Superman Homepage reporter Michael Moreno conducted the following interview with animator, director, and producer Brandon Vietti, who developed and co-produces the animated television show “Young Justice” with Greg Weisman, to discuss “Young Justice: Outsiders”, his previous work with Superman in animated form, and whether we’ll see a new Superman animated series any time soon.
After an almost six year absence, the animated show Young Justice has returned in the form of Young Justice: Outsiders. Can you share any details on the creative process on bringing back this show?
BV: In bringing Young Justice back, my co-producer, Greg Weisman, and I sat down and started reviewing where we left off with our story and we both wanted to pick up from there with our third season. We could have done a huge time jump or introduced some other device to “shake things up” but we really wanted Young Justice: Outsiders to feel like a logical continuation following season two, Young Justice: Invasion. We felt we owed that continuity to our fans who, for many years, petitioned, binge watched and rallied for a third season via social media to such an enormous degree that our chief at WB Animation, Sam Register, and DC started to consider bringing us back. It was incredibly gratifying to help create something that people loved so much.
Can you give any hints on what viewers can look forward to for the rest of the season and the future of this series?
BV: It’s always difficult to answer questions about that. Greg and I are very secretive producers and we like our viewers to experience anything new through the stories and characters within the show instead of explaining what’s coming ahead of time. We like to preserve as many surprises as possible so they can be discovered in the show and have maximum impact on the audience.
That said, with YJ being a show that focuses on the growth of generations through real time, it’s a guarantee that we’re always going to introduce more young characters to see how those new relationships will force everyone to evolve. The first season dynamic between Superboy and Superman is a perfect example. In crafting their first meeting, I think we defied audience expectations of an instant familial bond and created tension between the two that stemmed from their own internal issues. Both characters needed to grow and mature to find a healthy relationship. These kinds of dynamics echo real life, make the characters less perfect and therefore more relatable and keep our audience guessing about what will happen next. We’ll continue to search for stories like that with all the new characters we introduce in our third season.
In the second season of the Legion of Superheroes the clone of Superman (Kel-El aka Superman X) was shown to be very much like the Young Justice‘s Superboy. Was there any inspiration from this previous character for Conner?
BV: Well, all credit for Superman X goes to producer James Tucker and story editor Michael Jelenic who crafted the characters for Legion of Superheroes. As a director for that show, I really loved working with that character. It’s possible I had a little of that love creep into our early Superboy discussions while developing Young Justice but I don’t recall any intentional influence from Superman X.
Similarities will always bubble up through iterations of characters that pull from the same source material. Personally speaking, as a fan of so many characters from so many companies, I love to see what common qualities translate through various iterations of characters. These qualities add to an overall tapestry that defines great characters crafted over and over again by various creative teams. In DC’s long history of Superman clones, I hope fans find some value in the contributions of YJ‘s Superboy and Superman X.
You worked on the animated LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes films. Will there be any further adventures of Superman and the Justice League heading our way soon?
BV: I’m not at liberty to announce any new stuff. But with DC and LEGO both being so popular, no one should be surprised if they pair up again someday.
I had so much fun working with Michael Jelenic and Jim Krieg in crafting LEGO Superman. To speak of iterations of characters again, it was amazing to get to work with a whole new Superman after Superman: The Animated Series, Superman: Doomsday and Young Justice. It’s always tricky to transition a traditionally dramatic character into a comedy roll. But we focused on all the things we love about Superman and then pushed those qualities to an extreme with the goal of crafting a charming Superman that you can laugh with but never laugh at. We knew we might be introducing a new generation of kids to Superman and the DC Universe for the first time and wanted them to fall in love with the characters while respecting them. Hopefully we achieved that for kids and the parents who might watch as well.
It’s been about twelve years since your work on the animated film Superman: Doomsday. What was it like adapting one of Superman’s greatest stories to the animated world?
BV: In a word – Exciting! I was also directing for Bruce Timm for the first time and the success or failure of the movie could have determined the future of more movies after that. So while it felt like there were some high stakes, I remember everyone being very excited to bring their best to such a special new project.
Many of us on the crew had collected the “Death of Superman” comics as they came out and felt lucky to get to bring that story to life in animation. So the awesome level of the project was very high and that helped Bruce bring together an amazing crew. I directed the first third of the movie and I was incredibly lucky to get my former director from The New Batman/Superman Adventures, Butch Lukic, to help me out with storyboards. Joaquim Dos Santos storyboarded an incredible fight between Superman and Doomsday. Lauren Montgomery and Bruce were each directing the other two thirds of the movie. Every department was stacked with highly skilled pros. It was truly an all-star team and I think you can see that quality on screen.
You worked on Superman: The Animated Series. Since then, has your work on Superman changed? If so, how has it changed?
BV: As someone who has been lucky to work on several iterations of Superman, it has proven necessary to change my approach to the character with each new project in some small way. Largely, we always have to respect who the character is after 80 plus years of history and also what his fans expect him to be. But repetition can kill a character so the challenge is to keep putting him in new situations that help reveal unexplored aspects of who he is. This can mean putting him in new locations, new time lines, pairing him with new characters or placing him in stories with different tones. In each of those situations, the creative approach to Superman changes a little but always hinges on who he is at his core.
Would you like to see Superman in a new animated film or series soon? If so, are there any plans?
BV: I would love to see more explorations of Superman in animation. Despite his long history I know there is so much more to the character that hasn’t yet been explored. So I hope I get to work with Superman again someday soon.
Lastly, do you have any words of advice for aspiring artists; was the Kubert school an important influence for you?
BV: The Kubert School was a great experience for me because it taught me how to work under pressure and it gave me a great foundation for many artistic skills. This prepared me for professional work where performance pressure is often very high with tight deadlines and expectations to follow direction well and continually learn.
I have lots of advice for aspiring artists. Draw as much as possible. Don’t labor over any one piece of art for too long. Take art classes. Study and recreate the processes of your favorite artists so you can learn from others who might be more advanced than you. Share and discuss your work with others and swallow any fears you have of being critiqued by others. Draw what you love because that smooths out the frustrations of the learning process but don’t be afraid to push outside your comfort zone- you never know what you’ll discover. Try different styles, techniques and tools. Always be eager to learn because learning art never stops no matter how far along you are in your career. And stay humble. Because nobody gets to be “the best” and nobody wants to work with anybody who thinks they’re “the best”. It’s art. It’s subjective. Just be the best artist that you can be for yourself.
The Superman Homepage would like to thank Brandon Vietti for agreeing to do this interview, and for fitting it into his busy schedule.
This interview is Copyright © 2019 by Steven Younis. It is not to be reproduced in part or as a whole without the express permission of the author.