Attendees of Comic-Con International in San Diego attendees were the first to experience "Justice League: Gods and Monsters," the latest full-length animated feature from Warner Bros. Animation based on DC Comics characters. Following a Friday night screening in Ballroom 20 television producer and director Victor Lucas moderated a panel about the film comprised of voice director Andrea Romano, director Sam Liu, writer/producer Alan Burnett, famed animator/producer Bruce Timm and actors C. Thomas Howell, Paget Brewster and Tamara Taylor.
The movie features an alternate version of the Justice League, or more specifically the team's nucleus of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Each character is decidedly different from their more familiar mainstream counterparts, as are the similarly dissimilar characters that comprise the supporting cast. The reimagining of these characters is at a basic level, with only the most fundamental essence of their characters used as a basis for entirely different identities. Although this incarnation of the Justice League isn't villainous per se, there is a noticeably darker and more violent edge to the story. Timm discussed the origins and the reasoning for the different take on these iconic heroes, explaining why the long time DC animator decided to move away from the iconic heroes fans know and love.
"The first idea was about how to reboot the current animated TV series," Timm said, "but that got out of hand. I thought about doing some kind of gimmick, like making them kids. But then I was thinking back to the Silver Age versions of Flash and Green Lantern, and that were really different from the Golden Age; the names and gimmicks were kept but they threw out everything else. So I used the same methodology for Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. I pitched it to Warner Bros. and they thought it would be too outside-of-the-box for a TV series, but that it would be a good one-off, as a direct to video feature."
"After working with Bruce for twenty-five years, and these heroes for so long, It was great to have a new set heroes that didn't have same code," said Burnett.
Timm also commented on the freedom that came with these new versions, as well as some of the headaches. "There were really no rules. We started with Superman, then Batman, but then struggled with Wonder Woman. We tried to keep the mythological aspect but it was just too similar to the original. Alan then observed that my concept for Wonder Woman looked like a Jack Kirby drawing, so we decided then that she could be a New God."â€¨â€¨
Before Timm could move forward with his initial idea for Wonder Woman, the DC Comics version of the character underwent a similar revision during the New 52. "Instead of having her as the daughter of Hippolyta, she was going to be daughter of Zeus. But the launch of the New 52 already made Wonder Woman the daughter of Zeus," Timm said of the changes that came about during Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang's run with the character. "So I went back to the drawing board."
The change to Wonder Woman was one that Taylor, who plays the character in the film, also struggled with, at least initially. "When I got the [casting] call, before they could even finish, I said yes. But I didn't realize it was an alternate universe, so I went in with pre-conceived notions of how Wonder Woman was supposed to sound. But Andrea and Bruce said to throw all that out the window. Andrea held my hand and made it happen."
"There's so much fun messing around with these characters," Timm said. "There's no stopping us. There's never been a point where we've gone too far."
"It's like you pitched these characters as if they were imagined today," Lucas said.
When a fan asked why only these three characters were focus of the film, Timm responded that the length of the story would not have allowed enough time to explain the origins of additional characters.â€¨â€¨The story's main villain is a drastically darker Dr. Will Magnus, creator of the Metal Men, who also figure into Timm's story. Magnus is shown as megalomaniacal, but also has a softer side, at least in his younger days. Howell, who plays Magnus, spoke of his fondness for the role. "I love a good villain," Howell said. "A good villain makes a good guy even better, but Magnus was also a much more personal character."
While the feature is a standalone story, Timm assured attendees that this won't be the last they'll see of these altered heroes. "We're planning on doing a ten or thirteen-episode web series that will see more new members reimagined in new and twisted way. There are also going to be action figures, and a new comic book series that's now debuting online."
With these alternate characters bearing different identities than their more familiar counterparts, a fan asked Timm about the status of Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne. "There is a Bruce Wayne," Timm confirmed. "His parents weren't murdered, so he exists -- unlike Kal-El, who was never conceived. Once we figure out who Bruce is, he might be in the web series." Timm admitted that he hadn't thought about whether or not the Amazons and Themyscira exist in the "Gods and Monsters" world.
Timm was asked about his other favorite Elseworlds-type stories, as well as what upcoming projects he's currently working on. The animator was hopeful he could take on a "Superman: Red Son" animated adaptation one day, but then spoke of his other active efforts. "Batman: Bad Blood" will be an original story that introduces Batwoman into animated continuity in 2016, and Timm is working on a Justice League vs. Titans graphic novel, also slated for release next year.
Perhaps the most exciting moment of the panel came near the end, when Timm officially announced that "Batman: The Killing Joke" would be adapted into an animated feature slated for release in 2016 -- and just in time for next year's Comic-Con.
"Justice League: Gods and Monsters" is available digitally now and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD July 28.