Joe Kuhr Laughs It Up With "The Batman"
Joe Kuhr. Joker.
He’s heard it. He’s knows it’s an amazing coincidence that a Batman fan should have the name Joe Kuhr. In fact, he even gets to write a Joker/Catwoman episode, “The Laughing Cat,” for the third season of The Batman. But he’s heard the joke. So, why don’t we skip past that and get down to business?
This weekend, the Kuhr-penned The Batman episode “Fire and Ice” for Warner Bros. Animation, featuring two daring rogues from The Batman’s gallery, premieres on Kids’ WB!.
“From the title alone, I suppose I won’t be revealing any spoilers to say the Dark Knight takes on two of his toughest foes yet,” Kuhr says dramatically. “Speed Racer’s mechanic Sparky, and ex-Chicago Bear’s lineman William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry.”
Fear not! Kuhr assures us that with the aid of his trusty hot-and-cold-running Batwave, the Batman manages to snuff Sparky and defrost the Fridge.
Well, actually, Kuhr’s just pulling our legs. The Dark Knight will be facing off against Mr. Freeze and Firefly. However, something else happens in the episode that Kuhr thinks fans will appreciate.
“My real fondness for the episode comes from the fact that in a small but important way we nudge the Batman’s relationship with the GPD to a new place,” he teases.
But the two headlining villains in this beautifully animated episode, which has already aired in Canada, all by themselves make it worth tuning in to.
“These two villains have personalities that are, excuse the pun, polar opposites,” Kuhr says. “We have a cold-blooded, calculating, control freak versus a cocky, hot-headed, thrill-seeking, mercenary.
“When you put them together in a script, you want to push their differences as much as possible.”
He adds that knowing actors Clancy Brown and Jason Marsden would take the roles of Mr. Freeze and Firefly helped in writing the episode. Having these characters already established for the series made it a bit easier for him to write, despite his being unable to watch any episodes of The Batman.
This would not be his first time writing blind. When he wrote “Paradise Lost” for Warner Bros. Animation’s Justice League, that too was a show just getting off the ground. However, he had the prior knowledge of Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond to help him write for the Dark Knight.
“I had a decade of great episodes featuring Kevin Conroy’s performance as the Dark Knight on which to base Batman’s voice, so that wasn’t hard,” says Kuhr. “For The Batman I was given several scripts of earlier episodes to use as reference, and I spoke several time with producer/story editor Duane Capizzi to be sure I got the tone of the show.”
Capizzi helped him out by sending a copy of the voice recording from “The Big Heat,” the first Firefly episode, to listen to. That gesture ended up helping Kuhr to nail the tone of the series and title character.
Kuhr says he doesn’t mind the “quippier” depiction of the Dark Knight. He’s still a Batman of few words, but his sense of (gallows) humor is closer to the surface. In fact, it makes sense to him.
“I’ve spoken to cops and firefighters who are the same way,” says Kuhr. “The ability to crack a joke in a tough situation helps them deal with the stress of the job.”
Writing two different depictions of Batman, one for The Batman and one for Justice League, was a bit of a challenge, but Kuhr says it just comes with the territory. He says the difference between the two versions of the character is so monumental that there’s no point in arguing.
“But my job on any show is to figure out what the producers want and deliver it.”
Kuhr has written for Warner Bros. Animation’s series Justice League, The Batman, and Krypto The Superdog, so you’d be right in guessing that he’s a comic book fan.
“My wife is extremely tolerant,” he adds. “Thank you, Sweetie!”
The World’s Finest The Batman subsectionBeing a fan of these four-colored comics has been tremendous help. He recently pitched a story involving villains that haven’t appeared before in animation and haven’t been in the comics since the 1940s (he won’t say who). But he warns there are possible traps when trying to translate comics to animation.
“One has to be careful not to get too bogged down with ‘they did it this way in the comic,’” he says. “Things we enjoy reading in comics would never work in animation (such as characters speechifying while beating the tar out of each other) and vice-versa.”
He uses Teen Titans as an example of how differently characters come across in different mediums.
“I loved the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans comic, and, although I haven’t worked on it, I’m a big fan of the David Slack/Glen Murakami Teen Titans cartoon,” says Kuhr. “While Slack and company have borrowed a great deal of source material from Wolfman/Perez, the tones of the show and the comic are very different, but they both work well for their respective media.”
In the medium of animation, Kuhr has a few prospects lined up. He recently wrote an episode of Firehouse Tales for supervising producer Alan Burnett, more episodes of Krypto The Superdog, and he hopes to do more episodes of The Batman beyond what he’s already turned in for season two and three, including a Batgirl-focused episode called “A Dark Knight To Remember.”
“Of course,” Kuhr interrupts. “I’ll add the standard writer’s answer of ‘I’m currently working on several projects, but it would be imprudent to discuss them in a public forum at this early stage.’”
The Batman “Fire & Ice” airs this Saturday at 10:30am (ET) on Kids’WB!.
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