Bruce Timm on his previous statements: “I went on record many times saying I would never, ever do Justice League. All I can say is be careful what you promise (courtesy of Starlog Magazine)!”
Bruce Timm on Justice League #1: “After working on the Superman and Batman series for the last several years, Justice League is a great opportunity to develop those characters a step further and bring more of the iconic DC Comics superheroes to life. I am looking forward to exploring whole new realms of the superhero world (courtesy of [website name removed]).”
Jean MacCurdy (President of Warner Bros. Animation) on Bruce Timm: “I can think of no one more appropriate or qualified to bring the [Justice League] to life than Bruce Timm. As he so brilliantly demonstrated with Batman and Superman, he is passionate about creating an entertaining and dynamic series that will thrill the legions of [Justice League] fans everywhere, as well as introduce a whole new generation of fans to these classic characters as they come together in a brand new series (courtesy of [website name removed]).”
Betty Cohen (President of Cartoon Network Worldwide) on Justice League: “We know from our experience of airing Superfriends for years on Cartoon Network here in the U.S. and around the world that Justice League will have a vast, built-in audience hungry for an exciting new look at these classic characters (courtesy of [website name removed]).”
Excerpts from the Justice League Panel at the 2001
Bruce Timm: Justice League is Superfriends for a new generation. If you’re familiar with what we’ve done in the past with Batman and Superman, you kind of know what to expect and what we’re going to do with these characters. It’s a very traditional approach to the Justice League: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, and, of course, the Martian Manhunter. This is such a big thing for the comic book fans, for DC Comics, and for us that we just wanted to make sure we do the show right. And based on what we’ve seen—other attempts to do this kind of show in the past in cartoons—we just felt we should go with the big guns, and put the “big seven” up there.
It’s a pretty big action-filled show. One of the things that we’ve realized early on with this show is that when you get this much super power in one group you have to up the ante. You can’t just have them fighting a bunch of thugs in a warehouse anymore. So we’ll be tossing planets and stuff at them all the time. It makes the show difficult, but fun to do.
Rich Fogel: A lot of the decisions we made about how to approach the characters had to do with putting together a group dynamic so that each character has a specific role and we understand how they fit in and how they react to one another. In Superfriends—not to put it down—but, a lot of times, they were just “the good guys” and they were pretty much interchangeable in terms of what they did or how they reacted to things. We’re trying to get really specific with what their concerns are and what issues they care about. It’s like The West Wing with super powers.
Bruce Timm: When we first started the show—obviously we all read JLA comics off and on our whole lives—but when we got this assignment to do this show we went back and did some serious [research] and went back and read thousands of JLA comics…and not just JLA comics but any team comic—Fantastic Four and the Avengers and everything. But, early on, when we were looking at the very original JLA comic—the Gardner Fox era—they’re full of charms. We all love them to pieces, but they don’t really work for what we want to do because the characters really are interchangeable. The only way you can tell the characters apart is by what colors they’re wearing and what powers they have. And going in the opposite end of the spectrum—the more recent Grant Morrison stuff—we were looking at it thinking, “Wow, this stuff is pretty serious and pretty intense for a mainstream American audience. There are going to be kids and younger watching this.” So we had to find a balance between all that stuff. If anything, we’re probably going a little bit more towards the Grant Morrison version, but it’s not as dark and not as complicated as that. The thing we found with the Grant Morrison comic books that we liked was that the group was a little bit more of a dysfunctional family—not that they bicker all the time, but we don’t want them just to get along and be the happy Superfriends all the time.
By the way, you guys do know that the show is in an extended format, right? This is not just a half-hour show. We had so many characters to play with and we wanted to up the ante on the scale and the action, so we decided early on to do extended storylines, so every episode is one part of a two-parter or a three-parter. The series premiere is actually a three-parter.
Courtesy of Revolution Science Fiction and Comics2Film.
Bruce Timm on Justice League #2: “Whenever I [went] to conventions or store appearances, that’s the number one question [I’d] get from everybody: ‘When are you guys going to do the Justice League? When are you going to do the Justice League?’ Hopefully, they’ll be happy (courtesy of [website name removed]).”
Bruce Timm on Justice League #3: “Well, Batman Beyond was drawing to a close and we knew weren’t going to be doing any more of those, so one of our executives at Warner Bros. in development suggested this might be a good time to do the Justice League. So I said, ‘OK, we’ll give it a shot.’ I called up Michael Lazzo, [Cartoon Network’s senior vice president of programming], whom I had an acquaintance with—in the past he mentioned he wanted us to do something for him—so I called him up and said, ‘We’re thinking about doing a Justice League show,’ and he said, ‘Great, how many do you want to do?’ It was like, shoot, now we’re in business—now we’ve got to do it. And that was it (courtesy of [website name removed]).”
Bruce Timm on Cartoon Network: “It’s great to be on Cartoon Network. They leave us very much alone—we get almost no creative notes from them. Basically, we hand them in a script and they say, ‘Great!’ We get very little Broadcast Standards & Practices notes. Obviously, the usual thing about you can’t kill this character or you can’t say this—‘Can you say destroy instead of kill?’—things like that. But so far, they’ve been a breeze to work with. Knock wood (courtesy of [website name removed]).”
on creating the team’s roster: “The
biggest problem I had with the Avengers show that Marvel did a couple of
years ago was that it wasn’t really the main Avengers.
It was an okay show, but when you say ‘Avengers’ you want Iron Man,
dropping the “of
Bruce Timm on leadership roles: “[The team] will have no leader. Early on, we agreed we didn’t want one character being the leader of the Justice League. You might think that we would obviously make Superman the leader, because in comics he’s the king of superheroes, but we really fought against making him the guy ordering everybody around. There is no Captain Kirk on the show because we have a team of seven Captain Kirks! Dramatically, it’s more interesting that way. There will be times when Wonder Woman takes charge, or Green Lantern. It’s constantly shifting (courtesy of Starlog Magazine).”
Bruce Timm on the Justice League’s designs: “When you call a show ‘Justice League,’ you automatically think, ‘Okay, you’re going to see Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman…and the other one’s as well.’ And this is going to be your only time to see these characters for the next twenty years or so in an animated cartoon, so you better get them right. So they need to kind of be their iconic versions.
“Drawing is not easy, you know! Sometimes it may look easy, because we’ve been at it for so long, but every single character is a design challenge (courtesy of Justice League: Justice on Trial DVD).”
Rich Fogel on continuity with the previous shows: “We’re always mindful of continuity, but we won’t be slaves to it. Justice League is a totally different series from Batman or Superman, and we can’t assume that all of our audience will be familiar with everything that happened in those other shows. Still, there are threads that bind these shows together. When Luthor appears in 'Injustice For All,' he’s clearly stepped right out of Superman. However, don’t hold your breath waiting for Kyle Rayner to show up (courtesy of Toon Zone)!”
Bruce Timm on style: “The events that take place in [this] show are so much larger than life than what happens in Batman. Batman—it was a fairly mundane adventure just in the fact that it was a non-superpowered human fighting non-superpowered villains for the most part—so we were able to stylize the backgrounds more to give the show more visual interest. Whereas with this show, we’ve got a goddess and a guy from Krypton and a guy from Mars and a space cop—all teamed up together. So there’s a lot of visual POW right there already. We felt the fact that these characters are already so larger than life, we should try to make the setting of the Earth look a little more realistic, so it will feel a little more believable, if that makes sense. So we’re going for a little bit more of a…it’s not really photographic or photo-realistic, but it’s a little bit more of a realistic background (courtesy of [website name removed]).”
Bruce Timm on pacing: “We learned a lot about staging scenes with a lot of characters in them [from Batman Beyond’s episode 'The Call,' which featured the JLU]. We especially learned a lot of what not to do. It drove us crazy in the editing room because a lot of times you look at something on the storyboard and you think it works fine, and then you get the film back and you're going, ‘Oh my God, we’re panning all over the place trying to keep all these characters in motion at the same time.’ So that was a good learning experience (courtesy of [website name removed]).”
Bruce Timm on the Justice League’s “roll call”: “The entire seven will probably not be in very many episodes at all. It’s hard when you get that many characters in a show to give everybody their due. It’s really hard—you have to focus on a smaller group of characters to really make it play. Even though we have an hour-long format to play with, it’s not enough—a lot of times, we’ll get to the end of a script and say, ‘Gosh, we didn’t give anything for Manhunter or Wonder Woman to do. Why are they even in this show?’ So, for the most part, we’re breaking the team into smaller groups. But they’re all in the pilot, they’re all in ['Injustice For All'], and there will be other stories where we have to get all of them together, but for the most part it’s not something we’ll do (courtesy of [website name removed]).”
Bruce Timm on membership privileges: “We decided to use only ‘classic’ Justice League characters, rather than the more offbeat later members. So there’s no Blue Beetle or Booster Gold, no Guy Gardner. We wanted to stick with ‘the Big Seven' (courtesy of Starlog Magazine).”
Bruce Timm on corn: “This is not R-rated Superfriends by any means. At a fundamental level there is a Superfriends element to these characters: brightly colored demigods banding together to fight evil. There’s a heaping helping of corn in there. As much as we try to fight Superfriends, sometimes we just have to surrender to it (courtesy of TV Guide).”
Bruce Timm’s promise (circa 2001): “Justice League will be a great show. I know we won’t be able to please everybody, because everyone has a favorite [interpretation] of [the] Justice League, be it the Garner Fox, Keith Giffen, or Grant Morrison eras. But we’re pulling bits and pieces from all those different eras. I’m happy with what we’ve done with all the characters, and I think viewers will too (courtesy of Starlog Magazine)."
Bruce Timm on Justice League's origins (circa 2004): "Some of it had to do with coming to the end of one project and wondering what we were going to do next. We were already starting to lose some of our people because we were wrapping up on Batman Beyond and knew we weren't going to do any more. You know, you can't afford to keep people on if you don't have any work. So, that was part of it, and another part of it was there had been a resurgence of the Justice League in the comics in the very recent past. Grant Morrison had done his—it really wasn't so much a revamp of the Justice League, it was more of a back-to-basics approach and giving it a modern twist—version of the Justice League, which got a lot of fan reaction and, obviously, sales spikes. At the same time that got us interested in doing the show, it got the fans rabid. All along, ever since the very beginning of Batman: the Animated Series, that was something people kept saying: 'When are you going to do Justice League? When are you going to do the Justice League?' And then Grant's version came out and then people really wanted to see an animated Justice League.
"At that point it was like, 'Well, you've got to bow to the inevitable,' and, with some hesitation, knowing how difficult the show was going to be, we said, 'Okay, let's do it.' We called Mike Lazzo, who's the head of programming at Cartoon Network, and I barely got the words out of my mouth before he said, 'Fine, let's do it.' It was a very easy pitch.
"[Season One] ended up being more Silver Age then we really intended. When I look back on the first season now, it feels very Silver Age to men, and some of it was intentional and some of it wasn't. Despite what I said about about us wanting to make sure the characters were all, personality-wise, different from each other, there is a certain kind of blandness, I think, in the first season. I think the character dynamics weren't quite what we could have done with them, we could have mixed it up even more.
"Part of it was maybe a reaction to what had happened with Batman Beyond and Return of the Joker [...] Batman Beyond was supposed to be a kids' show and it really wasn't. It seemed to me—and maybe it was a reaction to Superfriends—that Justice League would lend itself to be much more of a kid-friendly show than what we had done on Batman Beyond or even the regular Batman show. So, without trying to dumb it down or anything, I think we were making a conscious effort to make it a little more of a family-friendly show, but unfortunately by pulling back on some of the more adult storylines, we didn't really replace it with anything. The shows really have no edge at all, very little. Something of a blandness set in with the show. We made steps to remedy that situation in Season Two, and to the point where I think the Season Two episodes make a much better show across the board. We're constantly calling it 'new, improved Justice League (courtesy of Modern Masters, Volume Three: Bruce Timm).”
Bruce Timm on Justice League's origins (circa 2005): "One of the things we toyed with at the time was doing a Superman show that was half Superman and half the Justice League, where it was almost a Superman team-up show. At that point, when we talked about doing a back door Justice League show, some of the lineup we picked for that pitch were not the standard Justice League characters. I don't think Flash was in it, John Stewart was. Wonder Woman wasn't in it. So it was much more the kind of Justice League that was going on in the comics world at that time. You have to remember that the classic lineup of the Justice League wasn't really in existence in the early '90s. That's one thing I'll give Grant Morrison a lot of credit for. He was the one who went to DC and said, 'You know, if you want to revitalize Justice League, you've got to go back to the original seven, that core iconic group,' and he was right. By the time we got around to doing the actual Justice League show, Grant Morrison's idea had already implemented in the comics and we looked at that and said, 'Yeah, that's a really smart idea.' And we also learned from Marvel's mistake.
"When Marvel did their Avengers show in the '90s, they made a radical mistake by not having the Avengers be Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man, plus the other guys. They made it just the other guys, and anybody who's a comic book fan, when they hear there's an Avengers show, you want to see the big three and you feel a little bit cheated when you don't see them. All of these things were going through our minds when we decided on the lineup for Justice League. Really, the only ones that were even somewhat controversial among ourselves was which Green Lantern to choose. Hawkman or Hawkgirl? I instantly voted for Hawkgirl. It was purely an aesthetic thing; I have just always loved the Hawkgirl costume and the design of her helmet. I also thought we could afford to have an extra girl on the team, joining Wonder Woman.
"In the end, and despite the fact that a number of heroes were considered for the lineup, the final members of the Justice League were Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, J'onn J'onzz, Green Lantern (John Stewart), the Flash, and Hawkgirl. There wasn't a whole lot of argument going on. We all decided very quickly and easily on the lineup and from that point on it was just a matter of sitting down, talking about the characters and saying, 'These are who we're going to use. What do they do? What about their characters informs the way they act?'
"Basically we wanted to keep the show to the core seven the first two seasons. We wanted to keep it limited, because the majority of the episodes didn't have all seven of them in it. There were just too many damn characters. They won't get enough screen time to make an impact if there's seven of them every single episode. Somebody would have to be Chekov; somebody would be saying, 'Hailing frequencies open, Captain.' So we always had to pare it down.
"They were basically the same guy wearing different colors with slightly different powers. That's why even in Season One we tried to make sure the characters were very individual from each other. Sometimes you go for the easy stereotype—Green Lantern is the hardcore military guy, Flash is the goofball young guy, Wonder Woman is the stuck-up Amazon princess, Hawkgirl is the battle-ready whatever. You start with those broad characteristics and then try to add more flavors to them so that they're more dimensional. In Season Two, we tried to expand on that even more.
"There is something cool about seeing these heroes team up. God knows why, because it doesn't really make sense. It doesn't even work dramatically in a lot of ways, but going back to the Golden Age and the Justice Society, they somehow struck gold when they started teaming those characters up. As cool as it is to see Batman and Superman by themselves, you get them together with Green Lantern and Hawkman, and suddenly it's cooler. I don't know why we have this desire to see these guys team up, but it's cool and there's no denying it (courtesy of RetroVision CD-ROM Magazine).”
Rich Fogel on Justice League (circa 2005): "[Originally] they had their own origins, their own universe, and their own lives—it wasn't like the Fantastic Four where those characters were designed specifically to go together. Or the X-Men. If you look at the early Justice League comic books, they threw them together without much attention to detail, and everybody ended up being the sort of generic good guy. There was no personality, no dynamic between them. So one of the big challenges we had in the first season was, we're putting this group together, what niche are they going to fill? How are they going to play off of each other? Our early conception of Superman was that he was this sincere boy scout, the guy who has a moral standard, knows what he's doing and believes what he's doing and all of that. That let other characters play off of his point of view. As we moved into the second season, we were able to begin shading that more. I think that applies to Wonder Woman and Green Lantern as well. We were able to get more facets and shades of gray into their characters and approaches. But none of that would have worked if we hadn't done the set up we did in the first season. The audience needs to understand specifically who these characters are and how they relate to each other. A lot of effort in the first season went into the laying of that groundwork.
"It was a real challenge coming up with stories that were big, and coming up with with jeopardies that were important enough to engage the entire League was really quite different. It was some of the hardest writing I ever had to do. At the same time, it was very liberating, because when you were writing Superman or Batman in the half-hour format, you knew that everything had to be sort of short-cut and sort of pushed into the half-hour format and it limited what you could do. This was the opening up of a whole new thing, and I think that it was really one of the most ambitious things that have ever been attempted in animation for television. Maybe some of the stories we could have compressed into half an hour, but it somehow makes it bigger, grander, more important if you can take the time to tell the story. There was a varying level of success but, again, the ambition of what we were trying to do was on a level that nobody had ever done before.
"I don't think people understand that doing Justice League, even though it was part of the DC Universe, was a whole different kettle of fish than doing Batman or Superman; there you're dealing with one hero in what is essentially a realistic universe where they have secret identities and regular people on the street. As soon as you have a whole group of superpowered characters running around, it sort of shifts the spectrum. Finding a way to make that so it's palatable and acceptable to a mainstream audience is really hard work. You really need to find those human aspects of those characters so that people can care about them and can relate to them.
"Our sort of mandate as we started it was, 'This isn't Superfriends,' but when we got the first footage back, there were certain shots of them all standing around in their uniforms, and you're, like, 'Gosh, it looks like Superfriends.' And it's not that there weren't things we liked about Superfriends—I'm not disparaging what they did at the time, but we were trying to do a whole new take on it (courtesy of RetroVision CD-ROM Magazine).”
Bruce Timm on Season One (circa 2005): "Some of the first season shows I think were really good, but we had so many challenges inherent in the show. So many balls juggling in the air, and inevitably some of them dropped. One of those balls was that I felt the dialogue could have been better throughout. The stories, for the most part, were real solid superhero shows, but we didn't always take the time to give the dialogue that little bit of extra polish to make those episodes sing as nicely as some of our previous series. I think there was a little bit of over-reliance on typical superhero cliché speak throughout Season One. When we got to Season Two, that was something that we really made sure we addressed. Basically what that meant was that we went through many drafts of each script; nothing is ever completely perfect, but we would not let go of the scripts until they were as close as they could be in the time allotted, and sometimes beyond that time. We just wanted to make sure that every bit of dialogue was as fresh as we could make it without so much of the 'Look out!' [and] 'They must be stopped!' and other examples of superhero jargon.
James Tucker on Season One (circa 2005): "We had to figure out how we wanted to do it and, at the time, we didn't have a lot of time to figure it out. I think originally we erred on the side of broadness. Our ideas were, 'Superman is the boy scout,' so that kind of meant we pushed him even farther away from what he was in his own series and, in hindsight, made him a little bland. Wonder Woman is the princess, Hawkgirl is the tomboy, Green Lantern is the no-nonsense military guy, Batman is Batman—he's probably the only one who didn't get that compromised due to the force of his personality. We kept it very broad and not as far removed from Superfriends as we probably should have. The first season is very basic and that was actually conscious; we didn't feel there was time to give depth to each character. We thought we were going to be doing big operatic shows that were all about the big story, and not really deal with the private lies, the romantic lives, and all that. Even though we set up certain things, like the Green Lantern and Hawkgirl romance, from the start, the stories were very basic. Unfortunately, in hindsight, the stories could have been a lot more character-driven and deeper. It's good for what it is, but I think we definitely upped the situation in Season Two (courtesy of RetroVision CD-ROM Magazine).”
James Tucker on Season One Superman (circa 2005): "Superman got beat up and knocked on his ass all the time on his own show. The difference was that the camera stayed on Superman because it was his show. There was no one else to come in and pick up the slack or change the focus to. Because the focus was on Superman, you waited until he got up and came back. Well, on Justice League, Superman takes a licking, goes off screen, and we don't necessarily follow him. We stay at that point and Green Lantern or Wonder Woman comes in. The main mistake we made with that was having him get hit all the time and not showing him recovering and coming right back. We erred on the side of caution, because Superman theoretically should be able to handle all of these problems by himself. I don't think we made him weaker, we just didn't cover our bases as far as showing him be Superman (courtesy of RetroVision CD-ROM Magazine).”
Rich Fogel on Season One Superman (circa 2005): "We needed to get situations where the other heroes had an opportunity to show what they could do, because they hadn't been in series before. We had to devise ways to knock Superman out of the picture so the other guys could do things. [Also]—and I don't know how to put this delicately—is that there was a certain inattentiveness to the storyboarding in the first season. There were certain bits of business that had been successful in the past with Superman in his own series that tended to get repeated a lot. These were not written in the scripts, it was in fleshing out the action that this happened. It wasn't until we got the footage back that we saw Superman was getting kicked around a lot. In the second season we tried to pay better attention to it so that we were not letting things like that slip through the cracks (courtesy of RetroVision CD-ROM Magazine).”
Dwayne McDuffie on Season One (circa 2005): "I'm very fond of most of the episodes of Season One, but I am very aware of their limitations, mostly in the area of character depth and dialogue. Even in staging, we didn't quite know how to handle the choreographing of seven characters. We just didn't cover our bases as well as we could have. Having said that, though, there are several episodes and arcs that I enjoy from the first season, but we definitely upped our game in the second season. I think we realized that when we were coming off of darker shows like Batman and going to Justice League, that we might have thrown the baby out with the bathwater, so we wanted to get back to what we do best, which are those dark, character-driven shows (courtesy of RetroVision CD-ROM Magazine).”
Commentary coming soon!
Image courtesy of Toon Zone.
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