Since the original DC Animated Universe, which began with “Batman: The Animated Series,” ended with “Justice League Unlimited” in 2006, executive producer Bruce Timm has continued to tell stories with DC Comics characters by way of the DC Universe Animated line of direct-to-video titles. In that time, series including “Batman: The Brave and The Bold” and “Young Justice” kept the DC heroes on TV screens, but next year marks Timm’s return to series television with “Green Lantern: The Animated Series.” Timm sat down with journalists Saturday at New York Comic Con to discuss the series, possible appearances by other heroes from the comics universe, and adapting material from the wide array of “Green Lantern” stories.
“We kind of cherry-pick what we like,” Timm told CBR News. With seventy years of “Green Lantern” lore to pull from, the executive producer mixed elements as old as the concept itself and as current as the Red Lantern Corps into their concept for the show. “[We try] to mush them all together and make a consistently interesting version that leaves us some lee-way so that we can introduce some [new] elements of our own.” One of the oldest ideas introduced into the show is Hal Jordan himself. Having made John Stewart a popular character on the “Justice League” shows, the producer said there was an appeal to going with the Silver Age Lantern. “[We liked] the basic Hal storyline; that he was the first Green Lantern from Earth, the guy who is dedicated to his duty as a Green Lantern, but is also the guy who will talk back to the Guardians and question their decision-making,” he explained.
One aspect of “Green Lantern” media that had a minimal effect on the series was the recent feature film starring Ryan Reynolds. “At the time we were writing the first season, we didn’t have much contact with the movie people,” Timm recalled. That said, there will be obvious similarities between the two versions of the character. “We’re all pulling from the same source material,” he said. Much like the “Batman” animated series, “Green Lantern” will not clash or sync completely with the film. He added, “We’re not being restricted to anything because of what they’re doing in the movie series.”
Hal proved to be a particularly tough voice to cast until Josh Keaton came in during one of the last rounds of auditions. It was not until that moment that Timm knew he had the right voice for Hal. “I always expected him to sound older,” Timm said. “I worked with Josh several times before and, to me, he always sounded a little bit too young — but he nailed it.” According to the producer, Keaton’s voice offers the range for both the smart-aleck retorts and gravitas inherent to the character. “We got really lucky.”
In the show’s initial thirteen episodes, the Red Lanterns, led by Atrocitus, will give the GLs a run for their money, but Timm enthusiastically revealed they will not be the only Corps to appear on the show. “We thought there was something interesting that we could do with those characters,” he said. Getting back to the rage-centric Lanterns notorious for their hate-vomit in the comics, Timm admitted some of the group’s grosser elements would have to be toned down for the show, but “they’re pretty formidable” as adversaries.
When asked, he declined to reveal if fan-favorite Red Lantern Dex-Starr will appear in the series.
Outside of established characters, the producer offered a few details about new personalities helping (and hindering) Hal along his quest to keep the galaxy safe. Initially presented as a spaceship navigational computer, the artificial intelligence Hal dubs “Aia” will evolve into a robot with an ambition to become a member of the Corps. “She grows and evolves through the [course of the season],” Timm said. He also mentioned a new Red Lantern named Razzar. “He becomes an important supporting character throughout the series.” The producer expressed a hope that both characters might find their way into the mainline DC Comics Universe.
Continuing to discuss the characters, Timm noted several of the Guardians will develop as the show goes on. “I think the Guardians are really interesting characters. It’s sort of like James Bond with eight ‘Ms’ and each one of them has a different personality,” he explained. Of course, not all of the Guardians will get fleshed out; with twelve of them floating around Oa, Timm admitted some will be “place-holder Guardians.”
While playing in the DC Universe’s sandbox may be familiar for the producer, the series introduces a new element to the production side by going into 3D Computer animation. “My boss, Sam Register, has been looking to get into the CG realm for a long, long time,” Timm said. According to the producer, Register noted more and more TV animation is switching to computers as the production costs come down.
Though it is becoming more cost-effective, Timm noted a major difference between computer and traditional cel animation. “There are a limited number of assets per show,” he explained. These assets — every prop, background, character, and set — represent a level of work that more closely resembles architecture than cartooning. “The animators need more than just the shot, they need a blueprint. you have to get your slide-rule out and figure out how far apart [objects are].” In the traditional 2D process, a new alien environment can simply be sketched out and painted. In 3D, even the simplest item, like a pen, requires “really specific” details to allow it to interact with other objects. The process, as whole, is far more time consuming. “You have to be really smart,” he added.
Toward the end of our time with the producer, thoughts turned toward the possibility of a second season and, perhaps, introducing more DC characters into the mix. “That’s something we’ve discussed,” he replied. “If we’re lucky enough to get a second season or a third season, we’ve talked about the possibility of a ‘Justice League in Space.'” Timm was quick to add that it was just one of several possible ideas. “It’s all open.” He also noted some DC characters will appear in the first season, but teased that they will appear “not in the ways you expect.”
“Green Lantern: The Animated Series” premieres on Cartoon Network next year.