JLUYJ: “Kid’s Stuff” & “Misplaced”

So now that there’s no more DC Animated Movies to watch I’m going to give this a shot. See, a few weeks ago, Aless started watching Young Justice.

YOUNG JUSTICE!

YOUNG JUSTICE!

And when we talked about Young Justice, I decided to watch it again, because it’s, sadly, only two seasons, and also, awesome. And since I’ve run out of DC Animated movies to overthink, I thought, “Hey, maybe I should overthink comparing Young Justice and Justice League/Justice League Unlimited. And so, I now debut a new feature article, which I’ll do whenever I don’t have anything to fill in. So welcome to JLUYJ, in which I will take an episode of Young Justice, and an episode of either Justice League or Justice League Unlimited that are similar thematically and compare and contrast them.

So we’re starting out with the episodes that are probably the most obviously connected. Justice League Unlimited Season 1: Episode 3 “Kid’s Stuff” and Young Justice Season 1: Episode 19 “Misplaced.” The obvious connection here is that it uses the exact same premise. Because of magic all of the adults in the world are gone. Because the shows are so different the execution of the premise is really different, but that’s the premise, so let’s get into the way the two diverge.

In JLU , the scenario is enacted when Mordred, who’s temper tantrums make Joffrey Baratheon look reasonable, uses a powerful amulet to banish all people older than himself from the world. This sends our heroes and villains to a sort of limbo, including Mordred’s mother, Morgan LaFey. In order to stop Mordred, Morgan turns Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern into 8 year old versions of themselves and it’s brilliant.

In YJ, Clarion The Witch Boy (ick), creates two separate universes, one for all people under 18 and one for all people over 18. Chaos reigns of course, and this is the point of Clarion. The Light (the big bad of YJ season 1) hired Witch Boy to create a distraction, and split up The Justice League and The Team. The hitch in the plan is Captain Marvel, who as Billy Batson inhabits the Under 18 realm and as Captain Marvel inhabits the Over 18. Thus, the two sets of heroes can communicate, work together and remerge the two realms.

What’s great about both episodes is that they’re very good for character development. We learn a lot about our team members when they’re placed in a such a singular place. I’ve made no secret of how I feel about the Wonder Woman/Batman relationship in JLU, but I love the way it’s taken care of here. With Diana’s crush and Bruce’s insecurities laid out on the page because as 8 year olds, they have no filters. And speaking of no filters, the idea of a Green Lantern ring in the hands (on the hand?) of an 8 year old boy produces stellar results. John Stewart’s imagination goes haywire and produces truly amazing creations. I also like that 8 year old Bruce is just Damian, pretty much. He’s all surly and anti social, and uninterested in everything but the mission. (It also forces me to think about The AU timeline a little bit…does this take place after the fall of the Joker? It must, otherwise, Bruce would probably be at least a little concerned about Tim’s whereabouts, right?) Superman kind of gets the short end of the stick here, because 8 year old Superman is really just Superman but smaller. Diana becomes the bossiest little girl on the playground which makes perfect sense to me. I doubt that Princess Diana was walking around Paradise Island as a child not giving orders. We definitely get some fun insights here and the way they trick Mordred into undoing the spell (Bruce taunts him, a lot) is a lot of fun. As is seeing Baby Etrigan.

YJ also uses this scenario to explore character, though maybe not quite as deeply, because there are more characters to cover. But the people that get developed here are Billy/Captain Marvel, and Zatanna. But we can hit the beats for all of the major characters. While sifting out the chaos, you see Dick and Kaldur’s true leadership abilities. Both Robin and Aqualad keep their cool in this really difficult situation. Wally and Artemis entertain a bunch of young kids and confide in one another about their families. Superboy discovers the true power of the S on his chest, when he saves a toddler from a car crash and the little boy is instantly comforted when he sees the symbol. But like I said, the big ones here are Billy and Zatanna.

Zatanna had shown up on YJ before this, as the first non team member teen to interact with our gang. (Or possibly Megan and Connor’s classmates, but I think Zee beat them.) From her first minute you see her quick rapport with Artemis, and Dick’s insta-crush on her (Truly, truly adorable, these two together) there’s a warmth and yet outsider-ness to her role with the team. It’s the magic and also the real family connection she has to the Justice League. Her father, Zatara is in the Justice League. Yes, Flash is Wally’s uncle, and Bruce adopted Dick, but Zatara and Zatanna are all each other have, which makes their separation all the more heartbreaking. (There’s also a deeply sweet moment with Jim Gordon quelling a crowd and Barbara reading to a bunch of kids in the Gotham Academy gym. Incidentally, Gotham Academy is the name of my imaginary Bat-family themed teen soap, in case you were interested).  Zatanna is devastated when her father goes away and the ending, with him donning the helmet of Naboo and become Dr. Fate to save her from having to do it is absolutely heartbreaking. But we learn a lot about this girl and her insecurities, her hopes and who she is by this very difficult place she’s put in.

I’ve mentioned that this episode is the one that got me on board with Captain Marvel as a character, because I love the dichotomy of a kid in an adult world. Billy is a hero in his own right here, getting from Fawcett City to Happy Harbor and moving between the two worlds to solve the problem. I also love that the way he gets the team to believe he’s who he says he is, is by mocking Wally’s appetite. Here’s where we really see why The Wizard chose Billy Batson to be the vessel for these powers. This kid can get things done and has a pure heart, and it’s really beautiful.

These essays are not always going to be about declaring a winner, usually more about how certain themes even in very similar constructs can be explored unbelievably differently, but this time around, I’m declaring a winner, and that winner is “Kid’s Stuff.” Because it narrows the focus a little more it winds up being deeper and it’s also just a deeply entertaining 20 minutes of television.

Also, that time that Superman has to change Etrigan’s diaper, which is possibly my favorite moment of the entire DCAU.

Seriously, pure genius.

Seriously, pure genius.

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