Sunday is kids’ day at New York Comic Con, but the LEGO DC panel has something for fans of all ages. Debuting in early 2016, “LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes — Justice League: Cosmic Clash” will see the League square off against Brainiac. On hand for the panel were Troy Baker, who voices Batman; Phil LaMarr as Brainiac; producer Brandon Vietti; director Rick Morales; screenwriter Jim Krieg; and DC All Access’ Tiffany Smith as moderator.
After introductions, Smith played the first trailer, introducing Brainiac as staccato-laughing villain. From there, the team chases Brainiac to the future where they meet the Legion of Super-Heroes.
When Smith asked the panel about how the LEGO DC series is mapped out, Baker laughed at the idea. Lamarr added, “We just get these instructions of how to build the movies step by step.”
Vietti, more directly, said the creators were “starting from scratch” with these movies to tell interesting stories, like the first meeting of the Justice League, in LEGO style.
Krieg said that the crew played with LEGO during meetings and, “I’m not going to say we retroactively added a story, but that’s exactly what we did.”
Vietti noted that “there is a throughline to our movies” to keep building on the story, but part of the fun was just adding new characters and seeing what happened.
Morales said that the different tone of the movies was challenging for him, “skewing for a younger audience, focusing on comedy” than his DC animation work, but the different style is fun, as well.
Vietti, in looking at “how do you make Batman funny,” took inspiration from Adam West’s and Diedrich Bader’s takes. “But really, it was Troy that made it work.”
Baker said he sees his Batman as “a Dean Martin where there’s a bunch of Jerry Lewises running around,” serving as a straightman for the the goofier characters.
Krieg said he brought the Brainiac ship “with all the tentacles” to his meeting with LEGO. “I think Brandon came up with what his character should be, and then we got [Phil Lamarr] to play it.”
Another clip played, where Brainiac asks for the League’s names as “I prefer to defeat you in alphabetical order.” After Batman’s defiance, Brainiac shouts “Control Alt Destroy!” missiles launch through space, and the battle begins.
Baker joked that he liked that Brainiac’s “power and weekness is [his] OCD.”
“This planet is not mint!” Lamarr said in voice.
Lamarr also revealed that Brainiac “has help” in the form of other versions of himself — and that the actor got to talk to himself. “1.2 is a little different from 1.3, and 1.4 is slacker Brainiac,” Lamarr said, adding that it was sometimes difficult to keep them straight.
Baker said that, since the cast doesn’t record together, he often wouldn’t realize how funny his lines were until he saw the finished product. “I was once told, don’t try to make it funnier; the script is great,” he said.
As the only actor who has played both Batman and the Joker, Baker spoke about the joys of the Crown Prince of Crime. But, “as Batman, I think I’ve got the easiest job,” he said, though getting that dry humor just right is enjoyable.
Baker then recounted a phone interview with a five-year-old girl, where she started with uncontrolled giggling, “that five-year-old giggle that just makes your heart go da-dum. To think that I could be that Batman for someone is just stupid, it’s amazing.”
Vietti said that one of the toys they brought to the meeting was from “Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne,” the time travel epic. “Since there’s a time travel element to this story, we get to see a little of this.
Lamarr joked about pairing Grant Morrison, who wrote “Return of Bruce Wayne,” with LEGO. “The Invisibles LEGO set!”
Baker did a “Pilgrim Batman” bit about Obadiah Wayne, who rides a carriage Batmobile through Gotham.
Another clip showed Flash helping Batman add the Cosmic Treadmill to the Batmobile. Batman hopes it will work as planned, but warns about a chain of miscalculations that could lead it to “implode the space time continuum.”
“That would not be good,” Cyborg says. When he wishes Bats and Flash good luck, Batman replies, “I don’t believe in luck.”
“What do you believe in?”
Baker said that, with each movie, “there is always a line where I fall out laughing; it’s not a Batman line, but just a situation.” Lamarr added that there’s a time travel scene that did it for him, and Baker came back with, “there is singing.”
Vietti said that not every joke is in the script, and sometimes actors would adlib or read a line in a funny way they hadn’t expected. “Something that we think is just a plot-driven line, they read it in a way that’s just, oh my gosh!” Since storyboarding happens after inital recording, they are able to add new jokes based on how different actors read their lines.
Baker said he was “humbled” when he tried to put together the LEGO Batcave with his six year old nephew. “It got to a point he had to say, ‘you’re not doing it right, Uncle Troy,” he said. “They are incredibly complex!”
Asked about Damian appearing in the LEGO DCU, Vietti said, “I believe we used the Damian design for Robin, but I don’t think we called him Damian; we just called him Robin.”
Krieg said “there was a ‘Glengarry Glenross’ joke” that he had to cut. “Brainiac 1.1’s thing was ‘Always be digitizing — A. B. D.!”
Asked about favorite voices, Baker said, “that’s a bit like asking ‘what’s your favorite breath? If you ask a drowning man, it’s the one he took right before he went under, and the one immediately after coming up. In an industry where 90% of your workforce is unemployed, any time somebody calls you and says, we want to give you money to do this, it’s your favorite.”
Lamarr said he remembers more being on sets than specific characters or lines — “it’s the job you enjoy.”
A fan asked about how the actors being recognized for their voices rather than by name. “A friend of mine one told me, don’t seek fame, seek notoriety,” Baker said. Because fame is when you’re known for self, notoriety is when you’re known for your work.”
One fan gushed over Lamarr and his influence. “As an African-American man, growing up there were not a lot of black heroes — and you voiced all of them,” he said, to appreciative laughter. He asked Lamarr to recite the Green Lantern oath in John Stewart’s voice; Lamarr obliged, to applause.
Lamarr said he was aware at the time of the cultural significance of “Static Shock,” which helped normalize the idea of a black teenage superhero for mass audiences. “To have a generation growing up thinking, yeah, I could be that, it’s pretty cool.”
Asked about practicing voices, Baker said, “Drive-throughs are my playground.
“I would like to order a quarter-pounder with cheese,” he growled. But then, when he would get to the pickup window, in a more effeminate voice, “Ok, thanks for the quarter pounder with cheese!”
In conclusion, Baker thanked the audience. “This is art for us, but we can’t have that without you … thank you for being the fuel to our fire.”
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