Top 10: New Characters for Young Justice by Jerry Whitworth
The latest season of Young Justice introduced dozens of new characters. From front-and-center heroes like Halo, Cyborg, Geo-Force, Forager, and Terra to villains like Cassandra Savage, Lady Shiva, Holocaust, and the Shade to new Justice Leaguers in Steel, Batwoman, Metamorpho, Katana, Elongated Man, and Hardware to the Super-Sons Damian Wayne and Jon Kent to entire teams with the Doom Patrol, Suicide Squad, Newsboy Legion, and Infinity, Inc., Outsiders was loaded with new faces. There were even two versions of the Thunder and Lightning duo, one as Vandal Savage/Genghis Khan’s sons as well as Black Lightning’s daughters! So, it should come as little surprise that the coming fourth season is sure to grow its cast that much larger (especially considering the final scene examined in detail here). Lets take a look at some likely candidates.
10. WONDER TWINS
Young Justice has never shied away from paying homage to its roots in the Super Friends. From the Hall of Justice to Wendy and Marvin to the Hall of Doom-inspired headquarters of the Injustice League to a group of runaways based on Apache Chief, Samurai, El Dorado, and Black Vulcan (though modeled after Static rather than Black Lightning), inspiration from the Hanna-Barbera series is sprinkled throughout the brand. In this context, it’s somewhat of a miracle the Wonder Twins have yet to emerge. A brother and sister duo hailing from the planet Exxor, Zan and Jayna have the ability to shift their forms by making physical contact with each other. Zan could assume anything that employed water (including vapor and ice) where Jayna could become any animal. The pair came to Earth to train with the Justice League, taking the place of retiring junior League members Wendy and Marvin. Appearing in the cartoon in the late ’70s, it wouldn’t be for another two decades until they formally emerged in the DC universe proper where they went on to become supporting characters in the Young Justice comic. However, the Wonder Twins are only recently getting the star treatment in their own series under the Young Justice umbrella of titles. Given the prominence of space in Young Justice: Outsiders, it’s likely the show’s creators simply couldn’t find time to introduce the Twins or how to fit them into the story without detracting from the ongoing narrative. But, given the road paved by Forager outing himself as an alien to his classmates, the stage is set for alien teens to begin finding their way to Earth.
The prompt introduction of the Doom Patrol in Young Justice that also revealed their apparent demise poses an interesting question: could the cartoon follow the comics and introduce the Chief’s previously unknown wife Arani Desai/Celsius? What adds weight to this question is the prominence of Beast Boy in the series. Over the course of the second half of Outsiders, Garfield Logan transitioned from just another member of the Team to leading his own splinter group in the Outsiders (becoming one of the show’s stars). Apparently the only survivor of the Doom Patrol’s final mission, could Desai seek out Logan to either reveal the details of the mission or join a new version of that team? In the comics, Desai investigated the death of the Patrol by forming her own group with Tempest and Negative Woman and only discovered Robotman survived (consequently, however, it was revealed the entire team lived).
The introduction of the Rocket Red Brigade in Young Justice sets the stage for Russia’s expanded role in the series. So much of what is being explored in the show reflects the world as it is today so it’s remarkably coincidental how prominent the re-heating of the Cold War today happens to coincide with the red scare in the period of comics the show seems to be adapting. Red Star, People’s Heroes, Pozhar, Red/Blue Trinity, KGBeast, Soyuz, Zuggernaut, NKVDemon, and the Red Shadows are all prominent Russian characters most of which emerged within a five year period in the late ’80s. Honestly, any or all of them could make their way to the next season but one would have to think the Russian superman Stalnoivolk would have to be one of the more prominent candidates. A code name meaning ‘steel wolf,’ Stalnoivolk was created to be Russia’s super soldier during World War II. However, his creation drew fear in Joseph Stalin at the idea of an army of supermen. So, the process to make more like him was destroyed as Stalnoivolk became Russia’s secret sword. Only, his very successes lead to his early retirement out of fear his role as a hero could see him usurp power. When America seemingly started to pump out enhanced individuals by the mass, Stalnoivolk was reactivated and combated the likes of Firestorm, Suicide Squad, and the Doom Patrol. The Rocket Red Brigade also sets the stage for other nations to assemble their own meta-teams perhaps hinting at a more comic accurate version of Onslaught on the show (its version more inspired by the Fearsome Five) as well as the Great Ten, Hayoth, Big Science Action, Super Malon, Force Family, and more.
Looking at what teen heroes make it to the show, the sidekicks of two heroes seem to get the call-up most often: Batman and Green Arrow. In Outsiders alone, there was a junior Batman, Inc. featuring Tim Drake, Spoiler, Orphan, and Arrowette where Harper Row was introduced and will almost undoubtedly transition to Bluebird next season. Looking at Green Arrow’s clan, the hero only has a fraction of the Bat’s supporting cast but the show has already had Speedy (who was cloned to produce Red Arrow and Guardian, took the name Arsenal, and the trio formed Bowhunter Security), Artemis, and Arrowette. In the comics, Green Arrow often associated with older characters such as Onyx, Shado, and Red Arrow/Emiko Queen while John Diggle and Felicity Smoak transitioned from the Arrow television series (which could mean any or all of these characters will be in the League next season). So, in terms of young Green Arrow allies yet to be adapted, odds are good his son Connor Hawke or adopted daughter Mia Dearden could emerge next. However, given Connor’s complicated origins, it’s likely he might be transitioned to being the latest newborn in the show but between Oliver and Dinah (though, Robert Queen, Olivia Queen, Sin, or William Clayton could fill that role). This then puts the odds in favor of Mia Dearden emerging as Speedy. A teen that befriended Oliver when he returned from the dead in the comics, Mia pushed to become the hero’s sidekick until he relented so that she would be trained and have aid if she was going to pursue the life of a vigilante.
Noted with the earlier selection of Speedy, Batman and Green Arrow seem to provide the most fertile ground for Young Justice in teen heroes. Considering the show already has Nightwing, Oracle, Bette Kane, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Damian Wayne, Spoiler, Orphan, and Harper Row, Batman has so many more teen allies that it’s challenging to decide who could be next. There’s Duela Dent (Harlequin/Joker’s Daughter), Helena Wayne/Bertinelli/Kyle (Huntress), Blackwing, Julia Remarque/Perry (Penny-Two), Carrie Kelley (Robin/Catgirl), Holly Robinson (Catwoman), Aaron Langstrom (Man-Bat), Misfit, Scarlet, Luke Fox (Batwing), Kitrina Falcone (Catgirl), Talon, Maps Mizoguchi, Colton Rivera, Olive Silverlock, Pomeline Fritch, Kyle Mizoguchi, DaxAtax, Dre-B-Robbin, R-iko, Robina… trying to pick one is simply a shot in the dark. So, my shot is the Signal. Given Harper Row’s appearance in Outsiders, it adds weight to the Signal emerging as well because they appeared in the comics around the same time and both became breakout stars in the books. The Signal is Duke Thomas, an orphan recruited by Alfred Pennyworth to help defend Gotham City during Batman’s absence who formerly joined the Batman family later as the Signal. Duke has eighth metal in his blood which provides him the power of photokinetic vision which allows him to see glimpses of the near past or future. It is implied he may have psionic abilities and is immortal. Metahumans in close proximity to Duke have the strength of their powers increase.
Natasha Irons is largely defined by one period in her life: the Everyman Project. Prior to this, Natasha acted as a sidekick for her uncle John Henry Irons, both in his company Steelworks/Ironworks and his role as the superhero Steel. Donning her own suit of high-tech armor and also employing the name Steel, Natasha joined a trio of Metropolis-based heroines in Supergirl (Cir-El) and Girl 13/Traci 13. However, when Lex Luthor came along with the Everyman Project offering to turn regular people into superheroes, Natasha took the opportunity. Taking the name Starlight, Natasha lead Luthor’s Infinity, Inc. made up of Everymen recipients but eventually realized Luthor was evil and worked as a double agent. When Luthor learned of her betrayal, he viciously beat her and stripped her of her powers. However, Natasha later developed new powers and claimed the name Vaporlock while again leading Infinity, Inc. sans Luthor. Following the events of Flashpoint, Natasha no longer has powers and employs her armor again. She was also in a romantic relationship with Traci 13 and is a member of the Titans. Outsiders has produced a number of clues alluding to Natasha’s emergence: Steel joining the League, Thirteen joining the Team (though, the showrunners seem to be using her pre-Flashpoint version who’s dating Blue Beetle), and Luthor creating Infinity, Inc.
With the introduction of Cassandra Savage (better know as Scandal in the comics) and the prominence of Apokolips in Outsiders, it’s very likely a character connected to both of these situations will emerge: Knockout. Raised in the Orphanage and inducted into Granny Goodness’ Female Furies, Knockout was inspired by Big Barda’s defection to Earth to do the same. On Earth, she lived in Hawaii where she developed a complicated relationship with Superboy (Conner Kent) as a playful enemy, sometimes ally, and romantic interest. However, Knockout couldn’t overcome her Apokoliptian conditioning and proved to be a cold-blooded killer that Conner was forced to bring to justice. When Alexander Luthor, Jr. formed the Society to further his plans of making the ideal universe, Lex Luthor formed the Secret Six to get revenge for stealing his identity. The Six was lead by Scandal Savage who at some point developed a romantic relationship with Knockout prior to these events. As such, Knockout worked as a spy for the Six as a member of the Society. Knockout subsequently died along with the rest of the New Gods under order of the Source. Scandal and the Six then went to Hell and rescued Knockout from eternal damnation. Given the frenemy status of Vandal Savage and Darkseid’s relationship, bringing Knockout to Young Justice could provide an interesting narrative, perhaps even Romeo & Juliet-esque. Add to this Knockout’s relationship with Superboy in the comics and her history of working as a spy, Knockout could keep the viewers guessing with whom her loyalties lie.
The roster of the Justice League in Young Justice is intriguing. Decidedly inspired by the Satellite era over the show’s three seasons, Outsiders has laid the groundwork for expanding both toward the Detroit and International eras moving forward. In terms of Detroit, Cisco Ramon was introduced as a school friend of Cyborg at Henry Heywood High School. In the comics, Ramon was the hero Vibe and Henry Heywood was the name of superhero Commander Steel as well as his grandson Steel. Vibe and Steel were both members of the Detroit League while Commander Steel’s bunker acted as their headquarters. Detroit counted two more new additions to their ranks in Vixen and Gypsy. Vixen was created earlier and would likely be an adult if introduced in YJ while Gypsy was the youngest of the recruits and, given Ramon’s establishment as a teenager, it’s more likely she could emerge as a member of the Team. A victim of abuse, Cindy Reynolds ran away from home to Detroit where she took on the name Gypsy and joined the Justice League. The Martian Manhunter, who had lost his daughter on Mars when his race was all but wiped out, largely adopted Gypsy as his surrogate daughter and often called upon her in his superhero teams. With the power to cast illusions, Gypsy worked well in covert operations and she became that much more impressive by becoming a martial arts expert under Bronze Tiger (whom she dated). When Gypsy died at one point (a rather fateful development considering the deaths of Vibe and Steel earlier), the Manhunter prayed to the god H’ronmeer who restored her to life. Gypsy’s origins and history was radically changed following Flashpoint where she’s instead from a parallel Earth. There, her father Breacher lead a resistance against Vibe’s brother who, post-Flashpoint, was a supervillain named Rupture. Gypsy, Vibe, Breacher, and Rupture all have similar abilities to cross space.
It seems like every season of Young Justice moves closer to introducing the New Teen Titans into the universe. Garfield Logan was introduced in the first season before transitioning to Beast Boy in Invasion. This latest season Cyborg was brought into the mix which only leaves Starfire and Raven. In terms of Raven, her story in the comic lead to the re-formation of the Teen Titans when the Justice League refused to aid her against her father Trigon. It’s possible the show maybe looking to adopt that very story, establishing the Teen Titans within the show when members of the Team decide to trust the young woman. Also, if the showrunners decide to adhere more closely to the idea Trigon is a demon, it could mean a change of tone from where its gone the past two seasons. In this, Starfire makes more sense because Invasion and Outsiders moved progressively more and more into space. Should season four move toward the conflict in the Vega system, it could see the establishment of Starfire and the Omega Men in the show.
Among the Justice League’s membership in Outsiders, noticeably absent is the presence of Firestorm. A gestalt being made up of Dr. Martin Stein and Ronnie Raymond, Firestorm the Nuclear Man was a fire elemental able to alter the elemental composition of inorganic material. A breakout character for DC Comics in the late ’70s, he drew a number of parallels to Spider-Man as a younger hero with social issues and a significant rogues gallery (though, while Spider-Man’s rogues tended to be variations of animals, Firestorm’s often controlled the elements of nature). Firestorm went through many iterations earning new acclaim and interest fifteen years ago with the mantle passed to a new youth in Jason Rusch (seven years before Miles Morales emerged in Spider-Man’s comics).
Following the events of Flashpoint, Firestorm’s origins were drastically changed. Therein, Dr. Stein and Mikhail Arkadin invented the Firestorm Protocol which could turn someone into an element-altering being of fire. Several heroes around the world were created such as Helix in the United States, Firehawk in France, Hurricane in the United Kingdom, Rakshasi in India, and an unidentified champion in China as well as Arkadin as Russia’s Pozhar. The Protocol was stolen, however, by Arkadin and turned into a weapon for criminals (notably by Haji Al-Farishtaa in Qurac). Dr. Stein provided the Protocol to Jason Rusch, a teenage admirer of Stein’s work, who was forced to use it to transform he and his classmate Ronnie Raymond into Firestorms. Each wielding separate aspects of the powers, the two were unique in that they could merge with other Protocol recipients to become monstrous beings of power. Rusch and Raymond became Fury, Rusch and Firehawk were Wrath, and Raymond and Pozhar was Scorn. Later, all of the Protocol’s Nuclear Men were seemingly killed save Rusch, Raymond, and Helix as the former two instead merged together to become a singular Firestorm. Both the Teen Titans and Justice League invited Firestorm to join their ranks. It’s likely, given this new origin and how well it would work in the context of Young Justice, the character was being saved to have his own arc on the show and would act instead as a member of the Team. Also, Firestorm’s earliest adventures dealt heavily with Russian characters (Pozhar, Stalnoivolk, Soyuz, and Zuggernaut) as Russia may have a large role in the coming season. Interestingly enough, the character of Killer Frost, who is one of Firestorm’s most prominent adversaries, has been part of Young Justice since its first episode.
Honorable mentions: Mr. Miracle, Ryan Choi, Ravager, Jericho, Booster Gold, Swamp Thing, John Constantine, Teen Lantern, Huntress, Azrael, Animal Man, Etrigan, Jemm, Jesse Quick, Prince Gavyn, and Captain Comet.