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Latest 'Justice League' Animation Twists Traditional Superheroes

15 Jul, 2015 By: John Latchem

SAN DIEGO — The creators of the new animated movie Justice League: Gods and Monsters set out with the goal of reinventing several iconic superheroes.

The film, executive produced by animation legend Bruce Timm, presents an alternate reality of the DC Universe, in which darker versions of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman may be responsible for the deaths of some of the world’s top scientists.

“I think part of the fun aspects of these ‘what if’ kind of stories is, everyone knows the origin stories,” Timm said. “You can go down that path and start off with that traditional origin story, and then now we’re going this [other] way. It’s just kind of fun to kick the table over and see what happens.”

Justice League: Gods and Monsters is available now digitally and on Blu-ray and DVD July 28 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The film features the voices of Benjamin Bratt as Superman, Michael C. Hall as Batman, Tamara Taylor as Wonder Woman, Paget Brewster as Lois Lane and C. Thomas Howell as Dr. Will Magnus.

Many of the filmmakers and cast converged to promote the film July 10 at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con International, where it was screened to an enthusiastic crowd.

“The traditional versions of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are really rich characters and there’s tons and tons and tons of stories that we can still do with those characters even after all these years,” Timm said. “But this being a tangent universe where these characters are really Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in name only, we can do anything with these characters.”

“This one was special because it’s an original story, which appealed to me a lot because we all go to throw out our preconceived notions of what Batman sounds like or what Superman sounds like,” said dialogue director Andrea Romano.

This film’s Superman, for example, is the son of the villainous Zod, while Batman has a blood disease that requires him to drink blood to stay alive.

“From a very early age Batman was always my favorite superhero, and part of it was just because he looked really cool,” Timm said. “He’s got the coolest costume in all of comics. He’s wearing a fucking Dracula outfit. So it makes sense to make him literally a vampire Batman.”

The idea for presenting reimagined versions of the characters has its roots in comic book history. Characters such as the Flash and Green Lantern were much different characters when they were created, but were reinvented in the 1950s into the versions they are best known as today.

“Bruce has been doing this for 20 years; I think he’s told every hero story you could possibly think of,” said director Sam Liu. “At a certain point you have to change the characters so they have different motivations.”

The alternate take on the characters’ origins and the darker tone left many of the cast members confused about how to play them.

“I went in with a preconceived notion and they pretty quickly said to let that go and we’re going to create something entirely new,” Taylor said. “We need a little more moxy, sex her up a little. There was some interesting direction.”

“I didn’t know what was happening,” Brewster said. “I was confused because this movie is an alternate reality, and everyone’s origin story is different. So who they are as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, they’re very different from the characters that I know and have seen.”

Brewster appreciated that Lois Lane was more or less the same as her traditional counterparts.

“Lois Lane was still doing her thing, but our superheroes are altered, and Lois Lane believes they are villains, and she does not like Superman at all,” Brewster said. “She had to remain the same Lois Lane for the audience to see how all of our superheroes are different and what those new altered origin stories are and how they became that way.”

Screenwriter Alan Burnett said using alternate versions of the characters was a great way to explore the nature of heroism in a world of beings who possess superhuman abilities.

“I am not one who thinks that genetics will make you good or bad,” Burnett said. “If these characters had this much power, and would they end up protecting us or in the end would they end up ruling us? This is a question about what if you have heroes who were right on the edge, if they fell off that edge, how bad would it be?”

Liu said that when he first read the script, he wasn’t sure how much the darker take would fly with fans.

“I think in the beginning for a lot of us we were very skeptical,” said Liu. “This is very different. [But] the further we went along, we were pretty engaged with the story. What’s going to happen next?”

For Howell, the idea that even heroes could cross the line sometimes played to his sensibilities as an actor.

“I do enjoy playing the villains a lot because I like to find the humanity in their faults and their flaws,” Howell said. “Superheroes are better when their flaws are exposed, and a lot of them have a lot of flaws.”

“They all are tragic. And they all come together,” Burnett said. “It’s my feeling that the government named them Justice League so that we’d accept them more as helpers and there’d be a partnership with them, but there’s nothing much Justice Leaguey about them.”

Taylor said she hopes the film is successful enough to spawn a sequel.

“I think this take on these particular characters was really cool,” Taylor said. “I think there’s so many places that they could go with that.”

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