Bruce Timm is a legend in the world of animation, responsible for Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Justice League: Unlimited, and many others. With his latest project, Justice League: Gods and Monsters, audiences will delve into a new world where the heroes we know are vastly different, to say the least. Batman is now a vampire, Superman is the son of General Zod, and Wonder Woman is one of the “New Gods”, a race of alien gods from outer space.
God and Monsters is available on VOD on July 8th from Warner Bros. Animation. Prior to that, a series of prequel stories titled Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles will introduce us to these new characters through Machinima, who have already signed on for a second season. Bruce Timm talked with us about the project, Suicide Squad’s interpretation of his creation, Harley Quinn, and whether a crossover with the original heroes and this new world is in the cards. Watch Batman and Harley Quinn battle it out in a sneak peak at Gods and Monsters Chronicles below, followed by the full interview.
Collider: Bruce, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Why don’t you tell us about the series.
BRUCE TIMM: Well it’s an alternate universe version of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, which is darker than the original stories we told with the Justice League animated series. While this series is dark, it’s not just “dark for dark’s sake”. We’re skewing slightly more adult with the themes and stories here. Our inspiration for the show actually came about from me being such a big fan of the comic, “The Authority”. Originally, we were thinking of doing a direct adaptation of author Warren Ellis’ works with the characters but decided to go a different route entirely. These new interpretations of these DC heroes don’t follow the same rules as traditional heroes in general, and take a harder line, much like the Authority.
Obviously these are evil versions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, but aren’t Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, and Diana. What was the motivation behind deciding to go with different identities?
TIMM: Well let me clarify a bit in that I don’t really see them as being “evil”, but more that they definitely have a different moral compass. Rather than the lighter and more heroic stance taken by the original Justice League, this new group see things in a different light. The idea originally sprang from my collaborations with Sam Register (now President of Warner Bros. Animation) where we discussed creating a new Justice League series, following the original and Justice League: Unlimited. We knew that if we were going to reboot the franchise, we didn’t want it in the continuity of the original series. We wanted this new offering to be fresh and original so what we did was we looked at Green Lantern and the Flash, these two heroes who were so different now from their “Silver Age” counterparts. We wanted to take the name and the gimmick of each character, but then throw nearly everything else out the window.
To start, we wanted to apply this to the “Big Three” in Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. We thought it would be interesting to take this idea and apply it to them. We wanted to create a “tangent universe” wherein Superman was the son of General Zod and see how this event would ripple throughout the universe. How would characters, and supporting characters, change?
Could you go into some detail about the designs of the characters themselves?
TIMM: Well we actually looked at the artwork of Bryan Hitch (illustrator for Marvel’s Ultimates and the upcoming Justice League of America book) for inspiration for the character’s designs and costumes. His artwork would look at the traditional costumes of superheroes and try to make them appear as if they could function in the real world. Sort of like creating them as if they were movie designs with stitching, vents, and folds. We wanted them to be a little more complicated than what had come before. In the case of Batman, a lot of the aesthetic choices for his costume came from his character. Since he’s a vampire, he needed to wear goggles for a practical solution to being blinded by the sun. We wanted him to be albino to push forward the idea that his skin will burn if he comes into direct contact with sunlight. Actually, the joke with this new Batman’s costume is that the design of his tunic is more like a tight fitting “Dracula costume”. You can see the colors of an opera costume, much like Bela Legosi, on his upper torso.
Will we be encountering other “twisted” versions of DC characters we all know and love?
TIMM: Definitely. This is one of the things that we’ll explore a little bit more in the second season, that we’re hoping to air next year. We want to, as we did with the “Big Three”, apply weird, warped rules of logic to other superheroes in the DC Universe. We’ve definitely had ideas for Mary Marvel, Green Lantern, and Steel that we’re looking to appear in the future. We’re looking to have four or five other characters for the second season as well, as we’re having a lot of fun to take these characters, like Dr. Fate for example, and put a new spin on them.
Will we be seeing any of the regular DC Universe heroes interacting with these dark reflections of themselves in this splintered universe?
TIMM: For now no plans, but maybe someday. Someone at DC Comics actually suggested this as a story for the comics, as the original heroes may barge onto the scene, come into contact with their doubles and attempt to “set the world right”. I feel though that we kind of did this story in the Justice League animated series with the “Justice Lords” episodes. I can tell you though that by the end of this movie, our heroes will be left in a darker place from when they started. These are our heroes though and we have more stories for them moving forward.
The show is very dark and “adult” as we saw with the first Batman shorty, why did you decide to go this route?
TIMM: Well, the three promo shorts especially (Gods and Monsters Chronicles) were deliberately designed to be shocking and darker. These are going to be released before the movie is and we want them to drag people into their world, kicking and screaming. We want people to know that these are absolutely not the versions of these DC heroes that they’re used to. These characters are much weirder and darker. The Batman short especially is a little over the top as we had not done a Silence of the Lambs style serial killer before and decided to put Harley Quinn into that role here. This was something that was a fun challenge for us as they’re places we haven’t been.
Speaking of Harley Quinn, how, as one of her creators, do you feel she has changed over the decades? Are you interested in the version of the character in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie?
TIMM: Well, I actually know very little about the Suicide Squad version of her and I’ve only just seen the photos that have been leaked. I’m encouraged so far! When I heard that Margot Robbie was cast, I thought, “Wow, what a slam dunk!” She has so much screen presence, though when I saw the costume, I was a tad leery to be honest. I’ve seen Harley Quinn appear in video games and cosplay where I’ve thought to myself, “Wow, that’s so much creepier than the original design for her we came up with.” Though from what I’ve seen of Margot in the costume as of now, I think it will be awesome and I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Finally, could you tell us about where the main characters in Justice League: Gods and Monsters are in their lives?
TIMM: Without giving too much away, they have been actively functioning as super heroes and will just now begin to form a group as the Justice League. I would probably say that they’ve been heroes for a good 5 years or so?
Thanks again for taking time to talk with us Bruce and congratulations on the new project!