With Diedrich Bader in the vocal booth, fans of Batman may want to start referring to the classic superhero as The Occasionally Light Knight.
The comedic actor best known for his longstanding role as Oswald on "The Drew Carey Show" as well as turns in films such as "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back" brings his humorous sensibilities to the role of the caped crusader in Cartoon Network's "Batman: The Brave & The Bold," which debuts in the U.S. this Friday, November 14 at 8:00 pm Eastern & Pacific. And while Bader is relying on his years of experience in voice acting stretching back to a 1996 stint on the fan favorite "Gargoyles" to even a recent turn on Batman's last animated series, even he was a bit surprised to land the gig.
"Well, I wasn't exactly sure," Bader told CBR of his original reaction to the idea of playing the part. "When [voice director Andrea Romano] told me about it, she said they wanted to have a slightly lighter touch and bring out the kind of sense of humor in the character and that they were going to have a very different visual style, more like the Dick Sprang, mid '60s comics. So I was really attracted by that. I wasn't able to watch 'The Batman' with my kids, so this gave me an opportunity to do a version that they could watch. And I think this broadens the demographic of Batman, and it's sort of like the other side of the coin to 'The Dark Knight.' That's an adult movie."
However, Bader will be adapting his vocal chords to pull off his version of the hero portrayed on the big screen by Christian Bale's barking intensity. The actor joked that dressing in a cowl helped prepare him in the recording booth, but "other than that I don't really have to do anything. I just kind of bow [my voice] and make it more gravely. There's a real gravitas to Batman that I don't necessarily have in my regular speaking voice."
Bader added, "What's fun about this Batman is that he has a sense of humor. It's fun and it's filled with irony, but it's there. It's particularly good in contrast to the kind of wild antics that the guest stars are up to."
As readers who have followed the news of "Brave & The Bold" know, those guest stars run the gamut from semi-big name DC Comics heroes like Aquaman and Green Arrow to obscure characters including Deadman and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth. And while Bader plays the only part in the series who features in every single episode, the actor noted how the Warner Bros. Animation team's working system allowed him to get into the show's team-up spirit. "Disney takes everybody and records separately, but for Warner Bros., you're all in the same room so you have the bad guys and the good guys all together," he explained. That's particularly important for 'Batman: The Brave & The Bold' because the tone of the show is so different. Right now, because we haven't made air, no one knows what our overall tone is, and so it's really important that we're all together to set that tone.
"The voice-over world is very small, and we've reached out of it to find some special guest stars that I think people will really like, but a lot of the recurring characters that we have on are played by a pretty small group of guys that I have worked with for years. We have an easy sense and camaraderie that's comfortable and nice."
Bader already has a list of favorite episodes he can't wait to see in their final form. "There's one with Huntress and Blue Beetle that ended up being really funny, and one of the first ones we did with Aquaman really captured the tone," the actor said. "I don't know which ones are going to go first, but those are ones you want to look for. And any time you see Plastic Man, it's going to be a fun show because it's Tom Kenny, and he's hilarious. "
But the comedy chops don't purely rest with the side characters, as Bader was allowed to play the more wry side of Batman in addition to the traditional tough guy shtick. "I did have the opportunity to say, 'I'm Batman' which is always fun, but what's fun about this show is that he's got alliteration almost every week. There's a sting of C's or B's or A's all together or always something about fighting crime," Bader said. 'It's fun because there come these tongue-in-cheek lines he has about the hammer of justice that are half-facetious and half-serious. That's kind of the overall tone of the show. It's a little bit difficult to sometimes do those lines with a straight face, but they're really fun."
If that mix of ironic and iconic sounds familiar, it's because both "The Brave & The Bold" series and its star are tipping their hat a bit at one of the most memorable takes on the character ever to hit the small screen. "I was a huge fan of the Adam West TV show," Bader admitted. "I watched that and 'Get Smart' in an hour block every day on Channel 20 in the D.C. area where I grew up, and this kind of hearkens back to that. Then years later, I did a series with Adam West, and it was fun to work with him. He's kind of been in and out of my life for a while. It's definitely something that I think about. Although the voice is certainly closer to the modern take on Batman, the show is certainly looking back on that Batman. That's the incredible thing is that from two different perspectives, [the lines] can be read totally differently. That's certainly what we're going for on this show."
And while adults and older comics fans may get a kick out the knowing nods to classic comics and TV, in the end the real audience for "Batman: The Brave & The Bold" are the kids. And if Bader's own young ones are any indication, the show is sure to be a hit. "My kids wanted to come down to Comic-Con to see dad talking on stage about Batman. They are probably going to burst into flame when they see the first episode."