Batman: Bad Blood is the next film in the long-running DC Animated Original Movie line that began in 2007 with Superman: Doomsday, and naturally New York Comic Con had a panel dedicated to the project just as it did for Justice League: Throne of Atlantis in 2014. On hand for the festivities this time were producer James Tucker, character designer Phil Bourassa, director Jay Oliva, and actors Jason O’Mara (Batman) and Gaius Charles (Batwing).
To start with the panel’s audience was treated to a first look at the trailer for Batman: Bad Blood, which has been made publicly available¬†today and can be found at the end of this article.¬†Batman: Bad Blood is founded on a troubling starting premise: Gotham City without Batman. Bruce Wayne has not been seen for over two weeks, and in response Dick Grayson has returned to cover for him by wearing the cape and cowl while investigating Batman’s disappearance. In the first of multiple preview clips shown to the audience at the panel we see Grayson patrolling the city with Damian Wayne as Robin in the Batmobile, who smugly tells Grayson that he could be a better Batman and to follow his lead. Before long they stumble across Batwoman, who is able to deduce that it’s Dick Grayson behind the mask to his chagrin. She claims to have witnessed the battle and the place where Batman died and shows it to the duo. Robin is skeptical and declares he doesn’t believe her, prompting Grayson to question his judgment with a wry observation that Damian had no problem trusting the not-so-trustworthy Talon in the past. Grayson wants everyone to work together on the case but Batwoman is having none of it, remarking that she’s not a part of their “little cult” just because she’s wearing a Bat mask.
With these clips concluded, the panel began its commentary in earnest. The idea of Batman: Bad Blood is to establish a greater inner circle revolving around Batman in this setting, and per James Tucker Batwoman and Batwing are included in this because the team wanted to use characters that hadn’t been seen in animation before and they are “current and cool” characters that can deliver different and unique visuals as well as their own background stories.
On the subject of adapting the original comics to animation, Bourassa explained they always look at the source material for inspiration first and foremost and decide on what to include and use on a case by case basis. From a design standpoint Batwoman was already blessed with a “striking look” that was “simple and elegant” on the page, and so staying close to her appearance from the “new 52” era of comics for the movie was an easy call. The case of Batwing was more complicated as he is a technological character, and they decided they had artistic license to go their own way since none of the past designs were an ideal fit for the world’s setting. Jay Oliva added that their idea for Batwing was to design his suit as if it were version 1.0 of the Batsuit from Batman Beyond, and that fans can expect “some design cues and homages” to it.
As for the rogues gallery of villains for the film, James Tucker joked that they decided to simply pull names out of a hat and went on to seriously comment that Phil Bourassa’s challenge was “to make C-list villains cool.” Bourassa explained that with second and third tier characters there isn’t such a legacy to live up to, and villains like Killer Moth have “absurd” designs that were “cool in a silver age or golden age way” but are now “begging to be updated and redesigned”. The new designs call back to the history of the characters, but the team went “all in” on updating them to fit the film’s “visual flavor”.
It was then the voice cast’s turn for some comments. Jason O’Mara quipped that Batman being presumed dead meant three hours less recording time for him, going on to remark that it is some distance into the film’s script before anything is seen of Batman again. While O’Mara stayed away from spoilers he did say that Batman is “under major duress” in the film, and that fans can expect “cool stuff in terms of his psyche and what makes Bruce Wayne tick.” As for Gaius Charles Batman: Bad Blood is actually is first performing role in feature film animation, although Jason O’Mara was quick to remark that no one would know it. Charles gave shout outs to the Batman series of the past and said he grew up watching them and being inspired by them. O’Mara was then asked if his approach to playing Batman has changed over time, as he’s now played the character in more films than anyone else. O’Mara said he didn’t think so but that looking back he’s found new nuances and the difference between being Batman and Bruce Wayne, and that he feels he owns the character now while he was still finding it and being more influenced by past performances at the time of Justice League: War.
On the subject of Batwoman, James Olivia had high praise for Yvonne Strahovski’s performance of the character. With Batwoman there was “no template” for what the character was supposed to sound like, but when Strahovski came in to do her take “The whole history of Batwoman just came out in her performance. She did it all on her own, she needed very little help.” Olivia described Batwoman as a “complicated” character that is substantially more than “just Batman with guns”, and that he wanted to bring ” a vulnerability to her, as well as a strength.” They made sure to make use of action choreography that reflect Kate Kane’s military background and wanted to sell her as a “real character”, and Oliva hopes that they can do more movies involving Batwoman – an notion that received tremendous reception from the crowd.
With these remarks concluded, a substantial portion of the panel’s time was spent on a Q&A session. On the subject of Batwing’s identity as Luke Fox instead of David Zavimbe, James Olivia explained that he found he liked the idea of using Luke Fox because he was the person Bruce Wayne originally wanted to be Batwing in the comics. A related question directed to Gaius Charles asked if he was nervous about doing Batwing, to which he answered that he was excited and hopeful that Batwing can be someone people come to accept and embrace just as Harley Quinn from Batman: The Animated Series was. A clip played during the Q&A session was an extended action scene showing both Batwoman and Batwing in action, which served to both back up the point about Batwoman’s military-influenced physical comment and Batwing’s considerable use of gadgets.
On the subject of Batwoman being used instead of Batgirl in the film, James Tucker reiterated the desire to use a character not seen before while Olivia remarked that while he loved Batgirl “I just think Batwoman is pretty badass.” To emphasize the point on Batwoman’s uniqueness Olivia explained that “we made sure her view on fighting crime is very different”, and that her morals are played off of how Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne were taught by Batman. In Olivia’s view Thomas Wayne from Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox was secondary in the comics but interpreted in the movie in such a way that the fans responded very well to him, and he feels that the same has been achieved for Batwoman here.
One fan question to the panel asked about the possibility for a third season for Young Justice, which prompted the greatest reception of the night with not only thunderous applause but chants of “Young Justice!” from the crowd. Bourassa remarked that the question was above their paygrade, while Tucker added that “we will say this: your pleas have been heard”. Another fan asked about the possibility of animating something related to Batman Beyond again, to which Tucker responded that it wouldn’t happen in the next year but that it was something “that comes up from time to time” and that “it’s always on our mind” because the team has fond memories of it or fond memories of working on it.
Another question asked about the balance between DC animated movies adapting comic stories and doing original stories since¬†Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. Tucker responded that while at first they were told they’d do a new universe based off of the New 52, he enjoys what they’re doing now and that right now they’re still making about one movie out of three a comic book adaptation each year, acknowledging The Killing Joke as the next one. In Tucker’s view one adaptation a year is about right, since there are a “finite number” of comic stories to draw upon. Tucker also remarked that¬†“you know, they said that we could make it an R”, in apparent reference to the rating for¬†The Killing Joke. Contrary to some claims and insinuations that exist there was¬†not any announcement that¬†The Killing Joke will in fact be rated R or any promise of any kind about the content of the film, which James Tucker himself has since made clear on his twitter account by stating that “what rating it gets won’t be decided for a long time.”
On the subject of Tim Drake and Jason Todd, Olivia stated that so far there have been only two Robins in their universe so far, Dick Grayson and Damian, while Tucker elaborated that they exist but have not become Robin. Another question brought up the design of the Batman costume Dick Grayson ears in the film, which uses the gray and blue colors.¬†Bourassa stated that he’d always wanted to use it and loves the silver age art, and that they used it as a sign that Grayson wasn’t prepared to step into the role of Batman and that this was in fact something he’d tried to avoid. He wears that costume simply because he quickly took what was on hand to cover for Batman, which Tucker compared to a son finding out that he’s now dressing like his dad.
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