Young Justice: Shedding Some Light on the Light
by Jerry Whitworth
In the Young Justice television series, the main antagonist of the first season is a shadowy group of villains called the Light (instigating almost every conflict in the series). What makes this organization unique is that it doesn’t exist in the comic books. As in much of the series it is featured in, the Light is instead an amalgamation of several concepts. Likely the most impressionable, and at least an admitted inspiration by series co-creator Greg Weisman, is the Secret Society of Super-Villains. Originally conceived as a group of operatives for Darkseid called the Brotherhood of Crime, they would perform criminal acts to further his control of Earth, unwittingly bringing about the enslavement of humanity with themselves included. They would realize their folly, break free of his command and go out on their own as the Secret Society of Super-Villains. The concept was reworked due to input from then publisher Carmine Infantino into a massive revolving cast of super-villains in a Mission: Impossible or Suicide Squad type manner originally secretly controlled by Darkseid only to break that tie and evolve into what was also a revolving cast of leaders taking over the group or forming separate splinter cells. The group would later evolve into the Society, where a council of six villains controlled a union of super-villains, drafting every villain on Earth (save the Joker, who was deemed too unstable) under threat of execution for defying membership.
While Weisman denies the Mankind Liberation Front and Cabal as inspiring the Light, they none the less share similarities. Introduced in Kingdom Come, the Mankind Liberation Front was a group of humans (mostly super-villains) formed after the retirement of Superman by Lex Luthor to eradicate metahumans on Earth and pave the way for conquering its people. They worked behind the scenes, instigating several elements of the conflict in the story leading to the final battle where Luthor’s mind-controlled servant Captain Marvel battled Superman, nearly killing him. The Light is almost exclusively composed of humans, save Klarion the Witch Boy who is a Lord of Chaos in the form of a human child. Regarding the Cabal, it is a dark mirror reflection of Marvel Comics’ Illuminati. As the Illuminati is a small group of highly influential individuals in the super-hero community and for their separate peoples, the Cabal is a likewise group but with a malevolent purpose. Composed of the worst of the worst, Dr. Doom, Sub-Mariner, Green Goblin, Loki, White Queen, and the Hood, this group holds reign in most of the forces of evil on Earth. The Light is quite similar to this, its members representing essentially the biggest leaders for crime. Lets examine the organization’s individuals.
VANDAL SAVAGE (L-1)
Cro-Magnon Vandar Adg was granted immortality and his mind entered the next stage of evolution when bathed in the radiation of a meteorite, in time taking on the name Cain and performing history’s first murder. As Cain, he inspired a religion on Earth, written about in the so-called “Crime Bible,” a tome which indoctrinated mankind into the worship of Darkseid. Adg would become a blight on humanity, constantly reinventing himself through the ages, taking on roles as a conqueror and blood-thirsty tyrant. Some of his aliases included the pharaoh Khafre, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Blackbeard, Vlad the Impaler, Jack the Ripper, and John Wilkes Booth. Also working behind the scenes, he forged close alliances with Erik the Red, Morgaine le Fey, William the Conqueror, Napoleon Bonaparte, Ra’s al Ghul, Otto von Bismarck, Grigori Rasputin, and Adolf Hitler. He would also father Hannibal of Carthage and the beast Grendel and form the powerful organization known as the Illuminati, a secret society composed of some of humanity’s most influential people. With the advent of superhuman beings in the 1930’s in the United States, Adg (now known as Vandal Savage) was an early opponent of the heroes that emerged, he helped found the Injustice Society to try and crush them. This would continue, bringing together Clayface, Thorn, Eclipso, and Solomon Grundy to face the emerging Justice League of America and forming the group Tartarus to try and eliminate the Titans.
Vandal Savage is no stranger outside of comic books, either. In the Justice League television series, he managed to alter the timeline where he lead Nazi Germany to conquer Earth. For the film Justice League: Doom, he formed the Legion of Doom and nearly eliminated the Justice League using their greatest enemies and protocols designed by Batman in order to take down fellow Leaguers should they become threats (inspired by JLA: Tower of Babel). For Young Justice, Savage was behind the creation of the Light and, described by Greg Weisman, a “first among equals” in the group.
RA’S AL GHUL (L-2)
Centuries old, the man who became Ra’s al Ghul was part of a nomadic tribe with roots across Asia, spanning from China to Arabia. Growing up to became a physician, he discovered the mysterious Lazarus Pit with remarkable healing qualities, so far as to bring the dead back to life. Upon the murder of his wife and an accompanying thirst for vengeance, the nomadic physician become a ruthless, calculating conspirator taking the name Ra’s al Ghul, employing the Lazarus Pit to prolong his life he traveled the world, participated in wars across the globe and history, and formed his organization known as “the Demon” (during this period crossing paths with and becoming a mutual acquittance with Vandal Savage). Perhaps it was his exposure to the Lazarus Pit or in seeing so many acts of inhumanity, but Ra’s made it his mission (along with his organization) to wipe out humanity, returning the Earth to nature. This mission would greet its largest obstacle when it ran afoul of Batman. The League of Assassins, a group of the world’s finest hitmen and killers, was formed by Ra’s al Ghul as an arm of his organization. However, it would become an independent entity under the guidance of Doctor Ebeneezer Darrk who kidnapped Ghul’s beloved daughter Talia to guard against his former master’s wrath. Batman, investigating murders carried out by the League, sought to shut it down and befriended Talia, developing a mutual attraction. Ra’s realized after living for hundreds of years that man was not meant to live forever and sought an heir to carry on his work, observing Batman as a prime candidate for this role. The Dark Knight proved himself more than capable of meeting Ra’s expectations but refused his offer, instead becoming the greatest thorn in al Ghul’s side. The League returned to Ra’s, this time placing his father the Sensei in charge of it (though even still the group’s loyalties continued to shift). This group would help produce some of the world’s finest fighters, having a hand in developing the likes of Bronze Tiger, Lady Shiva, and Cassandra Cain. After years of conflict with Batman, including nearly destroying the Justice League of America thanks to protocols Talia stole from Batman in JLA: Tower of Babel, al Ghul would be murdered by his elder daughter Nyssa Raatko. However, this proved temporary as he was later resurrected in the body of his son Dusan the White Ghost.
Ra’s al Ghul would debut outside comic books in the legendary Batman: The Animated Series, several of his more well-known adventures adapted for the small screen. Save The Batman, al Ghul would appear in every series starring Batman since (starring in the film Batman Begins, the rights for Ra’s were not made available to The Batman). In Young Justice, little has been revealed about Ra’s save that he is a member of the Light and helped found the group with Vandal Savage. His League of Shadows, a pastiche of the League of Assassins created for Batman Begins, is perhaps the most employed agents of the Light in the series (save super-villains from Belle Reve). These agents include Sensei, Professor Ojo, Sportsmaster, Hook, Black Spider, and Cheshire.
Something I forgot to include: Ra's battled the post-Zero Hour Legion of Super-Heroes for a time when he impersonated United Planets President Leland McCauley.