Director Jay Oliva and producer James Tucker visited the world famous CBR Tiki Room at New York Comic Con 2013 to discuss working on Warner Bros. Animation’s first DC Comics animated feature based on a New 52 storyline, “Justice League: War.” They sat down with CBR TV’s Albert Ching to discuss how the adaptation came to be and how close it is to the Geoff Johns and Jim Lee arc in “Justice League, whether the New 52 gives DC Animation a fresh start and whether or not they’ll continue to follow more recent comic book story lines or mine DC’s catalog. They also discuss whether the formation of DC Entertainment led to tighter integration between the animated side and the comics sides of the company, how they balance the needs of so many characters and the plot and exactly why Justice League member Aquaman appeared in the comics but not in “War.”
How the first New 52 animated adaptation came about: “We did ‘Flashpoint,’ and originally ‘Flashpoint’ was gonna be just a standalone and we were gonna go right back into doing standalone different movies that aren’t in continuity with each other,” Tucker said. “I think Geoff Johns and our boss, Sam Register, got together and decided, ‘You know, this may be an opportunity to relaunch the DVD franchise and start it from ground zero.’ That’s kind of how it happened.”
On whether the New 52 animated DCU is designed to reach a new audience: “I think we wanted to pull in more of the general audience now that superhero movies are kind of a genre of their own. There’s much more awareness of these characters in the general public than beyond the comic book reading public and we wanted to take advantage of that,” said Tucker. “Also, we wanted to be able to tell more stories about what the comics are currently doing, like the modern aspects of the new comics that are not under the Comic Book Code and aren’t from the Bronze Age or the Silver Age. Something that’s contemporary so we can take advantage of some of the edgier topics that are in comics now and reach that audience, and reach a wider general audience. We wanted to take advantage of the New 52 and what it’s brought to comics, but also use that as a launching point to get to reach new audience members.”
On balancing each character’s needs against the story’s needs when telling a Justice League story:
I think we take our cue from the comic. So in the comic there’s the instruction of Green Lantern, of Batman — we try to stay as true to that as we can,” Oliva said. “Of course, there are some characters that are new that we have to create, and Heath Corson who wrote the screenplay, he’ll write in something and James and I will talk about what’s the best way for us portraying that, and what’s the characterization that we want to go with this character and just go from there. As we line up their characters to what happens in the story, then eventually they all fit together and it’s almost like puzzle pieces all fitting in. By the very end you understand that it is a team, it all comes together. At the beginning they’re all a mixed bag of heroes but by the end they’re this well formed team.”
“Certain characters don’t need a lot of extra story. Like Batman, everyone knows everything they need to know about Batman, so you don’t need to fill in. He kind of has such a life of his own that him just being there informs what everyone else is — he gives the point of view of the audience to all these other characters so it’s easier to focus on them because we don’t have to give him as much story,” said Tucker. The way we try to structure these is one hero who hasn’t gotten a lot of exposure will get the lion’s share of story, and then it’ll descend from there. So Wonder Woman and Superman get their moment, and then Green Lantern and Flash have their moment, We try to divvy it up so that everyone gets the same amount of time, but if there’s a main character who needs more love, they’ll get more love in each movie.
On Aquaman’s exclusion from “War”:
“The broad answer is that Aquaman will be getting some love in the near future. A little more specific answer is that the writer of the arc [Geoff Johns] made the suggestion to save him for another story,” said Tucker. “Who am I to argue with the guy that wrote the comic book?”
“I just finished up ‘Flashpoint Paradox’ right before this, so for me, not having Aquaman in it was a little bit refreshing because I had done everything I could with Aquaman in that movie,” Oliva said. “So when we went in about this movie and we included some new characters, I just thought, “Okay, that’s great.” Plus, there wasn’t any screen time anyway, because as you mentioned, there’s seven of them — there’s only so much that we could do. So again, in the future we have something cool planned for Aquaman and I think fans will really like it.