"Figuring" It Out: Designing a New Animated Justice League
Welcome to Wednesday, DC fans and collectors! We’re celebrating the Justice League this week on DCComics.com, and all of us here at DC Collectibles wanted in on the action.
That’s right, action. As in action figures.
As you may know, this year we’re releasing a new line of action figures based on Justice League: War and the new line of DC Universe animated movies it launches. This line, which also includes the upcoming Son of Batman, pulls from DC Comics – The New 52 and establishes a new continuity for DC Entertainment’s animated features. We thought that was worth celebrating, so we sat Justice League: War producer James Tucker and designer Phil Bourassa down for a few questions about the film, the new animated universe, the updated designs and which of their other DC animated characters they’d like to see as action figures.
So this version of the Justice League will be seen in other upcoming DC Universe Original Animated Movies? Is this Batman the same one we’ll be seeing later this year in Son of Batman?
James Tucker: Yes. Both series will share the same Batman design and voice actor and be in general continuity with each other.
Phil Bourassa: Justice League: War is the jumping off point for our new line of DC animated films, so yes, we will definitely be seeing more of this version of the league in the future. And yes indeed, it’s the same Batman in both films. Same design, same voice actor. He wears his cape a little differently in Son of Batman, but that’s really the only difference.
When redesigning characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern that are so loved, is it at all nerve-racking?
PB: It totally is! I find it can be really tough to measure up to people’s expectations when you are working on such beloved icons. Every fan of the DC characters has a version in their head that, to them, is the perfect representation of Superman, Wonder Woman or Batman and it’s nearly impossible to compete with the nostalgia associated with those versions, whether they are considered classics or not. In the end we just try to be as respectful as possible to the traditions of the characters while still trying to give them our own unique spin.
JT: I would say that yes, redesigning well known characters is challenging. Whether it’s nerve-racking really depends on how far you’re moving from the source material. On Batman: The Brave and the Bold, I stuck very closely to the original versions of the characters when they first appeared in most instances. On Justice League: War, I encouraged Phil to use aspects from the comics that worked for animation but to also use his own instincts when it came to giving characters a fresh spin that will be unique to our line of movies and independent of the comic book versions. Phil’s dynamite and new, original Wonder Woman design is a perfect example.
How did you arrive at these designs for this series of films?
JT: While we weren’t mandated to ape Jim Lee’s designs, we did want to pull enough elements from them so that comic book fans would recognize them as being an influence. We aren’t strictly adapting The New 52 line content-wise, but we are taking cues from it to launch our own continuity.
PB: We definitely took a lot of cues from the current look of the characters costumes as they appear in the comics. Using the Justice League: Origins graphic novel as a starting point, we knew we would want to hit certain fairly obvious landmarks, like losing the trunks on the costumes and giving Superman the high collar and the red piping. From there we approach the design from a practical standpoint of what works well for the medium of animation, how much detail we can get away with and what we may need to abandon for the sake of economy, things like that. We always consider what elements have worked well for us on previous projects and also try to play to the strengths of the overseas animation team. Really with this project, it was about creating a look that will serve as a foundation for our future projects while still leaving room for us to refine our formula as we go.
With Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Shazam! receiving the action figure treatment, are there other characters from the animated universe you’d like to see in the action figure form?
JT: From Justice League: War and The Flashpoint Paradox, I’d love to see Ocean Master, Flashpoint Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Martha Wayne Joker, Yo-Yo and Cyborg. From Son of Batman: Damian, Killer Croc, Ra’s Al Ghul and Deathstroke. And from Assault on Arkham, definitely King Shark and Harley.
PB: The Villains of course! An interesting thing about these movies is it seems like we have the most fun coming up with the look of the bad guys. I think that’s partly because when we are drawing the almost godlike icons from the Justice League, there is less wiggle room with how we can legitimately depict them, and if we deviate too much from the traditions, we are probably doing them wrong. The heroes kind of have to be perfect and so there is less room to play. The villains on the other hand can be more pushed and generally have a wider range of silhouettes and shapes that work. Their looks are not so set in stone, so we tend to come up with some pretty fun and original stuff for them. It would be cool to see figures based on our version of the Parademons, Desaad, Deathstroke or Ra’s al Ghul.
Finally, which members of the Justice League are your favorite?
JT: From Justice League: War, I’d say Wonder Woman and Cyborg.
PB: I guess Superman has always been my favorite. I like Aquaman and The Flash a lot too.