CCI: Bruce Timm Talks About DC Animated Features

Fri, July 27th, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

TV/Film
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

The name Bruce Timm has been a bench mark for quality in animation for years, and he's finding new ways to challenge himself with "Superman: Doomsday," a new direct-to-DVD project that will be released September 18th. Soon after, Timm will preside over "JLA: New Frontier," an animated feature centering on the Darwyn Cooke's work.

"The comics had this huge sprawling story over two and a half years, that's both a good and a bad thing," Timm said, discussing the differences between the projects. "It's not as coherent a story, but 'New Frontier' was created by one person, intended to be a beginning, a middle and end. 'Death of Superman,' it tangeted off. Even the main thrust of some of the storyline, with the big climax of the comic, we figured it didn't really work cinematically. Sometimes it was just as easy as making a left turn."

Don't expect "Superman: Doomsday" to have familiar voices or even continuity elements from the "Justice League" animated universe. "The Home Video people 'requested' -- air quotes -- to rebrand the property so it was not tied to the previous show's continuity in any way shape or form," Timm explained. "All new models, all new cast. For all intents and purposes, I shouldn't be producing it, but I was available. We just want to do everything different ... We kind of raised the bar on 'Justice League.' We knew we had to step up even further and not make an R-rated Superman."

Which is also why there will be no carry over between animated features. "Every one of these movies we're treating as a standalone," Timm said. "You should not have to know the history of these characters. We need to explain Themiscira, or Oa, or the history of Deathstroke. Each one has to be reestablished, and you don't have to go into this great long back story, but it needs to be clear. Everybody knows Superman's story. Here's these characters, this is our version of these characters, and we're off and running."

What's different about Timm's latest work from how he normally depicted Superman? "A little bit more anatomy, a little bit more detail in his colors, which was really difficult to figure out," Timm said. "It's all cosmetic stuff, if you put 'em both side by side, you'd see how it's different. He's a little more rugged, a little manlier. [Lex] was the easiest one to reimagine. The others are all concrete stereotypes. With Luthor we had a little bit more wiggle room. Duane [Capizzi, the writer of the project] and I were very much influenced by 'Birthright,' especially visually. I was struck by how Leinil Yu drew him, almost gaunt. Personality wise, he's not as bombastic, he's quiet, the word we used to describe him is 'reptilian.'"

When asked if he preferred features over television work, Timm's opinion was divided. "The thing about TV is, I miss the instant gratification of doing the show, sending it out, you get a new show a week. That's kind of fun to me, I really miss that. On these, you get your footage back, you can go back and mess with it, you get lost in the detail. I'm diggin' the less restrictions of working in a PG-13 venue. It's not like 'oh gosh, we can blow people's heads off and show nudity.' With TV, we were always pushing the edges of Y7 rating anyhow. But there was always a certain ceiling we would hit our heads against. If we have to kill a character, bang, they're dead. Woo hoo! We don't have to dance around it. It's nice to be a little bit freer with it. We can be a little bit darker and more adult without anybody freaking out about it."

How far along is "New Frontier?" "We're editing it as we speak," Timm said with some pride. "It looks really good. Beyond that, everything's kind of up in the air. We've got four scripts in active development, one is 'Teen Titans,' the others I can't tell you about. It's a matter of which script we get into shape at first. The ones I really wanna do are the really weird and obscure ones. I'd kind of like to try something really off trail, but there's not a big market for those."

In the mean time, Timm will keep mining for gold with the properties we know and love.

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