If you asked me what the best show on TV is, I’d probably say something like Mad Men, but the truth is that my favorite shows just happened to return recently. And no, it’s not Downton Abbey, though that is a great show. My favorite shows on TV, heck my favorite television concept right now, is Cartoon Network’s DC Nation. If you’re unfamiliar, this is an hour of TV that runs at 10AM on Saturdays and Sundays that’s made up of Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Young Justice and a series of shorts based on various interpretations of DC’s stable of heroes. As a gigantic and longtime fan of DC Comics, this hour is tailor made for me, luckily, it’s also made up of high quality shows that absorb me more than plenty of other shows on this season.
Green Lantern: TAS follows Hal Jordan, Kilowog and their artificial intelligence Aya running around the galaxy fighting threats, many of which are based on Geoff Johns’ run on the Green Lantern comics, it’s spinoffs and events. I’m not exactly sure how the seasons break down, especially since Cartoon Network decided to put DC Nation on hold for like three months, but currently, this group is trying to figure out how to stop the Manhunters and their boss The Anti-Monitor. Since returning, this search knocked Hal into an alternate dimension that was all steampunk-y and brought the gang to the home of the Blue Lanterns.
The fun thing about Green Lantern: TAS is that all of this material seems new even though it’s heavily based on comics I’ve read. That’s partly because unlike Batman or Spider-Man, there haven’t already been plenty of iterations of these characters and what they’ve done. It also helps that a lot of the material they’re mining comes from the last few years and doesn’t go way back to the Silver Age. I mean, you’re not watching huge-headed Hector Hammond in CGI on every episode, but instead focusing on the space cop elements of the book that I love so much. My only complaint? Not enough Green Lanterns. I think we’re building towards something big that will involve all the colors of the Lantern rainbow fighting Anti-Monitor and the Manhunters. Did you guys see the episode with Ch’p on Oa? How awesome was that? More Ch’p!
I actually talked to Young Justice creators Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti about the cartoon back when I was still working at ToyFare. They were cagey about a lot of the details because the show hadn’t debuted just yet, but I could tell they were really ambitious about this project. I had no idea at the time how ambitious though, even though they explained to me how each episode had a date and time stamp that would also coincide with the tie-in comic. Maybe it’s my cynical nature, but I still thought, “Okay, we’ll see.” And boy, did they show me.
My wife and I started watching the series, the premise of which has the Justice League using a team of young heroes to go on covert missions against villains all the while dealing with their youth. The first season, which was fantastic, was followed up by the second which is shockingly amazing. Between season there’s been a five year jump in continuity, some of the biggest members of the Justice League are missing, an alien alliance has a giant metaphorical gun pointed at the planet and all kinds of changes have gone on in the Young Justice world.
The beauty of a series like Young Justice is that, unlike a lot of other superhero cartoons, it doesn’t just repackage existing stories, but instead builds its own stories using the ones that have come before it and compiling something new and possibly better. There’s a clear reference in the season’s subtitle to the 80s crossover event Invasion, but they also pull from classic Justice League comics — I freaked out when Despero showed up last weekend — and even the fantastic Blue Beetle series from a few years back. It’s really like they took the whole chronology of the DCU, put various elements on notecards and then threw them all over the room to get rid of the order and then put them back in a way that made sense in service of their story.
Another aspect of this series that I really like is how you really have to either keep up or just sit back and enjoy the ride. There is a mountain of story so far in this season, a mountain I have trouble remembering for the most part. I wonder how kids keep up with it or if they have any trouble. I’m able to rely on my existing DC knowledge to fill in some of the gaps, but it’s all new to them. They’re better at absorbing information than adults are, so maybe it’s not a problem for them. The cast of characters is pretty huge at this point and the second season not only introduced plenty more, but also had a few characters switch up their superhero identities. I love not knowing what all is going on and trying to remember if we’ve had certain things explained or if they’re going to come to us eventually. I’m patient, so I don’t mind waiting for the slow burn.
DC Nation also has a ton of excellent shorts that I adore. The only one that gets on my nerves is that weird British thumb ting that uses kids voices, that’s just not in my wheelhouse. But, I’ll take a few of those every season just to get to a Plastic Man, Animal Man, Amethyst, Thunder & Lightning (Black Lightning’s daughters), Anime Batman, Super Best Friends Forever (shown above) and a ton of others. I’d actually love to see Cartoon Network get behind something like SBFF or Thunder and Lightning and give it a full series of episodes. I’m sure the idea of building a whole series around female superheroes worries CN execs, but I think there could be a real future there.
With Teen Titans Go and Beware The Batman getting added to the DC Nation block, I’m even more excited about where DC Nation is going. I’m not sure if those two shows will bolster the block to two hours instead of one or if the new shows will replace the old and trade off when new seasons are ready. I’m super happy with DC’s animated situation right now between DCN and the straight-to-DVD movies they keep nailing (a bunch just got added to Netflix Instant, so I’m going to get caught up!). Can’t wait to see where things go from here.