Two Batmen, one of them an iconic voice in the Dark Knight franchise and the other displaying a lighter side of the character, spoke with CBR at a series of roundtable interviews at Comic-Con International about the first Justice League animated series since “Justice League Unlimited” concluded in 2006. Kevin Conroy, who has voiced Batman off and on for 24 years, beginning with “Batman: The Animated Series,” and Diedrich Bader, who donned the verbal cape and cowl for “Batman: Brave and the Bold” and will now be portraying the carefree hero Booster Gold, discussed the forthcoming “Justice League Action,” which will debut on Cartoon Network in late 2016 in a series of 11-minute episodes.
According to Conroy, “Justice League Action” largely carries on the tone and style of “Justice League Unlimited,” but with a greater element of humor. “It’s not ‘Teen Titans Go,'” he said, though he appreciates that show for what it is. “It’s definitely a Justice League action show. It’s got all the action and the drama of a Justice League episode. But those characters — all those characters, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman — there’s always that sort of temptation to tweak them a little bit.
“Luckily, the new group of actors they put together for this show is a similar group,” Conroy continued. “Diedrich Bader is fantastic. James Woods — it’s an amazing cast! I think it’s because everyone wants to do animation now. Everyone wants to do it. They can get any actors they want. Cloris Leachman! I couldn’t believe it! The day I worked with her, I told her, ‘I’ve never forgotten you from “The Last Picture Show.” It was one of the most heartbreaking performances I’ve ever seen.’ Her eyes lit up, ‘No one ever mentions that anymore! I can’t believe you saw it!’ Saw it?!? It’s a landmark film! So to have her on the cast is great.”
Asked whether he considers each of his Batman roles to be a different version of the character — he also voiced the Dark Knight in the just-released, controversial “Killing Joke” animated film — Conroy said it’s more effective to just be Batman, regardless of the story. “I’d love to say that I’m doing all these different versions of the character, but the trick I’ve found is consistency. I have to be consistent,” he said. “Batman’s audience is fanatically devoted. They know more about him than I do. They know everything about Batman, and they have a very personal relationship with the character because they grew up with the character. If I do anything that even sounds slightly inauthentic, they’ll nail me on it. They’ll hear it. You can hear inconsistency, and you can hear inauthenticity faster than you can see it.”
Conroy also discussed how the perspective gained from his Juliard training and his four decades of acting professionally. “You have to play every role as if it’s Hamlet,” he said. “And with Batman, he is Hamlet!”
Bader, who voiced Batman in the comedy-focused “Brave and the Bold,” professed to being a huge admirer of Conroy’s version of the Caped Crusader. “All I do is a poor imitation of Kevin, so to be in a session with him was really, really great,” he said. “I totally geeked out on him! The first time I had a session with him, I took a picture of us and tweeted it, then remembered that I wasn’t supposed to say anything about the show. So I didn’t know what to say at that point, it was already out there.”
The character of Booster Gold, whom Bader voices for the series, speaks to the actor’s own tendencies. “Booster is a lot of fun to play, they gave me a lot of room to improvise… Booster talks really, really fast. It’s definitely my own spin on Booster. A lot of these guys are comedy writers so they knew just where to go with Booster, they gave me a lot of good set-ups. Booster just has to be fun. He’s a big kid having fun with superhero gear. Like, what if you gave a child amazing things.”
Bader is known for his improvisation skills, and “Justice League Action” let him run wild. “I improvise a lot. A lot,” he said. “I felt bad, because then a lot of the other actors want to improvise too, and [the directors] are like, ‘Nope.’ So then I stopped and they said, ‘No, Diedrich, do.’ And I’m like, ‘Ah, really?'”
Booster “has a hero worship thing with Batman,” according to Bader, which leads to the Dark Knight reluctantly taking Booster under his wing. “The full-on Booster episode is the two of them teamed up, and Batman shows him how to be a real superhero,” Bader said. “It’s a great storyline because there’s this child who wants to be a hero, and then there’s Batman telling him what the responsibilities of being a hero really are.”
Unlike most animated series, the cast of “Justice League Action” records together in the Warner Bros. Animation studio. “Warner Animation is really good about bringing everybody in in kind of a horseshoe arrangement so you can see what everybody’s doing,” Bader said of the process. “It’s kind of fun. Also, I really love voiceover actors rather than on-camera actors because it’s so talent-based. If you are unpleasant to work with at all, they just fire you. On-camera actors, you’re kind of stuck.”
Despite his prominent roles in “Justice League Action,” “Brave and the Bold” and many other DC and Marvel animated projects, Bader said he didn’t grow up reading comics. “If I brought comics home, my parents would throw them out,” he said. “I come from a family of all academics. I’m the only kid in my family without a PhD, even in my extended family. So being the idiot in my family, they wanted to keep that stuff away from me as much as possible. The result of that is that I never formed an allegiance with any particular comic.
“When I was a kid, I did love, when we lived oversea, Tintin and Asterix and Lucky Luke, and those were ok to read… because they were French? They’re still comic books! But anything else, my parents threw out,” he continued. “My son, however, is one of us. He’s truly a comic book fan. The day when I gave him the action figure of ‘Batman: The Brave and the Bold’ and told him he was the first kid in North America to be holding the action figure, it was like he had ascended to heaven. It was that moment, the clouds had parted and the sun shone. ”
“Justice League Action” debuts on Cartoon Network this Fall.