Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Interview With Bruce Timm
The next DCU original animated film, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, is out tomorrow. Here’s a sample clip that explains the premise. Also of note is that this disc contains the first DC Showcase short cartoon, starring The Spectre. Right now, while it’s still technically a pre-order, Amazon has the two-disc special edition at just about half off, making it $13.
To promote the movie, Warner Home Video has provided the following interview with executive producer Bruce Timm.
Question: What excites you about Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths?
Bruce Timm: In a weird kind of way, this is a return to my favorite show, Justice League Unlimited. The original script was intended to be the bridge story between Justice League and Justice League Unlimited to explain how we went from seven heroes to more than 50 superheroes. We loved the story and the script, and it floated around here for years while we tried to figure out what to do with it — it was considered for a comic, but fortunately that got shot down. Then we took a look at it and, with just a few slight tweaks, we jumped at the chance to make it a DC Universe movie.
Question: What sets it apart from the TV version of Justice League?
Bruce Timm: It’s a very satisfying, grand scale adventure movie with a big cast of interesting, quirky characters. It’s amazing how much it feels like a great episode of Justice League Unlimited as a big, epic film with slightly different visual stylings. That’s a good thing.
Question: Did this film present challenges that the first six DC Universe movies did not?
Bruce Timm: The biggest challenge, and this is kind of esoteric, was that we had to find the line between the original source material and making it feel like a stand-alone movie so anyone that didn’t watch JLU could follow it. We really didn’t have to tweak the script too much — I think about 95 percent remains untouched. In terms of visual styling, we also wanted it to stand on its own and not necessarily as a continuation of the old show. We have this brilliant character designer — Phil Bourassa — who draws in a style similar to my own in terms of simplicity, but slightly different. So it doesn’t look 180 degrees away from the old show, but it definitely feels unique.
Question: What are the benefits of having two directors on the same film?
The positive for Sam and Lauren is that having two directors lightens the workload, because it’s a big movie. They have similar strengths, and they’re both very good at what they do. They’re both all-around talented in terms of understanding story, acting, the emotional core of the story, and they’re both really good at directing big crazy action scenes. But their methodology is different. Sam thinks a lot, he’s very analytical. Lauren is more intuitive about everything. I just kind of stayed out of it when they had disagreements — fortunately, I never had to be the tiebreaker. They just worked things out between the two of them.
Question: What are Dwayne McDuffie’s strengths?
Bruce Timm: Dwayne is really well-rounded as a writer — he knows comics inside and out, he understands the lore, he knows what makes a good superhero story, and at the same time he’s really good with character dynamics and conflict. Plus he’s one of the best dialogue writers in the business.
Question: Of this fairly huge cast, do you have a favorite character?
Bruce Timm: In this story, it’s probably Owlman. He’s a fascinating character himself, but the dynamic with Superwoman is so messed up as a couple, and yet really appealing in a weird kind of way. It’s a little similar to JLU’s relationship between The Question and Huntress. Superwoman is this badass hot chick, and he’s the quiet, brainy, nerd guy. They’re an interesting, odd couple. Plus I loved both James’ (Woods) and Gina’s (Torres) performances — they were spot-on. The amazing thing is we like to get all the actors to record as an ensemble, but in this case it wasn’t feasible, so they never met or performed together, but they totally mesh. It’s such an interesting chemistry considering they’ve never even met.
Question: You’ve brought another all-star cast to this film. Anything fans don’t know about the casting choices this time around?
Bruce Timm: There’s an interesting side note in that Vanessa Marshall, who plays Wonder Woman, came this close to playing the role in Justice League. We were down to the final two choices, and they were neck and neck. The thing about Vanessa is that she sounded perfect for Wonder Woman — exactly what she should sound like. But Susan Eisenberg had this vulnerability. We thought it would be interesting to not play her to type, which ultimately played really well. When it came to casting for this movie, we thought, “What if we go down the road not taken?” So we opted for Vanessa in a full-length movie and she is great.
Question: Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths includes the premiere of the first DC Showcase animation short, “The Spectre”. How have the DC Showcase shorts changed your work day?
Bruce Timm: The DC Showcase is fun because it gives us an opportunity to play with characters that maybe don’t have a broad enough marquee value to support their own movie. As much as I like Batman, Superman, etc., the more lower tier, offbeat characters are really fascinating to me. It’s fun to mess around with other characters in the DC Universe. Superheroes are great, but it’s nice to do a change of pace, and that’s a lot of what we’ve done here. “The Spectre” is a supernatural thriller, “Jonah Hex” is a western, and so on. So the Showcase is giving us a chance to stretch different muscles.
Question: After taking a break from episodic TV for the past several years, are you enjoying a return to the short-form with the DC Showcase?
Bruce Timm: The interesting thing is these are really short form — they’re half as long as a half-hour TV episode. So the story has to be really tight and condensed — you have to cut away the fat, but it can’t be just wall-to-wall action. It still has to be a story. Fortunately we’re working with some really great writers, and because of that, every time we roll tape on these shorts, they feel like you’ve watched a whole episode of something. There’s a clear beginning, middle, and end — a full story. So mission accomplished.
Question: What made Steve Niles the right guy to write “The Spectre”, and how did you lure him into writing an animated short?
Bruce Timm: I’ve admired Steve Niles’ work for a long time and, honestly, it would have never occurred to me to approach him. That was Todd Casey’s suggestion. He contacted Steve, and Steve was thrilled to get the assignment. He’s a big Michael Fleisher/Jim Aparo fan, and a big fan of “The Spectre” — especially that 1970s era of the character. Steve is very into crime fiction and horror, so he was the perfect writer for it.
Question: Does “The Spectre” hold any special significance for you?
Bruce Timm: “The Spectre” was one of my favorite characters back in the 70s. Even by today’s standards, those comics are pretty hard core, and they were written in 1974, I don’t know how they got some of that stuff past the comic code. It was so different from any other comic on the stands. It’s really dark, really nasty. The character is pretty easy to understand — he’s the dark avenger of the night, even more so than Batman. He punishes bad guys in horrible, horrible ways. He’s like the benign Freddie Krueger. I’ve wanted to use “The Spectre” for a long, long time and we never had a opportunity to do it, and this was our chance to go hog wild with him.