When each new day seemingly brings news of another superhero thrust into the developing DC Comics’ cinematic universe, it’s sometimes easy to forget about its animated counterpart. But that’s where beloved and new characters alike not only turn up, but get to be the focus of their own stories on an impressive scale. In “Son Of Batman,” Bruce Wayne’s biological child Damian turns up, creating a new sort of quandary for the man who became a hero because he lost his family — what happens when you get a new one?
Prior to a screening of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s “Son of Batman” movie at WonderCon 2014, supervising producer James Tucker, responsible for many of the animated specials past and future, sat down to talk about this particular film and what sort of repercussions it might have in the DC animated universe. In addition to talking about the great opportunity he enjoyed in bringing Damian to the screen, Tucker explored the creative mandate that guides each new film, and reflected on the challenges of expanding this universe not only in terms of its stories, but its audience as well.
CBR News: What was the challenge in adapting the story of “Son of Batman,” because you added in some elements that weren’t in the original comics —
James Tucker: We knew we couldn’t literally adapt by the letter of the books everything, but we wanted to get the gist of the character and put him in our own continuity. So that’s why we took elements. Deathstroke was in the Damian stories at some point. So we’re like, oh, let’s use him to tie them into the League of Assassins a little more, gave him a reason to have a vendetta against Damian. And it kind of gives Damian’s character a focal point because he actually has a bad guy that hates him right off the bat — no pun intended. So that was the reason for Deathstroke’s inclusion, changing some things around, making Damian pop as a character in a short-form 70-minute movie. If this was a TV series, I’d have started from “Batman and Son” issue one or whatever, and all the way up till he got the knife.
Geoff Johns has been pretty insistent that each of these things should be its own.
You mean each like we’re different than the movies, TV shows and stuff.
Yeah, I think that across the board we feel that way because the great thing about doing the DC stuff is that synergy isn’t enforced on us. We want to do a Damian story, and the movies aren’t doing that, that’s fine, you know. They’re letting us show different facets of the same character in different ways without having to, you know, worry about stepping on other divisions toes, so that’s great.
In that case, how much fealty do you either feel obligated or want to show to the source material and how much do you just want to reinvent it for this particular movie?
It’s a little bit of both. I mean, we’re forced to adapt it. You can’t boil it down to 70 minutes. And we’re not strictly doing New 52, meaning just because New 52 did it, it doesn’t mean we can’t veer from that. We’re just piggybacking what we’re doing by changing the universe and creating a connected universe within the DTVs. That wasn’t done before. Before it was just each movie was its own thing, an adaptation of a classic story. So we’re trying something different by actually having almost an OVA version of the DC universe where there’s connectivity between the movies. So DC’s on board with that. Home video wants it. You know, we want it, because it’s kind of like having a series without having a network. So it’s all good. I think if fans come into it open, if they view it as its own thing, I think they’ll enjoy it more, and if they’re not trying to ‘A/B’ it with what they’ve already read.
Now that you’ve introduced Damian into animation, the true son of Batman, do you think we will see Damian in more animation from here on out?
I love Damian, and I think he really popped well in this movie, so, yeah, we would definitely. And he’s not dead if you notice by the end of the movie, so — I know, spoilers, but so yeah, I mean, I love him. I’d love to bring him back.
Creatively what’s been the treat of creating this new continuity, and what’s been the biggest challenge?
The challenge is to do something that hasn’t been done before, like do a story that we didn’t do in other series or that hasn’t been done in other media. Damian is great, because he’s a character that has never appeared anywhere, and he’s relevant to comics now. A lot of the things we adapted in the old days were old stories. I mean, they had been out already 10 years or something, and it’s just oh, this is a classic story. Let’s do our spin on it. Well, this is clearly taking something that’s not even that old and bringing him into the film world, and he’s an instant classic. So it was a great opportunity to do that and give Batman a fresh spin because now he’s a dad, he has to act in a different way than he’s used to acting. It’s not like having Dick Grayson, who you kind of adopt, who’s already had a tragedy in his life. Damian comes to Batman saying, ‘I’m trained to be the next you. So let’s get it on.’ He’s challenging Batman in a way that some of the others sidekicks never did.
Is there a through line that gives you a sense of continuity, or what freedom do you have to integrate other stories into this universe?
Well, the thing is we want continuity, but we don’t want to be hamstrung by it. So if there’s a story that happened pre-New 52 that we think is a strong story, we’ll adapt it into our universe. So that it doesn’t rule out things that have already been pre-New 52.
You do have the Aquaman tag, for example, so we’re gonna see Aquaman in the future, correct? He kind of never got his moment in the spotlight.
We have a lot of plans, I can say that. The world’s wide open. We don’t really have a lot of restrictions on that. I mean, I just wish we could do 10 a year because — no, I don’t, because that’s a lot of work. But there are ideas we want to do and characters I want to tap into. It takes time to get to them. We only do two a year that are in continuity, so it takes a while to get around to everyone. So as long as each movie has something or somebody in it that no one’s seen on DVD before, I think we’ll be accomplishing our goals.
Do you plan on sticking with the characters that are sort of in the public eye?
Yeah, I mean we’re pretty much doing a Batman movie and a Justice League movie. Everybody knows them, but not everyone knew Damian. Soccer moms sometimes know Damian. So to them it’s gonna be like, ‘Oh, wow, what’s that?’ So the idea is to bring in current characters who have a fan following and who are strong characters. But I think Damian’s one of those characters that the minute everyone knows about him, he’s gonna pop, and he’ll probably get a movie at some point. Don’t quote me. I don’t know! But he’s that good a character.
When you’re making these, are you aiming to appeal to primarily fans of the comics, or are you trying to draw in maybe that larger audience, introduce them to elements of the comics they might not already be aware of?
Well, I put it this way. Being a comic book fan, I want the cred and approval of my peers. I want them to enjoy it too, but I can’t just sell to people who buy comics because then we’d only sell 30,000 copies. Don’t quote me on that either (laughs). You know what I’m saying. It has to have a broad appeal, and so the goal is to try to serve two different audiences and yet make something that I would enjoy, that I know comic book fans would enjoy, and yet people, civilians will get it too. So that’s the goal.