DC Comics’ Gregory Novak hosted a clip-filled panel focusing on the upcoming DC Universe animated films “Green Lantern: First Flight” and “Superman/Batman Public Enemies” at Comic-Con International: San Diego last Friday. CBR News was in the audience listening in as Novak, voice actors, and crew talked about the films, the choice of stories, and the new “DC Showcase” series of short films.
Novak charged onto stage with a blinking Green Lantern power ring. He first asked if anyone had watched “First Flight” on Preview night. After getting a response, Novak announced 4500 people had attended the screening with 2000 people turned away. A repeat performance of the film was scheduled for Sunday.
The special Blu-Ray edition of “Green Lantern,” due on July 28, will have three hours of bonus content, including a dinner with Novak, Romano, Timm, and voice actor Kevin Conroy.
Novak then introduced the guests from “First Flight,” voice actor Juliet Landau, voice director Andrea Romano, writer Alan Burnett, director Lauren Montgomery, and producer Bruce Timm.
After a clip showing Hal’s first meeting with the Guardians of the Universe, Novak asked the panel how they settled on this particular take on Green Lantern. Burnett responded, “It’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ up in space.” He also noted the similarities between the early history between characters Hal Jordan and Sinestro to the film “Training Day.” The writer explained, “The original Green Lantern was partnered with Sinestro way back when. So I thought, if you put them together and Sinestro has something going on in this rookie’s first week, it could be interesting.” This became key as the film is as much Sinestro’s story as it is that of Hal Jordan.
Lauren Montgomery also directed the previous film, “Wonder Woman.” Novak asked her what the biggest difference between the two films. She quickly responded “location.”
Asked how to cast an alien voice, Romano revealed she chose to cast authentic human voices as opposed to cartoony voices. She said “just act” was a mission statement.
Montgomery credits designer Jose Lopez with the breadth and scope of the various alien designs seen not just in the Green Lantern Corps, but the various alien worlds visited in the film. Montgomery said Lopez has a “ridiculous imagination.”
Following a second clip featuring Landau’s character, Novak asked about the odd Southern twang she gave to the alien character. “When I got the script and I got the drawing, immediately, the voice just came to me,” she said. “Usually, if I do something bold or off the mark, I come up with a back-up.” In this instance, Landau could not find a replacement voice. “Luckily, everybody seemed to think it gelled.”
Mentioning the lead cast of Christopher Meloni, Victor Garber, and Michael Madsen, Romano said she was impressed by their ability to quickly take to the microphone. All three were first time voice actors with the Green Lantern project, and the voice director said her job continues to offer surprises. “You would have thought Christopher Meloni and Victor Garber had worked together for twenty years, but they’d never met each other,” Romano said.
Novak asked about the design for Sinestro, a brawnier diversion from the gaunt comic book villain. “He needed to have a presence, he could beat up Hal if he needed to,” Montgomery said.
Timm also wanted to move away from the more classic design because he did not want the character to look obvious. “I wanted him to be attractive in a way,” the producer explained. “He’s the bad boy you kind of like.” Timm was also asked why Sinestro eventually wears his Sinestro Corps costume instead of the classic blue/black suit. “It looks cooler,” Timm confessed.
After a third clip in which an alien minion is sucked into space, Romano and Timm discussed the memorable scream the character made, provided by voice actor Jim Wise. “To hear the scream that he did in the session was so awesome,” Romano recalled. “He nailed every rotation of the body and he did it one take,” Timm added. Asked how she knows if she has found the right voice, Romano said, “You know in the first five minutes.”
During the Q&A, a Comic-Con attendee who identified himself as “Black Lantern Billy Mays” asked if the older DC Animated Universe – composed of “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Justice League Unlimited” and other shows -- sometimes called the “Timm-verse.” would ever be revisited and if it would focus on Nightwing. Timm said there was “even money” on a Nightwing project, but his DCAU would probably not be revisited anytime soon.
Soon after, a man dressed as Hal Jordan appeared and asked if “First Flight” would have an influence on the live action “Green Lantern” currently in development. Montgomery replied, “We can hope.” Novak noted the production team on that project are “passionate and fans.”
After a trailer for the upcoming “Arkham Asylum” video game, Novak introduced the writer of “Superman/Batman: Public Enemies,” Stan Berkowitz, the film’s director Sam Liu, and producer Michael Goguen. Romano and Timm joined them on stage. Novak then introduced voice actor Clancy Brown, who plays Lex Luthor, as he did in “Superman: The Animated” series and the Justice League shows. The crowd rose to a standing ovation when Batman voice Kevin Conroy walked onto stage.
Following the film’s trailer, Novak asked about bringing the distinctive style of artist Ed McGuiness to animation. “His stuff looks kind of cartoony. I’ve explained his style as animation on steroids,” answered Timm.
In bringing the story from the pages of Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness’ comics to the screen, Liu said he became intrigued with the predicament of Captain Atom and Power Girl in the story, which finds Superman and Batman as fugitives from a US government headed by President Lex Luthor. “He’s really taken Superman’s place,” Liu said of Atom. Berkowitz said the story was easier to adapt than his previous film in the line, “Justice League: the New Frontier.” “It was structured more like what Jeph Loeb described as a popcorn movie.”
Novak asked Conroy how it feels to be everyone’s favorite Batman. After quoting “I am the night,” the voice actor said, “I’ve loved playing this part.” It was the first part in a cartoon the actor tried out for. “It was a lucky guess,” he said.
Clancy Brown initially auditioned for the part of Superman when Timm began work on “Superman: the Animated Series.” The actor -- known for his villainous performances in films liked “Highlander” – said he thought,“It might be nice play a good guy.” Romano asked him to read for Luthor. Though she and Timm had another actor in mind for the art, they switched tracks and hired Brown. “Nice to know I was second choice,” Brown joked.
Asked how it felt to have Brown, Conroy and Superman voice Tim Daly all back in the recording booth, Romano said, “It felt like home.”
Novak then chimed in to announce the rumor about animated short films based on DC characters was indeed true. The line will be called “DC Showcase.” The first film will focus on Jonah Hex. “The title might be familiar to some of you,” he said. “Showcase” was the name of DC’s long running anthology series that featured the first appearances of the Silver Age Flash and Green Lantern.
During the Q&A, Timm was asked if there would ever be a film based on the “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” run from the 1970s, if they would ever work with Jim Lee, and if the animation was done oversees. Timm answered, “Maybe, maybe, overseas.”
“Superman/Batman: Public Enemies” arrives on DVD and Blu-Ray September 29.