When Batman goes missing and is presumed dead, the Bat-family recruits new heroes to protect Gotham and solve the mystery of the Dark Knight's disappearance in "Batman: Bad Blood." Voice actors Jason O'Mara, who plays Batman, and Gaius Charles, debuting as Batwing, spoke with reporters at New York Comic Con about their characters, the choices they make in establishing the heroes' unique voices, and researching their roles.
Charles described his character Luke Fox as "a guy who really wants to prove himself, both to his dad and to the Batman family." Though the heroic Batwing is nearly as new to comics as he is to the animated universe, Charles said he quickly gained a firm grip on the character's history from which to build his own take.
"David Zavimbe was the first Batwing when the series launched in 2011; Luke Fox took over in 2013. It's so recent. What I saw as one of my opportunities was to help bring awareness to this character," Charles said. "We've got this really cool character in this family. I just learned that Harley Quinn was not in the comic books originally, and now she's in 'Suicide Squad,' and in the comic books, as well. But that character was introduced in 'Batman: The Animated Series' and she was so popular that they rolled her right in. I'm hoping that Batwing fits into that as well."
In addition to framing the character's admittedly brief history, reading the comics helped give Charles a sense of Fox and Batwing's physicality. "When we do these movies, a lot of times you don't get to see the artwork ahead of time, so I wanted to see how he'd been drawn. The comics have been really helpful to get that inspiration," he said. "That storyline with his dad is unique, it's really heartfelt. A lot of the storylines can be so fantastic and so sci-fi, but for this, you get to see that real father-son relationship, which is something a lot of folks can relate to."
But while he took pains to get into his character's head, for Batwing's voice Charles said, "I took a pretty natural, organic approach to it."
"Batman's the guy that has that whole thing. The other thing is, Luke Fox is new at this. So for him to have this whole persona already built would not have been the most natural," he continued. "Maybe as he goes forward he can kind of fall into it, add some of those vocal layers. But I didn't want to step into Batman's lane with that."
O'Mara, who has now played Batman in five animated features, said "Batman's whole thing" essentially requires developing two fully different characters. "I actually find that I can't go Batman/Bruce Wayne/Batman/Bruce Wayne; I have to do everything as Bruce or everything as Batman first, then go back and do the other," O'Mara said. "It's almost like a different character to me."
Asked if this was difficult on his voice, O'Mara said, "It can be." He then immediately began coughing -- genuinely -- before recovering and laughing at the timing. "Initially, it was [difficult]. Because I was forcing it," he continued. "It took quite a bit of work and some experience to find a way to do that without pushing. Now I can do it without straining my voice, in a safe way, a way I can repeat it. So I think that's all part of the development process as I've been doing these films. I think it gets more real, more natural, and more nuanced as we go."
In addition to becoming more fluid, O'Mara said his Batman voice has evolved since his first portrayal. "I don't think it started out as original. I think I had ideas about what he should be based on what I'd already heard from portrayals of Batman. So I think I started out with an inherited idea of what it could be," O'Mara said. "It was probably a little too dark, it was probably a little too coarse, and the development has really been about finding my inner Batman, what I can do to make it unique. I think that's why it's changed, and why it's changed for the better. I was watching 'Bad Blood' and was pleasantly surprised about the differences I found between Batman and Bruce, which I wasn't that pleased with initially."
Asked if he reads with other actors for the DC animated films, O'Mara said that he generally does not, and in fact, "after a while, it starts to feel odd if you have somebody else in the studio with you, believe it or not." There are still opportunities to play off the rest of the cast, though. "When you come back and do that second session of ADR and you see the assembly of the film, the animation's still rough and some of the effects are still rough, but you can feel the filmmaker's vision and you can also hear what the other actors are doing with their characters," he explained. "That gives you a chance make adjustments and change it up before the finished film.
"The big budget animated films, sometimes they get all the cast in together, and that can be interesting, it can give it a more natural feel. But the budgets are tight on this, and the quickest, easiest, most economical way to do it is by getting us individually."
O'Mara recalled his first experience of Batman, watching the classic Adam West show. "I had measles when I was, I think, 8 years old and I watched the original first movie from the '60s. But this would have been 1980. I had the measles and I was allowed to watch TV, and it was mindblowing," the actor recalled. "This is amazing, it was so cool. Even though it was 15 years old then, the bad special effects, and the bad fighting, and the campiness, it didn't bother me,. It was just exciting."
Asked about Irish heroes he'd like to voice, O'Mara said, "I am fascinated by CÃºchulainn." "Other than perhaps the Greek gods and those guys, you could argue that CÃºchulainn was the first superhero," he continued. "I've always wanted to do something with CÃºchulainn, but it's a hard sell because he's Irish. He's not in the DC Universe! The '2000 AD' character SlÃ¡ine was based on CÃºchulainn, the idea of this great Irish warrior who had this warp-spasm when he fought."
"Batman: Bad Blood" warp-spasms onto Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download in early 2016.