PLUS: Producer James Tucker lifts the veil on how the show was put together…
Man, time flies. Batman: The Brave and the Bold, the delightfully raucous cartoon tribute to the Silver and Bronze Ages, debuted 10 years ago – Nov. 14, 2008 — with the episode The Rise of the Blue Beetle! (I love how every episode ended in an exclamation point. Elliot S! Maggin would approve.)
We’re celebrating with a two-part series – and in this first installment, James Tucker, one of the series’ producers (and a producer on the two Batman ’66 animated features), shows off some of his early character designs and answers a series of questions about the show’s secrets. Part 2 (click here) is a list of James’ TOP 13 episodes.
Check it out…
Dan Greenfield: So, what’s the secret origin of Batman: The Brave and the Bold? How did you get involved?
James Tucker: Back on Batman: The Animated Series Season 4, we did an episode called Legends of the Dark Knight and I got to storyboard the section that showed the Dick Sprang ’50s Batman. I got to design the characters and pretty much produce that segment, design-wise.
Years later, Sam Register, president of Warner Animation, though not at the time, approached me to do a new take on a Batman cartoon to tie into the second Nolan Batman film, The Dark Knight. I later found out that Bruce Timm himself recommended me for the gig after passing on it himself.
I was told the show couldn’t mimic the tone of the feature film, which would be way too dark for kids’ TV, and also had to lend itself to a variety of toy treatments.
At first I wasn’t interested, because the ultimate Batman show had already been done in the form of BTAS. However, when I was told it was to be based on the Brave and the Bold concept of Batman, and basically be a team-up show with Batman joining up with the rest of DC’s roster of characters, particularly the lesser-known ones, I was immediately on board.
The Brave and the Bold comic book was the first Batman-related comic book I’d ever read, and it’s still my favorite, so I felt that this was a chance to cover some Batman territory that BTAS hadn’t, wouldn’t or couldn’t cover, and also it would allow me to play with lots of DC characters that never made it into any other DC cartoons to that point. It was a show tailor-made to my particular tastes regarding DC fandom of the Silver and Bronze Age.
Dan: You mentioned to me in passing that the original concept had more of a Jim Aparo B&B feel. Tell us about that.
James: Well, of course, because it was based on the Brave and the Bold comic book, my first thought was to attempt a Jim Aparo feel, who for me, was THE Batman artist, but I quickly abandoned that because it would limit where the show could go visually.
The appeal of Aparo’s artwork was that it had the feel of the serious Neal Adams artwork being done in the other Batman books that ushered in the return to realistic, dark, gritty Batman, while also kind of hiding the fact that Bob Haney’s stories were so off the wall and bananas when you read them. I tried different looks and got some other takes on it from other artists, but finally Sam Register or Bruce Timm saw that I was struggling to settle on a look and said, “Just do your Dick Sprang inspired style,” which really liberated me because it’s kid-friendly, animation-friendly and was perfect for the Silver Age feel I was wanting for the series.
Dan: Were you concerned how fans would react to a lighter Batman — something memorably addressed in Legends of the Dark Mite!
James: I went into the show feeling it was a chance to remind people that Batman didn’t have to always be dark and gritty, and show an earlier, lighter version of the character that existed prior to the ’80s. It was an uphill battle at the time because most fans had been conditioned to not trust any treatment of Batman that wasn’t super straight and basically humorless.
As I guessed, unfortunately, the knee-jerk reaction from a very vocal fan base was to reject it sight unseen (luckily the internet wasn’t as all-consuming as it is now!). It took a while to win over a certain segment of fandom — most didn’t get on board it seems until after we’d already ended — though I was happy that with our second San Diego Comic-Con panel, we already had some diehard believers who “got us”!
Dan: The show is so obviously a love letter to the Silver and Bronze Ages and Batman ’66. Journey to the Center of the Bat!, for example, is inspired by the classic B&B #115. What are some of the stories you wanted to do but couldn’t?
James: I was lucky enough to do many of the Silver Age stories that inspired me, like the Joe Chill story or Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, but the ones we didn’t get to that come to mind were a ’60s B&B story where Wonder Woman and Batgirl fight over Batman. It’s horribly dated and sexist but of course we would’ve spun it differently, and made a commentary about its backwardness. It also featured Copperhead, one of my favorite DC villains.
I’d have also loved to have done a Batman/Swamp Thing team up based on the ’70s Wein/Wrightson story. I think it could’ve been a great horror-based episode. I also liked the B&B team-up that featured Atom, Green Arrow, Joker and Two-Face in the ’70’s.
Dan: Same theme: Name some of the characters you wish you could have brought in.
James: I’m hard-pressed to think of characters that we didn’t get to use that I wanted, but Swamp Thing, as I mentioned, would’ve been one. Also, it would’ve been great to do a sword-and-sorcery episode using DC’s Conan-inspired Claw. Our Batman would’ve really worked in that setting. Actually, our Batman works in any setting, which was the whole idea behind the series.
Dan: Whose idea was it to make Aquaman such a charming blowhard? You could argue that this version had a lot to do with making the character popular again.
James: As I recall, Sam Register pushed Michael Jelenic — my co-producer and story editor who I couldn’t have done the show without — and me to find a different angle on Aquaman.
So often, these things happen organically as someone chimes in with an idea, another one piggybacks an idea onto that and then we run with it. In this case, Jelenic heard the voice of a former co-worker in his head when it came to Aquaman’s dialogue, while I was basing Aquaman’s design on Steve Reeves, a movie Hercules of the ’50s and ’60’s.
His “Outrageous!” was used once in the original script but as we started recording it, I kept asking for it to be repeated at the end of his lines for punctuation and it became the catch phrase of the character. We were so lucky to have John DiMaggio voice Aquaman. He really made the character pop off the page.
Dan: What was your favorite part about working on the show?
James: Producing the show was a true labor of love. It was hard work but never felt like it because everything we did was based on stuff I knew and loved since childhood, so I was able to pour all of my various fan interests (comics, camp humor, musicals, horror, etc.) into the series. Ideas and inspiration were always there. We never were dry for ideas.
Also, I had the very best qualified and nicest bunch of people to work with on it and most seemed to enjoy the experience. I’m all for dark and intense stories, but when you work on a series, the tone of the series can seep into your pores after a while so it’s enjoyable to occasionally work on a series that at its core is very uplifting and warmhearted.
Everyone was on the same page and by the end of the first season, we were all in sync. I’ve been blessed to have enjoyed thoroughly 99.9 percent of every series I’ve worked on, but Batman: The Brave and the Bold will probably be the best professional experience I’ve had or will have.
NEXT: James Tucker’s TOP 13 BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD Episodes. Click here.
— REVEALED! The Secrets Behind BATMAN: RETURN OF THE CAPED CRUSADERS. Click here.
— REVEALED! The Secrets Behind BATMAN VS. TWO-FACE. Click here.