email thomas


















By Thomas Wheeler

In my opinion, some of the finest animated television series in recent years have revolved around characters from the DC Comics universe. Batman, Superman, Justice League -- and now, Young Justice. As one might expect, as the master toy licensee for DC Comics, Mattel has created a concurrent action figure line based on this latest animated concept.

So, what is "Young Justice"? The name was first used for a comic book in the DC Universe some years ago. The team first appeared in Young Justice: The Secret (June 1998), before graduating to their ongoing monthly series. Artist Todd Nauck drew almost all of the comics featuring the group; Todd DeZago wrote their early adventures, and their ongoing series was written almost entirely by Peter David.

The team was formed at a time when DC's usual teen hero group, the Teen Titans, had become the Titans, a group consisting of now adult former Teen Titans. Like the original Teen Titans, Young Justice was centered around three previously established teen heroes, Superboy, Robin and Impulse, but grew to encompass most teenaged heroes in the DC Universe.

As for the animated series, its similarities to the comic book are minimal, but present. Young Justice was created by Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti for Cartoon Network. Despite its title, it is not really a direct adaptation of the Young Justice comic series, but rather an adaptation of the entire DC Universe with a focus on young superheroes. The series follows the lives of teenaged heroes and sidekicks who are members of a fictional covert operation team called Young Justice. The team is essentially a young counterpart to the celebrity-level famous adult team, the Justice League.

Young Justice focuses on the lives of a group of teenaged superheroes and protégés attempting to establish themselves as proven superheroes as they deal with various adolescent issues in their personal lives.

The show corresponds to the present time of our world, a time period Vietti has called "a new age of heroes." Within the continuity of the DC Multiverse, the series is said to take place on "Earth-16".

The pilot movie aired a month prior to the debut of the regular series and introduced four characters: Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Speedy. It established their desire for greater recognition and respect, namely, a promotion from sidekicks to full-fledged superheroes. Met with opposition from their respective mentors in the Justice League, Batman, Aquaman, Flash, and Green Arrow, the protégés react in different ways. Speedy resigns from being Green Arrow's partner and begins calling himself Red Arrow. The others seek to persuade their mentors of their worth by secretly taking on a Justice League mission to investigate the Cadmus building.

During their infiltration of Cadmus' headquarters, the three heroes find a clone of Superman named Superboy. After the discovery, the team finds out Cadmus is creating living weapons called Genomorphs. The movie deals with this revelation, the origin of Superboy, and how this relates to a mysterious group of people called The Light. In the end, Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Superboy negotiate with Batman to organize a covert operations team as a practical contrast to the Justice League whose celebrity status makes it difficult to maintain secrecy. After consulting with his colleagues, Batman establishes Young Justice in a secret cave on a secluded island. Here the teens are trained and mentored by the Justice League. Miss Martian makes an appearance at the end of the movie and joins as the fifth member.

The series began development in March 2009, when Sam Register, Executive Vice President of Creative Affairs of Warner Bros. Animation (also attached to executive produce), wanted a show based on the concept of a cross between Teen Titans and Young Justice series of comics, but was not solely an adaptation of one or the other. The title chosen for the show by Register was Young Justice, as it was appropriately meaningful to the concept the creative team was looking for.

Greg Weisman, whom Register sought immediately after the cancellation of The Spectacular Spider-Man animated television series, and Brandon Vietti, whose work in directing a DC Universe Animated original movie Batman: Under the Red Hood Register particularly noted, were hired to produce. Register jokingly described the two as being similar in appearance, in addition to being similar in thought. Peter David, who penned a majority of the comic book issues of Young Justice, was approached to write several episodes. Also attached to write are Greg Weisman, Kevin Hopps, Andrew Robinson, Nicole Dubuc, Jon Weisman, and Tom Pugsley — with Vietti heavily involved in the scriptwriting process.

The result of the collaboration of Weisman and Vietti was a show about young heroes based on a combination of the 1960s Teen Titans run and the 1990s Young Justice run, in addition to the recent Teen Titans and Young Justice comics. In drawing material from a variety of comic book sources, the creative team sought to differentiate the tone of the show from that of the Teen Titans animated television series.

The concept of a covert operations team has been compared to Impossible Missions Force, a fictional independent espionage agency in the Mission: Impossible series. Together, Weisman and Vietti came up with ideas, characters, and plot points for at least two seasons, although it is unknown as to how many season runs DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation are looking for the series.

Although there were several characters the producers were not allowed to use in the first season (a list that has become shorter along the course of the development), they were usually in charge of the decisions determining which DC Universe character would or would not be used. Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment, and Phil Bourassa, lead character designer for the show, also played a role in the conception and development process.

Mattel is producing both a 4" and a 6" line of action figures based on the series, and recently, I decided to bring home one of the 6" figures, especially given its resemblance to the DC Universe Classics line of action figures. I chose ARTEMIS, a character that doesn't exist within the DC Universe Classics line. Currently, the 6" Young Justice figures are being packaged with what amounts to a diorama's worth of accessories.

Although Artemis was not part of the initial episodes of Young Justice, she signed up before too long, and is regarded as one of the major characters in the series.

Artemis is the team's fifteen-year-old archer. Like Robin, she has no superpowers, but is very skilled with a bow and arrow. She is introduced as Green Arrow's "niece" but it is later revealed that this is not the case. Red Arrow, who knows the truth, believes that there must be a good reason behind Batman and Green Arrow's decision to add her to the team, and therefore agrees not reveal his suspicions about her to the rest of the group, but warns Artemis to not harm his friends. Cheshire, a villain, is Artemis' sister, having left when Artemis was a young girl. In a counseling session, Black Canary advises Artemis to reveal her secret to her teammates but she refuses to do it, telling her not to reveal it herself.

Need it be said the character has more than a fair bit of attitude in the series.

So, how's the figure? Really very impressive. Comparisons to DC Universe Classics figures are inevitable, of course, but even here, Artemis comes across very effectively.

Artemis is a teenage girl with very long blonde hair, tied off in a ponytail. Her skin coloration is a little unusual. It's not quite the same Caucasian shade as a DCUC figure. There's no real reason it has to be, admittedly. It's very slightly darker. In this, I have to say, I am reminded of a character from the DC Universe, Connor Hawke, Green Arrow's son, who himself was Green Arrow for a time. Due to some mixed heritage, his skin tone was slightly darker.

In Young Justice, if Cheshire, an Asian character in the comics, is Artemis' sister, then Artemis might also have a mixed background.

Artemis wears a dark green mask that covers the front of her face, allowing for the eyes and lower face to be exposed. The mask is part of the top part of her costume, which extends to her midriff. The costume is sleeveless, but she is wearing gloves, and has a dark green armband around her upper right arm.

Artemis has a fairly large belt, with assorted small pouches on it, and is wearing dark green leggings. She has gray knee-pads, and is wearing gray shoes that look like high-tech sneakers.

The costume has some very bright green trim on it, including an arrow emblem on the chest, a similar emblem on the belt buckle, and bright green stripes down the sides of the legs.

As much as anything. Artemis' costume looks like a cross between Green Arrow's, and Stargirl's. Interestingly, Artemis stands precisely 6" in height, slightly shorter than the average female figure in the DC Universe Classics line, but exactly the same height as the recently produced Stargirl figure from that line.

There's no question in my mind that the Artemis figure not only uses some DC Universe Classics body molds, but also uses some of the same molds as Stargirl, in order to render her slightly shorter than an adult female from that line. The lower torso, abdomen, upper and lower arms, and some leg sections seem to be the most obvious previously-established parts. I believe the upper torso is new, simply because Artemis isn't quite as well -- endowed as some of the adult females in the DCUC line.

The obvious new sections, other than the head, are the lower legs and feet. The lower legs have the sculpted knee pads attached to them, and the shoes are entirely unique to Artemis.

Some of Artemis' equipment has been molded separately and attached during assemble. This would include her utility belt (sorry, Batman, but I can't think of what else to call it), and a small accessory on her upper left leg, attached by two straps.

So, what about the headsculpt? It's impressively done. I'm honestly not sure if the Four Horsemen, the highly talented team of designers and sculptors responsible for such amazing lines as not only DC Universe Classics, but also Masters of the Universe Classics, had a hand in Young Justice. The highly detailed hair on this figure makes me think that maybe they did, but that's hardly conclusive proof.

Artemis' headsculpt looks like the character from the animated series, but perhaps with just a little more detail in it, to push it just a little bit closer to the comic-realism of the DC Universe Classics line. Now, let me say this -- the animation style of the Young Justice Series is excellent. It's definitely distinctive to itself. It's not Justice League, or Brave and the Bold. It's arguably more realistic than either, with just a hint of anime styling without going as far as the Teen Titans series did. It's really very impressive.

The facial details are superbly painted, especially the eyes. This girl has a mean stare. The nose and mouth are perhaps not as detailed a sculpt as a DCUC figure, but they're still very well done.

Artemis' extremely long blonde ponytail has been molded as a separate piece, and inserted into a socket in the back of the head. Interestingly, it hasn't been glued into place, so it really qualifies as its own articulation point. If you want to pose Artemis as if she's standing in a strong breeze, just rotate the ponytail to the side.

Of course, the figure's articulation is excellent. Artemis is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. The legs, especially the right one, are a little looser than I am comfortable with, but I don't believe they're in danger of falling off. If there's one area where these figures have tended to be a little glitchy from time to time, it's the legs, so I always am a bit paranoid about that.

Now, I've made plenty of comparisons between this Young Justice figure, and DC Universe Classics. I believe the question needs to be asked -- could Artemis fit into the DC Universe Classics line "as is"? And I believe the answer to that question is -- yes. The slightly more animated look of the facial features is not so far afield that she couldn't fit. Any discrepancies could readily be allowed for as aspects of her age or gender, and the rest of the figure actually uses a lot of DC Universe Classics molds. She's certainly size-compatible.

Interestingly, I don't think the same can be said of other Young Justice 6" figures. To date, the only other one I've even seen is Robin, and between his more animated-looking headsculpt and a lot of unique parts, I don't think he'd be a good match. I suspect the same could likely be said as such time as this scale of Young Justice figures gets around to Superboy, Kid Flash, or Aqualad. Now, if they do Miss Martian -- which I'd love it if they did -- she'd probably be as good a fit as Artemis.

Let me make a side comment here. This is not the first time DC Universe Classics body molds have been used in a different DC-related line. The animated movie "Superman/Batman: Public Enemies" turned out a line of action figures that used DCUC bodies, with even more animated-style heads than Artemis here. Too animated, in my opinion, and I never added any of them to my collection. There's also the Batman Legacy line out right now, but that's practically an extension of DC Universe Classics anyway. Suffice to say it's not a practice I have any problem with as long as the results are this impressive.

As I said, Artemis came packaged in a box with a large supply of accessories. I will say that this has driven the price of the 6" Young Justice figures up to a level that a lot of fans regard as disagreeable, and I'm inclined to agree with that assessment. Even the 4" figures have a price point that is pretty extreme for a figure in that size range. I would hate to see this line come to an end, regardless of the success of the show, because it was just too expensive. There's no reason why the Young Justice line couldn't be a worthy successor to the very long-running Justice League line, but at the moment, I'm not convinced it shall be.

Anyway, Artemis comes with a bow, five assorted arrows, a quiver that she can actually wear, as well as her own practice range, which consists of two pieces of "floor", for lack of a better term, one of which features a large target -- with two holes in it that can actually have arrows attached to them via pegs in the tips of the arrows -- a canister for arrows, and a rack for her bow. There's even a footpeg so she knows where to stand to shoot. No cheating and stepping over the line, Artemis!

So, what's my final word? I'm impressed. The Young Justice animated series, while perhaps no Justice League, is a very cool show with an abundant supply of characters from the DC Universe. Artemis is an interesting individual and a prominent character on the show, and her 6" action figure is a very nicely done piece of work that, if one so chooses, is not a bad fit at all within the very popular and exceptionally well-made DC Universe Classics line. Of course, she stands just as well on her own as an impressive representative of the Young Justice series.

The accessories are considerable, and accessories have never been a reason for me to buy an action figure, but they're also very well made, and certainly appropriate to the character.

If you're a fan of the Young Justice series, or even the DC Universe in general, Artemis will be a welcome addition to your collection, I assure you.

The YOUNG JUSTICE 6" figure of ARTEMIS definitely has my highest recommendation!