San Diego Comic-Con 2009: “Batman: The Brave And The Bold” Roundtable Interviews
On Friday of the Comic Con, Toon Zone was given the chance to speak with the cast and crew of the hit animated series Batman: The Brave And The Bold, which will soon begin its second season. The roundtable press sessions took place following the panel for the show. Please note a minor spoiler warning for Green Lantern: First Flight in the Andrea Romano interview.
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John DiMaggio over the past decade has become a living legend in the world of animation voice over in playing a pop culture icon such as Futurama‘s Bender. DiMaggio also currently plays Aquaman in Batman: The Brave And The Bold, Rico in The Penguins of Madagascar on Nickelodeon, and Shnitzel on Chowder. My personal favorite though will always be his role as Dr. Drakken on Kim Possible.
Toon Zone: Aquaman in this series really plays up his love for adventure, what’s that like?
John DiMaggio: Well yeah. They really embraced his inner-bombastic self and they’ve really embraced the fact that he’s the king of Atlantis. He’s very powerful, and he really takes himself so seriously and he’s so over the top he’s never in on the joke. He’s kind of harmless in that way, but his passion for heroism is extreme.
TZ: So in playing that part, how much of that is you, and how much of that is the director and the writers?
JD: It’s a combination of both. I say its 200%. Its 100% me and a 100% her [Andrea Romano]. She knows how to tweak me; she knows what to do to get the voice out of me, Andrea Romano, one of the finest voice directors in the land if not the land.
TZ: She directed Steven Spielberg.
JD: Exactly. She’s just so, so wonderful and she approached me with it. And she knows how to say, John, you know that thing that you do? Try it with this, add this flavor to it. Put a little icing and some cinnamon in it and then boom, I got something to run with. So yeah, its equal parts both. But to be able to work with this bunch of people is just fantastic.
TZ: My favorite line is when Aquaman is when Orin is causing trouble, and you say to Batman, “No. This must be the work of my arch-enemy . . . Black Manta.” And Black Manta echoes and I’m like, where did that come from? Can you do that with your voice?
JD: (laughs) That probably was an effect. But I can hit a microphone pretty good and get some things off it . . . that also established Black Manta as a major villain in the show as well, so I think that was a direction.
TZ: Do you have a character you feel closest to or that you truly love?
(CLICK TO HEAR JOHN DIMAGGIO’S RESPONSE (mp3 format))
JD: Bender . . . because he’s my favorite character.
TZ: Favorite line as Bender?
JD: Favorite line as Bender.
“Get a room you two!”
“We’re in a room.”
“Well then lose some weight!”
That’s my favorite.
TZ: Thanks so much.
JD: Sure, no problem man.
(BONUS AUDIO CLIP: Click to hear John DiMaggio SING. Just because, that’s why. (QuickTime format))
Despite worrying some fans at first for not being one of the regular Batman animation voices (i.e., “not Kevin Conroy”), Bader proved he was up to the task for the new, unique animated take on Batman with The Brave And The Bold. You can also currently hear Bader as Fiskerton Saturday on The Secret Saturdays.
Toon Zone: I’m speaking with the one and only voice of Batman on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Diedrich Bader.
Diedrich Bader: Oh, oh. You know, I’m just doing a pale impression of Kevin Conroy, he’s really the voice.
TZ: I think you do a great Batman, and I love the take on the character, and it’s a different Batman, not Conroy’s Batman.
DB: Thank you for saying that, I appreciate it.
TZ: Do you come to Con a lot, or is this your first time?
DB: This is my second time. But, this is the first time that I’ve come where people understand where I wanted to go with Batman. So its a very different one, because there was not outright hostility, but there was certainly … people were scared last year. It was nice to be here, and I know this sounds strange, but get the kind of validity of realizing that our concept of Batman is as strong as the Dark Knight because it is a very different concept and its you know, how much revenge are we really talking about.
TZ: So far on the show we’ve only really seen Batman on Batman. We’ve seen some hints of his training with his past sensei. But will we ever see the Bruce Wayne side or Alfred for that matter?
DB: Its really because the comic book, Brave And The Bold, you never saw Batman as Bruce Wayne. So we’re going to pretty much stick to that. But there is a reveal in an episode that’s coming up that I think will shock fans of the show. It’s going to be a very interesting episode. I referred to it on the panel; it kind of brings closure to Batman. It was kind of an emotional episode for me. It was extremely strange because you play the part, especially one that you only play once a week, but I hadn’t realized how much feeling I was starting to have for the character until I did this episode. I was literally crying as I recorded it.
TZ: When you started playing Batman, did you have any concerns at all?
DB: Well, I was worried as I think a lot of fans of the show were that I would not be able to do a Batman that people would really like. And I was . . . being only slightly facetious about Kevin Conroy’s voice because he is as close to the voice as Batman that you can imagine. So stepping or putting on that huge cowl was a little intimidating. And there’s so many fans that I completely understand were trepidatious about the way that I would approach it as someone who does mostly comedy. So I was nervous about it and one the ways I tried to alleviate that was to bring more in the voice over to Bruce Wayne. And that’s how I played Bruce Wayne, and then Batman was the on camera stuff, and I kind of shifted that to where it’s more straight on Batman throughout the whole thing.
TZ: Now when you’re Batman, what super heroes do you really like to team up with on the show?
DB: The relationships are all so different that they are all fun to play. And I know that sounds like a suspicious answer, but completely honestly I love the Blue Beetle relationship because it brings out a lot of the comedy. There’s also a father/son relationship there. With Aquaman, it’s more comedic because John [DiMaggio] is more over the top in a perfect way. With Green Arrow, there’s more of a rivalry. So every relationship–
TZ: And with Wildcat, that’s Batman’s father figure.
DB: That’s right. That’s his father figure because he didn’t have a father, so he has a very close relationship with him. Or he didn’t grow up with a dad I should say. So it’s all very different. I can’t single out one relationship as being my favorite because they’re all so different.
TZ: I love the Aquaman relationship because Aquaman gets Batman of all people to think, “This guy takes this stuff way too seriously.”
DB: Yeah, yeah *laughs*. It’s hilarious. Its fun to bounce off, and actually the first Aquaman episode that we did was the first one really that I understood the sense of humor that Batman could have which is that its sort of reflective. He has irony where others are broader with the comedy.
TZ: We’ve seen you do a lot of acting in front of the camera with shows like Drew Carey, and you’ve also done movies. And you’ve done a lot of animation and voice over as well. Now do you mainly want to focus on voice over?
DB: Yes. Mainly I’m focusing on voice over right now. It’s a really fun career to have, and I get to watch it with my kids. And you know the on-camera career, my kids are very little. They’re 5 and 3. You probably saw them as Moon Knight walking around.
TZ: Did your son request Moon Knight?
DB: Oh yeah, yeah. He went through a lot of different characters he wanted to do and then he settled on Moon Knight. That was his thing. And then Audeen(?), my daughter, she dressed up too. And she couldn’t really make up her mind, and so we came up with a character, Shining Star, Moon Knight’s kind of henchman, and kind of came up with a whole outfit for her. He’s [Bader’s son] is a real comic book fan. He’s the real comic book fan. He’s a total comic book junkie, and knows all the characters. And he has the DC Encyclopedia and actually goes through it as something that entertains him. He’s totally into it.
TZ: Does he have the toys?
DB: Oh yeah. I’m constantly stepping on Batman toys now.
TZ: Do you have any favorite merchandise?
DB: Well, the Bat car is always cool — the Batmobile I should say. Yeah, I think Mattel — this sounds like a corporate screw — I think Mattel did a great job with the line. It’s a really great line of toys. I don’t get a piece of it . . . I’m just saying it because it’s a cool toy line and my son really loves action figures.
TZ: Are you playing anyone else in season 2? I know you do —
DB: Solomon Grundy . . . no, you know I really like sticking just to Batman. And also, I don’t want to take any jobs for too many voice over artists. That’s gentlemanly of me.
TZ: Favorite line as Batman?
DB: There’s so many fantastic lines that we’ve performed, but I have to say that one of my favorite lines that I said was to Aquaman in the episode where Aquaman has an identity crisis, and we’re on this planet and they say we need you to do this, and Aquaman says what’s the point really? And Batman says, “He’s not feeling so well.” Which actually for me was one of my favorite lines to say; I don’t know exactly why because there’s so many — its one of the things. I get the kooky campy lines, “Hammers of Justice,” that sort of thing, but when I do it straight because Batman believes, its Batman.
TZ: Thank you so much sir.
DB: Cool man, it was nice to meet you.
Andrea Romano is without hyperbole one of the most hard working, seasoned, and successful voice over and casting directors for animation in the history of history. Besides being one of the nicest people you will ever meet, Romano has worked with some of the biggest names of Hollywood for cartoons, including being one of the few people to direct the Beard himself, Steven Spielberg.
TOONZONE: I guess you are halfway through season 2?
Andrea Romano: We are. That’s kind of sad. It goes by fast when you are having a good time. It’s like a party, wait a minute, the party’s almost over! Yeah we’re about halfway through.
TZ: Can you tell us anything about the characters or casting for season 2?
AR: The one thing I can tell you is that like any series after one season under your belt, you know the series better, you know the style better. Everybody’s more comfortable, so this next season is even better. And there’s a lot of great casting. A lot of really, really nice people that wanted to come in and play. Well known actors whose voices you’ll recognize. You’ll have to watch every single episode because there’s so many fun actors coming in to play.
TZ: In the second season might Batman team up with someone who really likes Batman?
AR: I always like romantic stories, being a girl.
TZ: I always liked Batman and Wonder Woman in the Justice League.
AR: Yeah. We all have that dimension in our life and so why not put it into the cartoon that we are working on as well. So whenever we put on a romantic, something that specifically girl fans can really relate to and girl fans watching the show, I want to make sure that there’s something there that Batman is not just a character that is out for vengeance, that he’s not just a guy who fights crime. There’s women who love him, and maybe he has a sensitivity towards them as well. And so the musical episode that we just screened, we see Black Canary clearly has a thing for Batman. And who knows whether or not that there’s any reciprocal feelings, you’ll have to watch the episode and find out.
TZ: Is there anything you look for when you look for a character like Aquaman, or an obscure character fans haven’t seen or heard animated before?
AR: Right, I look for one good actor. I want to make sure the actor is a good actor. That’s really first and foremost in my mind. Then I want to make sure its somebody that’s going to fit into the world that we’ve already created because we kind of have an existing world that we’ve put together, and then I want to find somebody’s voice who is actually going to bring out something about the character’s physicality. So I ask for the character models so I can see what the character is going to look like. I try to research some of the source material that the character came from if it’s a character I’m not familiar with. I didn’t read comics when I was a kid, I don’t know some of these more obscure characters. I need to get some back story on them. And then someone who is going to have fun because if it’s not someone who is having a good time, it’s going to come across in the cartoon. I want to make sure the actors are having a good time.
TZ: I saw Green Lantern: First Flight last night.
AR: What you think?
TZ: I loved it, but you made Tricia Helfer break my heart as Boodikka.
AR: She’s good though, isn’t she?
TZ: She was, but she broke my heart and . . .
AR: With what happens to her?
AR: Just a little tidbit of information there. She wasn’t available to do ADR that we do at the end of a picture, and so the groan right before she says the last line is me (laughs).
You can listen to Andrea Romano’s excellent work on Batman Brave And The Bold which currently airs on Cartoon Network. Her next movie, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, is due for release on September 29, 2009 on DVD and Blu-ray.