The New York Comic Con panel for Justice League: War played to a packed house at the Main Stage, with super PR guy Gary Miereanu moderating a panel consisting of producer James Tucker, director Jay Oliva, casting and voice director Andrea Romano, and actor Jason O’Mara, who is the new Batman starting with Justice League: War and hopefully in more films to come. After introducing the panelists, Miereanu plugged the recently released deluxe edition of The Dark Knight Returns and ran a preview of the all-new documentary about Frank Miller that comes with the release (and, by the way, big post-panel shout out to Josh).
Justice League: War ties into DC Comics’ “New 52″ initiative, and one element in it will be the origin story of Cyborg. Jay Oliva noted that he originally wanted actor Shemar Moore to play Cyborg in Justice League: Flashpoint, but schedules didn’t mesh so Michael B. Jordan was cast instead. Oliva added that even though Justice League: War was Moore’s first voice-over role, you wouldn’t know it from the performance.
Miereanu then addressed the elephant in the room and asked if there were any Aquaman fans in the room. Aquaman will not be in Justice League: War, but the reason is so he can be featured in his own spotlight DC animated feature the same way that the Flash was spotlighted in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.
After a clip showing Batman and Green Lantern’s first encounter in Gotham City, Jason O’Mara discussed how he reacted when he learned he was cast as Batman. He joked that he figured he’d have to get a trainer and do a cape-and-cowl fitting before they told him “they’ve got someone else for that” and he’d be doing the voice (which meant no training and no close encounters with rubber, to his relief). O’Mara described the role as “a thrill and an honor,” and something he never thought he’d do in his career. He grew up with Batman through many different points in his life through a variety of media, noting later in the panel that the 1966 Adam West/Burt Ward movie was his first real exposure to the character, watching it one afternoon when he was home from school with the measles. He said the movie “just blew him away,” and that “I didn’t think it was camp, I thought it was just kick-ass!” One of his best friends is also a graphic novelist and did his college thesis on the Dark Knight, and that he got back into Batman when he got to college and the TIm Burton movies came out. He did add that the role also came with a lot of pressure, and that he “kept thinking of this moment” sitting in front of hundreds of fans at a comic convention, with his nightmare being dead silence after showing a clip of him playing Batman, or a lone voice shouting out, “Bring back Kevin Conroy!”
O’Mara also joked that he met Kevin Conroy the other day, and that Conroy’s first reaction on learning that O’Mara was “the new Batman” was to strangle him (though he made sure to clarify that it was all in fun and everyone ever cast in the part knows that all part of the franchise). O’Mara also added that his initial voice for Batman was very dark and husky, but softened up later (partially because it’s hard to stay in that register and getting loud in it can hurt the throat, according to Romano). He does modulate the voice between Batman and Bruce Wayne, as Kevin Conroy did in Batman the Animated Series, adding that Bruce Wayne’s voice is somewhere between Batman and his own voice and “sounds like what I sound like now, except more like he’s from Gotham and not Dublin.” He also reiterated that he is expecting to do “a couple of Batmans” for these DTV movies. He did also joke that “people are getting sick of hearing my American accent,” leading to discussions of actors with accents and ones who are good at alternate accents. Andrea Romano singled out Jason Isaacs as an actor exceptionally good at dialects and accents, citing the accurate Rhode Island accent he used in Brotherhood even though the accent is remarkably subtle, and added that this ability was definitely a good one to have in voiceover work.
James Tucker explained the choice to move to the New 52 Universe as a way to “jump start the DVD franchise in a new direction,” giving the line a fresh start and piggyback on what’s going on in the comics. He said they wouldn’t be doing strict adaptations like those for All-Star Superman or The Dark Knight Returns, and that there would be some more modern stories and newer characters coming in the future.
Andrea Romano noted that the cast of this movie included a number of actors she’s wanted to work with for some time (such as Justin Kirk, Jason O’Mara, and Shemar Moore), as well as actors she’s worked with before (like Sean Astin and Alan Tudyk, who play Shazam and Superman, respectively). She also noted that Michelle Monaghan, who plays Wonder Woman in the movie, did her fighting grunts and groans in ADR 1-2 months ago while she was eight-and-a-half months pregnant. Romano quipped that she was terrified that Monaghan was going to give birth in the booth right there (she didn’t).
Jay Oliva confirmed that Phil Bourassa will return as character designer for Justice League: War, with an eye to keeping the heroes’ iconic look while still linked to Jim Lee’s “New 52″ designs. As a director, Oliva said one goal was to have the movie be different from what the earlier shows produced by Bruce Timm had done in the past. One inspiration he mentioned specifically was anime, with an eye to creating “balls-to-the-wall” fighting that kept his same choreographed “man ballet” style; since BS&P isn’t a factor, he also had the freedom to do what he wanted with the fight choreography.
After another clip showing Wonder Woman making a friend and discovering ice cream (a fan favorite scene from the comics, judging by the audience reaction), Miereanu prompted Romano to reveal that the movie’s Steve Trevor will be played by George Newbern.
The panelists were then opened up to Q&A from the audience:
Throughout the Q&A, the following titles were brought up by fans for future DTV movies: Superman: Man of Tomorrow, Blackest Night, Curse of the Robins, a Young Justice “bridge” film between seasons 1 and 2, Sinestro Corps War, Kingdom Come, Birds of Prey, Gotham by Gaslight, Speeding Bullets, Superman: Red Son, “something from Vertigo,” and a Batman Beyond movie. Almost all of them got non-committal “we’ve discussed that” answers, with the following elaborations:
- James Tucker said that Curse of the Robins had not come up in meetings in the past, but it would now.
- He also said, “We’ll do Kingdom Come when we get $30 million for one of these,” because they don’t have the time or money to come up with the tech to make the animation look like Alex Ross paintings. Someone in the audience suggested “do a Kickstarter” which got a laugh but not much else.
- James Tucker said “some Elseworlds-like things were coming down the line,” and that he’d also love to do Knights of Vengeance with Thomas Wayne Batman.
Andrea Romano confirmed that casting on-camera/live talent for voiceover roles has grown recently, but that she always fights for the right actor for the role and that this movie is filled with “rank and file” voiceover actors who can still do things that on-camera actors can’t (like craft 3 distinct character voices on the fly, sometimes talking amongst themselves simultaneously). She emphasized that voiceover work was all about the acting, and that “you have to be an actor first.” In a later question, she said that having character designs to show the actors can instantly inform the voices they come up with. However, she makes sure to hire versatile voice actors for smaller parts because a script may describe a role as “Guard” with not much detail, meaning the initial record may not match the final animation. The more versatile voice actors can re-record to the final animation and turn “a tall skinny guy into a short chubby guy” (and not lose the gig). When asked what other actors are left on Andrea Romano’s wish-list to work with, she cited Jon Hamm, Liev Schreiber, and Kyle Chandler off the top of her head, and added Gabrielle Anwar when prompted.
In response to “why Shazam” in the movie, James Tucker said it came from a suggestion from Geoff Johns, and that “when you see the movie, you’ll understand why.” Tucker added that Shazam brings a lot of lightness to the otherwise dark, intense story. He also added that Shazam needs some love, too, which met with applause from the audience. In a later question about whether elements of Curse of Shazam are incorporated into Justice League: War, Tucker said he’s got the hood, but not much else from that storyline would appear in this movie. He described Shazam’s role in this as his introduction to the Justice League, and that he expects to surprise a lot of people with how he fits into the story.
In response to a question about using the “New 52″ comics in forging key relationships and connections between characters, James Tucker said, “we have all that covered,” but added that if he told us everything, we wouldn’t buy the DVDs. He did also add that not everything they do will sync with the comics because the comics are way ahead of them, and some stuff they do in the comics isn’t feasible for a 70-75 minute movie.
When asked if we’d see Gary Miereanu appear as a “New 52″ character in a DTV movie, Jay Oliva suggested that he might get Batman to punch Gary, with Gary doing an ADR thing afterwards. James Tucker added, “Gary says we’re not allowed to talk about that.”
One question was raised about female representation in this movie or the future movies. Jay Oliva said that he doesn’t make any delineation for gender in his movies, aiming to “make any hero as badass as they can” and saying that Wonder Woman gets some of the best fight sequences in the film. He also said that one of his favorite episodes of Justice League Unlimited was “Girl Fight,” and that using more female superheroes was going to be all about whether the public wants it. He said he was hoping that the powers-that-be will write good stories with strong women without making it all about their gender, and that this is what they always try to push for in their films.
And, just because we love you, here’s a nice photo of Jason O’Mara flanked by Jay Oliva and James Tucker to wrap up our coverage:
CORRECTION: We misunderstood Andrea Romano in one segment: Michelle Monaghan did her initial records as Wonder Woman 10-12 months ago, but her ADR was done only 1-2 months ago.