Did you know that at one time, it was possible to have comic books and characters that were lighthearted, easy going, and didn’t dwell in constant angst and gloom? I do understand there is definitely a place for a darker story in comics, but I would definitely prefer them to be the minority. Give me more Spider-Girl and Astro City and less Civil War and Identity Crisis.
Even Young Justice was a victim of this “comics are not allowed to be fun” mentality. I have to be honest, I read and reread Graduation Day, and I still never quite figured out why Young Justice were forced to stop being YJ. I know it has something to do with Titans member Donna Troy being reckless and attacking Indigo by herself which led to Troy’s death. As a result, it was decided that the Young Justice kids were terrible at being heroes and needed to be mentored by the former Teen Titans. Because when I think of ideal role models, Changeling, Cyborg, and Starfire come to mind.
But hey, that kind of mindset was all encompassing in DC at the time. If you were a lighthearted character, WATCH OUT! Blue Beetle? Bullet to the head from one of his most trusted friends. Elongated Man? It’s revealed that his wife was raped by Doctor Light and that once upon a time the Justice League had decided to go all Squadron Supreme on Doctor Light. It’s never good when the Justice League decide to take the social commentary of Squadron Supreme and apply it to their playbook.
Over the last few years, comics with a lot of humor became children’s comics like Marvel Adventures and Tiny Titans. Where are the fun, lighthearted comics for us older readers?
Back in the 90’s, that’s where!
I actually still remember the first comic I read written by Peter David. It was X-Factor 74. A friend had given me this and a few other comics as a birthday gift, and I was surprised by how cool this version of X-Factor was. I was surprised to see obscure references to things I love like Monty Python and the Muppets jumping right out at me.
I immediately started to buy anything Peter David wrote. I will admit that sometimes his stuff goes a little too far towards the absurd, but it definitely hits a lot more than it misses. I especially love Supergirl, Captain Marvel, Soulsearchers, X-Factor, and of course, Young Justice!!
When Young Justice spun off from World Without Grownups, I was immediately a fan. Great deep characters (especially Wonder Girl, who has never been written this well before or since), a playful nature, and stories that built up to great payoffs. Once again, sometimes Peter David went a little far for a joke (Ali Ben Styn comes to mind), but even that ridiculous joke ended up coming to play almost two years later with a payoff leading to one of Young Justice’s best storylines.
This book made me love Impulse, Superboy, Robin, Wonder Girl, Arrowette, and Secret. Not to mention introducing some great characters like Slobo and Empress. They were written with such depth, and THEY ACTUALLY ACTED LIKE TEENAGERS! The only other mainstream comic that has come close to getting that tone right was Runaways when Vaughan wrote it.
When talking about Young Justice, I have to mention the first villain YJ encountered in their series. Mightily Endowed…who was defeated when she was toppled by her…err…mighty endowments. Watch out, Power Girl!
A more serious side of Young Justice
The great part was that even with the lighthearted tone, Young Justice still managed to tell some powerful and dramatic stories. Harm is one of the best villains DC has ever created. I still get chills thinking about his origin story where he kills his younger sister just to get more power for himself.
YJ also told some powerful stories involving Red Tornado and his adopted daughter.
On top of those great stories, we had my personal favorite serious YJ story – Young Justice issue 15.
In issue 15, after a close friend is murdered, Arrowette tracks down the killers in a violent rage. She almost kills them until Superboy intervenes. Cissie is so shaken by the incident that she vows never to be Arrowette again. Even this dark story manages to have plenty of humorous moments, like Arrowette terrified by the idea that she’s going to become a cold blooded vigilante…WITH CLEAVAGE! The next issue would have a great homage to Spider-Man when Arrowette let’s a criminal run by her and a security guard says, “Hey, what if that guy kills someone’s uncle?”
I loved that Arrowette really stayed retired after this. She still appeared in the book and had a major role, but not as a superhero. This kind of permanent character development is always a good thing.
Peter David and Todd Nauck are really at their best in this issue. Even if you don’t like Young Justice or Peter David, this issue should be required reading. You will understand what it really means to be a hero, and how easy it is for someone with power to lose who they really are.
Tip of the Baseball Cap/ Wag of My Disapproving Digit
In honor of Sir Doctor Stephen T. Colbert, I am launching a new segment of my column called “Tip of the Baseball Cap/ Wag of My Disapproving Digit” where I acknowledge some things that deserve special attention, positive or negative.
My first Tip Of The Baseball Cap goes to my sister, Patti. Even though she failed in her mission to get me a Young Justice animated poster at San Diego Comic Con, she’s still the coolest geek I know. This column was suggested by her, and I had to give her credit for that…mostly because I’d never hear the end of it if I didn’t.
This weeks Wag of My Disapproving Digit goes to Batman Inc. I’m sorry, but that is just about the stupidest name for a comic ever. While I’m glad that DC is finally being honest about their desire to whore Batman out, but do they really need to be so blatant about it? Why not just call it “Batman: Give us your cash fanboy!”?
I have to tell you, I am really looking forward to Young Justice the animated series. It’s about time we got some more Young Justice, and not this Teen Titans nonsense DC has been shoving down our throats the last few years. Give me teens that actually act and talk like teens, PLEASE!
As always, I love hearing from the readers. Please drop me a line with any comments, criticisms, or suggestions for other books you’d like to see me take on. See you in two weeks!
Tags: Teen Titans, Young Justice