Young Justice is an American animated television series created by Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti for Cartoon Network. Despite its title, it is not an adaptation of Todd Dezago and Todd Nauck's Young Justice series of comics, but rather, an adaptation of the entire DC Universe with a focus on young superheroes. The series follows the lives of teenaged heroes (some of them sidekicks) who are members of a fictional covert operation team - called Young Justice - of its celebrity-level famous adult counterpart, the Justice League. The main setting is the fictional universe of Earth-16, during a time period in which superheroes are a relatively recent phenomenon. The series debuted on January 7, 2011 with a two week reairing of the first two episodes, which originally aired as an hour long special on November 26, 2010.
The pilot movie, aired as a special prior to the debut of the series, introduced four teenaged superheroes: Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Speedy. It established their desire for greater recognition and respect, namely, a promotion in their positions from sidekicks to full-fleged superheroes. Met with opposition from their mentors, who are also members of the Justice League, the protégés react in different ways. Speedy resigns from being Green Arrow's partner, whereas the majority seek to persuade their mentors of their worth by secretly taking on a Justice League mission, during which the series focuses on Superboy and his origins. In the end, Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Superboy negotiate with Batman, who organizes a covert operations team - as a practical contrast to the Justice League, whose celebrity status makes it difficult to maintain secrecy over its efforts - ultimately under the authority of the Justice League. Miss Martian makes an appearance at the end as the fifth member of the covert operations team.
There are crucial differences in the line-up of teenaged superhero sidekicks from those of Teen Titans or Young Justice series of comics. Dick Grayson and Wally West were chosen over Tim Drake and Bart Allen/Impulse because the former characters were the first incarnations of their respective superhero identities. Miss Martian, who was originally a White Martian in the comics, was added because the date of her arrival to Earth could still fit in the early DC Universe concept. Aqualad, as opposed to Robin, is established in the beginning as the leader of the team. Furthermore, the Aqualad presented in the show is an entirely new character created by Weisman and Vietti, with Bourassa responsible for the original character design. Arrowette was replaced by Artemis in the producers' desire to focus on the latter's storylines. Some of the Young Justice characters' ages are tweaked from those of their original counterparts. However, the spirit and the intent of the characters are said to be kept.
Characters who are a part of the line-up in comics will make an appearance in the show. This includes Garth, the first incarnation of Aqualad who later becomes Tempest in DC Comics; Arrowette, the archer of the team in the Young Justice comic book series; and Wonder Girl, whose legal issues originally prohibited the producers from using the character but later allowed her to be included. In the show, Garth features as the best friend of Aqualad/Kaldur'ahm.
The series began development in March 2009, when Sam Register, Executive Vice President of Creative Affairs of Warner Bros. Animation (also attached to executive produce), wanted a show based on the concept of a cross between Teen Titans and Young Justice series of comics, but was not solely an adaptation of one or the other. The title chosen for the show by Register was Young Justice, as it was appropriately meaningful to the concept the creative team was looking for. Greg Weisman, whom Register sought immediately after the cancellation of The Spectacular Spider-Man animated television series, and Brandon Vietti, whose work in directing a DC Universe Animated original movie Batman: Under the Red Hood Register particularly noted, were hired to produce. Register jokingly described the two as being similar in appearance, in addition to being similar in thought. Peter David, who penned a majority of the comic book issues of Young Justice, was approached to write several episodes.nAlso attached to write are Greg Weisman, Kevin Hopps, Andrew Robinson, Nicole Dubuc, Jon Weisman, and Tom Pugsley - with Vietti heavily involved in the scriptwriting process.
The result of the collaboration of Weisman and Vietti was a show about young heroes based on a combination of the 1960s Teen Titans run and the 1990s Young Justice run, in addition to the recent Teen Titans and Young Justice comics, and revolved around the theme of secrets and lies. In drawing material from a variety of comic book sources, the creative team sought to differentiate the tone of the show from that of the Teen Titans animated television series, which the team believed resembled the tone of the Young Justice series of comics rather than that of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez's New Teen Titans series it was based on. The concept of a covert operations team has been compared to Impossible Missions Force, a fictional independent espionage agency in the Mission: Impossible series. Together, Weisman and Vietti came up with ideas, characters, and plot points for at least two seasons, although it is unknown as to how many season runs DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation are looking for the series. Although there were several characters the producers were not allowed to use in the first season (a list that has become shorter along the course of the development), they were usually in charge of the decisions determining which DC Universe character would or would not be used. Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment, and Phil Bourassa, lead character designer for the show, also played a role in the conception and development process.
The producers intended to create costumes based in reality to match the tone of the series while keeping consistent with traditional DC Universe continuity. A majority of the art direction was led by Vietti, who established that the costume designs should not only reflect the physical needs of the wearer, but also his or her personality, with Bourassa incorporating these ideas into his designs. In the case of Kid Flash's suit, for instance, the padding serves to reduce the force of impact experienced during skids and collisions, and the leathery texture stabilizes his "human cannonball" momentum.
Vietti cites the stark differences between the respective costumes of Aqualad and Robin to best illustrate what he calls "unique tailoring." Aqualad's costume is designed for the purposes of quick movement in water; Robin's costume provides bodily protection (even against bullets) in the streets of Gotham City. Aqualad's costume is composed of a "slick and textureless material," giving the costume its "nearly seamless and shiny" appearance. Robin's costume, on the other hand, is padded and stitched with seams and sewn-in materials. Batman's batsuit matches the extra stitching lines of Robin's outfit for similar functions, except that the batsuit is more military in style whereas Robin's costume is additionally influenced by athletic outfits to match his youthful energy.
Young Justice has six main cast members, almost all of whom regularly voice one character each. Jesse McCartney performs Dick Grayson as Robin, and Jason Spisak performs Wally West as Kid Flash. Khary Payton, who had previously performed the voice of Cyborg in the Teen Titans animated television series, performs Aqualad. Danica McKellar performs Miss Martian, and Stephanie Lemelin performs Artemis. Nolan North is the only one among the main cast to perform more than one role in addition to Zatara, Superboy and Superman, as one voice actor was sought to portray the two genetically identical characters of different ages as distinct individuals.
In addition to the main cast, voice actors to perform roles of Justice League members, villains, and other characters were cast. Bruce Greenwood will reprise his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman, having previously performed the character in the animated film Batman: Under the Red Hood. Phil LaMarr and Alan Tudyk, who both have worked with DC Comics-based Warner Bros. Animation as Green Lantern in Justice League and Barry Allen in Batman: The Brave and the Bold respectively, perform Aquaman and Green Arrow. Rob Lowe performs Captain Marvel. Marina Sirtis performs Queen Bee. Kelly Hu, who performed Black Mask's assistant Ms. Li in Batman: Under the Red Hood, has also been cast. Greg Weisman is said to perform a small voice role in the series. Other cast members include George Eads as Flash, Keith Szarabajka as Mr. Freeze, Yuri Lowenthal as Icicle, René Auberjonois as Blockbuster, Phil LaMarr as Dubbilex, Kevin Michael Richardson as Martian Manhunter, and Crispin Freeman as Speedy and Guardian.
Changes in the cast are to be expected due to character deaths, including those of major characters.
MOI Animation, Inc. animates Young Justice. Warner Bros. subcontracted production to the international studio located in Seoul, South Korea. Artists at the U.S. animation studio in Los Angeles, Warner Bros. Animation, draw storyboards; design new characters, backgrounds, and props; draw character and background layouts; and make animatics. The overseas studio, MOI Animation, Inc., draws the key animation and inbetweens. However, Greg Weisman notes that some storyboards are done in Seoul. In the final stages, ink and paint and editing are done by Warner Bros. Animation.
The main characters are all members of Young Justice, totaling six. They were chosen by the producers from their list of fifty to sixty DC Comics teenaged superheroes based on numerous qualities as potential candidates for a diverse group that would fit in with the show's tone and themes. The criteria for the main characters consisted of chronology, power mix, personality, cultural icon status, and dynamics. The leader of the team is Kaldur'ahm (or "Kaldur" for short), more commonly referred to as Aqualad. His powers, channeled through the tattoos on his arms, are a mixture of Atlantean sorcery and science. The youngest member (at thirteen) as well as the most experienced superhero on the team is Robin, whose real name is Dick Grayson. Unlike the other Young Justice members, he does not possess any superpowers. However, he is well-rounded in his abilities (physically and intellectually), making characteristic use of his strategic intellect and technology expertise. Wally West is Kid Flash, the team's fifteen-year-old speedster. Fifteen-year-old Artemis is the team's archer; she is said to be an obscure existing character in DC Comics. Superboy will depart from his normal comic book origins and have a new take in the show, created by the producers, as a sixteen-week-old clone of Superman who will eventually assume the alias of Conner Kent. Miss Martian is Martian Manhunter's sixteen-Martian year-old niece, a recent arrival to Earth as well as being an inexperienced superhero. An additional regular will be added halfway through the first season and another at the end of the season.
Young Justice includes an array of characters from DC Comics as the supporting cast, which will continue to expand throughout each season in the context of the main characters' lives. As of episode 16 of season 1, there are 135 characters from DC Universe in the show.
The Justice League play a major role in the series, primarily as mentors to Young Justice. There are sixteen members in total, though members that do not have an immediate connection with the main characters will generally more or less serve as background characters. Direct mentors - Batman, Superman, Aquaman, Flash, Martian Manhunter, and Green Arrow - will feature prominently. Batman, Red Tornado, and Black Canary are the most frequent recurring characters. In addition to leading the Justice League, Batman acts as Young Justice's "general," a role compared to Director of Impossible Missions Force Jim Phelps, choosing the team and assigning missions. Red Tornado and Black Canary respectively function as their supervisor and combat trainer.
DC Universe characters who are neither affiliated with Justice League nor Young Justice, usually other superheroes or villains, will also be in the show as supporting characters. This includes frequent recurring character Roy Harper, who starts out as Speedy and later assumes Red Arrow as his superhero identity.