Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My Letter To Cartoon Network

After making posters to support Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice, I sat down and banged out a letter to nine Cartoon Network executives.
Dear Cartoon Network Executives,

My name is Jason Borelli, and I am a fan of Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice. I know . . . you've gotten letters in the past few weeks. Lots of letters. Well, this isn't any different.

I can be long-winded at times, so I'll keep things simple.

1. The Action Figure Metric
From what I've heard, one of the biggest reasons both shows are getting canceled is because not enough of their toys are bought. I'm 37 years old. I'm not getting action figures. I don't plan on getting action figures, though I might do it to appease Time-Warner and donate them to charity. You have to understand that a lot of your audience is outside whatever target you've set. Look at Adventure Time . . . I'm not a fan, but it's managed to reach fans across the board. Just because Young Justice and GL:TAS are aired in the morning doesn't mean that adults won't watch . . . or at least record it for later viewing.

2. The Replacements
The two shows that are getting put in the "DC Nation" block are Beware the Batman and Teen Titans Go! With the later, you have a built-in audience filled with fans of the original Teen Titans series from the previous decade, combine with kids jumping on the bandwagon with the minute-long "episodes." My concern is that the chibi style set by the show -- used sparingly in the original edition -- might turn some people off. Also, like Young Justice, a lot of Teen Titans fans cut their teeth on the dramatic storylines mixed in with the humor, as well as the running feuds . . . like Robin/Slade, Raven/Trigon, Cyborg/Brother Blood and Titans/Brotherhood of Evil.

Beware the Batman has greater potential to fail. Over the years, the one Batman animated franchise to failed was The Batman . . . and even then, things picked up with Batgirl and Robin were eventually cast. It wasn't just the lack of Kevin Conroy or Mark Hamil . . . it was disappointing seeing stuff like a Penguin that knew advanced kung fu, Penguin's two silent Asian sidekicks, a Joker with big feet and no shoes, etc. And Cluemaster. I'll save you the trouble of an image search. Grisly, right? With Beware the Batman, you got Batman with no Robin. Instead . . . he's got Katana, a canon Outsider who didn't get her own series until last week, and whose only media exposure was a few appearances as Batman: The Brave And The Bold. Then there's the canon butler, Alfred Pennyworth, a staple in most of -- if not all of -- the Batman franchises. In promotional images, he's wielding firearms. Never mind the makeover to make him more of a tough guy (like in Geoff Johns's treatment in Batman: Earth One), which could work out. No, it's Alfred carrying guns that will tick people off. If Batman is known for anything, "anti-gun" would be in the top five.

Bottom line: Wouldn't it be a good idea to have Young Justice and/or GL:TAS on the shelf, just in case Teen Titans Go! and Beware the Batman wind up failing? You have an audience for that block that remained loyal, even after your network shelved both series for a few months, for reasons that are still not clear to me.

3. The Current Crop
When I first got into reading comics, I gravitated towards Green Lantern. Back then, Kyle Rayner was the title's protagonist . . . as well as the only GL in the DC Universe. While I consider myself a Kyle fan, and while I hated the whitewashing of Hal Jordan's character by Geoff Johns, I have to say that Green Lantern: The Animated Series manages to please me every week. It manages to incorporate comics canon into CGI animation with few hiccups. If the writers of the Green Lantern movie had put as much care into this was those for GL: TAS, the movie would've managed to keep up with Thor and Captain America in the box office. That movie was a huge letdown; proof that DC Comics-based movies aren't good beyond Batman. GL: TAS succeeds in make space opera work, it has incorporated Johns's "Emotional Spectrum" flawlessly (Red Lanterns, Blue Lanterns, Star Sapphires, etc), and it has produced two breakout characters in Razer (the Red Lantern who travels with Hal and Kilowog) and Aya (the artificial intelligence with a robot chassis). Why should we say goodbye after two seasons?

Young Justice takes a departure from the comic series of the same name. Rather than go for the humor Peter David wrote in the Nineties and Aughts, producers Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti opted for drama on a grander scale. There is no "Young Justice" . . . rather, a group of young heroes that operate under the auspices of the Justice League. While it started out slow, Young Justice managed to make its mark as a program that can produce in thirty minutes, while creating an overreaching arc connecting the individual pieces.

For the second season, the producers opted to move the series five years into its future. Suddenly, "Young Justice" becomes more of a feeling than an actual team, as a few dozen heroes joined the cast. Currently, the "big bad" is The Reach, an alien race determined to mine Earth for its "metahumans" and control the planet. They manage to beat the good guys both in battle as well as in public relations. They even managed to turn one of the teen heroes -- Jamie Reyes, aka Blue Beetle -- against his comrades. I think one of the biggest realizations I had was seeing Black Manta fret over the safety of his son, whom has defected to assist The Reach and the Earth-based conclave known as "The Light." The revelation: We're actually caring for an Aquaman villain. An Aquaman villain. That takes a lot of talent.

I think that you should keep Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series in your lineup. I'm not overly familiar with animation timetables, but I'm guessing you can slate both series for mid-to-late 2014. Even if Teen Titans Go! and Beware the Batman find their niche, I know you'll have a loyal audience that will come back.

Jason Borelli

PS: In order to join the effort to save the show, I made these motivational posters with your names, positions and e-mail addresses. I figured that they would direct people to air their grievances towards you, as well as remind them what they're fighting for. Also, I think they're fun to look at. Enjoy!

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