Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I thought I'd post a little behind-the-scenes material from Young Justice. If I have the time, I will try to update this blog with more entries like this with some regularity in the coming weeks.

When Greg Weisman and I started developing Young Justice we had a lot of discussions about how we could make another DC superhero show in a way that feels new. In both art direction and story a lot of ground has already been thoroughly explored in shows like Justice League, The Brave and the Bold, Teen Titans, Legion of Superheroes, The Batman, and Batman: The Animated Series. We had no desire to disrespect any of those great shows by trying to copy or emulate them. So it was important to us to create something new to establish a unique identity for our series, present familiar material in a new light for our audience, and also to challenge ourselves artistically.

I think one of the most defining characteristics of our series is realism. Once Greg and I established a realistic tone for the series it was clear that the art style of the show would have to match that tone. I do the majority of the art directing as part of my duties producing the show so the first rule I established during character design development was that it should never appear that any of our heroes shop at the same store for their clothes. Each costume should not only reflect the wearer's personality, physical needs, and traditional DCU look but also have unique tailoring. Conveying a sense of texture/tailoring variation between costumes would be the mark of realism needed to match the tone of the stories Greg and I want to tell. Hopefully it would also help to visually set our series apart from the other animated DCU TV shows that came before us.

The two characters that best illustrate a difference in tailoring are Aqualad and Robin . Aqualad's outfit is nearly seamless and shiny to convey a slick and textureless material designed to cut through water fast. Robin, on the other hand, has a costume that's all about seams and padding. When fighting crime on the streets of Gotham it just makes sense to wear protection. Robin's costume seams imply reinforced stitching and sewn in materials designed to protect the body during street fights or even stop a bullet. Unlike other versions of Batman in the animated DCU, our Batman will have the same extra stitching lines on his outfit for all the same reasons that Robin does. The subtle difference between them is that Batman's costume may have the feel of next gen. military gear where as I wanted Robin's outfit to be a little more sport inspired to match his youthful energy. Kid Flash not only runs fast but also uses his momentum to become a human cannonball. His costume needs to be protective against skidding and impacts so I wanted him to have lots of pads and a leathery texture which is indicated by thick folds seen on his outfit.

I could ramble on about the theories behind the other costumes in the show but I think you get my point. There's a lot of thought behind these designs and our choices are all designed to visually ground the show in reality. But all these choices and theories are pretty useless if you don't have a designer who can make them a reality which is why I was extremely lucky to get my friend Phil Bourassa to be the lead designer on Young Justice. Phil has an innate sense of how to make all of these theories about realism work to enhance a character's personality and look good on screen. He lives and breathes this sensibility.

Our design process begins with a talk about each character and maybe a look through some photo reference I gather together before he sets to work. More often than not he just comes up with concepts on his own. Either way, Phil nails it whenever he brings a new design to the table. He's a sharpshooter. He only seems to need one or two passes on a character before he finds the final design which always exceeds expectations. He's that good! And if you compare his current designs with his previous work on Crisis On Two Earths and Planet Hulk I think you'll find that he's doing his best work now for Young Justice. Lucky us! Check out more of Phil's work on Deviant Art. http://phillybee.deviantart.com/


  1. Will Superboy be seen in his 90's style costume with jacket, or does he go straight to the Black shirt and pants?

  2. great post.
    I remember reading the young justice books early last decade and I'm looking forward to what you and the team come up with.


  3. Anonymous: Thanks for the question. Superboy does NOT go STRAIGHT to the black shirt and pants. Between his first appearance in the show and the comic book that ties in closely with our series you will see Superboy in some different outfits before he settles on his final look. We do have plans for the 90's style costume. But I'm not spilling any more details about that here. You'll just have to tune in.

    King: Thanks for the comment. I really hope you like what we've put together for you!

  4. Sorry but I'm gonna geek out on you for a bit, this is so cool! I'm really excited for this show and everything in store, I loved crisis on two earths and the style and tone and realism of this show has got me on edge waiting for it to come out! Thanks for posting this, and I hope you get to post some other development behind the scenes stuff, its really interesting and exciting to see the processes that go into making something so badass. Thanks again! And I apologize for my random bit of nerdiness, haha.

  5. Also huge fan of Under the Red hood, keep up the fantastic work!

  6. I think I'm gonna love Young Justice! I was also wondering about Superboy's design. Will we see the rise of his Young Justice comic book "stubble"?

  7. I was curious as to why Robin's costume went straight to the red and black look that is more associated with Tim drake as opposed to the classic Green, Red, and Yellow look the Dick originally wore?

    It was my understanding that Bruce made the updated red and black costume as a more armored version out of fear for what happened to Jason.

    Great show by the way, and I love the newer take on things. It gives a great chance to avoid all of the convoluted history and confusion caused by the multiple "Crisis" story lines that were supposed to retcon everything, yet instead just made an even bigger mess.

    Keep up the great work guys.

    Also, is there any way we could see some more concept designs for other characters, especially alternate takes on costumes and such. I'm a big nut for concept art.

  8. First of all, can I just say this show is pure genius. The art, voices, and tone is amazing. Basically everything you can ask for in a superhero show. I just watched the pilot recently, and it definitely lived up to and even exceeded my expectations. I will surely tune in to the upcoming series.
    Just a question, is Aqualad the team leader, or is it Robin? I heard from an interview that at some point Aqualad genuinely points out that Robin is more appropriate to lead the team. In my opinion, I agree.

  9. this show in my opinion will definitly be the best superhero show out thus far. Im a big comic book fan and i think this is just great. I was wondering the same thing about Robins costume though because it does seem like Tim Drake's costume. I own every DC Original Aanimated Movie and Under The Red Hood was definitly my favorite. Also i love seeing the black Aqualad! Great job on the pilot episode i hope the whole series is that great and gets even better with each episode.

  10. Hi .. dude.. love the show, and the costumes.

    However, as an Aerodynamics major, I'd like to point out, that the most efficient way (to minimize drag) to swim in water is to have small ridges. (Read sharkskin)

    You might want to incorporate that in some version of the Aqualad's costume.

  11. PS: maybe have a provision.. like, when required, his skin becomes like that.

    Most geeky kids like stuff like that. (As a kid, I certainly would have)

  12. SV- thanks for your notes! The science elements in this series are extremely important to me. I try to research the science behind many of the scientific elements in our series so that those elements feel real (or real enough for TV animation) when it all hits the screen.

    Aqualad's outfit was inspired from modern swimwear technology like the Speedo Fastskin LZR Racer suit. From what I had read, the suits are designed with slick polyurethane panels to help swimmers cut through water faster- a theory tested and backed by NASA fluid-mechanics engineers. But having said all that I don't mean to dismiss your note as an Aerodynamics major. I'm only pointing out that I did as much research as I could do into a costume element that will probably never be explored in the show.

    Your suggestion for having Aqualad's skin become shark-like when needed is an interesting idea! Thank you for you thoughts and for dropping note about science here. I hope to be posting some new blog entries soon about some of the other science elements of our series. Stay tuned.

  13. I came across this [url=http://toonzone.net/forums/showthread.php?p=3813197#post3813197 on a website called Toon Zone, and it shows that Red Arrow has a very similar outfit as Ultimate Hawkeye.

    So, I was wondering what was the inspiration for Red Arrow, and was Ultimate Hawkeye a factor?

  14. Hello.

    I love your blog and how it and Ask Greg allow us more insight into the process behind Young Justice.

    It's quite clear that a lot of thought was put into the costume designs of the show.

    Your description of Robin's costume made me wonder about Artemis's. I understand that they have different fighting methods and Artemis's gives her a level of distance that Robin's may not, yet it seems strange to me that she would have a bare midriff. I'm fairly certain there's some important bits there.

  15. Nice post thank you Tyler