At Comic-Con International in San Diego, actors Anthony Ruivivar ("Batman"), JC Blanc ("Alfred"), and producers Mitch Watson and Glen Murakami held court for fans of Cartoon Network and DC Nation's newly-debuted "Beware the Batman." But before the panelist discussed the new series, the crowd was treated to an advance screening of an episode featuring the villain Humpty Dumpty and an appearance by Barbara Gordon, whose possible fate was hinted at later during the panel.
Despite his comical name and appearance, Humpty Dumpty is quite chilling, placing human hostages inside diabolical war machines. The episode's B-story deals with Alfred confronting Katana's association with Ra's al Ghul and her experience with the legendary "Soultaker" sword. The episode was met with strong applause at the end.
The panelists immediately explained their desire to focus on lesser-known villains in Batman's rogues gallery who have not been adapted into animated or live-action media yet. For example, the cartoon version of Anarky will be developed into a major threat. While the comic book version of the character was more of an anti-hero and has only made sporadic appearances since his introduction, his incarnation in "Beware the Batman" is a villainous mastermind who will act as an antithesis to the Dark Knight.
Fans of all ages asked if familiar villains would be introduced at all, perhaps in pre-costume identities. Would Edward Nygma appear as an employee of Wayne Enterprises? Could Oswald Cobblepot be seen in Bruce Wayne's social circles? The answer to these suggestions and similar questions was "no," resulting in a mix of reactions. Likewise, there are no plans for Robin. According to producer Mitch Watson, "we wanted to find villains that would highlight whatever was happening emotionally with the characters in that particular episode."
"We looked at a lot of the original Batman comics, and it's kind of been the same thing for a long time," producer Glen Murakami added. "With the new villains, it's actually shedding new light on Batman. We're really trying to let the show play as something new, something different."
On the show's atmosphere and the design of Gotham City, Murakami said, "We made a decision not to do gothic, and to go more modern. A lot of TV animation is really lit and bright and we wanted to try to light it more like a film." He added that action films from the 1960s and '70s were a major influence on how the show is directed.
Actor Anthony Ruivivar said that in playing the part of Bruce Wayne, he often focuses on the character's youth and inexperience. "Batman's only in his thirties, so he's not, you know, the jaded, kinda indestructible, rough Batman. You see Alfred kind of training and really pushing Bruce/Batman in the new territory."
"If you've got a younger Batman, you've got a younger Alfred, really," JB Blanc added. "The relationship between him and Bruce is very fundamentally true to the history of the franchise… There's a lot of fun between them. Alfred is forever trying to make Bruce eat a good meal, but all he wants to do is eat a protein shake."
"It started with, what if Alfred's not really the butler?" Murakami said, explaining their new approach to Alfred's character and the emphasis on his time as an MI6 field agent. Alfred was designed to look "meaner and cooler," inspired primarily by Sean Connery's performance in the movie "The Untouchables" and on British actor Harry Andrews.
And while there are no plans to include Robin in the show's cast, other DC heroes will be making appearances, including Katana's fellow Outsider Metamorpho. As for Barbara Gordon, Watson wouldn't confirm whether or not she would assume her Batgirl identity any time soon., though he did share "something is going to happen to Barbara Gordon. This girl is sort of obsessed with Batman and wants to follow in her father's footsteps but is a little too anxious and maybe a little too smart for her own good. And we get to see what happens when she pushes herself into places where she probably shouldn't be," comments which led to suspicious murmurs in the audience, with one person audibly suggesting "Killing Joke."