The road to the third season of Young Justice was a long, winding one. Originally airing on Cartoon Network, the show was cancelled in the Spring of 2013. But the fans (and the creators and cast) never gave up hope.
After Season 2 arrived on Netflix in early 2016, co-producer Greg Weisman tweeted that a strong showing on the streaming service and Blu-Ray sales could help make revival a reality. Fans responded and Warner Bros. heard the call. Nine months later, a third season was officially announced. Titled Young Justice: Outsiders, the series will make its triumphant return as one of the anchor shows on the new, as-yet-named DC Entertainment-branded digital streaming service along with a live action series based on the long-running New Teen Titans comic.
Weisman, co-producer Brandon Vietti and character designer Phil Bourassa were on hand at Comic-Con International in San Diego to discuss the new season after a panel full of very happy fans. “For the small amount of new that we revealed, the excitement level was overwhelming,” said Bourassa. “It’s cool because there’s a lot more to come, and it was cool to see them react to just the preliminary stuff.”
While the revival’s title and basic plot was revealed months ago, this is the first opportunity they’ve had to really fill in other details. “It’s not just the subtitle,” revealed Weisman, “it’s also one of the major themes of the season. This season is really about Outsiders — it’s about metahuman trafficking, it’s about generational change. it’s about secrets and lies, just as the show has always been. But in particular this is a season where we focus on characters who are not part of the system. Who are falling through the cracks, and how do we…what do we do?
“How do we help these kids who don’t have a Batman or a Superman in their lives to sort of step up for them? How do we help unique individuals who don’t fit the normal pattern? That and diversity are a big part of this season. Diversity has always been a part of the show, and always [has] been a priority for us. But I think, if anything, this season pushes it further.”
“I think the metagene story was a natural progression from what we’d started really from day one with the show, with the creation of Super Boy, which meant experimentation designed to activate superpowers and people that could then be utilized as weapons. That was where we started,” explained Vietti. “The second season was a progression of that, with now aliens noting that, ‘Wow it’s planet Earth, we’ve got this metagene there, what can we do with that?’ So they really came to Earth and made a big stir — pushed the metagene into public headlines making the very public event that the world now needed to be worried about whereas before, it was sort of a covert thing, a secret thing that only bad guys [and] some of the good guys knew about. So, when we sat down to plot our third season we really needed to start there where we left off, at the end of season two, and figure out what the next most logical thread was and picking up the metagene story was the most logical thing to do.”
As with Season 2, there’s a time jump at the start of Season 3 which naturally leads to a new team roster. Deciding who ended up where was a process very much rooted in natural character development. “I’d like to think that we created them fully enough so that, in essence, the characters tell us where they are going to be next and where their lives our going,” said Weisman. “We have a group of characters who are still with the team. Others who have moved on. Others who have grown up and joined the Justice League. And we always have new characters coming in so you have a character like Cissie King-Jones, who we showed in Season 1 seeing Artemis save her father’s life and clearly was inspired by that, [and] became Arrowette. We have a character like Stephanie Brown, who showed in Season 2, whose life was saved from the reach by Batgirl and Robin and Bumblebee and others and clearly inspired to become Spoiler in joining the team.
“We have a brand new character 13, based on the DC Comics character Traci 13, and it’s that idea that the show is generational. Other characters have moved up, moved on, but new characters are always going to be coming in and that was really built into the DNA of the show. Cissie’s a really good example because…she’s eight-years-old in Season 1. Well, now’s the time we use her…That was always the plan, to show her there, tease her a little bit, and then be able to eventually bring her in as Arrowette.”
Character development doesn’t just influence storylines, it also informs design. “The story gives you context; what the characters are doing at that point, where they’re at in their evolution as heroes,” Bourassa explained. “They’re all approaching the hero game differently based on their level of experience. Some are heroes for the first time, some are in their sophomore efforts, and some are veterans. Whatever they’re doing in our story at that point is what drives the design.”
The evolution of Virgil Hawkins is a great example of this, while also serving as a sort of milestone (pun not intended) for Bourassa. “Static actually was one of the first properties I ever worked on in animation. I worked on the original series with Denys Cowan, who was the co-creator. I have a fondness for the character. I got my start on Static and then we introduce him in Season 2, and he’s just a street kid, runaway. He’s just wearing civvies. We didn’t really want to change that dynamic…at this point in his story, he doesn’t really need the decked out, full-on, superhero costume. He’s still just wearing what he would wear in his day-to-day, but he’s got his symbol on there. Which was the last thing that I drew on Season 2. The last thing I drew on Season 2 was the symbol on Static’s shirt because I thought that would be a good…I had a million things to design and then I was like, ‘I’m going to save that one for last.’ That was just a full circle thing for me starting my career on Static Shock.”
— Phillip Martinez (@Phill_Martinez) July 21, 2017
As characters have aged up and out of the team, does that mean we’ll never see them again? Vietti was predictably noncommittal with the answer. “This universe is full of possibilities. I think that’s the best way to end it right? I think that’s the fun part about working with the DC Universe is pretty much anything can happen. But…I wish I could help you out with the answer that you’re looking for…but I can’t. Because we like our secrets and we want people to be surprised when our first episode’s in.”