Young Justice…is gone.

Hey #DCNation fans! Have you heard?? DC Nation will return in January with all new episodes!”
–@CartoonNetwork, October 13th. [link]

For those of you who don’t know, two weeks back, Cartoon Network pulled the entire DC Nation programming block from the schedule – Green Lantern, the DC Nation shorts, the beloved Young Justice: Invasion, all of it – and replaced it with Dreamworks’ Dragons, just 10 hours before airtime.  The producers and creators didn’t know about this until after it happened.  iTunes didn’t know about it and released the episode as originally planned (thank you, Apple).  DirecTV and Dish Network DVRs recorded the time slot as scheduled, since the memo didn’t get to their desks in time, either.  No one understood; no explanation was given then – and still hasn’t been given to date.  Not even now, after the cheerfully-made announcement via Facebook and Twitter that DC Nation will, in fact return! In January, 2013, that is.

The fandom is in an outrage, and they have every right to be.  We only got two episodes, after the three-month hiatus?  What gives?  An explanation, some information, would be helpful, but nothing.  Not that this is new; each hiatus of Young Justice has come out of nowhere, with no reason provided as to why.  The last one at least fell into the pattern of a season break; even though it was never really called that officially, as far as I know.  Still, it was never this ballsy, the removal of the show, and sometimes in the past they’ve played reruns of the series, to as to not completely alienate us – pardon the pun – from the series and to keep us interested; to, hopefully, keep us coming back for the eventual return of new episodes.

Theories and rumors are abundant over the internet as to the reasons for this debacle.  Are there disputes going on within the chain of command?  Is there a financial issue?  A struggle taking place with DC Comics itself, over rights and permissions?  Is this the heeding of Parents’ complaints about the “mature content” in the show?  Is there a conflict with the animation studios over work conditions in Korea?  No one knows for sure.  Cartoon Network remains silent as ever.  Meanwhile, the hate-mail and vicious comments from angry fans pour in from every direction.

I’m surprised that I am not more actively angry or saddened by this turn of events.  Instead, I find that I feel kind of resigned and overall, just disappointed.  It hasn’t sunk in yet, I suppose.  Or the pattern that Cartoon Network has fallen into, giving us a small samples and then making us wait for so long, has desensitized me to the absence of what was and still is one of my favorite shows.  I’m almost left with a residual sense of apathy towards the network.  My biggest resentment, honestly, comes from the manner in which they announced the postponing of DC Nation as a whole.  Again: “Hey #DCNation fans! Have you heard?? DC Nation will return in January with all new episodes!”  As though it’s good news.  Seriously?  They expect us to be HAPPY about this?  I wish they had, at least have the decency to acknowledge that what they’re doing is disappointing and going to upset their fanbase.

But no.  They’ve made it clear that the fans and viewers of their shows are extremely low on their priority list, if we’re on that list at all.  You can see that from the outdated graphics used during airtime alone.

It wouldn’t surprise me at this point if the show(s) get cancelled in the long run.  I’m already bracing myself for it.  Young Justice has been dealing with these cancellation and postponing conflicts since it first aired; for whatever reason, Cartoon Network is resistant towards this show.  I, personally, can’t understand why; it’s quality stuff.  It appeals to multiple demographics and age groups, the genre is hot right now, especially right after the success of The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers this summer, and the other comic-book films soon to follow.  The animation is beautiful and the writing is top-notch.  The ratings are decent; at least enough to keep it on the air.  What’s the problem?  Whatever it is, it’s keeping YJ offstage and out of the limelight.  I’m having flashbacks to Gargoyles, and I’m pretty much convinced that Young Justice will follow in the same fashion of cancellation…

…and maybe not.  There’s a chance that it might come back.  Maybe all this unpleasantness will go away.  There’s no way to know at this point; all we can do is wait and see.

But if it does continue in January, I’ll be watching.

“Young Justice: Invasion.” First Impressions.

Image          A few days have passed since the heavy-hitting season premiere of Young Justice: Invasion.  I, like so many other YJ fans, reacted strongly and emotionally to Happy New Year, and I was ready to dash into the blogosphere and spew my feelings and position on both how the episode had opened and presented itself singularly, as well as my concerns, hopes and questions about the future for the series.  I waited, though, because, at the same time, I was numb from those drastic and radical changes from last season.

Image          I processed what I’d seen for a day, then proceeded to investigate the forums and blogs, not for my own review, but to see what others were saying—day-to-day fans, both those who know the comics and those who do not, as well as critics, particularly the folks at IGN.com.  After reading, listening and watching a great many responses, it appears to me that audiences are almost completely split, and there’s not much gray area between the two camps…

On one side, the consensus seems to be positive, that while the five-year flash-forward was abrupt and unexpected, it was a pleasant surprise. It was great to see the new characters and to see Dick Grayson secure in his new role as Nightwing.  We’re left with some questions and loose ends, but overall a good, interesting start to season two.

Image          On the other side, the rest of the fans are distraught…“heavy on the dis.”  In that camp, the missing five years left the audience wanting, with too much left out; the missing characters’ absences are glaring and problematic, and the onslaught of new characters felt erratic, haphazard and overwhelming, with a distinct lack of the development that season one had in spades from the start.

Image          For my part, I still side with the latter.  I wanted, so badly, to come to a different conclusion after I heard opposing opinions, got explanations and DC Comics history, and took in what it was that fans enjoyed in this episode.  I wanted to lessen the disappointment I still feel.

While I no longer outwardly detest the choices and changes that have taken place, have come to respect them from a distance, I still don’t favor them.  I did enjoy seeing Beast Boy, Tim Drake’s Robin is pleasant addition, Blue Beetle managed to stand out among the horde of new characters…and various other bits of the show were enjoyable, but it doesn’t begin to compare to “Independence Day” and “Fireworks.”  I doubt that the show will ever be as good as it was before.

Image          Simply put, I feel that this leap ahead was done too soon, and too much time was skipped over.  Too expand that point, it’s not what happened in the episode that bothers me: it’s what we’ve missed by skipping those five years.  I don’t know if I’m alone, but seeing Dick suddenly appear as Nightwing was like a slap in the face.  It was great to see Nightwing, don’t get me wrong, but I felt as though that not seeing that transition from the 13-year-old Boy Wonder into the grown-up Dick-Grayson-Nightwing was unfair and cruel.  There is so much in those five years to tell, and we’ve completely missed it.

Image          The common response to a critique like that – as, I know, I am most definitely not the first to point this out – has often been, “jeez, relax, it’s episode one, they’ll go back and fill in the blanks.  They have to, right?”

Maybe.  Maybe not.  Based on what I’ve read, it sounds as though this is no temporary situation; the plan seems to be to stick with this premise and this context for a good long while.  According to Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti, the dynamic of the show has shifted; the focus of the relationships is no longer mentor-to-student but seniors-to-freshman, within the “young justice league” itself, which strongly indicates that the show we had for all of season one is gone entirely.  Even with flashbacks and memories, it will never be the same again.  And, in fact, it appears that the outline for season two is absolutely jam-packed and hefty with plot, rather than the character-driven style of season one.  Again, from what I’ve heard, the “Invasion” comic series presents a dark future for the characters we have come to know and love.  Young Justice has lightened many of the darker elements of the comics, but, so far, they’ve suited the stories that are being told in their own right, which leads me to point out yet another grievance.  Season one had a massive appeal to both comic-lovers and total outsiders, like myself.  The show seemed to find a nice middle-ground between authenticity to its source material and originality for the new viewer.  The stories were strong, character development was key.  Like with Weisman’s show, Gargoyles, there was a strong sense of community among the group, which walked the line of their being kids and, simultaneously, crime-fighting superheroes-in-training; the realistic vs. the fantastic.  Invasion, however, goes in the completely opposite direction.  Unless you know the comics and appreciate how much homage is being paid to often-ignored characters, or details of the comic-lore, then most of this episode went right over our heads, which is not something we’re used to.  We are used to being able to sink into the world comfortably—maybe having a question or two here and there, but not ones that so disrupt the flow of the episode or affect, badly, your watching experience.  Regardless of where the show might be headed or what might be explained in subsequent episodes, nothing changes the fact that this opening statement was one-sided in favor of the comic aficionados and that seriously hurt the show’s appeal.

When I first viewed this episode, I was so distracted by my confusion and upset that I found it difficult to concentrate on the actual story.  Not that there was much to concentrate on; I agree with the fans that thought it was too much at one time.  Not only are the familiar faces missing or drastically altered in their presentation, but we have dozens of new ones thrown at us, some of which for mere two- or three-second appearances.  And to what purpose?  Just to please the avid comic fans?  I read in one of the IGN articles that, towards the beginning of the show’s production, both DC and Cartoon Network studio heads told the creators that they could only use or reference a very, very small margin of characters.  While this limited them in what they could do, I think the ending result benefitted everyone; much the way that George Lucas’ being limited to invent the effects for Star Wars without fancy computer-generated technology, which led to the classic film trilogy and a style that really hadn’t been seen up to that point.  However, when it came time for season two, the execs all gave the creators permission to do what they wanted and, like Lucas with the Star Wars prequel trilogy, it changed everything.  Hence the blitz of new characters; so many new faces that we can’t even see straight sometimes.  I think the forced restraint of season one was a blessing in disguise.  I realize that by now they must be tired and eager to do more, bring in more characters and more heavy plotlines, but I think they went just a tad overboard.

We’ll find out where Wally is.  Where Aqualad is.  Where Artemis is.  Where Red Arrow is.  We’ll hear more about Dick’s transition into Nightwing.  The missing block of time.  Sure.  What we won’t get, though, is the same team, the same structure or framework that we had before and, in that, there has been something lost that we can’t get back.  Barring some kind of all-powerful reset button—which, even if used, most likely won’t show up until halfway through the season at the earliest—then the way the story was told for all of the first season will never be seen again.  That team no longer exists and to completely uproot the audience from it in one, fell, 22-minute swoop seems cruel.  In many ways it feels like a betrayal.  I loved season one.  It makes me very sad to think that it’s probably gone.

Image          This doesn’t mean I’m done with the show.  I still plan to watch it, but only in the hopes that it gets better from here.  I wasn’t especially thrilled with the new format in its own right.  Watching it a second time, I found that there was very little of it that seemed to have any longevity.  Most of the characters and elements of story seemed to be presented at face-value, shallow and temporary.  Will the show stay like this or improve?  I guess we’ll just have to watch and find out.

But here’s hoping.

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