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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Writing Inspirations: Greg Weisman

I've been fascinated with superheroes for as long as I can remember. I especially liked it when they teamed up. Naturally, I became a fan of the likes of the Justice League, the X-Men, Teen Titans and The Avengers.

Along came an animated series about another teamup of superheroes, Young Justice. That was when I learned more about Greg Weisman.

For those unfamiliar with Weisman, he's had much involvement with creating and writing animated series. He's one of the people who created the 1990s Disney syndicated series Gargoyles, he supervised production of The Spectacular Spider-Man, and most recently, supervised production of the first season of Star Wars: Rebels. It was Young Justice that made me appreciate his talents as a writer and creative mind, though.

One of Weisman's trademarks as a writer is how he understands what teenagers go through. Teenagers have a lot of ideas, they are curious about the world and what awaits them, but they can struggle with issues ranging from learning from mistakes to finding acceptance from other people. Weisman made the main characters of Young Justice more than just teens with superpowers or special talents, but people that teenagers, young adults, and even older adults can relate to.

Weisman takes his own spin on probably the most popular teenaged superhero in the DC lineup: Robin. Dick Grayson brings the most experience among the group of teens (always referred to as The Team), but it becomes clear early in the season that Grayson's experience means he's not the best fit as the leader. Although Grayson initially accepts this, we get enough hints that he really wants to hold that leadership role.

The teen who inherits the leadership role is Aqualad -- a character who Weisman delivered a vastly different interpretation from what emerged at DC Comics. Instead of putting Garth, the individual most comic book fans know as Aquaman's protege, in the role, Weismen created Kaldur'ahm, a black teen who has a calm demeanor and acts rationally, but sometimes has his doubts about whether or not he makes the right decisions.

The rest of the teens bring their own personalities and issues to the table. Wally West, aka Kid Flash, is a wisecracker who acts impulsively and is often eager to impress the ladies. M'gann M'orzz, aka Miss Martian, is a caring individual who is eager to be part of The Team, but her eagerness to please becomes an issue, and she harbors insecurity about who she really is. Artemis Crock is introduced as Green Arrow's new protege after Speedy (Roy Harper) chooses to go solo as Red Arrow. Artemis can be quick with a quip, but sometimes worries about her family relations and how The Team might react if they knew more about them. Superboy is a clone of Superman, who looks forward to meeting the Man of Steel for the first time, but with Superman uncomfortable around him, the teen clone broods and must learn to deal with his anger and resentment.

In each instance, Weisman hits on a trait that most teens can relate to. What would people say if they knew more about me? Who do I look to for inspiration? What happens if I'm rejected? Anger, insecurity, and the desire to be in charge are feelings that any person deals with in life, so Weisman's writing allows the characters to speak to more than just teenagers.

Weisman joins his creative staff in bringing another element to the table, regarding how to advance a plot, often by dropping subtle hints of future developments in early episodes of the series, that play out much later. As I went through all the episodes, I was amazed to see how many teasers of what was to come down the road were right in front of me, but weren't made obvious on first glance. It's a good element of storytelling that can be difficult to pull off.

Young Justice was the series that inspired me about which book idea I should pursue, that being a group of teenagers who gain superpowers. I actually had plenty of experience around teenagers, what with having covered high school sports for so many years. Weisman's writing reminded me about the complex issues teens deal with, how those issues can still confront people in adulthood, and how they make for a character one can relate to, regardless of the situation the character is in.

I'll talk more about Weisman later, as I have bought two of his books, Rain of the Ghosts and Spirits of Ash and Foam. I'm planning to do a review of the former soon.

In the meantime, for those who have been thinking about writing young adult material, Weisman's material is a good place to look for inspiration and ideas about what teens are like, and just as importantly, a good place to look for how a plot can advance and how loose ends can be tied up.

You can learn more about Young Justice at the Young Justice Wiki, and you can visit the Gargoyles message board, where Weisman responds to fan questions.

1 comment:

  1. As a fan of superhero stories, you should checkout the book steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. In a way it's almost an anti superhero book, but its very well done. IMO he's one of the top writers today.