SDCC '08 - DC Animation Panel

DC gave fans a brief first glimpse at its upcoming “Wonder Woman” animated feature, kicking off a discussion with fans at the San Diego Comic-Con in which fans and panelists talked about which characters they’d next like to see come to DVD.

DC’s senior VP of creative affairs Gregory Noveck kicked things off by stating what the large bags Warner Bros. had been giving out the show had made obvious: The “Wonder Woman” animated DVD would debut in February.

Paul Levitz, president and publisher of DC, said the animated DVD program began as a way to do DC stories in animation that weren’t restricted by the rules of Saturday morning cartoons. “This is about let’s make the best thing we possibly can,” he says.

Noveck says “Wonder Woman” is not an adaptation of a specific comic, like “Justice League: The New Frontier.” Instead, it features an original story by “Wonder Woman” comics writer Gail Simone and Michael Jelenic, with the screenplay by Jelenic. That approach was decided on because the character can be a tricky one to get right, Levitz says.

Voice director Andrea Romano says they like to use a lot of name actors for these projects and joked that fans can often tell what she’s watching on TV and in the movies by who she casts. She says, for example, she liked very much the film “Waitress,” which played a role in her casting Keri Russell as Wonder Woman. Russell was right for the part because she can convey both strength and the vulnerability the character needs as she adjusts to living in the world of men.

Other cast members include fellow panelist Nathan Fillion as Steve Trevor, Alfred Molina as Ares, Rosario Dawson as Artemis, Virginia Madsen as Hippolyta and Oliver Platt as Hades. Romano says Platt had to record his lines in New York and couldn’t be filmed in the booth because of the distance — which turned to be a good thing when his starched shirt made so much noise he ended up having to work shirtless.

The look of Wonder Woman was much discussed by DC/WB animation legend Bruce Timm and the film’s director, Lauren Montgomery. “I definitely wanted to give her a more athletic feel — she’s an Amazon,” says Montgomery. Her features also have a slight Greek influence, and the boots she wears in the film ended being inspired by the comic book covers of Adam Hughes.

Noveck then showed a short trailer for the film, featuring Wonder Woman engaged in extensive battles with mythological creatures and even featuring a decapitation in silhouette. Fillion reacted to the footage by saying “Man, I look back and cartoons really sucked when I was a kid!”

In opening it up to questions, fan began to ask about the chance of adapting specific comic book storylines to animation, with “Batman: Knightfall,” “Batman: The Long Halloween,” “Catwoman,” “Batman: A Death in the Family,” “Jack Kirby’s Fourth World” and “Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come” all suggested. While most were possibilities, the last one may take some time until they can figure out an affordable CG look that would be like the comic book.

A long-discussed adaptation of “Teen Titans: The Judas Contract” is on hold, Noveck says, because fan support hasn’t been broad enough to vault it past other titles.

Levitz says the key to the success of these DVDs is whether they can sell a couple hundred thousand copies in the first couple of weeks — they have to do the kind of business to make it worth it for outlets like Wal-Mart and Target to carry them. Still, it’s a building process and if these discs continually sell well, it makes it easier to experiment with lesser-known characters and storylines.

He then asked fans to vote by cheering whether they wanted to see more adaptations of specific comic book stories or a mix of DVDs that was more equal between adaptations and original stories inspired by the comics. The latter won out.

Wonder Woman will be released in February in single- and double-disc DVD editions and Blu-Ray, with a premiere planned at a comics convention as soon as those shows’ dates are set. Also, a special edition is planned for “Superman: Doomsday” that will feature more than two hours of extras, plus a handful of “Superman: The Animated Series” episodes hand-picked by Timm.

Timm wrapped up the panel, saying that while the next DVD project after “Wonder Woman” had not been decided, he was thinking about adapting a specific comic book drawn by an artist whose style he looks forward to animating.

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