Shortly before the Comic-Con International debut of their film, the cast and crew of “Justice League: Gods and Monsters” sat down to discuss the project, its development and just how it differs from previous iterations of the DC Animated Universe. Bruce Timm (creator, Executive Producer), Tamara Taylor (Wonder Woman), Paget Brewster (Lois Lane), C. Thomas Howell (Dr. Magnus), Sam Liu (Director), Andrea Romano (Voice Director) and Alan Burnett (screenwriter) all offered their personal insight on what their film adds to the legacy of DC Animation.
Timm said the title “is a direct quote from one of the old Universal monster movies, ‘Bride of Frankenstein.’ Doctor Pretorius makes a toast to new world of gods and monsters, so I always just kind of liked that idea. When I started thinking about these characters, one of them is a vampire, one of them is the strongest, fiercest guy on the planet — he could literally be a god — and Wonder Woman is a New God… It’s kind of perfect. I just like the idea of these characters… aren’t superheroes, that the public just immediately goes, ‘Oh wow, I love these guys!’ I think people will like them just because they are kind of creepy and weird and extreme… At the same time, people are kind of like, ‘Oh, wow, I don’t know, that Superman guy, he’s really, really strong, he’s kind of arrogant and he’s kind of a dick.’ It’s like, ‘Well, I don’t know, what if he decides hey, why don’t I just take over the planet? Who’s going to stop him?’ That’s kind of all the messy stuff that we’re dealing with.”
Burnett also divulged a little bit about the main plot of the film. “The central conflict in the story is that someone is framing the Justice League, and now the government has to deal with it — and will the Justice League allow the government to do it? One of the surprises of this thing, as we were forming it, I thought it was going to be an action/thriller, but it turned out to be a mystery and that surprised me. As soon as I locked into a mystery, it all just fell together.”
“I think we were trying to make it a little bit more like ‘Batman: The Animated Series,’ but we wanted to be a little bit more mysterious, more noir-ish,” Liu said. “We still wanted to keep contemporary, but the story is pretty much a mystery. The series of events that happened, the brand new characters — there’s a lot of information that sort of becomes apparent. It’s not all up front. We wanted to make it a little more like a noir-ish crime story.
For much of its production, “Justice League: Gods and Monsters” was an almost top-secret project, so much so that even stars like Taylor and Brewster weren’t aware of how different their characters would be from their mainstream counterparts. “They didn’t tell me. They just said they want me to be the voice of Wonder Woman,” Taylor said. “I just kind of got the script and was really confused… and then, of course, they called me, explained that this is an alternate universe and that any preconceived notions — anything that you know — is gone.”
“Because I never read the whole script, when they sent me the movie to see it before I came down here, I did not know what was going on,” Brewster added. “Everybody’s slightly different. Lois Lane is still reporting, doing her job, but she does not like Superman. She’s not into him. She doesn’t trust him.”
While stars like Taylor and Brewster came to terms with the new status quo of this alternate DC Universe, DCU vets like Timm, Liu and Burnett reveled in the freedom this project offered them. “Whenever we do a movie based on traditional DC characters (and DC is great to deal with, I don’t want to complain at all)… But DC does oversee everything we do, and if we kind of cross a line with one of the characters, they’ll say, ‘You know, we kind of feel that’s really not something you should be doing with Batman or with Wonder Woman,'” Timm explained. “But with these characters, because they’re all new characters, the only thing that really makes them Superman or Batman or Wonder Woman is the name. We get to make the rules from ground zero. It’s actually really exciting. It’s actually kind of fun.”
“It allowed me to look at other characters and say, ‘What can we do to make them different?'” Burnett added. “I mean, I’ve been in this thing for 25 years, after a while you feel like you’ve told every story you can. But this felt fresh.”
“When you do something different — it takes a little while,” Liu mused. “I think once you sort of wrap your brain around that and kind of go with it — it’s different. Sometimes you have to come back and check yourself. In the big picture, is that going to work? Or is he a villain? I think in the beginning, it was a little bit difficult, but even the way Superman looks — I had to have a talk with Bruce [Timm] about, ‘Are you sure you want to go that way? Do we need something a little more iconic with Superman?’ For me, it took a little while. Once I kind of got used to it, it was a lot easier.”
As with any venture into the unknown, the crew aired a few concerns about how their latest work will be received. “The thing about this movie, which I worry about just a little, is that [the characters] are not likable,” Burnett said. “I don’t know how the audience is going to respond to that, because they’re pretty nervy people. They have too good a sense of themselves. There’s a point where you start saying, ‘Oh, I’m starting to sympathize,’ and I think by the time [we get to] Wonder Woman’s flashback in this thing, you are with them. But you still wonder, ‘What are they going to do?’ because they are capable of doing some very bad stuff.”
“[The characters’ likability] is one thing Bruce [Timm] and I had talked about, especially with Superman, because he’s the son of Zod,” Liu said. “I mean, he’s killed people. He kills people. But how do you still make him likable? I think it holds up, but we did have conversations about how you keep them from villain category.”
One thing’s for certain: Superman isn’t a hero in Lois Lane’s eyes, at least according to Brewster. “Lois Lane is tough. She’s strong and she knows what she wants and so, weirdly, in this case, not liking Superman at all. Being like, ‘Yeah, okay, pal. Sure.’ Which is hilarious to me. In the studio, I’m like, ‘I’m talking to him like that? And that’s okay?'”
Likewise, Batman — whose secret identity is Kirk Langstrom in this universe — finds himself in some very un-Bruce Wayne places. “This is a very different Batman,” Romano said. “First of all, he’s quite glum in this piece. We meet him in a flashback where he’s a college student and he’s kind of frail, in fact. He’s ill. He’s not strong and robust like Bruce Wayne was… There’s a scene where he talks about someone who’s been killed and there should be a pint of blood — my God, some of this stuff could have come right out of ‘Dexter!’ [Voice actor Michael C. Hall] brings a different twist. He’s such a good actor that he just made it his Batman.”
“Justice League: Gods and Monsters” will also explain how Batman became the vampire he is at the outset of the film. Howell plays Dr. Magnus, who he described as ” a scientist… what I really liked about him was, because it’s a brand new world, he was a part of the origin of Batman in this story. He’s an old friend, they went to college together, his body is dealing with a blood disease… and he sort of inadvertently creates this vampiric marginalized superhero who sucks blood out of criminals. It’s kind of weird, dark, cool and different. It’s not the traditional story.”
Like Superman and Batman, Wonder Woman also gets a new origin. “We flashed back and we discover what made her, what she is in present day, and I thought it was pretty damn cool because it’s sort of not what I expected,” Taylor said. “She got her heart broken, and that’s sort of informed this badass that you see before you. It was actually vulnerability and being broken, so that was an interesting take.”
In addition to being an untraditional story, “Justice League: Gods and Monsters” takes on a decidedly darker tone than past DC Animated Universe works. “Animation is for adults too,” Burnett stated. “It’s for the fanboys, and that’s what we’re going after with the idea that younger audience members look at them too. I think there’s room for this. Strangely enough, in animation, we can go pretty dark and still maintain a PG-13 rating because animation is an abstract and it’s not quite real, so you accept things, like guys in masks and leotards, that you wouldn’t accept in real life. We may be even darker than we think sometimes, but that’s the nature of animation.”
Nevertheless, the Trinity flies under the Justice League flag — even though they’re still learning what that means. “That is a journey that they are still going through. Technically, they are the Justice League, even if in the beginning of the movie they are an established unit and they’ve been together for a while and they have kind of an uneasy truce going on with the government,” Timm said. “They’re still learning what it means to be heroes and to be champions of the people. Superman particularly is really tempted because he’s the son of Zod. He’s got that boiling in his DNA… Batman and Wonder Woman also have their own morally skewed gray areas that they’re dealing with… They’re challenged.”
While the League is fairly different, the Earth they inhabit won’t diverge too much from the regular DC Animated Universe version. “The world is pretty much the same,” Burnett said. “We decided to do sort of a Baxter Building Hall of Justice. I think it’s going to be called the Tower of Justice, and it’s in Metropolis, but it’s about the same. We’re changing so much already that we felt like the movie had to have a base. We have [Amanda] Waller as president, and all the DC characters are different.”
Taylor, Brewster and Howell — all of whom are relatively new to the DC Animated Universe — also weighed in on what it was like to take part in a film under the watchful ear of Romano. “It’s all energetic with Andrea Romano,” Howell shared. “I’ve worked with some really great directors… but she ranks right up there with what she does. Greatness is greatness. She is not only really smart and efficient, a great communicator, but there’s something about her that makes you — like, I would stay and work for hours overtime and not charge if that’s what she wanted. There’s something about her that makes you want to go above and beyond the call of duty, and that’s what a really good leader does. She’s a really good leader. She’s really confident with what she does… She’s done this. She’s great.”
“Andrea… is so excited and so happy and forceful, and she talks you through,” Brewster added. “It’s very funny, actually, a grown woman being… so excited, and yelling, ‘Now you’ve gotta come up, and you’ve got to get to the other wall, you gotta go!’ And you’re like, ‘We’re adults, screaming in a darkened studio in the middle of the week.’ But it’s really fun! I was so thrilled they asked me, and I hope I get to do more.”
Taylor agreed, saying, “She is just amazing, because she knew for a while that I was completely inexperienced. I cast myself before her and said, ‘I have no clue what I am doing. I will be your puppet; I don’t mind line readings. Just give them to me, I’m cool.’ And she would literally take you through, because I guess Paget [Brewster] has done many, many voices before, so she gets a lot of the sound effects from her. So she would literally act them out, like, ‘Okay, right now, you’re stabbing somebody. You’re really going for it, so I want you to give a [loud grunt]!’ She’d act it right out, and then I’d parrot her and we just kind of walked through it that way.”
Regardless of the different direction of the film, Timm continues to hold the utmost respect for the legacy of the standard DC Universe. “I love both,” Timm said. “I mean, that’s the one thing I definitely want to reiterate is that, by doing these characters, I’m not in any way, shape or form saying, ‘Oh, well, Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman are boring, they’re so predictable, yadda yadda yadda.’ They’re not. I think that there’s tons of life left in these characters, and I admire them all. At the same time, it is just really seductive to know that I can do stuff with these characters and take them down weird paths that are shocking and unpredictable and weird in a way that I can’t really do with a traditional piece.”
“Justice League: Gods and Monsters” is now available via digital download or on Blu-Ray and DVD.
- Ad Free Browsing
- Over 10,000 Videos!
- All in 1 Access
- Join For Free!