Frank Miller‘s The Dark Knight Returns isn’t just a must-read for Batman fans or comic-book fans. It’s a must-read for everyone who wants to understand the current state of superhero books and movies. While its influence has been far-reaching, it wasn’t directly adapted until Warner Premiere took the title and turned it into a two-part animated feature. The first part was released earlier this year, and now The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 is due out in 2013. New York Comic-Con 2012 hosted a panel for the film, and Warner Home Video’s Gary Miereanu, voice casting director Andrea Romano, and executive producer Bruce Timm were on hand to show off some clips, talk about the voice cast, what will and won’t get your animated film an R-rating, a surprising cameo, and much more including other films Warner Home Video has on tap for 2013.
Hit the jump for the recap, and click here for all of our 2012 New York Comic-Con coverage.
Gary Mierneau comes on stage and kicks things off by by showing off a trailer for LEGO Batman The Movie: DC Super Heroes Unite. It looks like funny stuff, although I’m not sure how different it will be from the video game, LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes. It’s due out spring 2013.
Moving on to The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2, Mierneau brings on Emmy-winning voice casting director Andrea Romano, and “the architect of modern-day superhero animation”, Bruce Timm. And then they show us the trailer, which you can see here:
Leading off, Timm said it was easier to break the movie into two parts rather than having to cram the story into a single film. Romano adds that it also helped on the production side when it came to working with the actors’ schedules.
Talking about casting Michael Emerson as the Joker, Romano said she was a big fan of his character on Lost. After the experience of voicing the Joker, Romano asked him what he thought, and Emerson said it was the hardest work he had ever done. Regarding the voice casting, Timm expanded that because the comic book was its own thing, and they didn’t want to recreate the Kevin Conroy (Batman)/Mark Hamill (Joker) dynamic. That’s why they went with Peter Weller and Emerson. It was also Romano’s first “Skype” recording experience, and she found that it worked fairly well when working with Emerson.
Then they show off a clip of Batman having to fight through the GCPD. While there’s not a signature moment to it, it still has a nice fluid movement to the fighting. The clip ends with Commissioner Yindel (Maria Canals-Barrera) telling a cop to charge Batman, and the cop blanches at the prospect. “He’s twice your age!” she says,” Find a weak point and go for it.”
After wards, Timm talks a little a bit about the score. Music-wise, 80s synthesizers represent Batman, and an orchestral score represents Superman, so when the two of them fight, those two music styles are played together.
Talking about Mark Valley showing up to play Clark Kent and Superman, Timm says Valley put on glasses when voicing the Clark Kent scenes, which was a little method but in an endearing way.
We then get to see a clip of Batman rallying his troops and having a “Braveheart moment” by telling them they’ll be the law, but not with guns. They’ll use their fists and their brains, and later Batman will teach them how to use Batarangs. When it came to recording the “Sons of Batman”, Romano says they got a group of actors together at a recording studio, recorded them cheering, and then layered those cheers on top of each other to make it sound like a larger crowd.
Mierneau makes the announcement that the clip they’re about to show will make the announcement of who’s playing the voice of talk show host Dave Endochrine. In the clip, the Joker’s doctor (Michael McKean) tries to make an excuse for the Joker, while Endochrine is clearly uneasy. Without going into much detail, the scene does not end well for the doctor or the audience or really anyone other than the Joker. From the moment Endochrine spoke, the entire audience knew the voice belonged to Conan O’Brien. After they showed us the clip, Romano said O’Brien nailed the Death-by-Joker-Gas reaction (building laugh until sudden death) in one take.
- An audience member asks why they included a well-endowed woman who’s covered in swastika tattoos, but Gordon has to have nicotine gum rather than smoking cigars like he does in the comics. Timm replies that smoking in a cartoon will automatically get you an R-rating. Swastikas on bare-breasts: not an R-rating.
- Timm said they decided to take out the voice over from the comics and not put it in the movie because the it doesn’t translate to the real-time movement of a film. For example, when Batman is falling from a height, he can’t just pause and comment about how his insignia is a target with a bulletproof vest underneath.
- They haven’t heard what Frank Miller thought about the movie.
- Timm would love to make a Batman Beyond movie but they don’t have anything planned at this time. The audience cheers at the prospect.
- Romano says it’s difficult to cast Batman and the Joker because Conroy and Hamill have left such an indelible mark on the characters. And whenever a new Batman film comes up, Romano always asks “Can we get Kevin Conroy? Can we get Mark Hamill?” But she can accept the change when the physicality of the character is as drastically different as it is with The Dark Knight Returns.
After the Q&A, Mierneau announces what they have on tap for 2013:
- The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2, which does not have a firm release date yet other than 2013.
- Middle of 2013: Superman Unbound – Based on the Superman/Brainiac Jeff Johns series from 2008-2009.
- Fall 2013: Justice League Flashpoint based on the Jeff Johns story, (And you might see the movie at San Diego Comic-Con).