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The following needs saying, so I'm taking time out from my very packed weekend - not to procrastinate, which would not be unusual - but to write up something that I think is important.
But first, some backstory...
I'm not particularly smart about very many things. I am in many ways a bear of very little brain. Ask anyone. I use an iPhone 4.0 because I literally believe that I don't have the brain space to deal with upgrading. I'm a slow reader. My dyslexia makes math difficult as I am constantly transposing numbers. I'm afraid of change. Etc., etc., etc.
But one thing - maybe the ONLY thing - I am smart about is STORY. Now, I've studied story for decades and decades in small ways and large. I also believe I have an innate gift for story. Like a great pianist, the gift itself would have been wasted without years of study and practice. I've had and done both.
What that means is that - when it comes to story - I have often (not always, but quite often) considered myself - with no modesty and tremendous arrogance - to be the smartest person in the room. In any room where this is a topic of conversation, but especially in any room where story was being professionally discussed. (You can see why - with an attitude like that - I'm so popular with animation executives and the like, and why I've been fired from so many jobs.)
Even on the many, many occasions when I have felt that I am among peers who understand story as well as I do, I never felt like they understood it better than I. As good, yes. Differently, sure. Stylistically, of course. But not better. I never felt anyone knew story better.
Oh, I've made mistakes, missed opportunities, slipped up, ad nauseam. I'm human and have never claimed perfection. I've collaborated with some brilliant and wonderful people. The list is nearly endless. But none of that ever shook my basic feeling that when it came to story, I was as smart or smarter than anyone in the room.
All that changed with YOUNG JUSTICE.
So let me state it for the record: when it comes to story, BRANDON VIETTI is the Smartest Human Being in the Room.
I'd love to tell you - BELIEVE ME, I'd love to tell you - that he learned all this at my ancient knee, and that if the student has surpassed the master, the master can at least take some satisfaction in that. But that, dear readers, would simply be a load of crap.
From Day One of YJ, as witness Kevin Hopps could attest, Brandon Vietti knew story, understood it deep, the way I do. And he was smarter about it than I.
The ultimate example of this dropped this past Friday.
Episode 307 of Young Justice: Outsiders, entitled "Evolution."
SPOILERS coming, so if you haven't seen the episode then please go watch it first before reading any further.
Like all YJ episodes this season, Brandon and I broke this story together. A pretty even 50-50 collaboration. There were certain things I wanted specifically to see, like the Cave Bear. Certain things I had researched such as that in (actual documented non-DC Comics) mythology, Nabu was the son of Marduk. And there were certain things that BV wanted in there, like the meta-human kid that Kalibak sacrifices. Certain things he had researched like The Art of War by Sun Tzu (a.k.a. Vandal Savage, a.k.a. Genghis Khan, a.k.a. Marduk, a.k.a. etc.)
And together, we created a pretty kick-ass story for the episode. I don't actually remember the day of the week, but for the sake of simplifying the story, let's say we finished breaking/building the story with index cards all neatly pushpinned into my office bulletin board on a Monday. Monday evening. We both felt pretty good about it, or at least I did, and we left for the day.
Tuesday morning, he comes in and says, "Something's missing."
I tell him he's crazy. There's nothing missing from 307. Nothing. It's a great damn episode. Maybe one of our best.
BV says no. Something's missing.
I say, "What? What's missing?!"
BV says, "I don't know yet. Something. Give me a day."
I roll my eyes in as pronounced a fashion as I possibly can and say, fine.
Wednesday morning he comes in and says, "I want to add a character."
I'm resistant. "It'll mess up the works, I tell him."
But he explains, and of course, he's right. Because Brandon Vietti is the Smartest Person in the Room.
The character he wants to add is Olympia. Olympia Savage. (I take credit for the first name only.) That's right. In our first version of this story, Olympia simply did not exist.
Try to picture "Evolution" without Olympia. Be honest. It's still a solid story. A few of the actual things Olympia does, we had Cassandra doing. But otherwise the plot remains almost completely unchanged.
But not the ending.
With Olympia in the story, the episode isn't merely a solid YJ episode. It's not merely a great YJ episode. To my mind, "Evolution" transcends YJ. It is a phenomenal, even revolutionary twenty-plus minutes of television.
And I tried to talk the guy out of it.
Of course, BV's contributions don't end there. He wrote the script, too, which is fantastic. And if you knew how much he contributed to every facet of production it would humble you. It humbles me, and as you can see above, I'm NOT a humble guy.
But screw all that. I'm not talking about pretty pictures, or color, or sound, or music or even dialogue.
This post is ONLY about STORY. And when it comes to STORY... BRANDON VIETTI will always be the SMARTEST HUMAN BEING IN THE ROOM.
I bow to his greatness. And trust me, I do not do that lightly.
To be honest, he's so good, it's pretty damn annoying.
But it's an honor to be his partner.