Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Young Justice: Why It Failed

Here we are, at the end of our journey...but are we really? Recently there's been a lot of buzz about Netflix possibly bring Young Justice back from the dead. A season three of this fan-favourite series doesn't seem so far-fetched anymore, which has me giddy with excitement. But why did such a great show not do as well as it should have in the first place? That's what we're here to look at.

"If you'll look at these readouts, team, it simply doesn't add up as to why you didn't do better."

Now, the easy one to blame is DC Comics, as the claim can be made that Young Justice got caught in the tidal wave of their reboot. I mean, it had a fairly popular comic series that ran alongside the show, filling in some spots between episodes and giving the characters more depth. It even had an ending that felt more final than the show. But no, as much as I love to rag on the regime that gave us Superman in fucking armour and Wonder Woman as arm-candy, the true culprits of Young Justice's failure are at an entirely different Time Warner owned company. Not saying DC are innocent though, as they did introduce a popular character from Young Justice...only to kill her off. We'll talk about that shortly.

Really, though? This image says it all.
So, who was the company really to blame for the failure of Young Justice? Cartoon Network, of course. And no, this isn't related at all to their supposed hatred of female viewers when it comes to something they think should be marketed at boys. I have no idea if that is true at all, even though my experience with executives tells me it may be truer than anyone wants to admit. They tend to not know what they're talking about and pull blatantly sexist shit like that out of their asses. So, when I say Cartoon Network is to blame, what do I mean? Well, let's take a look at the things Cartoon Network did at the time.

There are a lot of shallow graves in the CN graveyard.
Now, we know how the machine works. Shows gets cancelled all the time, even if they're good. It could be due to censorship, low ratings, or simply a company restructuring. Some shows even died off because of things like writers' strikes. It's a rough game. But Cartoon Network was fucking Young Justice over left and right, completely out in the open light of day. Throughout the show's entire run it didn't get much in the way of advertisement, for example. It had an alright dabbling of commercials in the beginning, but before the first season even finished we had next to no commercials for it outside of ads for it...running during it. Yeah, they did that. Worse than that though, Young Justice got shuffled around on the schedule a lot, which meant people had difficultly keeping track of when it was on, meaning that watching it became increasingly difficult.

"i keep looking for it, Dick, but all I find are Riders of Berk repeats! Repeats, Dick!!"
And yes, that up there? Not really a joke, as it happened a lot. Young Justice would just not even come on, despite having episodes to still be shown and despite the guide claiming it was coming on, we'd get the spin-off of How to Train Your Dragon. I like How to Train Your Dragon, but fuck you, I want what I came for, CN! It got so bad that the show even got put on indefinite hiatus after a few episodes of Invasion were aired. Why? No real reason has ever been given. They just shoved some Johnny Test episodes at us and went off into a room to smell their own farts, because that's their favourite smell.

You know, besides the smell of money. They love that too.
Young Justice was unfairly shoved around like it was something to be ashamed of, but in spite of all that the many fans it garnered still put in the work to watch it. We all gathered to watch it whenever it came on, even if it was the rare repeat episode. Yeah, looking at them now, it's hard to believe that not so long ago Cartoon Network didn't show many repeats of one of the most popular shows. But then, that's the thing...they didn't seem to get that it was popular. Or maybe they simply didn't care? I don't really know, personally, but I do know it was shitty what they did to it. Green Lantern: The Animated Series got similar treatment, but not to the same level. I'm not a conspiracy theorist but it's hard not to look at all of that and think someone there wanted the show to fail.

While other shows got pushed at us religiously...
What didn't help this was the fact that there was little to no actual merch made in support of the show either. No t-shirts, no Lego sets, no birthday party decorations, action figures that were difficult to find, and a video game that didn't come out until after the show got cancelled. Merchandise is often what keeps "boy" cartoons going, but the problem comes when there is literally almost none to do that. There were really only the two variations of action figures to pick from if you wanted stuff based on these character. The often pricey 6-7 inch scale figures and the smaller 4 inch scale ones. And the 4 inch ones had very little playability, meaning kids didn't care about them. The only people buying most of these were collectors, even then often having to hunt them down due to no one actually carrying them.

"She just couldn't find her figure anywhere...now she'll have to buy it at triple the price on eBay."
Young Justice was a victim of executives being executives. They didn't know how to handle the property and, as I said, seemed to not really care about it much at all. This has been argued to be because it's technically a DC Comics property, meaning Cartoon Network is less invested in it. Meanwhile, Teen Titans Go has gotten a massive push despite people still criticizing the decision to make a joke series rather than an actual follow-up to Teen Titans. I would say I have no ill will towards that show, but they also seem to openly mock the fans of the older show and Young Justice for wanting something more serious. Really? And if they were going to do a lighthearted superhero show, how about making one based on the very popular shorts that ran during Young Justice and Green Lantern? Anyone remember those?

A superhero cartoon from Lauren Faust? Pfffft! Who would even watch something she did?
Superheroes, despite massive success, still get treated like they're lesser entertainment by the general public. A big part of this is the fact that executives who are in charge of things like making shows accessible have no faith in them appealing to a broad audience of both boys and girls. Young Justice actually has a bigger female fanbase than it does a male one, as women/girls tend to have longer attention spans and enjoy continuing plots. But executives aren't the only ones to blame, as people who are completely uninvolved with the show also wanted to take their turn shitting on it. Mainly, I'm talking about the man who helped create one of my favourite comics ever about teenage heroes. A man who seemingly has forgotten how to write teenage heroes...or just compelling characters...completely. That man is named Scott Lobdell.

You know, the guy who wrote Starfire as an emotionless sex-doll who didn't remember her friends or value them at all.
He wrote a few books for the DC Comics reboot, The New 52, and one was Teen Titans. During a crossover arc called The Culling, the quite popular and beloved character Artemis was introduced into the comics. She was portrayed as a badass fighter who seemed to act as a leader. This would seem to imply she would go on to become a Teen Titan and be important going forward, right? I mean, it seems pretty obvious that you'd want to use a popular character in a way that would potentially help the book draw in new readers. But no, as quickly as she was introduced she was shown to exist in the New 52 for one reason...to be killed off cheaply because she's not important. Her death was there for shock value and nothing more.

When your story can't carry itself, just kill people in stupid horrible ways. It works for Eli Roth, right?
DC Comics is hardly the only company to blame, but they've racked up such a massive kill list leading up to and after their reboot that it's hard not to give them the crown. They're masters at killing off characters wastefully and ostracizing any fans of those characters in the process. Hell, they kept two popular characters from even being born with their reboot by making their father be a gay man. Want to call me a gay-basher for being against the arbitrary change to Alan Scott's sexuality? Well, let me point out that I'm angry about it (still) because his son, one of my favourite DC Comics characters, doesn't exist as a result of it. Obsidian, an openly gay superhero, who has served as a member of the Justice League and the Justice Society. They erased him and his sister just so his dad could be a gay man when they could have, I don't know, maybe used Obsidian and pushed him as bigger character?

"...they're doing another reboot now. Maybe you'll get to exist again."
In closing, Young Justice was (and still is) an excellent show and the comic that ran alongside it was quite good too. It got screwed over, the fans got fucked over, but the creators still say the fight isn't over. I agree, the fight isn't over. As long as we can all come together and show our support, anything is possible. Young Justice wasn't just a superhero show to me, it was a lifeline. I fell in love with the characters, their relationships, their experiences...for a time both the show and comic were the only things keeping me going from week to week when I was at lowest. Yes, I am literally telling you that Young Justice kept me from killing myself. I connected with it that deeply and wanted to see it continue, so I kept fighting against my feelings of inadequacy and depression. I am a stronger person now because this show inspired me to not give up. I will never give up on Young Justice because, for me and many others, it is worth fighting for. No matter what executives say. Later days, bleeders.

Enough said.

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