Warner Archive hosted a red carpet event and panel at the Paley Center for Media during New York Comic Con to celebrate the Blu-ray release of "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" Season 1, which will be available through the Warner Archive online store November 5. Notable for its humor and light-hearted take on Batman as well as rotating, eclectic cast of heroes and villains, "Brave and the Bold" ran for three seasons on Cartoon Network. CBR News spoke with Diedrich Bader and John DiMaggio, the voices of Batman and Aquaman, respectively, as well as producer John Tucker and voice director Andrea Romano about the series and its place in DC Comics' animated legacy.
Speaking about the origins of "Batman: The Brave and the Bold," producer James Tucker recalled a desire for an animated series that would stand out from what had come before. "'The Dark Knight' was about to come out, we knew we needed a Batman series. The previous series, 'The Batman,' had a slightly darker tone than, say, 'BTAS' ['Batman: The Animated Series], but it was still pretty close to what 'BTAS' had done. And I didn't want to ape 'BTAS' because I really don't think you can compete with that," Tucker said. "I was kind of given the freedom to explore Batman in other ways, and also the mandate was to make it a team show and have Batman able to team up with a lot of characters from the DC Universe. I knew a 'BTAS'-like take on Batman would not work for that, because there are certain characters that don't work for that version of Batman.
"I went back to 'Brave and the Bold,' the comic book's roots. It's a little more action-oriented, a little lighter in tone. That was the original plan and then we kind of went into a more meta direction where we explored Batman as a pop-icon -- the fact that we touched on 'The Dark Knight Returns' and the Schumacher films, the Adam West show, of course… all this stuff we normally couldn't encompass in a series about Batman, that I thought we could take advantage of."
In addition to animated series such as "Brave and the Bold," "Justice League" and "Legion of Super-Heroes," Tucker is also a producer on DC's animated features including "Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox" and the upcoming "Justice League: War." The full-length movies tend to adapt classic storylines while television series have played a bit more loosely with their comic book inspirations, with "Brave and the Bold" and "Teen Titans Go!" being especially a clear divergence from the source. "With TV shows, there's a different mandate because the audience is a lot broader," Tucker said. "You have to appeal to people who don't know the comic books. Whereas the movies, we're mainly gearing them toward fans of the genre, people who know the characters and may be comic book collectors. It's easier to adapt that material to be true to the sources. With the television shows, you kind of have to stretch it a little bit and adapt it even moreso, but I like that because it's giving the fans something different than just translating comic books to screen. Because comic books can do what comic books do, and nothing can do it better; the movie will never compete with the comic books. As a comic book can't compete with a movie; they're totally different. It's better to adapt that material to suite that medium, whether it's intended for film or television or whatever. I personally like to change the material up a little bit and find different layers rather than just replicating it."
Voice director Andrea Romano, also a legend in the field for her work on DC's animated series and features, told CBR News that casting "Brave and the Bold" required looking for a different skill set than would be the case in many of her other projects. "For this particular series, I had to find people who had comedy chops, and that's not really what's required for something like 'Justice League: War,' except the comic characters," she said. "Green Lantern is a lighter character, Flash is a lighter character. But 'Brave and the Bold,' the tone had comedy to it. So while there are some actors who can do comedy and drama, there were some other actors who do comedy, so I kind of had a larger talent pool to call on."
Speaking of "War," Romano said there are a few similarities to "Batman: The Brave and the Bold," despite the more obvious differences. "It's an interesting project. It's a lot more violent than 'Brave and the Bold' was. And there are so many, many more characters," she said. "'Brave and the Bold' was a Batman series, with all of the heroes that he hangs with and all of the villains that he fights. In 'Justice League,' there are so many characters. In this one, it was Darkseid [as the villain] for 'War,' but it's an origin story. You get Cyborg in there, which is great, and all these wonderful characters. They're in the same world, but different animals."
Romano and Diedrich Bader, who played Batman in "Brave and the Bold," both cited the 1960s Adam West TV show as their first and primary exposure to Batman. "The Batman that I really fell in love with was Adam West's. When it took a very different and dark direction, I didn't really go with it," Bader said "I wasn't the biggest fan --I prefered Adam. And this show took that tone I really appreciated."
Though consistent with multiple portrayals of the Dark Knight, including West's, Bader's light-hearted Batman stands out amongst modern versions. "It was interesting, because I talked to Kevin Smith, and this Batman is one of his favorites. Because it was made with real love. We didn't exploit Batman, we never pushed him in a direction he couldn't go, but we did take him in a different direction," Bader said. "And we really reached into the lexicon of superheroes and also the supervillains. Ten Eyes, and Zebra Man, and Crazy Quilt. It was all cool. My son, he's such a comic book fan--he bought the encyclopedia for DC long before I was Batman, and then memorized the whole thing. So for him it was really intense--one, for his dad to be Batman, but two, to see all these characters that he knew and loved and are underutilized. Because generally, it's the rogues gallery, and there's a limit to that."
Bader said, however, that playing the series lead presented some challenges for a comic actor like himself because Batman was often the straight man to more over-the-top characters like John DiMaggio's Aquaman. "What's interesting is the dichotomy between the sense of humor that ran throughout it and the darkness because he is the Dark Knight. Because of the lighter tone, I had some jokes, but I kind of undersold them," Bader said. "The whole thrust of it, especially once we really got into the rhythm of it--Michael Jelenic wrote to this very well--[Batman] has sort of an ironic sense of humor, he's always commenting, because he is such an eloquent person. It's interesting to him, the characters that come into his life. It was frustrating as someone who's done so many broad comedies to not be able to go out there, to have to dial it down. John DiMaggio was having such a good time! Going over the top. I mean, he was fantastic, just really going for it, but I had to undercut everything. So it was interesting. I loved the whole process.
"John as a whole, and the energy of Aquaman is just unbelievable," Bader continued. "I always felt like Batman really genuinely appreciated him and his sense of humor. It was always great to be there with John, John is a great, larger than life character, and he always makes a voiceover session fun. I know every time I work with John it's going to be a good time."
DiMaggio, for his part, clearly enjoyed his role as Aquaman. "Seventy percent of the Earth is water -- I've been saying that since the beginning of the show. He's the man, he's got to get some respect," he said. Then, in his Aquaman voice, "Outrageous!" And as himself again, "He's the man!"
DiMaggio said he was "very fortunate" to have been involved with several major animated series, including his turn as Bender on "Futurama" and "Adventure Time's" Jake as well as "Brave and the Bold." "I think it's funny, because, really, all you have to do is have energy and be focused. If you get it together once, it gets easier each time," he said. "You're creating your own universe within the universe. If [Aquaman's] narcissism is important to the outcome of the whole product…! Once you kinda get what you're doing together, you can really bounce off of people. Because once you're sure, everybody else is sure. I think that's a pretty big key."
As to what form that "bouncing off" takes, DiMaggio said, in his best imitation of Bader, "I actually have a pretty good Diedrich Bader [impression]." "I used to bust his chops," DiMaggio continued in his own voice. "When he couldn't be there because of scheduling stuff, I would go ahead and sub for him and people would be like, that's too funny. And I would do it in front of him and he'd be embarrassed, red-faced, 'Do I really sound like that?' Come on, dude, you're awesome! But Diedrich is great, it was great working with him -- he's such a wonderful talent and a generous actor. An actor's actor, a really funny guy."
But will the Blu-ray include DiMaggio-as-Bader outtakes? "Never!" DiMaggio laughed. "Never gonna make it!"