Not to be outdone by…themselves apparently, DC Comics has decided to cancel Young Justice, the comic book tie-in to the popular, and perpetually on hiatus, cartoon of the same name. The book will release its last issue in February 2013 with issue #25. Announced earlier this week, the cancellation of Young Justice is coming hot off the heels of the cancellation of Hellblazer, the longest running, uninterrupted title at DC after the New 52. And with this announcement, DC is sending its readers and loyal fanbase a clear message:
YOU CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!
Seriously, I’m scratching my head over this one. At least with Hellblazer I understand that they’re trying to make everybody young in the DCU because, presumably, superheroes have only been around for five years. So that’s at least them trying to fit all of their titles into one, clear-cut, straight forward universe – despite all the problems I may have with the decision. But Young Justice the comic isn’t part of the DCU in the traditional sense. It’s a tie-in to an entirely different property that features different versions of DC’s characters, one that also has a loyal fanbase of younger viewers and readers.
As reported by Newsarama.com, DC has had tie-in comics for every major animated property from Warner Brothers, starting with Batman: The Animated Series. One of the best books to come out of the tie-in comics was Mad Love, written by Paul Dini and drawn by Bruce Timm, that fleshed out the origins of Harley Quinn and her volatile relationship with The Joker. The book was later adapted into an episode of The New Batman Adventures. What’s really fascinating about the tie-in comics is their habit of outlasting the original property. Tie-in books for Batman: The Animated Series continued five years after the show was officially cancelled with Superman: The Animated Series, Teen Titans, and Justice League having tie-ins lasting two years beyond each show. Hell, Batman Beyond continues to pop up with new volumes and digital issues to this day! Why? Because tie-in comics to popular shows, especially animated series, grab the attention of younger viewers and provide them with supplemental stories. Though episodes air weekly – unless you’re Young Justice – the comic book tie-in is a format that allows for an expanded story that isn’t limited by time, just pages.
It would be one thing if sales for the comic were poor, but according to World’s Finest, sales for the Young Justice comic have been increasing. The October 2012 sales estimates states:
“The title has been experiencing a slow growth in sales from month to month for the past year, usually an additional 1% jump per issue, though the switch to the second season Young Justice: Invasion era of the animated series with issue #20 has resulted in a bigger 5% jump in comic sales.”
Compare that to the lower number of books moved for the Green Lantern: The Animated Series tie-in comics that have gone down since the title was first released, which I acknowledge happens to many comics, but have plateaued at selling roughly 6,500 units per months while Young Justice has increased in sales with an average of 7,500 units per month. With that one thousand unit difference, why was Young Justice cancelled and not Green Lantern? And for that matter, what does this mean for the future of their animated counterparts?
Let’s talk conspiracies for a moment, shall we? It’s no secret that Young Justice and Green Lantern: TAS were unexpectedly pulled from the Cartoon Network line-up two weeks in after a four month hiatus. Some believe Young Justice was pulled because of the possible introduction of Stephanie Brown, but that still wouldn’t explain Green Lantern being pulled unless they didn’t want it to be too obvious what they were doing. And, to the infinite frustration of fans, no one at Cartoon Network, DC Nation, or DC Comics has offered any kind of reason for the pull. All they’ll tell you is to stay tuned for their return in 2013 along with new shows like Beware The Batman and Teen Titans Go!
For my money’s worth, I think Green Lantern is safe because the show meshes better with the current DCU books. The stories are different, to be sure, but you have Hal Jordan, Kilowog, the various lantern corps, the Guardians, and whatnot that connect with the comic books in a way that won’t entirely contradict each other. Young Justice, on the other hand, is a gigantic red light shining on the DCU because, in my opinion, Young Justice is the better version of The New 52. The timeline is still truncated, but all of the characters (with the exception of a few because it wouldn’t logically make sense to shoehorn Damian Wayne into the show) are there, still interact with each other in a meaningful way that speaks of a shared history, and act like the heroes we know them to be without alienating newbies and pissing off the rest of us. When Young Justice first aired in January 2011 the New 52 was about nine months away, but DC had to have known what was going on with the show in order to let it continue despite the obvious differences between the two universes. Now, a little more than one year into the new world order, and a five year jump on Young Justice, the two universes continue to operate separately, but Young Justice has managed to progress its characters through well-crafted storytelling and character moments whereas some – but not all – DC books flounder by favoring style over substance. Given the options, which would you choose?
Does the cancellation of Young Justice the comic foretell the cancellation of the animated show? I hope not. I really love the series and I’d like to believe that DC understands the popularity and potential readership a show like Young Justice brings. But I’ve been wrong before.