In Justice League: Gods and Monsters, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman kill, maim, and—well—eat, more villains than the first five minutes than ay character has in their entire seventy five year-plus history.
And that’s jus the way Bruce Timm wants it.
Timm, who’s produced the best animated versions of DC Comics’ superheroes since Batman: The Animated Series, made a conscious effort to put the DC Trinity on a decidely darker path in upcoming home video animated feature. Alongside longtime DC Animation producer and writer Alan Burnett, the two shaped an alternate universe where Batman is a vampiric Kirk Langstrom, Superman is General Zod’s son, and Wonder Woman is ruthless New God. It’s also a universe where they can do whatever they darn well please.
“It was very freeing. It allowed us to take the characters and and make them different,” Burnett told press members at San Diego Comic-Con International. “You know, you’ve done this stuff for 25 years, and after a while you’ve told every story you can. So this felt fresh. This felt different.”
Gods and Monsters’ Trinity goes knee-deep into the darkness. In fact, Burnett mentioned concerns that fans wouldn’t like these characters at all, finding them too dark and violent from what they’ve seen in traditional DC Universe animation. But then again, you can’t label a movie “Gods and Monsters,” and have your main cast making nice with every villain they meet.
“ I started thinking about these characters—one is literally a vampire, one is literally he strongest man on the planet with the powers of a god, and Wonder Woman is a New God,” Timm elaborated. “So, it made sense to call them gods and monsters. It was perfect. and I just liked the idea that these superheroes aren’t superheroes that the public immediately likes. But, I think that people will kind of like them because they’re creepy and extreme.”
Once the story—and the audience—moves past the initial shock of seeing their beloved superheroes soak their hands in blood however, Timm promised complex and sympathetic characters. Burnett explained how he wrote compelling origin stories for each character, establishing sympathetic backgrounds that audiences could relate to on some level. But even with a firmly established pathos, is this extreme Justice League heroic? Do they actually live up to their namesake by serving the people’s best interests? It’s a tricky balance, according to Timm, and not one that they’ve mastered just yet.
“That is a journey that they’re still going through. At the beginning of the movie they’re an established unit. They’ve been together for a while, but they still have an uneasy truce with the government,” Timm said. “The government is too afraid of them to tell that they don’t like wha they’re doing, but at the same time it’s convenient for them to say, “Hey we need someone to go kick ass in Georgia (the country). Superman, can you go kick ass in Georgia? Great.’”
Burnett and Timm also explained how working on a direct-to-video movie gave them the freedom to create the world they wanted. Without the restrictions of a younger television audience or cable guidelines, the writers were able to fully embrace the their universe’s seedier elements. In fact, Timm mentioned how he first pitched the Gods and Monsters’ world as a television series. But Warner Bros. was rejected the series pitch however, because they thought it wouldn’t connect with a television audience’s more streamlined tastes.
“Everyone said it’s a really cool idea, but we probably want to go a little more mainstream for a serialized TV show,” Timm said. “But, it would make for a great direct home movie.”
The freedom allowed Burnett, who wrote the script, to pen a tale that’s a little different from most DC Animated projects. Instead of sticking to the general action formula, Gods and Monsters goes deeper with a detective mystery.
“One of the surprises I discovered while working on this thing, because I thought it was going to be an action adventure, was that it acutely was a mystery. As soon as I locked into a mystery, it al just fell together.”
And as Gods and Monsters’ entire world falls together, Timm said that he would love to revisit it in future installments. While he later revealed that his next project would be an adaptation of the classic Batman: The Killing Joke graphic novel, the world of Gods and Monsters is never too far from his mind.
“It’s really seductive to know that I can take these characters down weird paths that are shocking, unpredictable, and weird in a way that I can’t with the normal DC characters,” he said.
Justice League: Gods and Monsters hits shelves on July 28.