YOUNG JUSTICE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Producers Greg Weisman & Brandon Vietti
Premiering on Cartoon Network this November is the animated Young Justice, inspired by the DC Comics title of the same name, and CBM's Superhero Tooniverse had the opportunity to sit down for an exclusive chat with producers Greg Weisman and Brandon Vieti.
Interview conducted by and copyright Edward Gross
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: How long has this been in development?
BRANDON: About a year.
GREG: Longer than that – I think it was March – not this March but the previous March.
BRANDON: Time blurs together when you’re working on something so intensely.
GREG: It took us months to finally get the green light, because Warner Brother and Cartoon Network and DC are all part of the same Time-Warner family, so getting them to communicate with each other takes a long time. So it took us a while to get the green light, but then I think last October, we finally got the green light and we’ve been on an express train ever since.
BRANDON: But it came together really quickly, because I think Greg and I both came into this kind of wanting to do the same kind of show together. I think we had different ideas on how to do it, but when these characters came up, I think Sam Register was a big part of helping come up with the idea for what direction to take for us, putting the show together.
GREG: And it intimidated both of us. Sam sort of said, “Here’s the kind of show we want to do, something with Justice League, or the young characters or something like that,” and he threw out the Young Justice title, just the title, and I think we were both terrified, because Bruce’s [Bruce Timm] Justice League Unlimited is so iconic, and so great, and Teen Titans is a very different show, but it’s also a great show in the other direction, and so for us to forge something that was new, and wasn’t treading on the turf of those two shows was sort of scary. And then we sort of found our placement with this covert ops team, and I put together a list of – I’m not kidding – 50 teenage characters for us to choose from. We went through and made the decision fairly early on that this was going to be a young DC universe, that Superman will have only shown up ten years ago, put on the cape ten years ago, Batman would have only put on the cape nine years ago, that the heroes haven’t been around that long, and once you’ve made that decision, then the idea of starting with Dick Grayson and Wally West, the original side kicks, they’re still young…
BRANDON: I think that also helped us get out from under the shadow of these other shows, like Teen Titans and Justice League – to sort of reset the DC youth, in a way, and that allowed us the freedom to find our own identity.
GREG: Which was really important to us – and we think we’ve done it… we hope we’ve done it –
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: Where does it fall in terms of the age of the audience that you’re shooting for?
BRANDON: We’re hoping to catch everybody. Our stories are all about teenagers of course, and I think those stories are going to appeal to the younger audiences, but there’s a sophistication to the way we’re telling the stories, there’s a complexity to the stories that we’ve got that will definitely appeal to the older fans.
GREG: I think, from an economic standpoint, we have to hit boys 6 – 14 for Cartoon Network to sell their ad space or whatever, so if you think of it as a bull’s eye with concentric circles, that’s the bull’s eye we have to hit – but I’m not satisfied with that and I don’t think Brandon is either. A, we want boys and girls, so there’s a lot of great relationship stuff in this, there’s humor in this show – I mean, it’s a serious show, but there’s a lot of humor in it, there’s a lot of eye candy for little kids. I think little kids could enjoy this show, and some stuff will go over their heads, but they won’t know it’s going over their heads. There are a lot of explosions and guys in costumes, big villains and big events that are eye candy for the youngest audience, but there’s a lot of sophisticated stories for a teen audience, a college age audience, an old fart audience like me – and I certainly think any fan of DC comics in general is going to find a lot of great stuff from the 75 year history of DC comics to enjoy in the show.
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: You’re going to hear a lot of farts and burps in Teen Titans, not so much in Young Justice?
BRANDON: Not so much – maybe occasionally, we’ve got teenagers and we’re true to that fact. They’re not dry teenagers, they’re fun teenagers, and they may not be fun in the middle of an mission – we treat our missions and our action very seriously, but when they’re training together or hanging out together, there will be moments of levity, because they’re teenagers, and I think they have genuine teenage reactions.
GREG: And we’re also trying to show a complete picture of their lives, so we don’t just see them training or on missions, we also see their home lives, we see their school lives, we’re trying to get a complete picture. We wanted to ground this series in reality as much as possible; we’re dealing with science fiction and fantasy and super heroes and all the genre stuff, but at the same time, we want to try and put it in the context of as much reality as possible, and really ground it – we want to see these characters’ lives, their homes, their schools… all this stuff is part of our show, it’s a big canvas we’re painting on.
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: Superboy is Connor Kent – you’re using him as Superboy – when you say his home life, is he part of the Kents –
BRANDON: I don’t want to give away too much right now, but saying no to that is enough for now – he’s newly cloned, he’s 16 weeks old – he looks like he’s 16, but he’s 16 weeks, and this is a new interpretation of the character, but we feel it really stays true to the origins of the character and is a very honest portrayal of him, but I think he’s going to be different from what people expect.
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: Is his DNA that of Superman and Lex Luthor?
GREG: We cannot confirm or deny.
BRANDON: We’ve got to keep some secrets.
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: Will that be explored on the show?
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: So was there a reason you chose these specific characters? The mix seems similar to the Young Justice comic.
BRANDON: Well, you know it’s a mix – we’re influenced by the Young Justice comic that Peter David did, we’re influenced by the original Titans from, you know, the late 60s, and a lot of more recent stuff, and everything in between –
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: And then you’ve got Robin – which Robin are we talking about?
GREG: Dick Grayson. There was a lot of speculation about that, and we kept it under wraps for a while, but it is Dick Grayson, and that’s part of our DC reset – we’re going back to the early days, so it just begs that we use Dick Grayson.
BRANDON: We’ve got a cast of six core characters, and a lot of others around them so it’s a mix – you’re going to see all sorts of combinations –
GREG: Kid Flash –
BRANDON: That’s Wally West --
GREG: We never said Impulse – it’s Wally West – we can run down them here – Aqualad –
BRANDON: That’s the new Aqualad that Geoff Johns introduced in Brightest Day, recently – and Garth is in the show – he’s not Garth – it’s not like we suddenly changed and Garth is black – but Garth is in the show, and this our Aqualad. He’s the leader of our team --
GREG: We’ve got an interesting way into that – and then of course our big revelation that is from Geoff Johns, he wanted us to reveal there’s a secret in Aqualad’s past, that even Aqualad doesn’t know about, and that’s that Aqualad’s father is Black Manta.
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: So that’s that from the comic –
BRANDON: It will be in the comic, but it’s not out yet. Geoff’s like, “Tell them,” and I’m like, “Really?”
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: Where are the girls?
GREG: The girls… there’s Miss Martian. She’s Geoff Johns’ creation, too.
BRANDON: She’s the Martian Manhunter’s daughter.
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: So this is really a young Justice League?
BRANDON: That was one of the deciding factors on how we chose the characters: we wanted to have adults that the kids viewed as mentors or as parental figures I guess, and some relationships are better than others.
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: Do we have a Wonder somebody?
BRANDON: Wonder Woman is in the show, she’s member of the Justice League, but we don’t have a Wonder Girl –
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: And then there’s Arrowette, right?
GREG & BRANDON: That’s Artemis.
BRANDON: It was a mistake online – someone assumed she was Arrowette, but I announced that she’s not Arrowette, she’s not Speedy, she’s not Wonder Girl, she’s not an Amazon, but she is an existing DC Universe character. We did not make her up. So those are the six leads. And we’re set on Earth 16, so we’re actually a part of the DC Universe – you know they have 52 earths now and we’re Earth 16, so we’re part of the multiverse, and the comic book that’s based on the show is going to be in continuity.
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: What kind of role does the Justice League play?
GREG: Some play more than others – Batman and Red Tornado have really big roles in the show, on an ongoing basis. Some characters like Superman, Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, Green Arrow, Aquaman, and Flash have large roles in the show, others have lesser roles. Captain Marvel has a big role – Captain Marvel’s being played by Rob Lowe.
BRANDON: He’s really great – Green Arrow was Alan Tudyk from Firefly and Dollhouse, and Batman is Bruce Greenwood, who played Batman in the Red Hood movie.
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: Who’s voicing Superman?
GREG: Nolan North, who’s also doing Superboy.
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: Oh that’s interesting, to have the same voice…
GREG: But he makes a good separation.
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: Earlier you said covert missions – is there a set up to this show?
GREG: It’s a little bit like Mission Impossible actually.
BRANDON: Batman is kind of their Jim Phelps, if Jim Phelps didn’t go on the missions with them. So he chooses the team, and he sends them out on these covert missions.
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: So it’s a generational thing –
BRANDON: There’s an element of that, but there’s also an element of the sidekicks saying we’re ready for the next level. There’s an element of the teens saying to the adults, “Get on board or get out of the way.”
GREG: Again, a show about teenagers, and I think to be true to that, to be true to what a teenager is, there’s a little rebellion there, there’s a little but of kids wanting to get out on their own, and they want to take the next steps to being an adult, and in this show, we explore that thoroughly. These are their first steps into adulthood. They want their own team, they get their own team, and then when they actually go out on missions, it isn’t always exactly what they want it to be, so there’s a lot of discovery that the kids have among themselves and on the mission at the same time.
SUPERHERO TOONIVERSE: So it sounds like a very different take on this type of show.
BRANDON: And that’s what we wanted. Again, looking at what has come before us, we really wanted to find our own identity for the show, and I think that’s one of our angles.
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