NYCC DC Animated Panel

Posted by Jose On October - 19 - 2010

DC Animated: Moving Forward or Going Back?

By: Jose A. Rivera

New York Comic Con held many panels this year. One I was looking forward to in particular was the DC Universe Animated panel. Moderating was Warner Bros Animation’s Greg Miereneau. His guests on the panel? Writer of the animated feature Wonder Woman, Michael Jelenic and DC animation legend Bruce Timm!

They started the panel talking about what gave birth to the next DC Animated feature under the DC Showcase banner, Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam. Timm said the project came about when those at DC Animated wanted to do something new, but were also realistic in getting an established character like Superman or Batman to sell it for marquee value. With that in mind, Captain Marvel was chosen as he’s been shown here in there in animation, but hasn’t been given the chance to shine.

With that, we were shown three clips of the 22-minute animated feature. The first clip showed Superman battling Black Adam in what has to be an impressive battle across the city for animation. The second clip involved what many Captain Marvel fans have been waiting to see in animation for years, a young Billy Batson meeting the Wizard Shazam and having his ancient power bestowed to the young man. The final clip showed Billy first transformation into Captain Marvel while battling Black Adam. All three very impressive.

Reprising their roles on Justice League Unlimited are George Newbern as Superman and Jerry O’Connell as Captain Marvel. Michael Vosloo of The Mummy fame voices Black Adam, while screen legend James Garner plays the wizard Shazam. Amongst the highlights of this panel were Timm and Jelenic’s reverence and excitement for having Garner in the cast.

The theme of this Showcase short is all about what you do when you have power. Timm and Jelenic chose Superman and Black Adam to be opposite ends of the spectrum for Billy; Superman represents what power does when used correctly, while Black Adam represents what power does when used irresponsibly. There was a fun debate as to whether or not Captain Marvel was Billy in an adult body or if Captain Marvel was another person all together. Jelenic tried to keep it vague but said it was Billy. And on the topic of Showcase shorts, both men assured us this is the longest of the Showcase shorts. Sadly, it may be the last.

If that wasn’t enough, we were treated to the opening five minutes of the 10th DC Animated Direct-To-DVD Feature, All-Star Superman. On the whole, I was impressed. Based on the story by Grant Morrison, this feature seems to be one both Timm and DC Animated seems to be the most proud of. Coming this spring, the cast features James Denton as Superman, Anthony Lapalgia as Lex Luthor and Christina Hendricks as Lois Lane. And best of all? Dwayne McDuffie of Justice League Unlimited fame is penning the adaptation.

The opening five minutes, which details Superman rescuing Dr. Quintum’s ship after it’s sabotage by Lex Luthor not only mirrored the story, but Frank Quitely’s art style; something Timm noted took a long time to accomplish as Quitely’s style isn’t easy to mimic in animation. We were then treated to a clip of Clark Kent and Lex Luthor visiting The Parasite, who escapes once he feeds on the power given off by Superman. It’s clear they are pushing the boundary of their PG-13 rating with the amount of violence detailed in that scene alone.

As with all panels, a Q&A session was held. While most of it was ass-kissing towards Bruce Timm, there were three questions I’d like to mention above all else. The first was a question on what happened to the promised third movie in the DC Animated line that didn’t make it: New Titans: The Judas Contract. Bruce Timm had mentioned that the script needed a lot of work and most of the big decision makers felt it wasn’t a bankable idea. Timm also noted that since the Teen Titans animated series had done the story in their style, it wouldn’t make sense to tell almost the exact same story all over again.

The second question posited the idea that since we got All-Star Superman and The New Frontier adapted, would we see other big DC Universe stories like Crisis on Infinite Earths and Kingdom Come get animated adaptations as well. The sad answer is no. Timm explained that Crisis is too big a story to tell, even in a mini-series; there are too many characters and too many stories going on. As for Kingdom Come, he said it couldn’t be seen in traditional 2D animation, because that story relies so much on the art work of Alex Ross that traditional animation couldn’t do it justice. He said maybe someday in a motion capture CGI venture, but not to hold our breaths.

The final question is one I’ve often thought about myself when the announcement that future DC Animated features would stop focusing on other DCU characters like Wonder Woman or Green Lantern, and stick with recognizable names like Superman, Batman and the Justice League. The question was whether or not we’d see some more risks taken with future features. What we got was something of a mixed answer. From a business point of view, having Superman, Batman or the Justice League increases the chance for profit because everyone knows them; sadly both the Wonder Woman and Green Lantern features did not sell well. Wonder Woman sold so poorly that an announcement stated they probably wouldn’t take the chance on another female lead in a DC Animated feature. On a personal level, I’d like to see them break out of their safety zone. I’d like to see more risks taken. But, as it stands, expect to see in the span of a year the following formula: Superman-themed feature, Batman-themed feature and Justice League-themed feature. That’s not to say we won’t get other heroes in these films, but the focus stays on the safe marquee those names represent.

So, it begs the question: with a line that depends on strong sales, is the decision to stay safe with Superman and Batman features keeping the line back from it’s true potential, or is that safety zone just enough to keep it moving forward? Only time will tell.

Look for Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam November 9th, 2010, All-Star Superman in Spring 2010, and after that…Batman: Year One?

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