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Tucker Talks Ted Kord on “Batman: Brave & The Bold”

by  in Movie News, TV News Comment
Tucker Talks Ted Kord on “Batman: Brave & The Bold”
The Blue Beetle guest stars in this week’s episode of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” (click image for video)

When “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” premiered last fall with a guest appearance by DC Comics’ current Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes, fans began to eagerly await the inevitable introduction of his predecessor. Well, the beloved Ted Kord makes his debut in DC animation this week on Cartoon Network’s “Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” in an episode entitled “Fall of the Blue Beetle.”

The episode features Jaime Reyes traveling to Science Island to investigate his heritage and the former Blue Beetle, Ted Kord, voiced by Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation”). When a mad scientist attacks the young hero, Batman must come to the rescue, while Jaime learns the truth behind Ted’s disappearance.

Producer James Tucker is no stranger to DC animation, having worked on “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Batman Beyond,” “Justice League,” “Justice League Unlimited” and “Legion Of Super Heroes.” Now with “Batman: The Brave and The Bold,” Tucker is putting the fun back into DC animation with this homage to the Saturday morning cartoon classics that he grew-up on.

CBR News had the chance to speak with Tucker about this week’s episode of “Brave and the Bold,” the look and style of the show, and what characters fans can look forward to seeing in the weeks to come.

CBR News: To start with, you used Jamie Reyes, the more recent Blue Beetle from the comics, in the first episode of the series. At what point did you decide you wanted to use Ted Kord on the show?

James Tucker: First of all, I always wanted to use Ted Kord on the show. I knew even though we were having Jaime that he’d still be tied to Ted Kord in a lot of ways. I wanted to bridge those two characters together somehow and connect them. That’s what you’ll find out in the episode. That was the thinking going in, we kind of knew we were going to do Ted Kord as a character on the show, we just hadn’t figured out how.

Scene from “Fall of the Blue Beetle”

This Blue Beetle has never been animated before and that’s one of the joys of working on the show for me is getting to that. Even with “Justice League,” there were things that for whatever reason just didn’t work. So it’s been really rewarding to bring these characters that we didn’t get to do on “Justice League” to this show. He’s beloved in comic book fandom and I think this show is definitely honoring that in this episode. Plus, he’s likable and he contrasts nicely with Batman, who’s a little bit more “all business.”

The other thing about him as far as the context of “Brave and the Bold” is we pick people to work off of Batman. We want characters that can bring out a different side of Batman. I think that the comradery that Batman has with Ted Kord in this episode is really interesting and fun because he actually thinks of Ted Kord as a peer. If Batman’s life didn’t start out as tragic as it did, then Batman might be more like Ted Kord. He might still be Batman, who knows. Ted Kord just doesn’t come from the same kind of tragedy, so he doesn’t have that heaviness as a character like Batman does. On our show, we think Batman, whether consciously or unconsciously, seeks out lighter people to be around so he doesn’t get pulled down into that really, really dark place that he can’t come back from. Their chemistry is really interesting on the show.

How are the two Blue Beetles different from each other on the show?

Not to give away too many spoilers, but Jamie doesn’t know Ted. He doesn’t know about him for other reasons. Batman knows Ted and now Batman knows Jamie. He’s trying to keep him from going down the same path Ted goes down. Also he’s trying to keep Ted’s legacy from him a little bit to protect him.

The other thing that goes back to the comics is that Ted chose to be a superhero, where Jamie was chosen. That kind of freaks Jamie out and the episode is about him reconciling with how he became the Blue Beetle and also living in the shadow of another one. So that theme is there.

Scene from “Fall of the Blue Beetle”

Wil Wheaton of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” plays the voice of Ted Kord in the episode. What made you decide to cast him?

Will and I worked on “Legion Of Super Heroes” together. I figured that if “Legion” had continued, I would have been working with Wil anyways, so why not bring him in? Plus, Wil’s voice was the first one that popped into my head the minute we decided that we were doing Ted Kord, so it was a no-brainer.

How much collaboration do you have with the actors during the voice recording?

Well, this is kind of an unusual situation because very few actors are actual big comic book fans like Wil, so I didn’t have to tell him anything. It was in the script and he knew the character. Andrea [Romano, Casting Director] will usually talk to the actors individually. I think more just to set them at ease and get them comfortable rather than giving any particular direction. We do a lot of that at the read through and usually the adjustments happen after that. A lot of times that’s not always the norm for recordings, but Andrea insists on it and it really does pay off. So it’s always a good step to have. I don’t think I gave Wil anything because I knew he’d know what to do.

What characters can fans expect to see in the next few episodes?

I think the episode after this will be an Atom and Aquaman team-up, which I think is going to be really enjoyable and hysterical, too, because Aquaman is turning out to be like comedy gold on this show. I never wanted to use that term before but that’s the only way to put it here. I wanted to single out Dee Bradley Baker (“The Spectacular Spider-Man”) who is doing “The Brain.” I will say that this is the first time “The Brain” has been accurately represented in animation as a French speaking person. So I’ll give you that.

Scene from “Fall of the Blue Beetle”

After that, we have an all-Green Lantern show. It does feature Sinestro and I know a lot of the fans are like, “Oh no, Sinestro again.” Well, you haven’t seen Sinestro like this before and I think it’s going to add to the Green Lantern lore. We kind of do the origin of Sinestro, so that’s cool, and Xander Berkeley (“24”) will be doing that voice. Guy Gardner will be in that one, as well as another fan-favorite Green Lantern that I won’t name now.

After that, we’re doing our big Kung-Fu blow out episode with Batman and Bronze Tiger teaming-up to fight The Terrible Trio. Again, this is a Terrible Trio that you have not seen in animation before. I know the Terrible Trio has a reputation of being in episodes of both “Batman: The Animated Series” and “The Batman” and their episodes blew. But this one I promise you will be good. And it will make people say, “Finally, a great Terrible Trio episode.” Gary Sturgis will be Bronze Tiger in that episode as well as Phil Morris (“Smallville”) playing Fox.

And F.Y.I. to fans, I know The Outsiders don’t look like who they are used to The Outsiders looking, like but trust me, they will before I’m done.

Tell us about the character designs and look and feel of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.”

The idea and the aesthetic behind the show was that I wanted it to look like what I thought the “Super Friends” and all those cartoons I watched in the ’60s and ’70s looked like. Of course, I’ve had the benefit of looking at them now and the inner-child in me can still looks at them and says, “Wow.” But the adult animation professional looks at them and says, “Not so good.” The theme of this show is that it’s designed to be what Saturday morning shows used to look like. When I got up on a Saturday morning at 6:00AM, I waited for the test pattern to go off, then the cartoon would come on and I would say, “Awesome.” They were colorful and just real saturated. Also the comic books back then were essentially fun. They were designed to draw you in.

Scene from “Fall of the Blue Beetle”

I think gradually, as things have gotten more sophisticated, creators have wanted to, for whatever reason, make comic books not feel as kiddy-oriented, but they pull them into a less fun place sometimes. I was just like, “What did the cartoons feel like to me when I was watching them?” Not necessarily what I was actually looking at, technically, but what did my eyes as a seven year-kid look at and see? So I was just going with that.

The idea behind the look of the show is just making it feel fun, still having taste and still using nice colors, but not trying to make it feel to dreary or realistic. It’s best viewed with a big bowl of cereal. That’s the way I look at it. I like the Saturday morning airings of the show. I’m excited for the Friday night ones, that’s cool but the Saturday morning ones, well that’s kind of what it was designed for. But that was the thinking behind the show.

How do you decide which versions of characters to use on the show?

I could say there is a rhyme or reason but there really isn’t. I worked on “Justice League” for five years and we did the hippie Green Arrow and I said, “Well, before he was that guy with the funny little beard he was a Batman wannabe and that’s funnier.” There’s more to play off of that in this series using that version. So I went with that and to me this is classic Batman. This is the licensing version of Batman. This is the Batman that existed on Slurpees, the backs of bubble gum wrappers and toys. He’s the licensing Batman.

If you go through any Batman style guide, more often than not you’ll see him wearing this combination of the colors. He’ll have the yellow around the Bat-symbol; he’s very primary in that way. He’s not just all black or all grey or a guy who looks like he’s the Terminator or Robocop. He’s not that guy. So really it was just going back to the Batman who’s been in animation, in the media and looked this way for a long time. I strung versions of the ’50s Batman and the ’60s Batman together. I mean he looked this way all the way through the ’70s and really up until Frank Miller changed him. So it was a no-brainer it’s just that he hasn’t been in the media like this for a while. So all through the ’90s he didn’t look that way and he hasn’t looked that way in the past decade. So it was fresh to go back to it. And that’s the Batman I know, when I think of Batman that’s the Batman I see in my head so I went with that one.

Scene from “Fall of the Blue Beetle”

Finally, is that what drew you to the show, the opportunity to do something different than you had done before?

Well, the thing about this show is, going back to the source material, “The Brave & The Bold” comic book was known in the comic book world as the Batman book that had no sense of continuity. Even within its own universe, it didn’t have continuity. The guy who wrote it just wrote whatever he felt like, all he cared about was writing a fun story. So it was pretty much like, “Okay well, I’m going to take it that seriously.”

You know, our mantra on “Justice League” and all the shows I worked on with Bruce Timm was to make it feel like a live action movie. With this one I was like, “No, I want it to feel like a cartoon.” So I kind of went more towards what Glen Murakami did with “Teen Titans.” Where it’s more like, what makes it fun? What makes the characters pop? What makes their relationships stand out more? So it’s not so much about what the plot is or how real world it is but thematically does it fit.

You know, we’re doing old school, goofy, fun comics. So picking that Batman made sense for this plus, again, that’s the Batman I grew up with. That’s the Batman that comes in my mind when I think about Batman. Even now, after working on versions of the Batman that were darker, I still go back to that kind of fun, bright Batman. But he’s still Batman. All versions of Batman are Batman. It’s like, this may not be this person’s version of Batman but it’s somebody’s version of Batman.

I think if a kid is going to get introduced to Batman, then this is a good Batman for him to be introduced to the whole world through. Then you can go into the deeper stuff. It’s like the gateway drug into comics. Lately, I’ve gotten around to saying that I do this show for nerd dads and their offspring. The good thing is that a lot of dads and a lot of parents are former nerds.

Scene from “Fall of the Blue Beetle”

I worked on “Justice League” and I worked on those other Batman shows and we didn’t do them for kids. If kids got it, that’s fine but we didn’t really do it for them. It was a Warner Bros. tradition not to do children’s entertainment for children. But with this show, I thought that there was nothing wrong with that. I just wanted it to be what comics were when I was a kid and what television was like for me. It’s why I still love this stuff. So if that stuff was good enough then, it’s good enough now as long as you’re doing it from a place of integrity.

I don’t think it’s talking down to the character, like some people on the message boards might say — who are still watching, mind you.

“Batman: The Brave and The Bold: Fall of the Blue Beetle” airs tonight on Cartoon Network.

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