Brave & Bold Producer Talks Owl Man, Superman, and a Musical
When parallel worlds collide, Batman swaps places with Owlman--his criminal counterpart in an alternate universe--to stop the Crime Syndicate from taking over their world.
If Producer James Tucker sounds satisfied with himself, he has very good reason for it. The ratings are in for his show Batman: the Brave & the Bold, and it’s become a solid lead for Cartoon Network’s Friday night action block. It’s done so well, that CN has picked up the second half of the show’s first season. That means an additional 13 episodes.
How did Tucker take the news? He now will take Batman into places the Caped Crusader has never gone before, at least in the animation world. This not-so-Dark Knight is going to be pitted against Owl Man of DC’s third universe. While there’s no sign of Ultra Man or Superwoman, and Tucker has his reasons for that, it will kick off an incredible two-part mini-series that’s sure to keep Bat-fans on the edge of their seat. This then goes into overdrive next week when, in true BBB tradition, Batman must team up with another famous, or should we say infamous, DC character.
For those who want to know what we’re talking about immediately, read on. If you want to be truly surprised, wait until 8:00 pm Eastern Tim Friday. With that, here’s what Tucker has to say about these two episodes, and a bit more:
NEWSARAMA: A lot of people are going to look at Owl Man and think Watchmen. The thing is, that’s not quite the case, right?
JAMES TUCKER: I hope not. This one is basically from the Crime Syndicate. I based the design on Blue Falcon though. I’m a huge Blue Falcon fan.
NEWSARAMA: I saw you went with episode directors Ben Jones and Michael Chang. Who’s the writer? He’s new to me.
JT: Joe Kuhr. Coincidentally that is his real name. He’s been around for a while. He did a couple of Justice League and Legion episodes. He’s also been on the Batman. I think his star is rising. He’s been paying his dues for a while now. Joe’s good. My fellow producer Michael Jelenic came to me and said ‘I want to use Joe,” and I said fine.
NEWSARAMA: Did you always have an idea of doing a team-up between Batman and Red Hood/Joker?
JT: I always knew I was going to do one with Joker. That was pretty much a decision from early on. There were a couple of issues of The Brave & the Bold where Batman teamed up with the Joker. We didn’t know exactly how at first but it coincided with the Crime Syndicate story we wanted to do.
Originally, it was going to be the original Crime Syndicate, but the only rights we were able to clear were Owl Man. So that’s why we came up with alternative universe versions of the heroes in Batman’s universe. That’s also why we decided to call them the Injustice Syndicate as opposed to the Crime Syndicate.
Alternate universe stories are great because you can show the underbelly of the main characters. No one’s perfect and heroes are all twisted a little bit. The line is very slim between a hero and a villain. It’s mainly just circumstances.
NEWSARAMA: Did you also draw from Grant Morrison with the Batman protocols?
JT: That’s become kind of a standard since the “Tower of Babel” story arc. Inside it’s kind of become standard that Batman has a way to take out everyone in the universe. It’s nothing person, but he just likes to be prepared for anything. So having that in there seemed a no brainer. I’m surprised no one thought of it before.
NEWSARAMA: Now why did you pick Jeff Bennett for the voice of the Joker/Red Hood?
JT: I know Jeff Bennett is a versatile actor. He had done The Creeper in the Batman: The New Adventures series. I liked the voice he did for that. Now that’s not what he ended up doing for us. In fact, I like what he did doing for us even better.
I wanted to go back to real old school Joker. I think Cesar Romero’s version was pretty true to the late 40s and 50s Joker. I liked that he was closer to that. He’s a bit more debonair, has a little more flair, and has a slight lilt of an accent. Jeff could do that.
I had a little temptation to stunt cast, but I usually prefer to go with people I know can hit it out the box. In Justice League we stunt casted a lot, and frankly some of the results were hit or miss. With this show, we have such a huge rotating cast, Diedrich (Bader, the voice of Batman) is the only constant, and we tend to require a lot of voices. So you might notice we tend to recruit people who can do multiple voices. Jeff Bennett definitely fits that bill. He’s one of the elite. In fact, I think this voice cast stands right up there with the best of any of the past. They are all very talented people.
NEWSARAMA: Did you have Bader read his Batman/Owl Man lines as they came up in the script or did you have him do them in separate takes?
JT: Being it was a two-parter, the first part he did in sequence and then in the second part he did the Owl Man part separately. He really got it right out of the gate. Of course, you can adjust and fix during post. We now have very little of that with Diedrich. With this one, he knew exactly what to do. I’m very pleased.
Like anything, it takes a little time to flesh out the series. None of us knew exactly what the right tone was going to be going in. You do have to set your boundaries, but you really only do that after you start the show.
NEWSARAMA: So do you feel you have everything going smoothly?
JT: Oh yeah. Right now we’re going into the latter half of the first season and it’s really a well-oiled machine. For a first season, that’s very rare when you can say that.
NEWSARAMA: Reaction has been very positive. How does that make you feel?
JT: Validated. I’m glad people are getting the tone and are not really too up in arms about it. I give full credit to The Dark Knight for that. If that hadn’t been such a pitch black version of Batman, I wouldn’t have been able to get away with my lighthearted version. So I’m really thankful to Nolan and Bale, all those guys who made that movie for what they did. With my version, people can finally realize that Batman doesn’t have to be so dark and brooding all the time.
NEWSARAMA: Speaking of lighthearted, any chance of a certain kid companion ever showing up?
JT: Anything can happen with this show. I’ve learned to never say never.
NEWSARAMA: I was also informed Bat-Mite is coming in the future.
JT: Definitely. You know what? It’s going to be terrific. It’s going to be a fan favorite. I predict that already. It’s a great looking episode. I don’t know if I can talk about who’s voicing the Bat-Mite just yet. It will definitely be a surprise. Then again, when you hear him, everyone will go, ‘of course!’
NEWSARAMA: And a Batman musical?
JT: Yeah. When I was on Justice League with Bruce Timm, we were always toying around with doing a musical special, especially after we saw the Buffy musical. On Legion I had hoped we had gotten a third season because I knew a musical for that would have been perfect.
So, finally, me and Michael Jelenic, who likes musicals too, decided this was the show we were going to do it on. So we’ve done it. I’ll let you know how it turned out when it comes back from overseas. But the music alone is a lot of fun.
NEWSARAMA: Who wrote the music?
JT: Michael and I actually did the lyrics. Then the dynamic music partners, Kris Carter, Michael McQuistion, and Lolita Ritmanis did the music. These guys have done a lot of scoring for our shows and they are just terrific.
NEWSARAMA: Andy Sturmer?
JT: No. Andy just did the title music. He doesn’t do the scoring for the show. It’s all top notch. It’s not corny. It’s really full-out, serious music.
NEWSARAMA: So Batman finally does something besides “Am I Blue?”
JT: Well, he also sang in the episode we did of Batman Beyond. It was called “Out of the Past.”
NEWSARAMA: That was a while ago…
JT: Yeah, I know because I directed that episode. I’ve always wanted to do musicals. This episode though is wall-to-wall musical. It has five full songs in it. It’s almost completely sung. Ben Jones is the director. He did one for Teen Titans and that was just awesome.
NEWSARAMA: When I interviewed Mike Jelenic, he hinted at an appearance of the big blue schoolboy later on in the season.
JT: Superman? He was mistaken about Superman.
NEWSARAMA: I figured being he’s the story man, if anyone would know, he would.
JT: Let’s look at it this way. Superman is not someone I’m dying to use. I would leak it if it was happening, but it’s not happening.
NEWSARAMA: Well, one of my favorite scenes from Justice League was just a sequence of Batman and Superman sitting in the Batmobile drinking coffee until it was time for them to get to work. When it’s time, the two look at each other, kind of nod, and then Superman flies out the roof while Batman revs up the engine
JT: That’s from the second season of Justice League. I think that’s when we really hit our stride on that show. That episode was more about their relationship than the big world shattering crisis of the episode of the day. In that, we made them actual friends. They had an actual relationship like real people do. We were saying it’s not about the spectacle all the time. We started putting more of that into the plots.
NEWSARAMA: Would you say you’ve carried that on with Brave and Bold?
JT: Brave and the Bold is all about relationships. If anything, it’s more so than in Justice League. Here we don’t focus as much on the crime. It’s more about the personalities involved. We always try to bring that out in the heroes. Who is going to contrast with Batman? Who is going to bring something out of him that we haven’t really seen or wouldn’t show to another character.
Like I would look that he’s primarily working with B and C-list characters as opposed to the usual Justice League, A-list characters as an opportunity to show a different side of him. When he’s with who he considers his peers, like Superman, Wonder Woman or Hal Jordan, he acts differently than when he’s with Blue Beetle or Booster Gold.
NEWSARAMA: I noticed that even when you do Green Lantern, you shied away from Hal Jordan and concentrate on Guy Gardner.
JT: But if you notice, at the end he’s sitting with Hal in the cafeteria like a peer. When he walks by Guy Gardner, it’s ‘hey, you!’ He has a pecking order. That’s a subtle thing we like to do. We feel we get more bang for our buck because you can do more with the B- and C-listers. You can have fun with them. You can push their personalities more than you can with Wonder Woman.
NEWSARAMA: So it’s possible you might do the Doom Patrol?
JT: They’re on our list. I love the Doom Patrol.
NEXT COLUMN: David X. Cohen talks about Futurama’s future.