NYCC Things Get Steamy With DC Universe Movies 10th Anniversary

first_imgThe wonderful DC Animated Universe, which began 25 years ago with Batman: The Animated Series, is over. But DC has remained committed to providing quality animation with its world-famous superheroes.For ten years the DC Universe Original Movies imprint has adapted some of the recognized DC Comics stories as animated films geared towards more mature audiences. And at New York Comic Con we got to talk to some of the folks behind these cartoons in anticipation for the 30-film box set releasing this holiday.Long-time DC animation producer Alan Burnett, who’s set to retire soon, enjoyed the variety that came with working on separate movies as opposed to grinding away on a TV show. He’s also enjoyed the extra leeway that’s come with more adult-oriented animation. Burnett worked on Super Friends back in the day. Compare that to the violence and death and personal emotional stakes of the sprawling Flashpoint Paradox. That’s Burnett’s favorite film in the set and one that even influenced the storyline in the comics and eventual CW Flash show.However, recently some of the movies have been operating more like a classic TV show. The films adapting the New 52 run, as demanded by WB, all take place in a single continuity. James Tucker produced those films and said that working with an established world provides its share of benefits, as MCU fans would understand. They don’t have to constantly redesign or recast the characters. They don’t need to re-explain everything every time, and they can dig into some more obscure characters now that they know the bigger ones already sell.As for the adaptation process in general, both Barnett and Tucker talked about the challenge of finding the right (popular) runs to adapt and how to change and expand them. The goal is to make good films first that then feel like your memories of the comics, since a literal adaptation wouldn’t necessarily fit normal dramatic structure.Anyone who has seen The Killing Joke knows this doesn’t always work out. “We don’t always hit a home run,” said Bruce Timm. But it has also led to great work like Batman: Under The Red Hood which arguably improves its source material. Tucker would love to do a period movie starring the JSA or maybe All-Star Batman. Movies based on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman or other Vertigo characters would also be fun, if strange and difficult, to tackle.The one-off movies outside of continuity (except for the truly bizarre like the upcoming Batman Ninja showed off at NYCC) are under the domain of Bruce Timm, one of the animation masterminds behind the DCAU. Timm said working on those old shows vs working on these new movies is “apples and oranges.” TV has its own rhythms and long-form storytelling potential, but movies have more time to fine-tune things.So what’s coming next? As story editor Jim Krieg showed off the lovely complete box set and its extra behind-the-scenes features and shorts, he said the team is looking to make films starring more female characters and diverse characters in general. They also want to go back to doing more shorts showcasing smaller characters.However, one film you shouldn’t expect to see that fans still demand is Kingdom Come. Timm explained they just couldn’t afford to do animation that did justice to Alex Ross’s epic painterly art. Timm’s favorite film in this collection is the adaptation of Golden Age to Silver Age transition Justice League: The New Frontier by the late Darwyn Cooke, whose streamlined art style works much better in animation.These DC movies have also let tons of new actors try their hand at playing these characters. Timm said that it was no surprise huge nerd Nathan Fillion was a great Green Lantern. However, Peter Weller also had a keen understanding of old Batman in the two-part adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns.Actor Jason O’Mara, who enjoyed the Batman animated series with his son, said that while he tried to come up with his own original take on Batman using only his voice, ultimately there are too many fantastic versions of the character and his psyche from other actors. You just have to accept there can’t be a blank slate. It’s Shakespearean. So he wouldn’t give any new Batman actor any advice because there would be no point.However, O’Mara particularly enjoyed voicing Bruce in Son of Batman, as Batman’s interactions with Damian Wayne were something that hadn’t really been explored outside of recent comics. Damian also wasn’t the most beloved character in the comics, and O’Mara hoped the film might help audiences realize how compelling the character truly is.Meanwhile, actor Vanessa Marshall said she lets the script guide her toward “making specific acting choices.” And while she loves Susan Eisenberg’s Wonder Woman voice acting, the parallel universe versions of the character Marshall plays in Crisis on Two Earths and especially her sadistic Flashpoint Paradox incarnation allow for new creative ideas and exploration.Still, as we’ve learned this year, some emotional truths about Wonder Woman are universal, like her “get it done attitude.” And Marshall likes to remember those truths in her own journey through life, hoping it improves her performances on the mic. Also Black Canary and Black Widow, two other characters Marshall has played, would tie in a fight according to her.The roundtable interview gave us some fascinating insight into the thought process of the actors and filmmakers behind these 30 animated movies. Unfortunately, the panel afterward wasn’t quite as informative. Early on the audience expressed its love of the cartoon’s more adult direction and occasional R-ratings. That created a weird, off-putting, tone-deaf vibe for the rest of the panel in-between the nifty supercut trailers.Darkness in these DC animated films has occasionally been used for responsible story-driven reasons, like the death in Superman Doomsday or the overall tone of Justice League Dark and its (still non-smoking) Constantine. I also appreciated the totally understandable horniness of Teen Titans: The Judas Contract.But as talented as Tara Strong is, she’s wrong if she thinks Batgirl having sex with Batman is a good idea. It was fun when legendary Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy took his shirt off before saying nerds like Batman because they are damaged. And I’d let John DiMaggio curse at me crotch any time. But embracing “adult” grittiness for grittiness’s sake is the kind of pandering that ruined the new post-Nolan live-action DC movies before Wonder Woman. Remember, on-screen blood doesn’t make a cartoon starring superheroes created for children any better just by being there. It’s the story, stupid.The 30-film set of the (at the moment) complete collection of DC Universe Original Movies drops this holiday season. For what it’s worth, my favorite movie in this collection is still Justice League: Gods And Monsters with its angry Mexican Superman. When are we getting a sequel to that?last_img read more