It has been nearly 8 years since the DC television series Young Justice has taken DC Comics fans by storm on Cartoon Network. In those past 8 years we have seen the series become develop a cult following since its cancellation in early 2013. Not since the original Teen Titans had there been such a strong and vocal fanbase surrounding a younger generation of DC heroes. In the time since its cancellation, Young Justice has developed one of the most vocal, passionate, and strongest fanbases of the last decade. They were vocal enough to bring the show back for a third season on DC’s new streaming service, DC Universe. So what exactly was it that made the show so impactful to so many people?
When it premiered, this series had a lot to live up to following DC animated series like Justice League, Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, the aforementioned Teen Titans, among numerous other successful animated series. One advantage that the series had was establishing itself on its own Earth in the DC Multiverse, giving the creators the freedom to take these stories anywhere they wanted to but still having access to the stories and characters that the series was named for. With an infinite amount of places to take these now iconic characters, Young Justice gave the audience a look into the DC universe but from a new and fresh perspective.
The characters that made up The Team, as they were referred to on the show, were what made the series so relatable. While we have seen a series focused on teen heroes before, Young Justice gave us a look into the relationships that made these characters who they are. One of the immediate draws of the series was the fact that our main group of heroes did have a direct relationship with their mentors as well as the whole of the Justice League. To have a series, unlike Teen Titans, where we have our heroes trying to grow out of the shadow of their mentors or family legacy but also having them play an important role in their lives was a big draw to audiences.
Introducing characters both old and new to audiences gave the show the opportunity to have the audience get to know and grow with these characters as they go through their struggles. One of the biggest story points of the first season involved the characters of Superboy, Miss Martian, and Artemis being manipulated by members of The Light to tear the team apart. The majority of the season is built around the mystery of who is the mole on the team. Since those three characters have the biggest secrets to keep it’s easy to think any one of them could have been the mole. But when we really get to understand who Superboy, Miss Martian, and Artemis really are, we come to find out that they’re just as flawed as any of us but still never compromise in the face of their struggle.
Superboy especially was a character that I was really looking forward to seeing, as a huge Superman fan myself. To see Conner Kent finally finally appear in a medium outside of the comics was a real exciting prospect and the series did not disappoint. Throughout the series we see some really great development with his character, not only in himself but in his relationships with Miss Martian and Superman. Conner started out as the silent bad boy with anger issues but really had a lot of his own issues. Because he was a clone of Superman created by a villainous organization, Superman had a difficult time acknowledging Superboy as anything more than a weapon to be used against him. But as the series progressed we saw the relationship develop from a distant father/son relationship to a bond between the two. Even going so far as to acknowledging him as a little brother and Conner going on to having a relationship with the Kents. By the series initial end we see Conner really coming into his own as a hero and member of the team.
Another great character in the series is Artemis, the second sidekick/protegé of Green Arrow following Speedy’s departure from the sidekick game. Initially stated to be the “niece” of Green Arrow, we’re introduced to her as a character to upset the balance of the Team. As we come to find out, she is in fact not related to Green Arrow but actually the daughter of reformed villain the Huntress and reoccurring villain Sportsmaster. Artemis Crock really becomes one of the most relatable characters of the series. She’s not what you would normally expect from a typical superhero. It’s her drive to get out of he shadow of her villainous father and sister, Jade, that make’s her a little apprehensive and closed off to the team at first. But after the mission where the Team all lose their memories and have to come together as a team and as friends. For these reasons, Artemis became one of the strongest and most relatable characters in the entire series.
Family is a key story point throughout the series. As we see the family dynamics of these characters, we see a side of them that we haven’t seen outside of the comics. The idea of having a legacy to live up to, or even a family tradition you’re trying to break out of is something many of us struggle with in our lifetime. Whether you’re looking at Robin realizing he doesn’t want to become Batman, Aqualad struggling to choose between his life on the surface or Atlantis, or even Zatanna just trying to lead a life outside of her father, these characters really feel like every day people trying to lead their lives. To see these larger than life characters experience many of the same struggles, periods of self doubt, and overall experiences of young adults gives the series a real weight to it that you might not have expected initially going into the series. With a series targeted toward young children, many teens and young adults gravitated towards these characters in ways that Cartoon Network wasn’t expecting.
In the last two San Diego Comic-Con’s I have attended, I really got to understand how much Young Justice as a whole meant to people. Not only did it have great storytelling but it brought the focus to so many new and relatable DC characters that never truly got their chance to shine before. To have so many diverse characters in a series such as this really paves the way for new fans to latch onto these characters and become lifelong fans of the material itself. It’s in these stories that people find something to hold onto that they relate to. Young Justice is so much more than just another animated superhero series.
Over 5 years after its cancellation its fanbase is still as strong as ever, and that speaks to the quality of the series. Young Justice is easily one of the best animated DC series to grace our screens and even with a lot to live up to it still holds up in the eyes of its fans after so many years after its premiere. With the third season of the series set to debut on the DC Universe streaming service some time in 2019, one can only hope the show continues to have the same quality of story and characters that made the show so incredible to watch. If you have not yet watched Young Justice, now is the time and I promise you that you won’t be disappointed as a DC or comic book fan.
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