Fans at the Batman: The Brave And The Bold panel at San Diego weren't just treated to a preview of the series' musical episode; they were also given a glimpse of what's to come on the show's upcoming season.
Introducing the panel, executive producer James Tucker told the excited crowd:
You guys got what we're trying to do with the show, you understand that Batman goes back further than 1989... I always envisioned the show as a show for nerd dads and moms and their offspring.
That family feel continued throughout the panel, culminating with Batman actor Diedrich Bader bringing his two kids onstage to show off their homemade superhero costumes. Bader - one of three voice actors on the panel, alongside John DiMaggio (Aquaman) and James Arnold Taylor (Green Arrow) - explained to the audience why the caped crusader is his best gig yet:
This is my favorite role ever. I've been playing the character for so long now that, we have a scene in a future episode where Batman gets some closure, I can't say too much — but it's huge, I think you can extrapolate from there — and we're recording and I'm there reading it, everyone else is joking and I'm crying, thinking 'It means so much to him...' I realized that I couldn't sell the jokes [as Batman, but] I learned to undersell the joke. I had to sell the reality of the show, there has to be a grounded element [and Batman becomes that element] Once you know that, then there're jokes, but they're really dry. When you know that, you can really move forward with who Batman is. He's 'The Dude'.
For the producers, the fun of the show is more in the freedom it offers, as Michael Jelenic revealed:
The fun thing about this show is that everything I've learned as a writer, I have to disregard. Anything goes... James and I had a 20 minute conversation over whether or not Batman should be wearing a scarf in World War I. I won. He will be wearing a scarf and the goggles... The show works best when we go into the room and have no idea what we're doing. If logic gets in the way, we're in trouble. Our approach is putting things that don't fit together and making them fit together.
According to producer Tucker, future guest-stars on the show will include such DC characters as GI Robot, Detective Chimp, Vixen, Enemy Ace, Captain Marvel and the whole Marvel Family, Firestorm, Metal Men, Doom Patrol, B'Wana Beast, and the villain Starro the Conqueror. Jelenic added that they're "working on" appearances from Superman and Wonder Woman, but there are rights issues involved.
But those aren't the only familiar names involved with the show's upcoming second season. The panel finished with a video showing former Batman TV show Catwoman Julie Newmar recording dialogue for an upcoming episode as Bruce Wayne's mother, Martha Wayne. (Bader told the panel that Batman would get "closure" this season, adding "You all know what I'm talking about"). Tucker later told us that the episode would be an adaptation of a comic where Bruce Wayne discovered that his father had also worn a Batman costume at some time in the past, before telling us that the show will also be adapting the Batman of Zur En Arrh comic from the 1950s, but shying away from the revisionist retcon from last year's Batman RIP.
After the panel, we had a chance to talk to Michael Jelenic about the making of the Neil Patrick Harris-starring musical episode, as well as why the show's tone is so light and fun.
The musical episode was amazing. How long have you been planning it, how long did it take? Tell all, because I'm in a good kind of shock after watching it.
So you liked it.
I thought it amazing. My first thought was that it was the new Dr. Horrible.
Well, you know, I wanted to do a musical in some form for four years. Like, when I was on The Batman, we tried to put in a musical number with Harley and Joker, but that wasn't really a musical, and then, when I was on Legion with James [Tucker, co-executive producer], we sort of talked about it, but there were a lot of reasons why we couldn't do it. But with Brave and the Bold, it's a show where we could do anything. And a show where we always have to try and top ourselves. The show's absurd to begin with, I think, it's all weird stuff, and there's only so many weird situations you can create, and after the Bat-Mite episode, I mean, it's like how can we get bigger than that? The reaction to that surprised us, even Mark Hamill, he came and did a voice on our show and told us that it was messed up.
So, basically, I've been pushing. And James really wanted to do it as well, and he's like, okay, let's do it, but it's so much work. It's so easy for me to say 'Let's do a musical,' because I have the least amount of work to do, so we had to have about three months. The composers had about three months to write the songs. James and I came up with [lyrics], he did two songs and I did three, gave them to the composers, met with them a couple of times. And even after that, that's a huge amount of work, but then we've got to record the voice actors, and that's a huge task. Normally [voice] records take two hours, this took two days.
Because they have to sing in this one.
Yeah, and it has to be perfect. It has to be in tune... Fortunately, Neil Patrick Harris came in and he was amazing, I mean, really professional, got through it really quick and, he gets it. And after the voice records, it's another huge task to direct this. It has to be in rhythm with the song, it has to be choreographed, and it's a huge, huge challenge.
Sitting in the room, I don't know if you really got it from where you were, but everyone was in love with it from the start.
When I work on anything, I tend to hate anything I work on, I tend to only see the flaws, so I told someone else, I won't know whether this is good or not until after the screening.
You've got some really obscure characters coming up in the show... Are you really a massive comic geek?
I'm not, that's the really good thing about the pairing of James and I on the show. James is a huge geek. He knows everything. When I started at Warner Bros and started on The Batman, Batman was pretty much the only character that I knew. Batman and Joker and Penguin, and that's it. And suddenly, I'm indoctrinated into this whole culture over the years, and even starting off with the beginning of Brave and The Bold, I knew none of these characters. [Someone like] Gentlemen Ghost was pretty absurd. Now I look at Gentleman Ghost on our show and there's nothing absurd about him at all... Our goal is to take absurd characters and make them into ridiculous fun. And not just fun, with a character like B'Wana Beast, he has a real serious arc [in the season], and Detective Chimp plays an interesting role at one point in season two. The Haunted Tank thing, I remember when I was doing press for Wonder Woman, someone was telling me about Haunted Tank and I said, 'Is that a character? It sounds so ridiculous.'
We were joking... We were working with the writer of that episode on the closing, and Batman's final line is 'Great job, Haunted Tank.' Because it's a stupid line, but come on. It's the Haunted Tank.
But you embrace the silliness, you're having so much fun, it's infectious.
Yeah, we really lucked out. The stars kind of aligned, the network's been supportive... I've been on shows where you get notes like 'You can't have a character called B'Wana Beast, or Haunted Tank, it's too absurd, kids won't think it's cool.' But they've left us to do what we want, and we either succeed or we fail.
Was there resistance to doing such a light show? You're kind of making Batman silly. Was there resistance to that?
Not from James and I. We've both worked on other Batman shows, so we've done all those plots. So we didn't have that baggage coming in. We wanted to do something different, and we're not going to do a better serious show than Batman: The Animated Series, so let's go in the other direction, because that's the only direction to go and be different, and hit all the demographics. The tone of the show seemed natural, I think.