Writing "Batman: The Brave & The Bold"

The list is long, although even the most diehard fanboys who it look over can find a few names at which they'll pause and ask, "Him?!?"

But the early word on the new DC Comics animated team-up series "Batman: The Brave & The Bold" seems to say that even with oddball co-star choices ranging from Kamandi to Wildcat, viewers can expect A-list dose of cartoon action when the series debuts on Cartoon Network this Friday.

One person not worried in the least bit about the character lineup for the series is story editor Michael Jelenic, who talked to CBR News about the process for building "Brave & The Bold's" cast list.

"James [Tucker, the producer] and I put that list together to come up with the names of people we thought we'd want to see," Jelenic told CBR. "And most important were getting characters that we could give iconic personalities and then put them together with Batman, so you have somebody who's competitive and somebody who's just a rookie. And when we'd say, 'Where can we get a rookie from?' The new Blue Beetle makes sense because it's a superhero just getting to know his powers.

"Basically, James is far more knowledgeable of the DC Universe, and he wanted to look for characters that we hadn't been seen in television a lot, so that's part of the decision-making process."

Even when it came time to narrow in the selection, Jelenic (who also scripted the Blue Beetle-starring pilot) knew that picking names and personalities would only take the show's writers so far in the creative process. "We really weren't sure what the character dynamic would be 13 episodes down the line, but as we were establishing the personalities of the heroes, we started mixing and matching them, which brought out even more sides to their personalities," he explained. "Like, we have Aquaman and Batman first, but a couple of episodes later, we team Aquaman with Atom which brings out an entirely different side of Aquaman's personality."

But the biggest challenge came in breaking Batman's personality and making sure that the latest version of the Dark Knight remained iconic yet different than his previous film and television iterations. "With Batman, we definitely wanted to give a Batman who counterpointed what's been out there already," Jelenic confirmed. "James is a huge fan of the history of Batman so his touchstones go further back than 1988, when Batman became really dark. I think his influence came in making sure we saw that other side of him, too.

"But because we've seen Batman so often, we made a concerted effort to say, 'We don't need to see him in Gotham. We've already seen hundreds of episodes in Gotham, and we've already seen hundreds of episodes of Alfred coming into the Batcave to deliver some food or Commissioner Gordon turning on the signal.' We decided not to focus on those aspects of the character, and it allows us to bring in different characters to fill those roles.

"The other thing we wanted to focus on with him is that Batman is a superhero. He's not just some guy who's out getting revenge. He's an aspirational story for kids, and he enjoys being the good guy. He's not Spider-Man where he goes 'Woo hoo!' but he's still a superhero in this series."

Although there won't be a cackling caped crusader punching out villains like The Gentelman Ghost with comedy gusto, "Brave & The Bold's" Batman (as voiced by comedic actor Deidrich Bader) rides a thin line between lighter tone and traditional grit, especially when it comes to the non-Saturday morning elements of the characters past like the gruesome murder of his parents in Crime Alley.

"When we originally developed the series, we weren't even going to mention the murder, but it is mentioned prominently in one episode," revealed Jelenic. "We feel like we have to establish that, and then we move on. All the aspects that you think of when you think 'Batman' he still has, and he's still cool. He's just not dark and brooding Batman."

With the Story Editor's job focusing on keeping the series writers (who include a wealth of animation and comics veterans) matching the stated intent of the series, it became hard for Jelenic to pick a favorite episode of the bunch, so he picked a few. "There's more than a few that I'm excited about," he said. "Off the top of my head, I think we tell a really good Green Lantern Corps story which I'm excited to see. We use Guy Gardner in that story, and his character against Batman comes off great. The Aquaman stories I'm pretty fond of. I think he will be the breakout character of our series. Everything about him is fun, and each of his adventures are big. He works, and he's an easy character to write.

"There's some serious episodes, too, that I think will stand out. We have a great Red Tornado episode where he's struggling to understand humanity and tries to create a son. That's written by J.M. Dematteis."

One new element to Jelenic's job, after serving as Story Editor on series such as "The Batman" and writing everything from episodes of "Legion of Super-Heroes" to the new anmated "Wonder Woman" DVD feature, is the single episode format of "Batman: The Brave & The Bold." Unlike so many other animated series, there will be no giant super story connecting all 26 episodes of the first two seasons.

"To be honest, not having to plan out long season arcs makes my job a lot easier," Jelenic laughed. "That's one of the most difficult things as a Story Editor - to know at episode 1 where you are and then also where you want to end up by episode 13. So many changes in the writing process and characters go in different directions, so it's very liberating not to have to worry about that.

"One thing that this show does have is character continuity. Especially with some characters that we see more often than others, we see them grow, and there's a continuity to that. Blue Beetle starts as a rookie, and each episode he's in he definitely gets better. We see the Outsiders, and they progress from being maybe not superheroes to becoming real heroes. But not having to worry from episode to episode is really pretty liberating and let's us do things we otherwise couldn't do."

Be sure to check out CBR's other "Batman: The Brave & The Bold" interviews to prepare for Friday's premier and check back tomorrow for an extended chat with legendary voice director Andrea Romano!

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