Young Justice: Targets picks up after the series' shortest-ever time skip

Young Justice: Targets #1 preview
Young Justice: Targets #1 preview (Image credit: DC Comics)

Dedicated fans of the long-running DC animated series Young Justice know that the show just ended its fourth season, Phantoms, on a pretty high note. But starting today on the DC Universe Infinite app and next month in your local comic shop, the six-issue limited series Young Justice: Targets will force the team to deal with a high-stress, high-stakes situation: the kidnapping of Queen Perdita, AKA Beast Boy's ex-girlfriend, which will require all hands on deck.

Ahead of the Young Justice: Targets debut, Newsarama spoke with Young Justice co-executive producer and writer Greg Weisman and storyboard artist Christopher Jones about what fans can expect from the comic and how it factors into the larger world of Earth-16.

Young Justice: Targets #1 (Image credit: DC)

Samantha Puc for Newsarama: Greg and Chris, Young Justice: Targets has a fairly worrisome title. What can fans expect from this series?

Greg Weisman: I think there are going to be some worrisome moments to go with that worrisome title. I think there are some scary moments. The ending of episode 26 of Phantoms is actually pretty damn happy. They're all coming from a place of feeling good and feeling like, 'We got Conner back! We solved all these problems! We're in a good place. Everything's good.' And then suddenly Perdita's abducted, and that takes place in the first issue of [Young Justice: Targets]. 

What you'll see in issue #2 and forward is that the response to this is both immediate and intense, from the great breadth of our cast. As you know, we have a very large cast. Things are going to get pretty intense and scary, I think. I'm not going to reveal whether the ending of Targets is as happy as the ending of Phantoms, but it definitely gets scary, there.

Nrama: How much time passes between the end of Phantoms and the beginning of Targets?

Weisman: Season 4, episode 26 of Phantoms ends on September 17th. Issue #1 of Targets starts on November 9th. It's a little less than two months between. Two-month time skip. That's probably our shortest time skip.

Nrama: When did planning for the comics series begin?

Christopher Jones: We've been pitching more comics on and off for years. We were delighted that DC gave us the opportunity to do this. There was a version of this that was pitched as preceding season 4, and it evolved into something that happens after season 4. Of course, the storyline evolved appropriately, but once the green light came, I think you pulled the scripts together pretty quickly, Greg. I know you were mentioning earlier that some of the story elements came from ideas developed as part of the narrative timeline of the show, which always has more ideas in it than find their way into finished episodes.

Weisman: Before the pandemic sent us all to work at home, [co-executive producer] Brandon [Vietti] and I had an entire wall covered with index cards for story ideas that we had that we hadn't locked in where on the timeline exactly they'd fall. When Targets got greenlit, Chris and Brandon and I talked about what it might be, and this seemed like a good choice to us. The convenient thing was that production finished on Young Justice: Phantoms in November, so November and December I was unemployed, and that gave me a lot of time. I think I knocked out all six scripts between September and December of last year -- just really quick, one right after the other. I was writing one about every three weeks, which was easier to do because we were either in the very ends of post-production on Phantoms or I was laid off and unemployed. That gives me more time, having no work.

Young Justice: Targets #1 (Image credit: DC)

Nrama: As far as taking a story that takes place largely in animation and then transitioning that and continuing it in comics, what are the biggest differences or challenges as an artist?

Jones: It all comes down to visual storytelling. You are definitely worried about different things working for the medium of comics than for animation. You're dealing with static images, rather than something that's going to move. You are communicating exclusively with visuals, plus the text, as opposed to knowing that you're going to have voice performances and sound effects and music to help create the emotion. You're also having to worry about things like the flow of the eye and things moving left to right and where dialogue balloons are going to fit and all of that. 

I have a long history of drawing comic books; I have a lot more experience doing that than the time I've spent now working in animation. The thing that was exciting about coming back to the comic book version of Young Justice is after being immersed in the production of Young Justice: Phantoms for a year and a half, and now I'm working digitally, as opposed to the original run of comics where I was working with physical media on paper, I feel like it puts me in a position to more fully bring the visual experience of a TV show into comic book form. 

An important component of that has been the color work Jason Wright has been doing. If you've seen the promo pages -- when you go to HBO Max to watch an episode of the show, those were designed by Brandon Vietti, finished line art by myself, and colored by Jason Wright -- and we were so taken by how those turned out that we were really interested in getting him to be part of the package of this new comic. We're over the moon with how it's looking.  We can't wait for fans to see it.

Nrama: Regarding events in Targets, should fans be seeing this as season 5, or season 4.5?

Weisman: This is definitely canon, absolutely. I wouldn't call it season 5. I think I'd call it 4.1 because it's only a month later and six issues are about the equivalent of two TV episodes. So calling it a season for six issues -- two episodes is a pretty short season. I think 4.1 makes sense. It's really very much in the Phantoms era. If we get a season 5, which we may or may not, there'll be another time skip and that'll move events forward. This is very much just picking up where Phantoms leads off and just a little bit of time has passed, but not much.

Nrama: If Young Justice is renewed for season 5, will fans need to read Targets if they want to know what's going on? Or will they be able to pick up from season 4 to season 5 without a problem?

Weisman: You can always pick up, but why not? There's stuff we did in the Atlantis arc this season on Phantoms that, if you had never read our first run with Young Justice comics, I'm sure you were able to figure out what was going on. But if you had read that run, there were a couple issues written by Kevin Hobbs and myself and drawn by Chris that introduce King Shark and Wyynde and Chian and Blubber and a bunch of other characters. If you had read those two issues, you'd be going, 'Oh, I know those guys.' You didn't need to have read them; you didn't have to have read them; but you miss out a little if you don't. 

Likewise, when we introduced Wyynde back in season 3, his only other appearance at that time had been in our comics. When Wyynde is talking to Lori Lemaris in the algae bar and she's mad at him because he used to be a purist -- if you haven't read those comics, you don't know why she's mad. There are other things we've done that pick up on the comics, treat them as canon, so if you like Young Justice, why wouldn't you want to read Targets? Will you be able to understand season 5 without it? Yeah. It's not going to be that opaque. But you'll get more out of it if you're a completionist.

Young Justice: Targets #1

Young Justice: Targets #1 (Image credit: DC)


Nrama: The original Young Justice comics were largely tie-ins with things that were happening in between episodes. Was the approach for that series different from the approach to Targets, which is more of a concentrated single storyline that takes place after a season?

Weisman: The basic approach wasn't too different, but there was a lot in the first 20 or so issues weaving the stories in between episodes. And then in the last six issues, Chris and I did this story that took place after season 1 but before season 2. It was also jumping around in time. I don't mean it was a time travel story, just that we kept flashing back to events that had happened prior. That one was -- that Invasion storyline was really complicated to write. 

This one is a little more straightforward, but it also has these flashbacks to stuff that took place earlier. For example, in the first issue [of Targets], there's a flashback to Red Arrow during the season 1 timeline. Most of the issue takes place in this post-season 4 time period, but that flashback Red Arrow is remembering took place during Season 1. It's a story we just never got around to telling and are telling for the first time here.

Nrama: What are you most proud of in Young Justice: Targets? What's the thing that stands out for you?

Weisman: For me, it's Chris. I'm so proud of Chris.

Jones: I will give a slightly less sarcastic answer.

Weisman: I love how you think that's sarcastic.

Jones: I don't know how else to respond to that. I'm proud of Greg! For me, it's just very exciting to not only get to revisit the comic form of Young Justice and again bring the cumulative experience I've had drawing this comic series before, now with my experience having worked on the show, to really level up from what we had been able to do previously in the comic. 

With that whole thing of going back to being fewer cooks in the kitchen, the creative team on a comic as opposed to an animated show [allows us to do] more of the worldbuilding and character design. We go to some new places in this story. We're going to introduce some new characters to Young Justice continuity that I'm very excited for fans to get to see our version. We did that in the original comic, but that was a few years ago. It was fun to get to come back and do that again. I can't wait for people to see it. And I'm very proud of Greg.

Young Justice: Targets #1 (Image credit: DC)

Weisman: It sounded like I was being sarcastic, but I really wasn't. The work Chris and Jason have done  -- I've seen all of the first two issues, and Chris's pencils and inks on issue #3, and it's effin' gorgeous. I'm so thrilled with how it's looking and for me, I love Earth-16 so much that any opportunity to tell more stories in that universe is kind of a joy. Proud is not the right word, but I feel... blessed to have had this opportunity to tell the story of Targets.

Jones: Some fans hear that we're doing this new comics series, and their first response is, 'We want season 5 of the show!' We want that too, but any opportunity to tell more stories with these characters, in this universe, is a good thing. Getting to do new comic books with or without running in conjunction with new episodes of the TV show would be great. I want season 5, I want spinoff series, I want an ongoing comic book, I want all of it.

Nrama: What do you want fans to take away from Young Justice: Targets?

Weisman: Hopefully, they had a good read. It's an adventure story and I hope they're entertained. I also hope they learn a little more about a bunch of characters, meet a couple new ones, and also learn more about the world of 616. We do more world-building in these six issues, and I think there are some lovely character moments across the six books and twelve stories -- each issue has a main story and a backup. I hope it has some meaning to it. There are a ton of characters in Targets unintentionally; this was an exercise in very consciously showing the breadth of our cast, not just taking two or three and really going deep with them. This was about going wide, very consciously, But there will be some moments here that should matter. Hopefully, those insights into these characters will make readers feel something.

Jones: Earth-16 lives and the story never ends.

Young Justice: Targets #1 is available now through DC Universe Infinite. It will be available at comic shops July 26.

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Samantha Puc
Editor, Newsarama

Samantha Puc (she/they) is an editor at Newsarama and an avid comics fan. Their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., The Beat, The Mary Sue, and elsewhere. She is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School.