The most popular ship on Young Justice is clearly Spitfire. It’s a really well done slow build, and although I don’t agree with all of the choices they made concerning that build-up, it really paid off with a well-written romance on a popular “children’s cartoon.” And it’s hardly a coincidence that Wally and Artemis are the most popular characters among the fandom, so is there a correlation?
But what if Spitfire had never happened? Imagine a show where Wally and Artemis had never gotten together, where both were single for the entire show and were not involved in any canon romantic pairings.
Would either character be as popular as they are? Is Wally’s comic relief enough of a reason to be popular? Would Artemis’s backstory with Sportsmaster and Cheshire be enough to make her interesting, and see her moral dilemna in Season One, without Wally there to help break down those walls?
I’m of the opinion that Artemis could most likely still stand on her own, albeit a little less interestingly.
But I’m not so sure about Wally. His major character arc has been Spitfire, and you can’t really deny that fact. So what if Spitfire had never happened? Would he be nearly as popular as he is?
You could say that we’re reducing Wally to another relationship, but I just want to say that he was also wildly popular before Artemis even showed up because of his friend/ship with Dick. (This doesn’t take away from or lessen his relationship to Artemis.)
Wally was never “just comic relief,” ever.
He had a nice arc going from fighting with Dick over leadership in Drop Zone to understanding Dick’s difficult leadership decisions in Failsafe to supporting Dick and being excited for him to be leader in Image, even though Wally had just saved a country before in Coldhearted and could have used that as leverage to say he could be leader (some people were surprised he didn’t). In Coldhearted he learned to appreciate helping people for the sake of helping people. He supported him in Failsafe when he saw that Dick really had no choice, but he called him out in Performance when Dick was relying on himself too much. Wally went out of his way to understand, and he was really nice about it when he did.
In fact, Wally was consistently helpful and thoughtful of other people and aware of the big picture and responsible around him, and didn’t hesitate to let Dick know when he was being careless or not a team player in Independence Day and Drop Zone and also for being rude to Red Tornado in Happy Harbor (along with Kaldur), and Dick didn’t hesitate to call him out when he was out of line, too.
This is to say nothing of the way they helped each other intellectually Humanity and Homefront (and Artemis, there, too!).
They were funny and smart and had hair-pulling and teasing and arguing and lots of trust and faith in each other and great support when they needed it and were generally extra-ordinarily layered.
They interacted (exchanging lines) in 15 or 16 episodes in S1 (I have to double check on one), whereas Wally and Artemis interacted in 13-14 since she didn’t show up until episode 6, and the comics even more! Since he also talked to other people, those who say that all his development is around her ignores more than half of his character growth/interactions.
Please don’t do that; he’s a great character.
I’m reluctant to give fandom numbers because it’s not a contest between friend/ships, but since it’s a question of “popularity,” if someone’s interested I’m happy to share what I have.
But yes, Wally was really, really popular outside of Artemis, too.