The Warner Bros. Animation team has taken on Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert‘s “Batman & Son,” adapting the 2006 DC Comics story that introduced Damian Wayne as straight-to-home release feature “Son of Batman.”
WonderCon 2014 hosted the first-ever screening of the film Friday evening, and plenty of “Son of Batman” talent — voice actors Jason O’Mara (Batman), Sean Maher (Nightwing), Xander Berkeley (Langstrom) and child actor Stuart Allan (Damian), plus producer James Tucker, director Ethan Spaulding, character designer and Phil Bourassa and prolific voice director Andrea Romano — discussed the film afterwards during a panel at the Anaheim Convention Center arena. (As this was a post-screening Q&A, be warned, there may be light spoilers.)
First question from panel moderator and TV Guide senior editor Rich Sands referenced the feature’s violence (and prevalent cleavage displayed by Talia), asking, “Is there a line?” “I keep looking for it, and they keep moving it,” Tucker answered. “It’s PG-13, and we just submit the movie, and they give us the rating.”
Next question concerned the changes from the source material. Tucker explained that since they were limited by the length of the feature (approximately 70 minutes), changed had to be made, but they prioritized the father/son dynamic between Bruce Wayne and Damian. “As long as that was strong, we felt we had room to adapt, and change some things to suit our running time,” Tucker answered. “It was difficult, but from what you guys seem to say, we did a pretty good job.”
“I felt quite a bit of a pressure to come up with something ‘iconic,'” O’Mara said of his first experiencing voicing Batman, in “Justice League War,” released earlier this year. “It felt like a hunt. I was lucky enough to have Andrea Romano to help me hunt down the voice of Batman. I brought that experience with me to ‘Son of Batman.'” In recording this film, O’Mara cracked that he was in “severe danger of having a really good time,” due to his increasing comfort in the role.
Allan said he consulted comic book fan employees at GameStop for Damian Wayne research. “He’s a lone wolf, he likes to do his own thing, he needs to get what he wants,” Allan said of the character. “Also smart alecky, and he needs to work on his manners. But he was a great character to play.” Romano said Damian “came to me full form” with Allan’s performance.
Sands jokingly asked what took Maher so long to voice a DC character, since many other “Firefly” alums have done so in the past. “The world of Batman — why not?” Maher said.
O’Mara and Allan recorded together for “Son of Batman.” “I wanted to really scare Stuart, because I figured Damian needed a little bit of a kick in the butt,” O’Mara said. “We were trying to get to a point where Batman is asserting himself as a father.”
Bourassa said he relished the opportunity to design characters for a Batman-focused feature. “For the last five years or something, it’s been Justice League — in some form of another, I’ve been working on the team,” he told the crowd. “But I think it’s a milestone in any artist’s career when they get to do Batman — that world is so rich, and every professional artist has a take on Batman. It’s like this momentous milestone to get to work in that world.”
Turning to fan Q&A, first person to the mic asked who the panel would cosplay as at a convention. Allan had two picks — for DC, Green Lantern; for Marvel, Iron Man.
Asked about specific challenges brought by “Son of Batman,” Romano shared, “For this film in particular, because there is so much fighting, and there is so much violence, the ADR was extremely difficult. There were a few times I felt I needed to go in and be in the room with the actors. They’re trying on the actor’s throats, and I never ask an actor to do anything that I’m not willing to do myself.”
An audience member said he was “a little Batman fatigued,” stating he wanted to see other DC characters to get a focus, and that “Marvel seem to believe in all of their characters.” The moderator asked who the fan would want to see, and he named Hawkman and Hawkwoman, among others. “So I guess you didn’t watch ‘Brave and the Bold’?” Tucker asked.
Next person up asked what characters the panel would like to take on in animation. Tucker: Spectre. Bourassa: Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters.
A fan asked if the decision for DC’s animated features to be in the same continuity was a response to Cartoon Network ending the runs of DC animated series. Tucker: “No.”
Does Nightwing’s use in “Son of Batman” mean that Tim Drake isn’t Robin in the current feature continuity? “For our continuity, unless we figure out something different, yeah,” Tucker said. “I love Tim Drake, but he doesn’t work in every situation. Normal people have to understand this, too — not to say that we’re not normal. But we’re not normal.”
O’Mara on the challenge of doing something unique with the voice of Batman, given the legacy of actors like Kevin Conroy: “Anything before or after has no bearing on what you’re about to do. I had to tune all of that out, I had to rely on Andrea to be my ears, and try to create something as unique and authentic as I could.”
“I have to say your voice has evolved over the two films, and only keeps getting better,” Romano added.
“I felt a little pressure,” Allan said, because it was the first time Damian had been depicted in other media. “You’re starting a legacy here. I’m the kind of guy — you gotta go with the flow.”
A fan asked about the possibility of classic DC stories like “Killing Joke,” “Kingdom Come” and “The Nail” adapted into animation. “That’s always possible,” Tucker said, because one of the three DC animated features each year will be a non-continuity “one-off.”
An audience member asked the panel to “settle a bet” — who would win, Batman or Deathstroke? The panel was unanimous in favor of the Caped Crusader.
Does O’Mara prefer solo movies like “Son of Batman” or a “big, superpowered cast,” like “Justice League War”? O’Mara said, “It’s always interesting when Batman’s lone wolf status is challenged,” which he saw in both “Son of Batman” and “Justice League War.”
Last question: Any chance of an animated adaptation of 1984 “New Teen Titans” story “The Judas Contract”? “We’re very interested in the Teen Titans right now,” Tucker answered.
“Son of Batman” is available April 22 on digital download, and May 6 on Blu-ray and DVD.