DC Entertainment unveiled a first look Friday for its upcoming animated feature Justice League: War at the New York Comic Con. The panel included producer James Tucker, director Jay Oliva, legendary dialogue director Andrea Romano and Batman voice actor Jason O'Mara, and was moderated by Gary Miereanu of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
The panel opened with a clip from DC's Frank Miller documentary focusing on The Dark Knight Returns, available on Blu-Ray and DVD. Grant Morrison, Denny O'Neill, Bruce Timm, Michael Usland and more were interviewed for the project.
Justice League: War will be coming out in early 2014, Miereanu said. Tucker said "this is a lot of fighting, a lot of bickering - it's everything you ever wanted in a Justice League movie, and more." Oliva said this was a loose adaptation of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's first six issues of Justice League. We will also see the origin of Cyborg in this movie, who will be voiced by Shemar Moore.
Romano said that while this was Moore's first voiceover work, he "comes out shining."
Miereanu then asked if there were any Aquaman fans in the audience. "Aquaman is not in Justice League: War," he said. "So that we could feature him in his own epic DC Universe film. That's a win-win."
They then rolled a clip featuring the first meeting between Green Lantern and Batman. It features Green Lantern getting a beatdown from a Parademon, until Batman steps into the fray. The Dark Knight doesn't fare too much better against this foe from Apokolips, but gives Green Lantern an opening to strike. That is, until the Gotham City Police Department butts in.
O'Mara said that he was glad he didn't have to train or wear rubber to play this part. "This is an absolute honor… of course I jumped at it," he said. "I grew up with Batman in many different forms of the media, and it was an absolute honor. But a lot of pressure, I'd say. I kept thinking of you guys - of this moment, actually - in my nightmares. And all I could imagine was them showing a clip of me playing Batman, and then there being silence, and you guys saying, 'go away. Bring back Kevin Conroy.'" O'Mara joked that when he met Conroy, the iconic Batman voice actor moved to choke out his successor.
Tucker said he was using the New 52 to jump-start their DVD series. "I think it's a way to give it a fresh start and to piggyback what's going on in the comics," he said. "We're not doing straight adaptations from here on in, but we wanted to get in sync with what's going on in the comics."
Romano then discussed the all-new cast. "I keep a list of actors that I wanted to work with at some point or another," she said. "Like Justin Kirk, like Shemar Moore, like Jason O'Mara, like Christopher Gorham, like Sean Astin, like Alan Tudyk, Michelle Monaghan." Romano said that Monaghan did her voice acting for Wonder Woman while eight months pregnant, and she was concerned Monaghan might go into labor in the recording birth. Steve Blum plays Darkseid, she said.
Oliva commented on the anime-influenced style, designed by Phil Brasura from Young Justice. "We wanted the designs to be iconic but to also bring the sensibilities that Jim Lee brought to the series," Oliva said, saying that he wanted to really push the limits, particularly in terms of the fight choreography. "I wanted this to stand differently from what Bruce [Timm] did in the past."
They then showed another clip from the movie, featuring Wonder Woman walking along the White House before she runs into a young girl eating ice cream. The girl humorously introduces Diana to the wonders of ice cream. "Ice cream truly is the greatest food!"
O'Mara then discussed the joys and challenges of playing Batman. "It's just such an iconic character - so many actors have played him so well over the years. It's about trying to find your inner Batman. It's not just how I see him, but how he speaks to me," he said. He said that he followed in the footsteps of Kevin Conroy, saying that the voice of Batman was a disguise for the voice of Bruce Wayne.
Romano joked that she cast O'Mara because "I just wanted somebody in my life with an accent… there's something just so sexy about having an accent."
Miereanu opened the floor up for audience questions. An audience member asked the panel why Shazam replaced Aquaman in the film. "That was a suggestion made by Geoff Johns, actually," Tucker said. "He brings a lot of lightness to the proceedings - it's a very dark, intense story. Also, Shazam needs some love, too." Tucker said that Aquafans should check out the first season of The Brave and the Bold, which is due out on DVD, and Oliva added that Aquaman was also in The Flashpoint Paradox.
Will we ever see a Blackest Night movie? "Anything is possible," Miereanu said. Tucker said "we've discussed it."
Is there going to be continuity from movie-to-movie, and will there ever be a movie showing how the different Robins are affected by their relationships with Batman? The audience burst into applause at the second part of the question. "We're marking it down now," Miereanu said. "There is some continuity," he added.
Another audience member asked what the next big DC animated features will be. Miereanu said we will see Justice League: War, Son of Batman (based on Batman and Son), and Batman: Assault on Arkham, which is based on the continuity of the video games. "In a word, it's badass, awesome," Oliva said.
Will we see any more of Teen Titans or Young Justice? Tucker said that while he did not work on either, he is very interested in Teen Titans. "So… maybe."
Who else is left on Romano's actor wish list? "Jon Hamm," she immediately said. "You can tell what series I'm watching, because I get stuck on one series and I am like, 'I must work with him. I must work with Liev Schreiber."
What are the challenges of working with a voice cast? "It's a difficult job, but our job is to come up with a list of actors that we can send to producers," she said, particularly making sure that these actors can all work well with one another. "There are people we've come after four, five or six times, and they've wanted to do it, but their schedules won't allow it. So we keep them on our lists and come back."
How will we see the relationships deepen between characters in the DC animated universe. Tucker said "if I told you that, you wouldn't buy them… but we do have that covered. We are using the New 52 as a launching point for more modern stories." While sometimes the comics aren't feasible to translate into a 75-to-85-minute animated movie, they will keep the flavor of the New 52.
The same fan asked if there would be a Sinestro Corps War animated feature. Tucker said "we've discussed it." Another fan asked if there would be a Kingdom Come animated feature. Oliva said that they didn't have the time or money to really try to emulate Alex Ross's painted style.
Will there be any Elseworlds animated features coming out? Tucker said there will be some "Elseworlds-like things" coming out down the line. "I'd love to do Knight of Vengeance, with the Thomas Wayne Batman," he said. Will we see Superman: Red Son? Oliva said he's always pushing for Gotham by Gaslight - "I always want to work on something cool, and I try to bring as much energy and reverence to this as you guys would."
Is there any discussion of doing any Vertigo titles? Tucker said they've considered it, and there is some talks about perhaps including some of the Vertigo characters into the DC movies.
Will we see a Batman Beyond movie? Romano said she'd be interested in working on one. Miereanu said that Bruce Timm said he was interested, as well. Romano: "So the answer is maybe."
When asked about his Bat-influences, O'Mara said that the 1960s Adam West movie really influenced him during a bout with measles. "I didn't think it was campy at all - I just thought it was kick-ass." Once he got into college after the Tim Burton movies, he got back into the Batman comics.
An audience member asked about female representation in the Justice League: War movie as well as any other DC animated features. Oliva said "I don't delineate between genders, I make every superhero as badass as I can… Wonder Woman has some of the best fight sequences of any of the characters." He said that if the public supports characters like Black Canary, more representation will come.
They closed the panel with a final clip, featuring Green Lantern, Batman and Superman warding off a horde of Parademons.