This past weekend saw the end of a great, but short-lived era as Green Lantern The Animated Series and Young Justice took their final bows. When Cartoon Network announced their cancellations I, along with many fans, were full of disappointment and questions as to why they would not renew these two shows for another season. Nothing about the move made sense, as they were both shows that combined some slick animation with great story telling. From all accounts I know of both shows also brought in good viewership numbers. Well, like it or not, they are both now gone.
I remember watching the hour long specials of both shows when they were previewed on Cartoon Network before their debuts and I recall being full of joy at the prospect of getting some great DC cartoons on the air, something that hasn’t happened since Batman The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited went off the air. (Batman: Brave and the Bold doesn’t count as it sucked.) As a cartoon junkie I was blown away at the premieres of both shows and was elated at every aspect I was presented with, I loved the animation, I loved the stories both premieres told and I loved the fact that it felt like superhero cartoons were finally making a comeback in a big way. I was thrilled with the Green Lantern in particular as Hal Jordan is my favorite hero of all time.
Time went on and both shows performed beyond my expectations, Green Lantern gave us an animated Red lantern Corp, they introduced Saint Walker and the Blue Lanterns (I watched that episode at my in-laws house and they thought I was a bit strange as I squealed in glee at the first sight of Saint Walker being chosen by his blue ring.), we got the Star Sapphires and Larfleeze as well as Manhunters. One thing Green Lantern did so well was mine the comic universe for material, with Geoff Johns’ characters playing a huge role in the cartoon. They crafted original characters as well like Aya and Razer, which fit perfectly into the cartoon universe and became characters that we came to love over time as they were developed and fleshed out week after week. That in itself was a huge coup, its easy for fans to get on board with Larfleeze and Saint Walker, but to get us to care so much about characters that we were unfamiliar with at the start and see them elevated to the point that we cared for them as much as Hal Jordan or Kilowog shows the brilliance of the people behind the series. In fact the end was focused around the relationship around Aya and Razer, and that’s a facet of the show I will miss probably even more than the adventures of Jordan.
Young Justice was probably one of the best superhero cartoons on TV at the time. Sure it got a bit murky as we moved into Invasion, or as I like to call it, Young Justice Unlimited (fans of the Justice League cartoon will get that one.), with an huge expansion in the team roster and the five year jump, but the show really never missed a beat. What started as the adventures of the sidekicks of the main DC heroes quickly blossomed into something that showed us these sidekicks were just as important, if not more so, than the main heroes. My one and only complaint about the show was how Nightwing took a backseat action wise with Invasion, but the show was something really special and exposed us to a lot of different corners of the DC Universe like tech from Apokolips, and they more than handled their own against big time baddies like The Reach.
One of the best things to come from these shows is that they familiarize kids who have never picked up a comic book with these characters. The other day I went outside to play with my 19-month-old son, and as always the kids from my apartment complex came over to play. I was sporting my Nightwing shirt and instantly one of them calls out “Nightwing!” as he’s walking over. I started to quiz him on Nightwing, who he used to be, his real identity, but he had never read any comics, he said he knew Nightwing from Young Justice. That was exactly how I came to know and love superheroes as a kid because we couldn’t afford to buy comics every week. Today’s cartoon fan is tomorrow’s comic buyer. I feel bad that kids won’t know whom they are going forward and an awesome character like Nightwing will be relegated back to obscurity outside of the comics community.
I also question the future of DC Nation going forward. I haven’t seen a lot of Beware The Batman, but what I have seen hasn’t impressed me much. Then there is the rehash of the Teen Titans cartoon, which now goes by Teen Titans Go! When the original aired I was in my early 20’s and a kiddy version of Young Justice held no interest for me at the time, and neither does the new series. I think keeping it as a DC Nation Shorts would’ve been the better way to go. Or even just adding these new shows to the current DC Nation line up to help strengthen the cartoon block, especially in the face of the loss of the Clone Wars. It also seems that the network is relying on live action shows as well making me question the direction the network is taking overall. I will tell you this, if Beware the Batman turns out to suck, without Young Justice, Green Lantern and Clone Wars, I will have absolutely zero use for Cartoon Network at all.
The finales of both shows were nothing short of spectacular; both shows had a huge range of emotion to them, from excitement all the way to making me tear up at the loss of Aya and Kid Flash. I will say that though both felt more like a season finale than a series finale, they both got their proper due with a sense of finality to them. I will say after those finales I hate Cartoon Network more than ever as they have robbed me of the chance to see Razer as a Blue Lantern and to see Young Justice pitted against Darkseid in what would’ve been their next seasons. There are some people out there, who still hold out hope that they may return. One such fan is Twitter user @PS3Lover2012, as much as I fancy myself a super fan of these shows, her fandom seems to put mine to shame. She is still asking Twitter users to help save the show, a noble effort that is probably in vain. Producer Giancarlo Volpe tweeted that he wished he could still air these shows along with some other recently cancelled greats on a YouTube channel. That just goes to show that what we were getting wasn’t just a show that people were making as a job, they were giving us love letters to these characters every week and we got to reap the benefits of it.
There have been way too many great cartoons getting the axe in recent years such as Wolverine and the X-Men, Spectacular Spider-Man, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Clone Wars. It almost seems a waste to invest myself in these shows as they could be gone tomorrow (though that’s not the case for Clone Wars which got a great run), but as long as there are great people working on great shows made for the fans, I will always tune in. Green Lantern, Young Justice, though your time with us was brief, I will never forget how you helped to make Saturday morning cartoons mean something again.
You can follow Christopher on Twitter @AUDone44 and The Nerd @nerdfollowing