In conjunction with the release of Batman: The Brave And The Bold on DVD, we chatted to Warner Bros. Animation’s Sam Register, James Tucker and Andrea Romano. Over the course of this chat the trio wee keen to talk about this exciting series and the future of DC’s animated screen adventures.
We have seen many versions of Batman over the years. There are so many DC heroes to choose from, why keep coming back to Batman?
SR: Batman is just a great iconic character. You can reinvent him and he still holds up. From Adam West to Tim Burton and now our new Batman: The Brave And The Bold, he always reads as Batman. This is my flagship show at Warner Bros. Animation, and it has turned out to be the perfect vehicle to kick off my new role. I really wanted do something that would introduce kids at a younger age to superheroes in the same way I was. This show reintroduces Batman to a whole new generation of kids that have only seen the dark side. There is so much more fun to be had with this character, and bringing back the joy in animation is a big priority for us.
You’ve all had a long history with Batman over the years, working on many of the animated series. What can we expect different and new from Batman: The Brave And The Bold?
JT: The Brave And The Bold is going to take a more light-hearted, action-oriented angle on the superhero genre. It’ll focus more on high adventure mixed with a sense of humour than has been the trend lately in superhero films and television shows. We’ll be showing different sides of Batman’s character when he’s dealing with a different hero every week. There are lots of new gadgets, new takes on villains and heroes – with a healthy dose of kid-friendly fun.
Justice League was targeted at an older crowd, and Teen Titans targeted the anime fans. What is the audience for The Brave And The Bold?
JT: The target audience for The Brave And The Bold is broadly based. Nevertheless, it works demographically for ages six to fifteen and still appeals to the hard-core comic/animation fan. It fits well within Cartoon Network’s new initiative for boys’ action/adventure shows. In addition, of course, we’re making it so that anyone who enjoys comic books/superheroes and is a ‘kid at heart’ will get something out of it.
AR: Hopefully a wide range of audience members, people who are Batman fans and are interested in seeing a version that’s not as campy as the Adam West series (which I grew up watching, too), nor as dark as Batman: The Animated Series, but somewhere in between. I know we have found a perfect blend that will appeal to viewers, but just as importantly, be acceptable for parents and the younger audience. Every child loves superheroes and every adult remembers that feeling of excitement. Here we truly capitalise on the great legacy of this classic DC Comics character.
SR: As executive producer, every now and then you get a creator who is emotionally committed to a concept. James Tucker’s passion is the heart of this series and a big part of what will drive its success. When we began to mine the archives and toss around ideas, James was so passionate about this look and going back into Batman’s early incarnations, we knew we were on to something. When there is passion and you give someone the chance to create what they love, everyone works harder, and as a result, the show is that much better.
JT: Basically, the look I wanted for this show was to emphasise the old-school, comic book art look (notice I didn’t say graphic novel) or, rather, comics before they got overly sophisticated and airbrushed. I wanted the look of offset printing on newsprint. We went with a thicker line around the characters to give it that truly illustrated look. My influences were primarily the major Forties and Fifties Batman artist Dick Sprang, with a bit of Jack Kirby’s dynamism thrown in. I originally storyboarded a Dick Sprang-inspired segment in a New Adventures Of Batman episode called ‘Legends Of The Dark Knight’. It was so much fun that I always said if I ever was tapped to do a Batman-based series of my own that would be the visual angle I wanted to use. I’m grateful that DC Comics, Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network had the faith to let me do it.
The Brave And The Bold comic has been around since 1955, and in the Seventies became a showcase for team-ups with Batman and many DC characters. Will we see any of those classic stories adapted for the new animated series?
JT: So far, we haven’t done any literal adaptations of those stories since we wanted to set our own tone and establish some of the newer characters we’re using like the new Blue Beetle first. However, adaptations, where appropriate, are definitely an option. This show is about teaming up Batman with other DC dignitaries. These characters, his peers, will all combine to bring out different aspects of his personality. That allows us to move past the dark vengeful brooding character he has become and enjoy the lighter side. The sheer scale of the DC animated universe provides us with opportunities to bring in characters that have been overlooked and deserve to come back – as both friends and foes.
Will this new series fit into any established continuity with any of the other animated series (Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Batman: The Animated Series, and so on)?
JT: We purposely avoided any potential DC animated connections on this. Usually that’s something as producers that we can’t help but do. The Legion show I produced had a few. In addition, even in Superman Doomsday, the Legion version of young Superman can be seen briefly floating in the clone vats of Luthor’s lab. Conversely, we ended up using Superman Doomsday’s Fortress of Solitude in the Legion show. However, Batman: The Brave And The Bold is a completely new concept for the DC animated universe.
SR: It is also worth noting that we had enjoyed great success ‘wiping the slate’ with Teen Titans. Not being trapped by continuity gave the creators and writers of that series a fresh start for new storylines, looks and characters. Fortunately, the audience embraced it and we really wanted to emulate that process. With every show, you have to recreate the wheel to make it exciting and it made sense to repeat the process here. The end result is that Batman has a look and tone that the fans are really responding to.
Describe the Batman for the new Brave And The Bold series. He seems less dark and brooding and more of a fun-filled adventurer. How does this affect the tone of the show?
JT: Well, the way you described it is pretty much on the mark. This is just the version of Batman that has been in the comics from shortly after his creation up until some of the darker, grittier versions of his character appeared in the late Eighties and onward. Typically, people start telling the story from where his parents are murdered. That’s not suitable for what is deemed children’s entertainment. This version signals a return to a more innocent time. Batman is a crime fighter and hero first. As a result, Batman can be ironic – he can show more sides of himself than if he’s just brooding, being gruff and distant to his usual cast of characters. He simply has to be more approachable for the premise of this show to work.
AR: I absolutely agree. He is less brooding, not as obsessed with vengeance as in the past. One thing I really like about the format of this series is that we get inside his head, get to hear what he’s thinking before he acts. Diedrich Bader is the new voice of Batman and has a great record of accomplishment doing animated voices.
JT: We wanted someone who was able to incorporate the tough, hardened side of Batman with some warmth. Diedrich’s Batman is, at his core, a decent person with high morals and a strong work ethic, whose prime motivation is to defend the weak and innocent. Those qualities really come out in Diedrich’s voice work, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s that kind of person in real life, too.
AR: When I was given the breakdown for the casting on this version of Batman, my first thought was Diedrich Bader. He has the nice size and depth to the tone of his voice, he has voiceover experience (we had already done a series together), he’s a good, versatile actor, and he’s great with comedy. After doing many auditions, Diedrich was everyone’s choice. There were several other actors who were quite good, but Diedrich was clearly everyone’s favourite. On an interesting note, many of the actors who auditioned for Batman and didn’t get that role have been cast in other recurring roles. We also had to keep in mind that Batman is the only character who appears in every single episode. He is the lead and has to be perfect.
SR: Andrea and James brought Diedrich in as Batman. He sounded heroic but there was a genuine sense of fun. Andrea knows what a character needs and brings great talent to the table to give them life. He is such a great actor, I knew he would give us something, but the performance was so fantastic. We knew he was the one.
Any fan favourites coming back to do voices? (For example, Mark Hamill as the Joker?)
JT: Andrea and I agreed that it would be wiser to create unique voices for these versions of the characters, especially when it came to actors who had become indelibly identified with roles they had on earlier incarnations like Batman: The Animated Series or Justice League Unlimited.
AR: However, that doesn’t mean those actors won’t be doing other parts in the show. Creative takes by seasoned professionals and exciting new actors can give familiar characters new life. So, looking forward, there will be appearances by many voice actors who have worked with me before doing things you would never expect.
Will we see Batman stay put in Gotham City or will this series take him out of his comfort zone?
JT: Just like the original The Brave And The Bold comic book, this show takes Batman out of Gotham on a regular basis. We wanted to take advantage of how that book would put Batman in different settings, from Atlantis to Mars, in different eras jumping between the future and the past, and across different genres from sci-fi to thriller. It keeps the viewer guessing, and quite frankly, it’s more interesting to those of us who are making the show.
JT: Eventually. Oh, and to kill speculation ahead of time, it’s Dick Grayson.
Whom from the rouges gallery of villains can we expect to see in the first year?
JT: Since this isn’t strictly a true Batman show, we’re not going to deal with any of the usual Batman rogues. That’s not to say there won’t be any.
Batman has teamed up with just about everyone at some point, either in the comics or in animation. What sort of surprises can we expect, and what would be your uber team-up for Batman?
JT: Of course, they wouldn’t be surprises if I told. I think that after the direction Batman’s character has taken in recent years, fans will find this more old school but still contemporary take on our hero to be refreshing. My uber team-up would be Batman and the Super-Sons, actually. I don’t really have an ultimate Batman team-up in my head right now. Every team-up we’ve done so far has been intriguing to me; it’s really apples and oranges. Batman and Captain Marvel are on my wish list, though; that’s going to be a good one, for sure.
What is your ultimate hope for this new series? What do you think will be the reaction of Batman fans to it?
AR: There is never any way to judge how an audience will react. Each time we try to be creative and give each show its own distinct personality. I try to be sure that I’m happy with the work we are doing and that we are faithful to both the characters and plots. The best part is that when we do it well, the fans enthusiastically follow!
JT: Well, ultimately, I want it to be a huge hit! My genuine hope is that it finds an audience with families and people looking for a fun, action-packed take on superheroes. These are quite frankly pretty depressing times, and I think a fun, upbeat show is something that is basically counter-programming to what we’re dealing with in real life. On a personal level, I’m really proud of this show because it’s true to the version of Batman that got me interested in comics and superheroes in the first place. It’s been a dream project for me.
Batman: The Brave And The Bold is released on DVD on 14 September, courtesy of Warner Bros.