There’s a change coming to the DC Tooniverse, and not just with the cancellation of Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series, but in terms of the continuing series of made for Blu-ray/DVD films that began with Superman Doomsday in 2007 and will next be represented by this May’s Superman Unbound. Most notably, Bruce Timm, who has been guiding the vast majority of things DC animated since the debut of Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, has stepped down from his position as producer, initially to have focused his energies on GL and, more significantly, to develop some of his own projects. Stepping into his place as supervising producer is James Tucker.
Tucker, of course, is no newbie to this world having served as producer of Justice League, Legion of Super Heroes and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. He’s also been credited as a director on Batman Beyond, Static Shock, Legion of Super Heroes and, currently, Superman Unbound.
“Bruce had done a lot since Justice League Unlimited ended,” explains Tucker, “so it’s been quite a haul. I can’t speak for him, but I think going out on Dark Knight Returns was a special thing for him. If he was going to make the break, that seemed like a good time.”
Tucker emphasizes that his goal is to keep things going in the “right” direction, living up to the reputation of what’s preceded him in this role. At the same time, on a personal level, he hopes to “shake things up a bit.”
“I’d love to use more of a variety of characters, but that’s something I don’t have control over,” he says. “Granted Dark Knight Returns was long overdue to be adapted and I’m glad they did it and did it superbly. But beyond that, I’m not really interested in replicating, image by image, word for word, something that was in a comic book, because you can’t replicate that experience or feeling. You’re basically getting a secondary experience, so you have to make it your own in order to make it work as a movie. Creating films in which people are going through it with a checklist saying, ‘Okay, they took that out, they took that out…” I’m not interested in doing anything like that.”
For some fans who have been following the animated films, there is a growing frustration over the fact that the vast majority of the flicks center around Batman or Justice League, and then Superman, with many other characters not getting the same kind of opportunity to be featured. Of course there have been attempts, most notably with Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and even the collection of short films, DC Showcase, but the responding sale figures didn’t support the idea of such forays. Tucker, for his part, believes that there’s a creative way around this particular challenge.
“I can’t go into specifics,” he says, “but I have a feeling when we announce our next slate of movies, people are going to be very excited because we will be using Batman, Superman and Justice League as a gateway to exposing other characters.”
One example he can refer to is the already announced Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, which will take a Flash-centric approach. “I can’t think of any other classic DC stories that I want to adapt, and I’m not big on adapting stuff anyway. Once you’ve done Dark Knight Returns, that’s the ultimate DC adaptation. So my attitude is, ‘OK, this leaves me open to doing interpretations of characters and stories,’ so what we’ll be doing with Flashpoint is kind of changing the dynamic a little bit. Doing things that are based on characters and situations from the comics, but not literal adaptations. They’ll be more like original stories along the lines of what we did with Green Lantern: First Flight and Wonder Woman. There won’t be as many literal adaptations. That’s a step in the right direction, because this is a Flash focused story, and it’s probably the only Flash focused story that would sell, because there is a version of the Justice League involved.
“Our challenge,” he continues, “is that people want us to do these other characters, but if they don’t sell that threatens the whole line. So the way to do it is to be smart. If we know we’re going to use Superman, Batman and the Justice League, how do we use them as gateways to these other characters? If Batman, Superman and Justice League bring in the average person who’s not a comic book fan, once you have them you insert a Huntress or a secondary character like Oracle as a means of introducing them to more of the world. But you’re not going to be able to do an Oracle movie. Unfortunately the Green Lantern and Wonder Woman movies didn’t perform like we would have liked them to, even though I thought they were among the best we’ve done.”
There will be other changes in forthcoming releases, all part of Tucker’s desire to bring a sense of continuing evolution to the line. “I want our movies to feel like contemporary movies you’d see in a theatre,” he muses, “so that means even changing up the way we do the main titles. I want more variety in how we do things and in the types of things we do. I’d love to do a DC comic that is humorous, like Justice League International. And that could be a possibility down the line. The title Justice League is a selling point now. It works on its own so even if you don’t have Superman and Batman in it – okay, Batman’s in it and we could probably find a way to put Superman in it — it would work. Besides, we wouldn’t adapt a literal story from the run. That’s just an example of what I mean. Not every superhero movie has to be the same type of movie with the same kind of tone. There’s different ways to bend the genre. It’s good to mix up the format and not just do the same kind of heavy story. I want them to feel like different types of movies. Who wants to see exactly the same type of movie every time we do one of these?”