Toonzone Interviews James Tucker and Michael Jelenic on "The Siege of Starro!"
Talking with James Tucker and Michael Jelenic about Batman: The Brave and the Bold is almost as much fun as watching the show. Toonzone News was able to chat with Jelenic and Tucker over the phone to try and pump as much information as we could in 15 minutes about Season 2’s two-part epic “The Siege of Starro!”
Note that this interview contains many, many spoilers for the episode.
TOONZONE NEWS: When did you guys start planning “The Siege of Starro”?
JAMES TUCKER: We just remembered that it was initially a toy request — a request from the toy company to do something like a big continuing arc.
MICHAEL JELENIC: They wanted to brand the second season in some fashion so all the toys could have some sort of unifiying thing. Who came up with the Starro thing? Was it you or Sam (Register)?
JAMES TUCKER: I don’t remember. I thought the toy company. They asked for a big deal, and one of us mentioned Starro. Or they brought it to us as a possibility, and it was going to be called “Starro Attacks” or something. I don’t remember, actually, but (laughs) it was either they brought Starro to us, or they said “We need something” and we came up with Starro. I can’t quite remember which one. So it was Starro and Metal Men.
MICHAEL JELENIC: Yeah, Metal Men were the other aspect, so that’s one of the reasons why we see them featured in the two-parter. But initially, the toy company asked us, “Can you do something that’s going to stretch over six episodes?” I think eventually, we negotiated it down, or James did, because the charm of The Brave and the Bold is the unexpected pairing each week, as James likes to say. Which hero are you going to see? When you’re doing a continuing story, you know what you’re going to get and six episodes is beginning to be too much.
JAMES TUCKER: I always hated shows where it was the same villain coming back. It was always Skeletor every week, or Cobra. Not to name specific shows that I hated. Those aren’t specific.
MICHAEL JELENIC: Right. (laughter) James’ compromise was, “Let’s devote three teasers and one two-parter,” which is a pretty interesting way to structure this thing, because you’re doing a serialized story in the teaser section of a show that has nothing to do with the rest of the story. There’s the potential that people weren’t going to be able to follow it from episode to episode, or be confused why it didn’t tie into the main episode. I thought that was sort of a structural and creative leap on our part.
JAMES TUCKER: Some of this stuff came up at the editing. When we did the teaser with the Challengers of the Unknown, which was the first Starro teaser, when we were editing it, I went, “Oh, we should put ‘To be continued’ at the end of the teaser.” Joe Gall, the editor, was like, “Huh? Why?” I was like, “Normally, our teasers don’t tie to the rest of the show, but this teaser will tie into another teaser down the line.” So, of course, it was confusing when it wasn’t until two teasers later (laughs) that the second part came in.
MICHAEL JELENIC: Some people had to be patient to get to that part, but even just adding “To be continued” in the very beginning of a show is kind of a fun, sort of bizarre touch that we like to do.
JAMES TUCKER: Yeah. I mean (laughs) whether it worked for the show or against it, history will tell. And I don’t care. (laughter) It made it fun for me, that’s all I care about.
JAMES TUCKER: We knew we had over the course of 13 episodes, because it was only the first half of the second season that we were doing this. We figured out that we’d start with the third episode in, though I forget when the first Starro teaser started. And we knew we had to end at 13, so it was kind of like, “Starro teaser, skip a couple, next Starro teaser, skip a couple.” There’s not a great deal of science going on here (laughter).
MICHAEL JELENIC: I will say that’s one of the joys of working on this show, is …
JAMES TUCKER: It’s not calculus!
MICHAEL JELENIC: It is …we just…yeah (laughter). We just walk into a room if we need a story and do whatever amuses us. I’m working on another show right now, and James is also, and both of these new shows require so much…
JAMES TUCKER: They’re HARD.
MICHAEL JELENIC: You have to think and you have to plan out, and things have to make sense…the joy of this show is that it doesn’t have to fall into any sort of category you’ve seen before. We can sort of make up the rules as we go, and that’s sort of what we did with this story structure and this story itself.
TZN: What would you say was the biggest change between what you thought of when you came up with the idea and what you did in the final finished episodes?
JAMES TUCKER: I don’t think we knew at the start that the two-parter would involve B’wana Beast as much as it did. I don’t think we pre-figured that at all. At least not initially, because we didn’t pitch that to the toy company, and that was just something internal between us that it kind of evolved, maybe after the second teaser. I don’t think we walked in knowing we were going to kill HIM specifically. I don’t remember.
MICHAEL JELENIC: James obviously, the comic book nerd, knew about B’wana Beast, but I had not known about him until we were working on the very first teaser with him. He struck me as so bizarre that when we were doing this Starro arc, I though he could be a character that…well, what we like to do in this show is take a bizarre character and make you care about him, or don’t play up the fact that he’s ridiculous. We play it up a little bit, but sort of subvert the ridiculous by giving the character a little bit of heart, and making him somebody that the audience is going to root for ultimately. So, I think that’s sort of why he ended up in this episode.
JAMES TUCKER: Yeah.
JAMES TUCKER: Yeah, they’re actually called the C-list heroes in the episode. But, to me, none of them are really C-listers. They’re actually really rich characters that just haven’t really been explored on television much.
MICHAEL JELENIC: Yeah, a typical two-parter for a superhero show on television is when you bring out all the big guns. On any other show, this two-parter is going to feature Batman and Superman and Flash and Green Lantern, they’re all fighting Starro. For our show, it’s, “What’s the opposite?” Who are the characters who normally wouldn’t get featured in a story arc like this?
TZN: How did you settle on the final lineup of the heroes? It’s a pretty oddball selection.
JAMES TUCKER: There are some “toy gimmes” in there. Firestorm was a toy gimme because I knew they were making an action figure with him. Everyone else was just fun.
MICHAEL JELENIC: Obviously, I don’t think we kept the rule completely, but I think there was something about how these are all characters that Starro wouldn’t necessarily find because their alter egos are just humans. Starro was going after the heroes first, so Captain Marvel as Billy wouldn’t necessarily read as a hero. Firestorm is the same thing. Booster Gold is more superpowered through his suit.
JAMES TUCKER: He may not have even been in this time period or something.
MICHAEL JELENIC: That is part of the story reason why we picked those characters.
JAMES TUCKER: But more importantly, we just wanted to use them because they were fun (laughter). Like I said, this isn’t calculus for us (laughs). We’re just like, “OK, who should we use?” It’s pretty casual.
TZN: When did you decide, “Let’s kill B’wana Beast”?
JAMES TUCKER: We must have known we were going to do it before we did “Gorillas in Our Midst,” because we quickly realized that we have to show him again and make people care about him somewhat before we kill him. So we kind of back-ended “Gorillas in Our Midst” to be the one that aired…I don’t know if it was scheduled to air before the two-parter, because our production got a little mixed up. The Flash episode ended up coming back before the second part of the two-parter. But we decided that probably after the second teaser, I think.
JAMES TUCKER: Yeah, we had talked about it. Sometimes, we’ll talk about something early on, and then it’ll just kind of go into the back of our memories and then as we get closer to the event, we’ll say, “Oh, yeah, we said we were going to do this.” So, it’s not like we had…well, we do have a chart, but I don’t know if he was on the chart.
MICHAEL JELENIC: (Laughs) If you could see how we plan our seasons, our chart is like on a giant Post-It note that we basically come up with in two hours, and (laugh) then that determines the next 13 episodes.
JAMES TUCKER: Some shows have this whole wall full of stickers and index cards…
MICHAEL JELENIC: Like Greg Weisman, who’s working on Young Justice…
JAMES TUCKER: Oh, yeah.
MICHAEL JELENIC: …I call him the Professor, because he’s got that Young Justice stuff meticulously planned, and it’s like perfect. He is, like, way, way smarter than me (laughter).
JAMES TUCKER: (laughing) Yeah, it’s the polar opposite of this show. Not to plug that show indirectly, but we are (laughter). I think fans will enjoy that, too, but it’s like the antidote to us.
MICHAEL JELENIC: (laughing) It’s just a different way of working.
JAMES TUCKER: It’s not better or worse, it’s just…
MICHAEL JELENIC: James and I are lazy, I guess.
JAMES TUCKER: Yeah, incredibly so. I mean, we wrote out the whole season on a HUGE piece of paper. One of those things where you’re in a conference and someone writes, “Talking Points” on a big pad of paper.
MICHAEL JELENIC: It’s basically just characters we want to use, and maybe some teaser ideas. They’re so vague.
JAMES TUCKER: And we always stick to it.
MICHAEL JELENIC: Yeah, somehow.
JAMES TUCKER: You know, initially there were some issues just to make sure that everything was legally good, as far as the character rights weren’t being used by someone else and all that stuff. But you know what? Over the course of the 65, they’ve been great to work with. We wanted it to be fun, and fun to work on, and we accomplished that. I think the fun we have making it kind of translates through to the audience. At least I hope.
MICHAEL JELENIC: Yeah, I think James and I are both very sad that this show will be coming to an end. I mean, there will be new episodes for probably a year and a half, but our jobs on this show are sort of wrapping up right about now.
JAMES TUCKER: Well, mine isn’t.
MICHAEL JELENIC: Well, James will go on a bit longer.
JAMES TUCKER: I got another year to go (laughs).
Toonzone News would like to thank Michael Jelenic and James Tucker for taking the time to talk with us again, and Winson Seto at Warner Bros. Animation for arranging the interview time. Batman: The Brave and the Bold airs on Fridays at 7:30 PM (Eastern/Pacific) on Cartoon Network. Be sure to check out our other interviews about Batman: the Brave and the Bold or with Tucker and Jelenic individually:
- Toonzone’s “Brave & the Bold:” James Tucker, Michael Jelenic, & Linda M. Steiner
- Toonzone’s “Brave & the Bold:” Diedrich Bader, Voice of Batman
- From Tiny Toons to Brave & Bold: Toonzone Interviews Voice Director Andrea Romano
- NYCC2009: “Wonder Woman” Roundtable Interview with Writer Michael Jelenic
- Toonzone News Interviews the Brave and Bold James Tucker!