Netflix's Guardians of Justice Creator Adi Shankar Explains The Origins of the Series

Netflix has debuted Guardians of Justice, a new superhero/social satire from the mind of Bootleg Universe creator Adi Shankar. While Shankar has produced hits like Dredd, Netflix's Castlevania anime series, or the infamous Bootleg Universe shorts (Punisher: Dirty Laundry, Venom: Truth in Journalism, Power/Rangers), Guardians of Justice marks the first time that Shankar is stepping behind the camera to direct his own vision. Adi Shankar sat down with ComicBook.com and ComicBook Nation host Kofi Outlaw to talk about Guardians of Justice – starting with what inspired this wild new series and its unique format. 

Watch: Netflix's Guardians of Justice Trailer

One of the clearest inspirations for Guardians of Justice is no doubt the era of 80s/90s cult-hit genre films that kids of those decades all grew up on. From films like Ladyhawke, The Sword and the Sorcerer to early attempts at superhero blockbusters (Masters of the Universe, Punisher, Fantastic Four)- to hit video games like Double Dragon or Final Fight – Shankar is clearly well-versed in all of them. So what made him try to bring it all together in one show? 

"This is how my mind works – this isn't even kind of how my mind works," Shankar explains. "This is how my memories work. So if I'm recollecting something that happened to me two or three years ago, it doesn't feel like a constant tone. All of a sudden it will be super bombastic! Then it will feel like a cartoon! Then it will feel dark and dramatic! Then all of a sudden it will start feeling like 'Looney Tunes'.

So with this project, I really was just trying to show what it's like to exist in this head of mine. And how I process reality. And it was definitely a challenge." 

You have to see Guardians of Justice to truly understand what Shankar is describing: the vintage-looking superhero show takes its 'Bootleg Justice League' on a mystery to solve their 'Superman's murder; sequences jump from live-action to animation to claymation and even shifts into a video game reality where action sequences are narrated by a Mortal Kombat-style officiator, and fighters all have health point bars over their heads. It's an eclectic collection of genre storytelling and Shankar says it was a definite puzzle to unravel in the making: 

"The live-action stuff was a challenge because even though the show is at least 50% live-action, it's a live-action cartoon. So I had to amp the actors up so that their performance would match the cartoon aspects of it, so it would all seamlessly transition. We had live-action, 2D animation, 3D animation, pixel art, claymation, just a litany, and within each of those we had different styles and tones. So it was also a challenge, but a cool challenge, like rising to the occasion of learning how to direct across all these mediums. Because that I had also never done before." 

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To get all these different formats together in one place and drop so many geek culture Easter eggs, Shankar reveals that he had to literally keep a list to keep track of it all: 

"So before I even shot one frame, I had a list of different mediums that I wanted to use. So that was there from like Day 1. And in fact, there are some mediums I didn't end up using: I thought it would be cool to do a sequence within a video game engine, didn't end up doing that – so yeah, the list of mediums was there. 

When it came to the actual references, I was just kind of like feeling it as I was doing it. And some of it was in post. So the video game fight announcer guy – as an example. In my mind, there was always going to be a fight announcer guy who's like 'Fight!' or 'KO!' 'Boss Battle!' But then I was like 'Is this actually going to work in the edit??? Maybe I should keep some of this to myself!'"

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Ultimately Guardians of Justice does keep its fight announcer – as well as many other geek-inspired ideas Shankar chose to run with. You can stream the series on Netflix now – be sure to check out more of our interviews with Adi Shankar on this series, and the many other big projects Bootleg Universe has in the works.