Based on “Superman/Batman: Supergirl” by the all-star creative team of Jeph Loeb, Michael Turner and Peter Steigerwald, “Superman/Batman: Apocalypse” was produced by animation legend Bruce Timm and directed by Lauren Montgomery (“Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths”) from a script by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Tab Murphy (“Gorillas in the Mist”). The story originally appeared in 2004 in “Superman/Batman” #8-13.
“Superman/Batman: Apocalypse” – a sequel to the 2009 movie, “Superman/Batman: Public Enemies” – features the updated origin of Supergirl from current DCU continuity, as well as the World’s Finest battling Darkseid. Unfortunately for Supes and the Bat, the Fourth World supervillain has Clark’s long-lost cousin on his side.
Tim Daly (“Private Practice”) and Kevin Conroy (“Batman: The Animated Series”) return to their fan-favorite roles as Superman and Batman, respectively. The rest of the celebrity-laden guest cast includes Andre Braugher (“Men of a Certain Age”) as Darkseid, Summer Glau (“Serenity,” “Firefly”) as Supergirl and seven-time Emmy Award winner Ed Asner (“Up”) reprises his “Superman: The Animated Series” and “Justice League” role as Granny Goodness.
Director Lauren Montgomery, who is concurrently working on “Batman: Year One” and “Green Lantern: Emerald Knights” for Warner Bros., spoke with CBR News about bringing the popular story arc to video and how important it was to stay true to the source material.
CBR NEWS: You didn’t work on “Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.” Did you get a chance to speak with its director, Sam Liu, about it when you were prepping for “Apocalypse”?
Lauren Montgomery: Sam and I are friends, so we talk pretty often. But I think on this one, it was such a different story, just in general, that there wasn’t a whole lot to really take from the first one. It wasn’t a direct sequel in that sense, like the story was continuing. It was kind of a phasing out of the first story and then starting in on a completely different story. And they have a pretty different feeling to because this one is much more family and relationship-oriented and much less testosterone-driven [laughs].
So yeah, it’s really only a sequel as much as the comic was a sequel. You can really just pick up this book and read it and you don’t have to know anything that happened before. You maybe have to know a little bit about Superman and Batman and as long as you didn’t grow up in a jail cell, with no knowledge of the outside world, then you should probably be able to follow along with it.
It doesn’t stay 100 percent. There are a few very, very tiny things that we tweaked just to make it play better as a movie than as a comic. But it is very, very close to the comic in a majority of ways. We really only made whatever tiny, minor changes we had to make just to adapt it to a movie format better. And I think whatever changes we made were really for the better of the movie. But we didn’t go out just to make changes just for the hell of it. It’s a pretty close translation from comic to movie.
For folks who didn’t read the original comic, what’s the story about?
It’s essentially the re-introduction of Supergirl. It’s her new origin story after they killed her off the last time [laughs]. They decided, “Hey, let’s bring her back.” So it’s really the origin story of Supergirl and her arrival on Earth and really the dynamic that she brings to the Superman/Batman relationship. And what kind of drama her arrival actually brings because there’s Superman – who is so excited to have someone from Krypton, who he’s related to, because he’s never been able to have anybody that he can really relate to, anywhere on Earth – and then there’s Batman, who is much less trusting and kind of looking at her as less of an ally and more of a possible liability and a possible enemy because here is a whole other Superman. But unlike Superman, you’re not sure of her morality. You don’t know if she’s going to be good or she’s going to be bad. So that’s really what this story centers around is the arrival of another super-powered being and what it could mean for the people of Earth.
How big of influence was Michael Turner’s art from the original run?
Whenever we do one of these movies very closely based on a comic, if it’s possible, we do try to use the original artwork as inspiration. We try to design it pretty closely to what the comic was. Some adaptations always have to be made because you can’t get as detailed in animation as you can in a comic because ultimately somebody has to draw that thing over and over and the more detail you throw on it the slower it’s going to get made. But in “Public Enemies,” they adapted the Ed McGuiness style and in this one, we adapted Mike Turner’s style and we were constantly looking at the comic for any kind of inspiration. We not only used character drawing style but we also used backgrounds from the comic and color schemes from the comic and we really just tried to make it look like the comic came to life in our movie.
To further bring the comic to life, you also brought back fan-favorite voice talent in Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly, but this is not set in DC Animated Universe. Is that confusing for viewers or just for geeks and fanboys like me?
I think it can be confusing. People tend to grasp at straws, like it’s the same voices so it must be the same universe. I remember on “Wonder Woman,” one of the comments that one of the people wrote online – even though there were no voices from any of the previous series in “Wonder Woman” – but one of the comments online was, ‘This doesn’t make sense because the Justice League would have totally showed up and saved the world before Wonder Woman got there.” But it’s like, “Justice League isn’t in this movie. You don’t understand.” So I think regardless, if they see a DC movie, it’s just assumed that it’s in the DC Animated Universe continuity. But we really try to make these things kind of their own. At times we resort to using familiar voices because it’s just so much easier. You already know that you’re going to get a good performance out of them. Every time we try to cast a new Superman, you try to find the right voice and then once we find the right voice, its’ like “OK, this guy’s good. Let’s ask him to do it.” There is no guarantee he’s actually going to say yes. And half the time they say, “No, we’re too busy,” and then we have to go find somebody else and it just gets to be a really big pain in the ass so a lot of the time, we’ll go back to our same people, purely to save us a little bit of stress. And in this case, with “Public Enemies” having the same voice cast, and since this is a sequel to it, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to just use the same voice cast even though the style is nothing like “Public Enemies.” People aren’t going to get that just on the visual aspect, so we can at least use the voice aspect to clue people in to the fact these two movies are related. Because a lot of time, we’ll use the same voice cast where there is absolutely no relation between the two projects, it’s just easier for us to get it done that way.
But as to Tim and Kevin specifically, they’ve spent so much time with these characters, it’s probably almost second nature to them at this point. We always know and depend on them to bring their A-game. And their performances are always amazing. That just makes our life easier. We know we won’t have to coach anyone or do a million takes because we know they’re going to get it really quick and really easily.
How did you land on Summer Glau and what did she bring to the role of Supergirl?
Summer was really interesting. I think she was Bruce [Timm]’s idea. He was the one who put her name in the hat as far as a possible Supergirl voice option. And she wanted to come do it, which was awesome. And when she came in, she was really nervous. I don’t think she’d ever done any voiceover before, so we were a little frightened. It was like, “Oh my gosh, is she going to be able to do it?”
We went through a rehearsal and she was still kind of nervous and still holding back but as soon as we started recording, it was like she was a pro. It was like night and day. There was nervous Summer and there was Summer who was just doing her job. She was just acting. And she did an amazing job. I was sweating it a little at first, but as soon as she started performing for real on the record, she was amazing. She did such a good job. I was really happy with her performance.
I guess that performance kind of matches Supergirl as she is so powerful and can deliver the knockout blow, but she can also be quite timid when she’s around DC’s big guns like Superman and Batman.
Absolutely. That’s very true. It’s like regardless of how much power she has, she is essentially completely out of her element. And she’s in a completely new world with practically no one she knows. She managed to find Clark but even with him, she doesn’t really know. The last time she saw him he was a baby. So it’s like, “I know we’re related but I don’t know you as a person.” So just imagine being sent to a place where you know nobody. You don’t even know the world. You don’t even know the language. That would be pretty jarring for anyone, regardless of whether you had superpowers or not.
Andre Braugher certainly has the voice, does he deliver the boom as Darkseid?
He was awesome. I was familiar with him from a number of different projects but I can never place what projects he’s in. I know his face and he’s so familiar but I think the last thing I remember him from is “The Mist” and I loved that movie, so I was like, “Oh, sweet. We get Andre Braugher.” And he’s just a really talented actor whether he’s on camera or just doing the voiceover, he’s got enough talent to do it right.
Are there any plans to do “Superman/Batman: Absolute Power” next?
I honestly don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did because it’s “Batman/Superman.” Anytime you put Batman and Superman together, it sells pretty well [laughs]. And being that they are all about doing Batman or Superman, I’m sure they will eventually do another “Superman/Batman.” I don’t think there is a script in the works right now, but I definitely would not be surprised if it did come in the next year or two.
Any chance you can give us some updates on your next two projects, “Batman: Year One” and “Green Lantern: Emerald Knights”?
The next one that I’m working on is “Green Lantern: Emerald Knights.” It is similar to “Batman: Gotham Knights” in that it is a compilation of smaller stories and each one of those stories focuses on a different member of the Green Lantern Corps. And we had three directors on that one: me, Jay Oliva and Chris Berkeley, and three stories, so we were able to split it up pretty easily. And we didn’t have to continuously check in with each other. So that made life a little easier on all of us.
Can you share any details on your story?
I worked on a short with Kilowog in it. And then the other one that I did was the overarching story that kind of wraps all of the stories up into one. It’s the sequence that comes in and out before each short story and that one features pretty much as many Green Lanterns as you can name, probably a lot of the recurring characters from “Green Lantern: First Flight.” Hal’s in there, and Sinestro, all the good guys and Kilowog again. The other guys handled some of the other ones. I think Abin Sur shows up, and even Mogo.That will probably be released around the same time as the live action movie, so the summer of 2011.
After that I’m working on “Batman: Year One” with Sam Liu, and we’re co-directing that one together. That’s like “Apocalypse” in that it is very much based on that graphic novel for the art style and the story. Everything is taken directly from that comic so if you liked the comic, hopefully you’ll like the movie as well.
“Batman: Year One” is one of the seminal stories of the past thirty years. Does that project come with any trepidation?
A little bit. I think our biggest fear when we came to that project was just so much of it had already been done in the live-action film. I think Christopher Nolan had drawn a lot of his Batman from that story in both “Batman Begins” and “Dark Knight,” so we’re like, “OK. We’re making a movie that’s already been made.” [Laughs]. I think if people liked that comic than they’re going to want to see those moments, even if they’ve already been done, they’re going to want to see them again.
We stuck so closely to the comic that I really hope the fans will like it. I hope they don’t look at it and say, “This is nothing like it.” If they do, it’s like, “Oh my God, we failed really badly because we tried so hard to make it exactly like the comic.” I hope it doesn’t bomb just because it’s been so built up in the minds of everyone because it’s such an iconic and memorable comic.