NYCC2009: "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" Hits the Big Apple!
On Friday afternoon, New York Comic Con attendees were treated to a panel discussion with some of the top talent behind Cartoon Network’s Batman: The Brave and the Bold. In attendance were story editor Michael Jelenic, producer James Tucker, Creative Executive for DC Comics Creative Affairs Ivan Cohen, actor Phil Morris (who will be voicing Jonah Hex in an upcoming episode of the show), and writer Todd Casey. The panel was moderated by TV Guide senior editor Rich Sands, who led the initial round of questioning for the panelists.
After joking that the reason why Brave and the Bold was made was, “We need more toys,” Tucker said that he initially turned down Sam Register’s request for a new Batman show. However, he quickly changed his mind when Register asked about doing a Brave and the Bold show. He felt it was a chance to embrace the “comic book-isms” and goofier stuff that often doesn’t translate well to other media. Design-wise, Tucker said that he wanted to “draw a show that looked like the show I thought I was seeing when I was a little kid.” This inspiration was part of the reason why they went with a more stylized version of Batman that would look like the hand-inked comics of the 1950’s.
Jelenic said that wasn’t basing the stories on anything specific, but that the covers were often an inspiration, citing the Plastic Man episode which had “gorillas riding on pterodactyls stealing a boat.” The staff is going for absurdity, even though everyone on the show is taking it seriously, comparing it to 1980’s TV shows like The A-Team or Alf. He also said it was nice to come off the dark second season of Legion of Superheroes and go in the exact opposite direction.
Describing DC’s role in and opinion of the show, Cohen said that he was always happy to see Batman on TV, but that it was great to see more obscure characters like the new Blue Beetle appear as well. DC’s usual reaction when the Brave and the Bold staff would ask for a character was, “Are you sure you want that one? Really?”, but that Tucker and the crew would find ways to make the characters work (like B’wana Beast). He also said that he felt that the show’s episode of the Atom trying to cure Batman internally was better than the comparable story in the original comic, where the Atom controls Batman’s dead body like a machine to solve the Dark Knight’s last case (ed’s note: Brave and the Bold #115, November 1974).
Cohen added that after appearing on the show, more people will have seen this animated Blue Beetle than have ever read any comic titled “Blue Beetle.” Tucker said that their choice of Jaime Reyes version of the character was largely driven by a need for a young neophyte character who wasn’t Robin. Similarly, in “Journey to the Center of the Bat!”, using the Ryan Choi Atom instead of the traditional Ray Palmer was because they needed a character to bounce off Aquaman, and Ryan Choi isn’t as locked in the consciousness of comic book fans (including himself) as Ray Palmer is. Using Choi meant they could make the character more nebbish than they would have made Ray Palmer.
Morris, a long-time comic book fan himself, said that he greatly enjoys this series for its big broad stroke approach to superheroes. He said it was a lot of fun to bring less mainstream characters like Jonah Hex to life, adding that Hex just really doesn’t get the whole Bat getup thing. To him, the Bat costume comes off as a little bit foppish, and this allows for him to treat Batman in a way that audiences aren’t really used to (click here to listen to Morris describe how Hex sees Batman). He also gave a big shout-out to Andrea Romano, saying that without her, none of them would have a clue. Tucker added that he “met her like the Godfather to get her to do the show,” and that it was much more enriched for her participation. Morris concluded by saying that it was always a great joy to work with her and the other actors because they made it so much fun to play in the universe. (Click here to listen to a quick sample of Morris’ Jonah Hex — apologies for the pops and background noise.)
Casey admitted that he had trouble getting used to the idea of how fun the show could be a times since he tends to gravitate towards more serious and darker stories. He joked that the way Jonah Hex looks at Batman was the way he looked at the show at first. However, he enjoyed the experience more and more as he worked on the show, saying that after he saw “Journey to the Center of the Bat!”, he thought, “I wish I wrote that one.” He did say that if there are any depressing episodes of Brave and the Bold, they’re probably his, but that his tone is getting better as he writes more episodes. Jelenic added that writers always want to write something that makes them laugh. He said that Aquaman started off more seriously, and that even voice actor John DiMaggio played him pretty straight at first. However, by his second appearance on the show with the Atom, he became so much broader and funnier while still being respectful to the character. Jelenic said that he thought Aquaman was the greatest hero in the show behind Batman because he’s not afraid of anything. He also gave the audience a hint of what’s to come: “he’s depressed in his next episode.”
Tucker said that the idea to make Aquaman that broad, comic character was actually Sam Register’s idea, when an offhand comment about making Aquaman like Hercules got Tucker to think of Steve Reeves gladiator movies. This led to a visual of a pompous looking guy in an Aquaman suit. He said it didn’t take long to nail down the character, although the first script had a lot more fish puns in it that didn’t make it. Jelenic added that Aquaman was the kind of superhero who would hug you, and the idea of a superhero who would hug Batman was all he really needed to know about him. Tucker also said that the other key to Aquaman was that “he doesn’t know that other people have thought he was lame.” He’s never seen Superfriends or the Cartoon Network bumpers about him, and that he’s a hero in his own mind. However, once they realized he wasn’t ashamed of himself, they stopped being ashamed for him. Tucker said that he thinks he needs his own show now, which received a warm response from the audience. (Click here to listen to Tucker and Jelenic’s responses on the panel.)
At this point, the episode “Deep Cover for Batman!” was screened. Other than saying it’s a terrific episode that made all the panel attendees very happy, I ain’t talking, other than to say that fans of the old “Red Sky” Gotham City of Batman the Animated Series will be pleased at the look of this episode.
The panel was open to Q&A, with the first people asking questions getting a copy of the new Batman: The Brave and the Bold comic book signed by James Tucker:
- When asked, “Why aren’t there more women?” Tucker said that “Jaime will be getting girls” in an upcoming episode, with Jelenic adding that he was amazed that the network was allowing them to air it. However, the second 13-episode season of the show will have more female heroes such as Black Canary and the Huntress.
- Cohen said that he had heard that a “rights issue” had kept Black Lightning from appearing under that name in previous animated shows, but when he dug into the issue, he found that nobody knew the reason why, so they just used him as-is in the “Enter the Outsiders!” episode. Tucker added that the Outsiders will eventually look like the Outsiders that many comic book fans are familiar with.
- Those are not the Adam West Batman TV villains in the “Day of the Dark Knight!” episode, and Tucker, Jelenic, Cohen, and everyone else on the panel would like to assure anyone listening at Fox that they have no idea what anybody is talking about. Tucker did admit that he was a big fan of the old show, and allow it to creep in around the edges of this one.
- The jazzy musical score was also inspired by the old Adam West TV show, with Tucker saying that fighting equated to choreography and music to him as a kid watching the show.
- There will be more delving into Batman’s past, similar to what was already seen in the Christmas episode which teamed Batman and the Red Tornado. Tucker said that the Terrible Trio episode would feature a lot of older Batman history, saying that Batman, the Bronze Tiger, and the Terrible Trio would form a “5 Deadly Venoms”-style team of kung-fu fighters. Elements like that and the bits of bratty Bruce Wayne in the Christmas episode were ways that they would show something different from what audiences know, or show them something newer.
- “Deep Cover for Batman!” was done well before DC’s Countdown series, so any resemblance between a character in the show and a character in the series is entirely coincidental.
- When asked about more obscure villains to go along with the more obscure heroes, Tucker said, “There was no villain too lame for us to use” and that there would be more obscure DC supervillains in upcoming episodes of the show.
- Several panel attendees stepped aside to allow a small boy to ask the last question and get the last autographed comic book. He asked who their favorite hero was besides Batman. Tucker said Aquaman; when asked, the child responded that Green Arrow was his favorite character other than Batman.