like it when stuff blows up. We have to hit, commercially, boys 6-11. But I’m not satisfied with that. I want girls [to watch the show] too,” he said.
“There are different things in the show that appeal to different folks, but there is something in it for everyone,” Vietti said.
Weisman also said he hopes fans of the “Young Justice” comic book sample the show.
As for what other DCU characters will appear in the series, the producers said the sky’s the limit.
“We’re really adapting the entire DC Universe, but we’re focusing on these 6 characters,” said Vietti.
“Brandon and I went through most of the DC Character library to find the group that we felt would work best,” said Weisman, adding that 99% of the characters that will appear on “Young Justice” are existing DCU characters.
Batman, Red Tornado and Black Canary will be the prominent Justice Leaguers on the show, acting as mentors to the sidekicks. Other JLA members will appear, such as Hawkman and both Green Lanterns, Hal Jordan and John Stewart, but the producers emphasized that the focus will remain on the young heroes.
“There’s a very careful mix of how these characters will show up. We didn’t want the JLA to eclipse Young Justice,” Vietti said.
Artemis is the last member to join the team, as Green Arrow’s new sidekick, around episode 6. The character’s identity will remain secret for the time being, according to the creative team.
The producers did reveal a few of the villains who will show up. So if you’re a Black Manta fan, be excited. He’ll be one of many familiar bad guys who pop up during the 26-episode first season.
The debut season will have a number of story arcs, but Weisman promises that fans can watch each episode – aside from the two-part premiere on Nov. 26 -- on its own and still understand what’s going on.
And unlike say, the “Teen Titans,” the Young Justice heroes won’t always hang out together or remain in costume.
“This is the first group of sidekicks, and we’re watching them grow up, “ said Vietti. “We’ve both been in animation for a long time, we know which teen stories we’ve done before, so we won’t be repeating ourselves.
Weisman credited his work on the most recent Spider-Man cartoon with preparing him for “Young Justice.”
“On “Spectacular Spider-Man,” I really learned about adaptation. With “Young Justice,” we want to tell a cohesive story that is iconic, but we want to make it fresh.”With that, it was time for them to move on. We were joined by the “Green Lantern” creative unit, Bruce Timm, Giancarlo Volpe and Jim Krieg. Timm took point for most of the discussion. He was honest from the get-go that because the show is so early in its development stage, there wasn’t much he could actually say about the show.
“I’d prefer to not reveal anything and just have everyone watch the show when it airs, but I understand that we have to talk about stuff. But it’s very early [for our show],” Timm said.
He did describe the show as a “kick-ass adventure show,” and said without the Ryan Reynolds live-action movie due out in Summer 2011, the animated series likely wouldn’t exist.
Krieg and Timm described Hal Jordan and Kilowog (who will have a prominent role) as the Riggs and Murtaugh of the show, cosmic cops who have their own way of doing things. As for the storylines, Timm said don’t expect blow-by-blow adaptations of familiar comic stories.
“There are some stories that are really close, to the Geoff Johns GL stories,” Timm said. “Others are close in spirit to Johns’ universe, but I think people would be bored if we were just rehashing what you’ve already read.”
“ There won’t be as much of Hal Jordan in civilian clothes. Probably 98% of the show takes place in space.”
Timm also mentioned that there wouldn’t be an origin episode. “We’ve done the Hal origin in “New Frontier, in the animated film [“Green Lantern: First Flight”] …they’re doing it in the live-action movie. We hit the ground running here.”
There will be crossover appearances with other DC heroes, but not Batman and Superman.
It’s so early in the creative process, Timm said theme music hasn’t even been discussed. “We haven’t even started thinking about the theme music, who will write it. It’s too early. We’re still building up our assets. “
Timm hinted that voices have already been cast, but said he can’t talk about it yet.
The producer expects “Green Lantern” to debut as a one-hour special in Fall 2011, with the series launching in 2012. “If the world hasn’t been destroyed,” joked Timm.
Volpe said Hal Jordan is a bit of a wise ass in the show, as opposed to the more buttoned-down GL Corps.
Because the show will focus on inter-galactic spectacle, Timm says the full spectrum of the ring’s powers will be on display, sometimes in fun ways. Which means don’t be shocked to see Hal use a giant green boxing glove to take down a baddie.
Also, there will be new Green Lanterns making their debut in the cartoon. Something else you’ll see: male and female Guardians.
“We had a long discussion about changing the gender of some of the Guardians, and decided to have the Guardians be men and women. It will allow us to tell different types of stories,” he said.
The fact that “Green Lantern” will have computer-generated animation has led to much more work than any of the producers anticipated.
“We had to do so many turnarounds on these characters…it’s just learning how to…maximize your manpower and man hours you have, to create as good a show as possible,” said Timm.
Volpe added “there’s a tendency with a show like “Green Lantern” to load it up with as many Lanterns as possible, but with CG it’s more challenging.”
“ The visual aesthetic for the show is not photo-realistic at all,” Timm said. “We weren’t trying to make it look real. Our goal has been to … embrace something that doesn’t look quite as real. And it’s really helping us reach our goal of creating the look of the show.”
Because he’s the main villain in the movie, the show is staying away from Sinestro…for at least the first 26 episodes.
“We may allude to him, we have to find out if we can and how much we can, but he won’t be showing up as a villain,” Timm said.
The Manhunters will be addressed in the show, somehow.
The producers have written the first 9 episodes, and plotted out the first 13 episodes.
There you have it. Give credit to Timm, Krieg and Volpe for being forthright about what they could actually discuss. It can’t be easy to try and promote a show that is literally in its initial stages.
Which show are you more excited for, “Young Justice” or “Green Lantern”? Join the discussion and let us know!
(Michael Avila is a writer based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter for more Pop Culture ramblings)