CCI Xtra: Bruce Timm Career Retrospective and "Legion of Superheroes" Cartoon

On Friday at Comic-Con International, fans got a look at Bruce Timm's ("Batman Beyond," "Justice League Unlimited") career and the new Kids WB show "Legion of Super Heroes."

Bruce Timm began his retrospective by saying "This is really kind of weirding me out a bit because normally career retrospectives come towards the end of a person's career and I've got 20 years to go on my mortgage." He and Jason Hillhouse, whom Timm called "my very own teleprompter and very good friend," discussed Timm's popular shows, from "Batman: The Animated Series" in 1992 to "Justice League Unlimited" which ended earlier this year.

Timm began working with the DC characters in the early '90s when he and Eric Radomski created the "Batman" cartoon show for Warner Brothers.

Although neither had ever produced a show before, "Batman" was successful. Timm partially attributes this to the quality of the subject. "Batman is one of the best characters. He's got the best costume, the best rogues gallery, the best setting… you'd have to really try hard to mess that show up," Timm said. While he calls himself "a born and bred geek" who "knew all the lore," Timm says Radomski "came from a non-geek background" but liked the mood and the idea.

After "Batman," Timm did "Superman" for the WB. "Superman opened the floodgates," Timm said. With Batman, "we tried to play it straight… tried to keep it grounded in a kind of reality," but in "Superman" they began using characters like Green Lantern and the Flash, setting the groundwork for shows like "Justice League."

Though they incorporated more characters in "Superman," and made it more of a fantasy show, Timm and the other producers had to figure out how to make Superman "dramatically compelling" while still maintaining that "boy scout" essence.

While making "Superman," Timm began working on another Batman show, this time with more Robin and Batgirl. Though he at first didn't want to do another Batman show, he ultimately liked the show. While working on "Superman" and "Batman," Timm began development on "Batman Beyond."

Of "Batman Beyond," Timm said, "We hated the idea, too! But once we started thinking about it, it was kind of fun." Timm said one of the successes of "Batman Beyond" is "you don't feel like, okay, we're watching another toy commercial." Timm said the irony of the show is that even though it was "created to be a much more younger-skewing show, it's easily the nastiest show we've done."

Timm also produced animated Batman films including "Mask of the Phantasm" and the direct-to-video "Return of the Joker," leading Timm to remark, "I like Return of the Joker better. We were trying so hard to make 'Phantasm' dark, that it's kind of a downer; 'Return of the Joker' is one of the best things we've done."

Timm initially didn't want to make a Justice League show because he felt that in older JLA comic books all the characters had "exactly the same personality." He changed his mind he said, because "I was out of a job and had 20 years on my mortgage." Timm was driven to make Justice League good because of new shows like "X-Men: Evolution" and "Samurai Jack." "The bar had been raised," he said "and not by us." In addition, Justice League gave Timm the opportunity to use different characters, like Green Arrow, Black Canary, and The Question. "I never thought I'd live to see The Question be a cartoon," Timm said.

As far as the future, Timm was unable to make any official announcements but said he is still at Warner Brothers and still working with DC characters. While discussing his newest project a blood-red, dripping Superman logo appeared on a black screen, prompting Timm to declare "we're gonna do Godspell!"

The second half of the panel gave the audience a peek at the new "Legion of Super Heroes" cartoon which will air on Kids WB in fall. Present were producer James Tucker ("Justice League"), story editor Rob Hoagee ("Teen Titans"), and voice actors Shawn Harrison, Kari Wahlgren, Michael Cornaccia, Yuri Lowenthal, and Andy Milder.

Each of the actors took a moment to describe their characters for those unfamiliar with Legion. Harrison, who plays Timberwolf, said,"I like to pick up stuff and throw it. And I like to maul things with my claws." Of his character, Bouncing Boy, Cornaccia kept it simple saying, "I'm Bouncing Boy. I bounce." Milder seemed particularly excited about the show saying, "I grew up reading 'Legion'…. I was a big 'Legion' fan. My cat was named Streaky when I was kid." Wahlgren plays both Saturn Girl, a telepath who can "cast illusions" and Triplicate Girl who can split into three people. Lowenthal was adamant in saying that he plays Superman, not Superboy.

Hoagee explained the reason for using a young, time-traveling Superman rather than Superboy. "The Legion of Super Heroes is a relatively new organization and they get a little over their heads with a little organization that calls itself The Fatal Five. They decide they need some help in a big way, so Braniac 5 decides 'hey let's just go back in time and get the greatest superhero ever.' Only they don't actually end up in the Metropolis in Justice League era. They get there a little too soon and find Clark Kent who is certainly aware of his powers but not quite of his own destiny… so the Legion teaches Clark how to use his power and Clark teaches the Legion how to be heroes… and it's a nice little synergy between this up-and-coming hero who certainly is in a league of his own in the universe and a group of ideological kids who essentially looked up to this person all their lives."

During the Q&A, Tucker explained why they chose to use the older names like "Triplicate Girl" and "Lightning Lad" instead of current character names Live Wire and Triad. "He's not Live Wire," Tucker said. "What's that mean? He's Lightning Lad. It's what he does." Tucker and Hoagee said that other Legion characters would appear as well because "it's a big Legion."

Later, former Legion artist Chris Batista stepped up to the microphone to voice his approval of the new series. Although the creators acknowledged the fans, saying "Legion fans are the most devout. They're like Cubs fans" and said that longtime fans would like the show, they also stressed, "we're doing this for kids, first and foremost."

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