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CCI: Talking with “The Brave and the Bold”

by  in Movie News, TV News Comment
CCI: Talking with “The Brave and the Bold”

While “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” may deal with the titular character teaming up with others each week, story editor Michael Jelenic found his own unusual team up at Friday’s “Batman: The Brave & the Bold” panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego when he was ambushed by a rabid fan. “That was my first time being ambushed, so I was excited,” he told CBR News. At issue was Jelenic’s treatment of DC Comics’ Wonder Woman in the character’s self titled direct-to-video movie from 2009. “Online, there’s a lot discussion about that movie; whether or not it pushes the feminist themes that are ‘backwards.’ So there’s a vocal minority that isn’t happy with the way Wonder Woman was depicted in that movie,” he explained. “So that guy came up in the middle of a ‘Brave and the Bold’ panel and he went on for five minutes, talking about how bad it was.” The story editor recalled his quip to the fan: “My answer was, ‘I hate women.’ He was angry at that.”

That sort of notoriety is unusual for television writers. “It is a benefit of writing television, unless you’re the showrunner, of no one ever knowing your name,” Jelenic said of the way things normally go. He remembered his younger days and “connecting the dots” of stories he liked to the writers he later grew to admire. He hopes to one day have that place in someone’s mind, but noted jokingly, “I am at that level right now in animation where maybe five people know who I am and two of them hate me. It’s cool.”

In his role as the show’s story editor, Jelenic aids producer James Tucker in assembling the scripts for a season’s worth of episodes of show which airs on Cartoon Network. Unlike live-action series, where the writers assemble in a room and pitch ideas to one another, “Batman: The Brave & the Bold” operates in a much more individualistic system. “There’s me, in charge of all the scripts, and I hire one writer for each script,” he explained. The writer is generally given a story prompt and the characters he should use. “It’s James who picks the characters. He has a very specific vision for them,” Jelenic said. According to the story editor, Tucker prefers the characters as they appeared during his childhood and characters popular in the 1990s have a much harder time getting through the story process. “There’s no room for Azrael,” he joked.

There is plenty of room for Diedrich Bader, who plays Batman on the show. “When they first gave me the breakdown of what this series was going to be – you can’t help it, you get an idea of who would be a good actor for it, it’s just part of your job – and the first actor who came to mind was Diedrich Bader,” recalled voice director Andrea Romano. She suggested him to the producers “He went through the whole audition process, which is sending copy out to agents, having them submit all the actors they want to, whittling it down to the few that you play to for the producer, and it all came down to Diedrich Bader as the best actor for the job,” she remembered.

The cast, which also includes animation mainstays like Corey Burton (Brainiac from various DC animated shows), John DiMaggio (Bender on “Futurama”), and Tom Kenny (“Powerpuff Girls”), often record their lines together. Romano prefers this type of session, likening it to old radio shows. “‘Batman: The Brave and the Bold’ takes us – to rehearse and record – about two-and-a-half to three hours to get the whole thing done,” she said. “And then we go back six months later, after it’s been animated, and add ooghs and ughs.”

“Anyone who now does Batman is basically just doing a poor man’s imitation of Kevin Conroy. I think that he’s really the touchstone,” Bader said of his performance, deferring to the man who gave Batman his voice during “Batman: The Animated Series” and through to “Justice League Unlimited.” The current show has a lighter touch than those previous series. “Stylistically, James Tucker took the Batman in a very different direction and they need to open it up to an actor that was easy with comedy,” Bader recalled. “So, it gave the opportunity for a comedic actor to play the role, which I never would’ve been able to play a role like this otherwise.”

Bader also thinks the show’s lighter side gives him a chance to play various takes on the character. “Different characters bring out different sides of him; the joshing and the straight man with Aquaman, the real competitive edge with Green Arrow, the father/son relationship with Blue Beetle, and the warmth that was brought out with Red Tornado,” Bader explained. “I think that took Batman in a very different direction. Normally, you see him as very straight and forward and dealing with bad guys.”

Playing the character for some time allows an actor greater understanding of the role. “The more you understand the character, the easier it is to play and the longer you play him, the more you know him,” said Bader. He noted having an easier time playing the character now than in the beginning; the performance comes more naturally at this point. There was also a change in how he recorded Batman’s inner monologues. “Initially, when I started playing it, I did Bruce Wayne. So he would have a different, lighter tone,” he recalled. “When you saw him on camera, he would have a much deeper Kevin Conroy voice. When you heard him [in the voice over], it was much closer to my own voice. Then, when I watched it, I didn’t like it. So now, the voice over is pretty much the same as the [spoken voice].”

While not a fan of superheroes as a child, Bader did have access to some comics. “I was more into ‘Tin Tin’ [and] ‘Asterix.’ Everything else my dad [would] throw out.” He says he discovered the superheroes later at camp, where he would read “X-Men” comics “mostly to look at Storm’s breasts.”

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