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Interview: ‘Young Justice: Invasion’ Producer Greg Weisman on the New (New) Generation of Superheroes

Young Justice: Invasion is back this weekend with another batch of episodes providing the team of up-and-coming superheroes with their biggest challenge yet: defending the Earth as the DCU’s heavy hitters are off-planet dealing with a cosmic menace. Production on the last two episodes of the animated series’ second season are almost complete, but the new season officially kicks off on Saturday, September 29th at 10:30 AM on Cartoon Network.

And as ever, things are only going to get worse for the team.

“It wasn’t like we said ’it must get darker in season two, it’s just that the story gets darker,” according to series producer Greg Weisman (Gargoyles, The Spectacular Spider-Man). “Things are only going to get worse before they get better. There’s some pretty heavy stuff coming up in the episodes that will start airing [this weekend].”

The first season–which takes place five years before the alien invasion of season two, saw the team mired in secrets and lies, going undercover and confronting some of the most dangerous villains in the DC Animated Universe, banded together to take down the Justice League and seize control of the Earth under the ageless Vandal Savage. What was interesting about that first season was how much Young Justice played up the spying and espionage element of the series rather than straight up superheroics. “That was absolutely intentional,” Weisman says, “I was talking to Brandon [Vietti, Young Justice co-producer] yesterday, and he felt that we were an espionage/spy/Mission: Impossible-type show first, and a teenage show second, and a superhero show third.”

According to Weisman, the intent from the beginning was to set Young Justice apart from Teen Titans and Justice League/Justice League: Unlimited which both cast long, daunting shadows for subsequent DC Animated programming. And that involved giving Young Justice a darker feel from previous incarnations of the DCU.

“We wanted to deal with characters who weren’t fully-formed, who weren’t already pros, who had something to learn,” Weisman, explaining his team’s rationale for using teen heroes for this type of darker, spy-themed storytelling. That was in part inspired by their wish to deal with the themes of secrets and lies–something very essential to the first season of the show which saw several of the newbie heroes including Superboy, Miss Martian, and Artemis trying to keep their own skeletons locked securely in their respective closets. “There are certain secrets that are bigger deals to teenagers than they would be to adults… the lies that they’re telling, they ramp up the stakes when you throw teens into this mix.”

Those high stakes often involved the team striking out on their own without the aid of their erstwhile mentors in the League. “We wanted them to be independent. What you’ll see even from the third episode of the first season [is] they keep expecting that the adults will show up and take control or whatever, but we wanted to establish right off the top that ’You guys want to go do this on your own, so go do it.”

That involved walking a thin line between giving Nightwing and the team crucial assignments without downplaying the importance of the League. But season two, according to Weisman, will require the young heroes to step up as about half of the League, including some of the major players, have left the planet to deal with an offworld threat. How will the team deal with even less oversight than they’ve had before? That’s very important to the Young Justice creative team in Invasion, as the latest generation of heroes comes into their own while also guiding some younger, would-be crimefighters.

“Okay, some of these characters are young adults–they’re not teenagers anymore. They’re taking charge, and there are responsibilities that come with taking charge when you’re not under someone’s wing anymore. We also have this senior-freshman dynamic going on in the series. We’ve got these characters like Superboy, Miss Martian, and Nightwing, but we also have some of these characters who are new to season two but joined early on–for example, Batgirl–who we view as seniors on the squad.” This setup allows the now older heroes to mentor the younger ones like Beast Boy and the new Robin, Tim Drake, with Batman and the other heavies out in space. It also allows the team to move past one of the consuming issues of season one, which was earning the respect of the League–for all intents are purposes, they are the League now. “It forces [a character like] Nightwing to step up in ways that he didn’t have to in season one, and it forces someone like Tim Drake to look up to someone who’s only a few years older than he is instead of the wise Bat.”

On the other side of the heroic divide, we’ll also be seeing more of the next generation of villains in Young Justice: Invasion, which began with the reveal of the updated Fearsome Five. But the big name coming is Deathstroke, who was unveiled during SDCC. Weisman says that his introduction into the new series and how he fits into the conflict with the team is what you might want to watch. Likewise, although everyone will get a moment to shine in season two, he advises viewers to keep an eye out for heroes like Blue Beetle and Impulse.

Young Justice: Invasion returns Saturday, September 29th at 10:30 AM on Cartoon Network.

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