Young Justice: From Page to Screen
by Jerry Whitworth
The world of the Young Justice television series is an amalgamation of various elements of the DC Comics mythos, combining the best of the New Teen Titans, Peter David’s Young Justice, and Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans from the mind behind Disney’s Gargoyles and the Spectacular Spider-Man television series in Greg Weisman. As in his past work, the series is a complex web of smaller stories built upon for a modern day mythology borrowing heavily from the source material while making it fresh, new, and custom built for animation. To this end, chronologies of DC characters are shifted to maximize potential for youthful candidates for the series as well as the most iconic samples. Lets examine some of the massive cast of Young Justice:
The original sidekick at DC Comics, Dick Grayson’s parents, the Flying Graysons, were tragically murdered by a mobster during a high-flying trapeze act as part of a scheme to extort money from the circus they performed under. The Batman made the youth his ward and later his protege and partner in the pursuit of justice. Robin would go on to help found the Teen Titans alongside fellow Justice League sidekicks in Speedy, Aqualad, and Kid Flash (which the pilot of Young Justice provides allusions towards). The Dick Grayson of the Young Justice series is in some manner a mixture of the original with Jason Todd and Tim Drake, the two Robins to inherit the title. This Robin carries the authority and conviction of Grayson, the hijinks (albeit without being mean-spirited) of Todd, and the detective and computer skills of Drake. While it would make sense for Robin to be the leader of the group in that following the comic chronology and with Batman’s role as the group’s handler in the series, Young Justice bucked conventional wisdom in what I assume will be a more rewarding payoff when Dick Grayson inherits the role (shades of which were painted in the episode “Failsafe”). Robin is voiced by successful pop singer Jesse McCartney.
Created for the television series, Aqualad’s character was introduced to the comics during the event Brightest Day. In the comic book series, Aqualad is Jackson Hyde (born Kaldur’ahm), son of Aquaman’s archenemy Black Manta and infused with the water-manipulating abilities of residents of Xebel (Aquaman’s wife Mera’s home dimension). Raised by adopted parents, Hyde is thrust into the world of super heroics when soldiers from Xebel seek him out as a perceived key to allowing their forces to invade Earth. In the Young Justice television series, Aqualad is Kaldur’ahm (Kaldur for short), a sorcerer apprentice in Atlantis alongside Garth (the original Aqualad in the comics) who together saved Aquaman during an attack by the Ocean Master. When Aquaman offered the pair to become his proteges and sidekicks, Kaldur accepted his offer as Garth remained behind studying sorcery with their mutual friend Tula (the original Aquagirl in the comics). Kaldur (whose name is an allusion to former Black Manta stooge and Aquaman ally Cal Durham) became the series’ breakout star and the leader of the group. Aqualad is voiced by Khary Payton (Cyborg in the Teen Titans animated series).
Wally West is the nephew of the Flash’s significant other Iris West-Allen that experienced the same accident that gave the Scarlet Speedster his powers. Struck by a bolt of lightning and bathed in a myriad of chemicals in the Central City crime lab, West adopted the identity of Kid Flash and became the Flash’s partner. Young Justice’s Kid Flash is a blend of Wally West and Bart Allen, the second Kid Flash and Barry Allen’s grandson, utilizing West’s womanizing ways and Bart’s hyperactive energy and immature nature. However, it’s painstakingly made clear in the series that Wally is very science-minded, which is reminiscent of his mentor Barry Allen who is a crime scene investigator outside his role as the Flash. Kid Flash is voiced by Jason Spisak (Red Lantern Razer in Green Lantern: The Animated Series).
Orphaned when his father was killed in a forest fire, Roy Harper was raised by Navajo chief Brave Bow until his adopted father’s demise at which point he came into the life of Green Arrow. Becoming the adopted son and sidekick to the Emerald Archer, Harper donned red attire like his mentor and took the name Speedy. In Young Justice, Harper is the oldest member of the Justice League’s sidekicks and when it’s suggested the youths formerly join together in a group, he observes the act as an insult over simply joining the League. Abandoning his friends and his adopted parent, Harper becomes Red Arrow and is seen infrequently over the course of the series often as a lone vigilante but, in times of great need, an ally to the group of heroes. Red Arrow is voiced by prolific voice actor Crispin Freeman.