The third season of Young Justice wasn't supposed to happen.
Originally aired on Cartoon Network for two seasons from 2010 to 2013, the superhero series was axed and it felt like we had to say farewell to our band of super-powered adolescents saving the day. But thanks to an extremely devoted fan base and massive amounts of views on Netflix, the series was given a second life by Warner Bros. in late 2016. Earlier this year, the Young Justice: Outsiders finally premiered on DC Universe, introducing us to a slew of new characters while also bringing back the beloved crimefighters from the original. The final episodes of the season are now available to stream as of Tuesday (August 27), bringing a close to the fight against metahuman trafficking and the insidious Granny Goodness while also setting up plenty for the upcoming fourth season, which was announced at San Diego Comic-Con.
Before breaking ground on Young Justice: Outsiders, executive producers Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti rewatched old episodes, reread comics, and played all the video games that had been generated for Young Justice fans following the initial cancellation. They did this in order to get their creative juices flowing for the revival and to bring something that felt familiar for the fans — along with adding new twists. While we still saw the likes of Nightwing, Aqualad (now Aquaman), Miss Martian, Artemis, and Superboy, it's also been a joy getting to know some of the newer heroes, such as Halo, Geo-force, and Forager.
Teen Vogue recently chatted with Greg and Brandon to talk about the latest Young Justice season and those final episodes, including some of the moments that really got fans buzzing. They opened up about Aquaman's queerness, Kid Flash's surprising comeback, the Legion Flight Ring from the final few minutes of the season, and more.
Teen Vogue __ It was really exciting seeing Beast Boy as a leader and using social media as a way to build support for the new team of heroes with the trending #WeAreAllOutsiders. Why did you want to play with social media?
Greg Weisman: One, is kind of meta, which is the whole reason that we were back for season 3 at all, is that our fans really took to social media to drive a campaign to view the show over and over again, to buy it, to buy DVDs, blu-rays, the comics, and we wanted to honor the fans and that social media campaign.
On another level, on sort of a more in-universe level, we just felt that it was real and right. The interesting thing is that Beast Boy wasn't a character that we thought we would be focusing on. He just stepped forward, and in his sort of role as this celebrity and media savvy individual, it just became clear that this was a natural route for him to take. On the one hand, he is doing a PR campaign, but it's very sincere, and I think that's important. What he is stating in #WeAreAllOutsiders is something that he means down to his core. This notion that all of us feel different in some way or other, and instead of letting that separate us we should let it bring us together. It’s something that he is passionate about, and the people who join that team are passionate about it, as well, and see that there's a value in standing up and representing this younger Meta generation that's frightened and persecuted, and sometimes insulted and sometimes worse. [The Outsiders] are a young unofficial team designed to inspire the younger generation.
TV: In the character of Halo/Violet, you had the spirit of a Mother Box inhabiting the body of Gabrielle Daou, a Quaraci refugee working at the palace who wears a hijab. Originally in the comics, Halo is portrayed as a young blonde woman. What went into the decision to depicting her as you did in the show?
GW: We wanted to honor the source material, the great work of Mike Barr, which is always very important to us, but also make it fit into our version of the universe. When we were developing season three, it seems like a long time ago but it really wasn’t, there was a lot in the news about Syrian refugees in Europe. We were already [working with] Markovia, which is a fictional Eastern European country created, so we wanted to bring in that timeliness to it.
The fact that she wore a hijab because Gabrielle wore a hijab and she felt more comfortable in that place, was important to us. But also as Violet/Halo began to evolve as a unique individual, this soul of a Mother Box for the first time in this organic body with all the hormones and emotions and feelings that this Mother Box had not possessed before, that began to bring up all sorts of other questions. Like is she in fact a Muslim? Is that something she's considering? Where is she in those thought processes? And our point of view on it is that she's at a place where she's asking questions, and while she asks those questions she's honoring Gabrielle's choices until she's made choices of her own.
The same is true in terms of both her gender identity and orientation. A Mother Box sounds, like well obviously, must be female, because there are Father Boxes and Mother Boxes, but both those things are loose English translations of alien words for a living computer. And so from Halo's point of view, she isn't sure that she's either a girl or a boy, though clearly, she's in a cis-gendered female body. And so that also becomes questions she's asking herself, decisions she has yet to make, and that includes who and what she's attracted to sexually as well.
Brandon Vietti: I would call her the perfect sci-fi teenager. To have this incredibly unique character in Violet, this spirit that wakes up in a dead body now has to deal with hormones and issues of romance and religion and gender. We were really excited to work with a character like that and see how she fits into our world. These are all such important sort of coming of age issues that everybody — everybody — deals with.
GW: She's been through a lot, she's going to continue to evolve as the series progresses because of course, the good news is we got picked up for a fourth season. And Halo will be a part of that season as well.
TV: There were a lot of headlines and chatter after the episode that featured a same-sex kiss with Aquaman II (Kaldur'ahm). Tell me a bit about that.
GW: We viewed him as being bisexual from day one. There were limits, frankly, to what we could objectively show on Cartoon Network, so we tried to write him with some consistency with that in mind, without being able to present it as such on that network. We also, I think, hinted a little bit online maybe that that was the case. And we hinted at it enough that DC Comics created a character called Jackson Hyde loosely based on Kaldur'ahm for the comic books.
It was never our intention for him to be exclusively gay. We planned once we got our third season and we were on DC Universe streaming instead of Cartoon Network and had frankly more freedom and more flexibility to write the character the way we wanted to. We planned to illustrate the fact that he was bisexual. So we're not taking away the feelings he had for Tula in season one and two, but that doesn't change the fact that now it's been years since Tula passed away. And in that interim time, he and Wyynde got together. It was great to be able to show that, and I'll admit, I think we both felt we wanted to sort of surprise the audience with it. So we could have said from day one of season three, "Oh yeah, he's bi. You'll see it later." But we wanted the surprise factor. People seemed very pleased by that episode and the kiss went over pretty well.
In the episode that follows, we got to see them really interact with each other, and see their relationship in a fuller sense, and I think the response to that has been highly positive. We're really gratified that the audience is really open to that. I won't pretend that it's been exclusively positive. It's the internet, there are some very negative people out there, but I think the vast majority of YJ fans are tremendously open and understanding and in fact are cheering for that kind of relationship, and to see it depicted on screen.
TV: In one of the final episodes, there’s the scene where Nightwing has a fever dream with the original Young Justice characters in their season one iterations along with seeing Kid Flash who died last season. How did this sequence come to be?
GW: We knew that Nightwing was going to be sick from the previous episode, and so the idea that I came up with is just that he'd still be somewhat feverish, and take a hit, and begin to hallucinate. We'd put everyone in their season one garb and bodies, and just for a few minutes reward the fans with that kind of blatant fan service, to remind them of these six original characters from that first season I just thought that would be fun for everybody, and then Brandon liked it so much he insisted on writing it.
BV: Greg and I break all the stories for all of the seasons, but I never actually wrote a script in the first season. So I was really excited to kind of actually get to write to first season characters, and to have that opportunity in the third season was, I just couldn't pass it up. I think I even upped it a little bit with the video game references that were involved, because we knew that we wanted to scene to be fun, despite the fact that it's a delusion, which is sort of coming from a bad place really. It's a bad thing when you're delusional, especially in a battle situation.
We wanted that sort of hot switch from something that seems rather fun and joyous to once the delusion ends, actually realizing where that delusion is coming from and that sadness of missing a fallen comrade and missing Wally, missing Kid Flash. So it wasn't just dropped in for a video game trope, which is a popular thing to do in animation these days I think. We wanted to really take that, and add some tremendous not only fun but emotional weight to it as well.
TV: Which also sort of comes full circle with Artemis’s storyline and her getting some closure thanks to the magical vision from Zatanna. What was it like giving her those final scenes with Wally?
BV: We were so grateful to our fans for really taking to the relationship between Artemis and Wally. We know that was a highly-impactful relationship, and the loss of Wally West was really hard on our fan base, and it's also been hard on our core characters as well. That's something that we played out all through the third season. But I think we also kind of felt that it needed to come to a head.
GW: We wanted some catharsis is what it comes down to. We needed it as creators, we felt the fans needed it, and God knows Artemis needed it, and so we created an episode very consciously designed to rip the hearts out of our entire audience. And then hopefully if we've done our jobs right, which isn't for us to say, put those hearts back in with some scar tissue, but to extend the metaphor with some scar tissue but beating again. And that was my serious goal in writing that episode was to make it hurt. To let them feel that pain, but let them come out the other side, to open that door on the other side of it.
Stephanie Lemelin who plays Artemis, and Jason Spisak who plays Wally, the two of them recorded all those scenes together. It was heartbreaking for us to listen to them read those words, they just were so phenomenal. I have to give a tremendous amount of credit to the two of them and our voice director Jamie Thomason, and our amazing storyboard artists, and directors, and everyone else.
TV: It was really interesting to see the season play with the Anti-Life Equation considering this day and age. It can feel really futile with the negativity and the awful news that's happening. But at the end of the season, there’s this message that we want to fight for autonomy, for free will. What was it like exploring this theme in today’s world?
GW: The Anti-Life Equation is this great Jack Kirby creation from the comics that fuels a lot of the actions of the New Gods series and those fourth-world characters that Kirby created, which we have weaved throughout our series from the very beginning of season one. I think that that plays into the themes that we've been dealing with. The Anti-Life Equation is sort of the science-fiction extrapolation of that to the nth degree, which is you know, people and young people, in particular, being told this is what you have to think, this is who you have to be. Obviously, that's not good.
BV: Young Justice has always been about teenagers coming of age, and those rites of passage. A lot of the themes that are involved in such stories have to do with challenging your authority figures and often challenging their ideals and ideologies that have maybe been put upon you by mentors or others. We've shown our characters sort of challenging what they've been told by their parents, what they've been told by the media. We've shown our characters manipulated by media, through mental/psychic control, through biological control. So all of these stories about mind control and struggling for freedom against mind control. I think going to the Anti-Life Equation, which is the ultimate controlling sci-fi idea was just sort of a natural progression for us for the show.
GW: I think that plays out in the fact that Halo was an integral part of the Anti-Life Equation. That you take this character who is new, and unique, and different, she emerges after being the tool of the Anti-Life Equation to become actually a bastion for the kind of liberty that all the characters have been fighting for. That was very conscious, this desire to sort of take Halo on this journey from being as oppressed a character as we've ever presented anyone being on this series, to being one of the most powerful and self-actualizing characters that we've ever had on the series.
TV: As you said, there’s going to be a fourth season. What can you tell us about that and what that Legion Flight Ring in the diner scene might mean for the future?
GW: I think it says it all. We've got a blonde waitress, who we only see from behind. She's pouring coffee, and she's wearing a Legion of Super Heroes Flight Ring. And there's no way we're going to tell you anything more than that.
BV: No, but the promise of new heroes is something that we can always offer. That's, I think, the one thing that we can promise for season four. As always, you can rely on some new characters showing up, but I think fans are going to really love that we're kind of doubling down on our core season one characters that they already know and love. So beyond that, it's really hard to talk about anything further in the fourth season without giving too much away.
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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue