Another dark knight is rising at Comic-Con this year as Cartoon Network’s DC Nation crew prepares to welcome “Beware the Batman” to its 2013 slate of programming. The new show, along with “Teen Titans Go!” will be featured during a Sunday panel and screening (1 p.m., Room 6BCF). The cast of “Beware the Batman” includes Anthony Ruivivar as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Sumalee Montano as Kitana, JB Blanc as Alfred Pennyworth, and Kurtwood Smith as Lt. James Gordon. We caught up with animation producers Glen Murakami and Mitch Watson to see what was in their utility belts for a new version of Batman without his familiar rogues gallery.
HC: How did the project come about — and what’s different?
MW: They approached me first. We came up with several different concepts. Then Glen came aboard and said, “Hey. Why don’t we do a show that sort of features villains that we’ve never seen before?” And that was the idea that got the whole ball rolling.
GM: Everyone’s gonna expect the Joker. Everyone’s gonna expect Two-Face. Let’s go in a different direction.
MW: Then we said, “OK, let’s take it back to its roots” — without the fancy gadgets and cars, which it still has, but more about what it was when it was created, when Batman was created, which is a detective show. A guy who has an incredible skill at solving crimes who just happens to dress as a bat. Another thing that we decided to do was look at the character of Alfred. I think most people look at him as now the Michael Caine version or the version from the show where he’s this sort of upper-crust stuffy guy. Alfred has also been portrayed, and the comics have said, that he was also an MI:6 agent. Kind of a bad-ass in his own way. So we pushed him in that direction. He’s Sean Connery from “The Untouchables” now.
HC: How about Bruce himself?
MW: We looked at it like there were three faces of Bruce Wayne. There’s the public Bruce Wayne: not as smarmy, but a cool version of Richard Branson that the public loves. Then the second Bruce Wayne was the private Bruce Wayne. Much more of an intellectual in some ways. The third character is Batman. When he goes full Batman, his speech pattern changes, his voice gets deeper…. The private Bruce Wayne and Batman are not just crime solvers, but he’s also working on himself. He’s figuring out how to sleep less. He never eats. He drinks his food because actual processing of the food would take too long. And he’s constantly working on his body to get it at peak performance.
HC: There are also some big changes visually?
GM: It’s in CG. That’s visually probably the biggest deal in that there hasn’t really been a Batman project done.
MW: And I don’t think there’s ever been this kind of show to be CG. I mean, there’s Disney’s “Tron [Uprising]” — and I’ve seen “Tron” — but this looks very different. This has a much more noir-ish look. Glen and these guys spent three-plus months just building Gotham City.
GM: Still building it.
MW: It has been a year. They had to build not just cityscapes, but they had to build the roads and the subways and how the doors open and roadway signs and bus stations…. It’s nuts.
GM: It has more of a — and I hate to use the term ’cause it’s cliche — cinematic feel. There’s something more physical about it because we’re building Gotham City. And we’re placing the character in that environment.
HC: Now you’ll be taking this to the Comic-Con faithful…. Are there certain beats or reactions that you’re looking for from the crowd?
GM: I’ve worked on several DC properties now, and the fans are always skeptical of what you’re doing. We want to do something different, but we want to stay true to the character. I think the reaction in the beginning is always “We don’t like it because you’ve changed it.” I think we respect the properties, and we’re taking a risk because we’re trying to do something different. There’s so many Batman properties coming out. After a while you need to do something different. Not only to keep the character fresh, but to just find a new take on them. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with what’s been done before, but you kind of have to do something new.
HC: Seen “The Dark Knight Rises” yet?
MW: No, but I keep watching the trailers looking for anything that I could say, “Oh, man, we’re doing that too!” But I haven’t seen anything.
GM: There’s always going to be some similarities.
– Jevon Phillips
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