Summary: Racing against the clock on a reality TV show devised by the Joker, the Justice League must disarm over two dozen bombs that he has planted across the Las Vegas Strip. To further confound the League, the Clown Prince of Crime also unveils his latest weapon in the form of the Royal Flush Gang, a team of super-powered criminals outfitted with a playing card motif. But even if the League manages to defuse the bombs and foil the Gang, is that all, or does the Joker have a final card to play?
JL Roll Call: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawkgirl
RFG Roll Call: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten
Featured Characters: Green Lantern, Hawkgirl
Villain: JokerSupporting Villains: Harley Quinn, The Royal Flush Gang
Cartoon Network on “Wild Cards”: “In the ultimate reality show, the Joker pits the Justice League against the clock and against the Royal Flush Gang as our heroes race to find and disarm all the bombs he’s planted along the Strip in Las Vegas (courtesy of Cartoon Network).”
Dwayne McDuffie on “Wild Cards”: “Our first thought was to do some sort of reality show with Joker. The real-time aspect was inspired by 24. I think it worked great—Mark Hamill was particularly funny without ever losing the Joker’s menace (courtesy of ToyFare Magazine).”
Bruce Timm on “Wild Cards” #1: “This was finally our opportunity to get Hawkgirl and Green Lantern together and have their first kiss, and kind of put the cards on the table and how they feel about each other. Using the Joker [and] the Royal Flush Gang was a natural, kind of one of those no-brainer ideas.
“We had already done a version of the Royal Flush Gang in Batman Beyond that were quite a bit different. We had an out in that Batman Beyond established them as a generational family. Not literally a family, but the idea being that over the course of time they would have a set group of Royal Flush members with some of those members being replaced occasionally. There’s about a fifty year span between Justice League’s timeline and Batman Beyond’s timeline. Any number of permutations of that gang could have happened in that span and we wanted to take a different tact with them here (courtesy of RetroVision CD-ROM Magazine).”
Stan Berkowitz on “Wild Cards”: “’Wild Cards’ was conceived as a show where you would be watching the whole thing and seeing exactly what the audience of the Joker’s TV show would see. But we found that we couldn’t sustain that conceit for the whole thing, so we broke through it a lot. Although, as you saw, the Joker still speaks right to the screen, but we [knew] it would have been tedious to try and do it for the whole episode. Basically it’s setting up what comes to fruition in ‘Starcrossed’ about the relationship between John Stewart and Hawkgirl (courtesy of RetroVision CD-ROM Magazine).”
Bruce Timm on “Wild Cards” #2: “I’m sure no one will believe me, but I’ve wanted to do a ‘real-time’ countdown story for years. I was, in fact, inspired by an old episode of M*A*S*H*, of all things (can’t even remember what its plot was about at this late date, just thought it was a nifty gimmick). We toyed with doing a ‘real-time’ episode of BTAS back in the day, but nothing ever came of it.
“It was very tricky to storyboard. We originally wanted to ‘play fair’ and have all the camera angles in Joker’s telecast be from actual live ‘on site’ cameras (like those first few shots that you mentioned), but it was all too limiting—we needed more ‘coverage’ (variety of camera angles) just to keep the thing moving; we had to start ‘cheating’ the angles pretty quick, and tried to cover it with Joker’s line about setting up ‘hundreds of cameras all over Vegas,’ and showing the occasional cameraman ‘accidentally’ being seen in someone else’s viewfinder.
“Yes, boarding it was difficult, and editing it was a nightmare. Just getting Joker’s down-in-the-corner readout to synch-up with the ‘in-scene’ clocks turned out to be way trickier than we thought it would be (we had to call a whole lot of very precise re-takes just for that). We realized after the episode had been [completed] that we’d made a logical error: after the first ‘fake’ bomb blows up, Joker’s corner countdown was still visible, which prematurely tipped off the audience that there were more bombs…D’oh! So, we had to go back in, remove the countdown for a few scenes, started it back up when the Joker says, ‘There are twenty-five bombs!’ Also, I hated to do it, but we had to technically break in the ‘real-time’ rule during the cliff-hanger, since Green Lantern’s bomb blows up twice, once at the end of Part One, once at the beginning of Part Two. We actually had to go back in time a few seconds to see the bomb go off from Batman’s vantage point (fortunately, no one seemed to notice this slight discrepancy).
“Also, the animation, for whatever reason, was somewhat soft when we first got it back, the timing was off, etc. The whole thing just kinda lay there. We probably spent more man-hours in the editing bay on that particular show than any other Justice League episode. It seemed like practically every single shot needed some kind of trim or ‘speed-up’ or ‘slow-down’ or re-take. Also, we felt Ace’s final psychedelic assault on Batman just wasn’t weird and unsettling enough, and since we don’t have access to after-effects, we just messed around with it on the avid. After some experimentation, we ended up double-exposing a clone of each scene over the original, slightly out-of-synch (off by four frames, if I remember right), which created a nice jittery strobing ‘after-image.’ Pretty effective, I thought.
“Even the sound mix was tricky. Normally, when someone’s talking in voice-over on the Justice League com-links, we put a radio filter ‘futz’ on it, to approximate how the chatter would sound from the receiver’s P.O.V. As we were mixing, I realized that since the show was ‘live,’ any com-link chatter would have to be picked up from the imaginary ‘mic’ on the person speaking. In other words, Joker’s film crew wouldn’t be picking up ‘P.O.V.’-sounding audio. So, we had to remove the radio futz. There were lots of little things like that all throughout the making of that episode that just drove us crazy.
“Ultimately, once it was all put together, with music and sound, I think it turned out very nice, genuinely creepy in places (and I was very pleased with how the Watchtower scene at the end turned out) but, yeah, it was a tough one (courtesy of Toon Zone).”
DarkLantern on the Joker in “Wild Cards”: “Joker sees the Justice League as ‘Batman’s team’—and what better way to combat Batman’s team than with a team of his own (courtesy of Toon Zone)?”
Dwayne McDuffie on the aftermath of “Wild Cards”: “We figure forty to fifty thousand people were permanently damaged from Ace’s attack; could have been a lot worse […the Joker] said [it was] permanent after about five minutes of exposure. There was about four minutes of show after he said it. […] Joker got a face full from two feet away, as opposed to sharing it with 70 million other viewers (courtesy of DwayneMcDuffie.com).”
"Whew! Is it just me, or is there something going on between those two? Will Green Lantern ever admit to his feelings? Will Hawkgirl ever stop sublimating her passions with that big, honkin' mace? Will true love conquer all? Not on my show!"
Joker (to Ace and the viewers at home) in "Wild Cards"
Commentary coming soon!
Image courtesy of The
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