Netflix may be taking on animated superhero show "Young Justice" for a third season, bringing back the adventures of the Justice League’s younger heroes. Comic artist Christopher Jones encouraged fans to “binge watch on Netflix” in order to bring in more views and convince the corporation to take on the series.
While the future of the beloved show is unclear, the past has a turbulent history. Originally conceived by writers Brandon Vietti and Greg Weisman, the show premiered on Cartoon Network in November 2010.
Running for 26 episodes in its first season, the series followed an adolescent team of heroes, in their quest to maintain peace and assist the Justice League in their missions.
Members included alien-borne Miss Martian, Batman’s sidekick Robin, Wonder Girl, Artemis, Aqualad and others, with several cameos from big-ticket heroes such as Superman and the Flash.
The show was praised for its extensive characterization, excellent animation and superb storytelling, garnering approval from various critics. It drew in a large following, taking in 1.9 million viewers for one weekend in March 2013 for its Season 2 finale, and being given a comic books series spinoff, an action figure line and a video game version.
Due to the memorable characters and mature storyline, the show also developed a large peripheral demographic. While the target audience was cited as younger children and preteens, teens and adults in the 15-21 age range were watching the show.
Despite its massive popularity, glowing reviews and an ever-expanding fanbase, Cartoon Network abruptly and inexplicably cancelled the series in 2013, ending after the second season finale, along with the also-popular “Green Lantern: The Animated Series.” The network replaced the time slots with “Teen Titans: Go!” and “Beware the Batman."
Why would a network cancel such a popular show, which surely brought in plenty of ad revenue and acclaim to the network? This question can be asked for the popular series “Teen Titans” as well, which, like “Young Justice,” was cancelled prematurely.
The reason for the series’ end is the reason for its creation in the first place: toy sales.
Consider that shows like “He-Man,” “My Little Pony” and “Scooby Doo” existed for only one reason: to sell toys and merchandise to young millennials. This was reflected in the show’s overall look and execution. Needless characters were introduced on a whim in order to encourage additional character sets, while the animation was cheap and the writing was at best shoddy.
This model remained a large part of network’s marketing for decades, and is still apparent in multiple corporations, most notably Warner Bros.
However, now, instead of treating the show as merely a vehicle for profit, writers and artists of animated shows have care for their characters. No longer were they simply animated versions of a plastic figurine, but three-dimensional protagonists with quirks, personalities and relatability.
Likewise, the show’s plots were given an upgrade, as the characters explored deeper moral issues, dealt with internal conflict and developed as they learned. This was a far cry of the fill-the-blank “Monster of The Week” plots of the '90s.
The development isn’t exclusive to superhero shows, either. Shows like “Gravity Falls,” “Wander Over Yonder” and “Adventure Time” illustrate just as much care and personality, also boasting a large periphery demographic of older audience members.
However, large audiences will do nothing for a show’s value to executives if the product doesn’t sell toys. Evidently, the toy line for “Young Justice” just didn’t sell. The company in charge of manufacturing the figures, Mattel, considered the series unprofitable and dropped the line, resulting in Cartoon Network losing money and cancelling the show.
In addition to this, according to producer Paul Dini, the peripheral demographic may just have been a detractor from the show’s appeal to executives.
“There’s been this weird—there’s been a sudden trend in animation, with super-heroes. Like, ‘It’s too old. It’s too old for our audience, and it has to be younger,” said Dini in an interview with online newsletter The Mary Sue. “I've heard executives say this, you know, not [where I am] but at other places, saying like, 'We do not want girls watching this show."
Why? “The girls buy different toys.”
Cartoon Network's main pull for the show was a specific demographic: younger boys, who would buy more action figures and toys. Since the show was enjoyable for all audience members – male, female, young, old – the number of views didn’t matter. If the toys didn’t sell, the show was cut.
Though Warner Bros. may be dumbing down their audience for the sake of mere toy sales, Netflix may have found a windfall. Since their profits are based on views, and not on merchandise tie-ins, picking up a show with a massive following such as “Young Justice” would be an advantageous move for the company. It’s yet to be seen, however, whether they’ll make the move.
For now, justice will have to wait.
Marlese Lessing is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.