NYCC 2012: Bruce Timm and The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 Interview

As stated before, Bruce Timm was at the 2012 New York Comic Con talking about The Dark Knight Returns Part 2, in which he is the producer of. The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 is the animated sequel to the renowned film, The Dark Knight Returns. You can watch what he says below or read the entire article.

What was the main challenge, especially with the second part, in keeping with the vision of Frank Miller but also doing it the way you guys saw it?

The biggest consideration in doing part 2 was that after all these years, the most controversial part of the comic is literally Frank Miller’s Superman. It’s at the point where people think, ‘Oh, it’s Frank Miller. Clearly he hates Superman, he loves Batman and hates Superman.  And I don’t know if that’s really true, I think its probably an exaggeration of reality. But in the same time, the way Superman is treated in the comic is unlike any other way Superman is treated as a character, so early on, we said, ‘Do we change what Superman is like in the story, do we stay with it and embrace it?’ So we had to embrace it, and Superman, if there are people who don’t know about the comics, he is really like a Super-enforcer of the United States government in the story, and he works against Batman and other superheroes in the story. And I think it’s a valid story to pursue, whether you think Superman would be good or not, but it definitely creates a different kind of dichotomy between the two different kinds of crime fighters that Superman and Batman are. And its frankly the climax of the story, so we had to do it full strain.

With the art direction: were you inspired by any of the comics before it or did you try to remove your opinion from it?      

Well visually on this one, we just basically referred to the comics. We had copies of the graphic novel all over the room and any time we were in doubt about what something should look like, whether it was a wrench or a vehicle or a building, it was just like, “Well what’s it like in the comic?” And sometimes you open the comic and go, “Oh, well we don’t want to do it like that, but, we want to do it kind of like that.” So it was always our visual reference.

Speaking of the art style, I felt as if there was almost as much of you as Frank, or is it just because there’s a lot of Frank in you?

No I think that probably what you’re responding to is the style creator on the Batman animated series twenty years ago has kind of become like the default superhero style for all the animations that are currently being done out of Korea. So whether it’s a Marvel show or a DC show, whether it’s Young Justice or Fantastic Four or Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, they all have a little bit of the Batman animated series DNA in them now because that’s how all the animators in Korea do their own work. I wish I can take the BT DNA out of there. It is definitely not a conscious thought, I try to keep my style out of the experimentation-completely. I don’t want the stuff to look like my stuff when we’re done with it, an adaptation is the real start work.


This film deals with the last days of Batman, with this type of film coming out this summer fiscal and when you did Batman Beyond, what do you think of the Batman audience’s fascination with trying to find out the last battle with Batman, which has been done again and again and again, why do they want to see the hero fall?

I mean, I don’t know. I think it’s not just Batman, I think that applies to a lot of different characters, like you know, Captain Kirk. “What’s Captain Kirk’s last battle? If he dies, what would it be like?” You know, sometimes it’s satisfying, sometimes it isn’t. But I just think it’s an interesting- it’s one of those perennial questions like, “If this guy and this guy fought, who would win?” So I don’t know.

Has Frank Miller reacted?

I have not heard from Frank. Hopefully he liked it.


You were talking before about Superman’s role in this film, it just raised the question to me that when a character celebrates their 75th anniversary, how much of a challenge is it to keep, even out of the comics, to keep that character relevant? Because all I hear from people is, “Oh, he’s boring, he’s a god living among people.”

It’s a bit of a challenge. I mean, Superman can go wrong a lot of ways. It is a challenge in that there is something really specific and iconic about Superman as the super boy scout. And the trick is to, “Ok, how do you make that relevant, how do you make that interesting?” And there’s a lot of ways to make that interesting, and there’s a lot of bad ways. One thing you can do is to make him un-Superman like, because you can make him break his own rules. “Oh, Superman loses it. Something happens to make him lose it and he’s a vengeful killer or whatever.” That’s the easy out, we’ve done that too. But it’s a hard thing to describe. The minute you push him too far outside of his Superman zone, he’s not Superman anymore. So you have to be very careful walking that line. On the other end of the line, you have those worlds that have totally embraced this idea that Superman is this God-like, Jesus-like King-Arthur-like figure of pure goodness. Grant Morrison, that was his whole take on Superman, that was his whole complete remake for that series, and I think he pulled it off brilliantly. But it is difficult to do, so there is no easy answer.

Did you have any concerns that the time frame within the Reagan era might not be-

There was some discussion about that. We thought, “Ok, should we update all the references? Should we make Reagan whoever?” And we just thought no and we decided to stay truthful to the period of the book, and it’s not like that, but Reagan speciafically was such an iconic part of the comic, it was just, well, if people don’t know who Reagan is anymore-which is kind of a scary thought- it just kind of has to be.


How did it seem to reverberate in contemporary time? What would be relevant?

I think the themes are universal, I think the idea of right versus left, civil rights versus peace’s good.

I though the fight scenes in The Dark Knight Returns, especially part one, I thought you guys really pushed that. Is that part of staying true to Frank Miller or you had to record that several times?

I think what happened in that in a comic, the big fight between Batman and the mutant leader takes place on two pages of art, and it seems like it’s this big epic fight, and literally when you look at is, its literally only 15 panels maybe. And yet, that’s just the difference between comic book language and film language. That’s appropriate for the comic, that seemed like a big epic fight, that seemed satisfying and conclusive in the comic. And in the movie, if we literally stuck only to those panels that were in the comic, the fight would be over in 20 seconds. So we needed to expand it and fill in the blanks basically. Fortunately JLE is one of the best action directors and that’s his baby.

How is it working with the different voice talent? Like . . .Peter Weller??

Great! They’re all really really professional and great to work with. I was getting my geek on with Peter Weller. Seriously, Robocop and Buckaroo Bonzai were 2 of my favorite sci-fi movies. So he’s in both of them so that was awesome. Beyond the geekiness of that, he’s awesome; he’s perfectly cast for that part. He’s still a young man, but he sounds older now than he did when he did Robocop and Buckaroo Bonzai, so he’s got the authority. When his name first came up in the casting selections, my only hesitation was if he sounded deep enough to be Batman. And Andrea [Romano] had been watching him Dexter, and so she sent me a clip and I thought wow, he’s amazing; he’d be perfect for this type of role. And he was. Michael Ironside, he was great too. I mean, it’s always fun and difficult to cast Batman. As much as I love Kevin Conroy, and how much I think he’s awesome as Batman, he could have played this one, but we just wanted to try something different. The neat thing about Batman is that there are so many different ways to interpret the character, there isn’t just one perfect way, I think. It’s I always say that it’s like James Bond. To me, Sean Connery is the best Bond- perfect, hands down. But I love Daniel Craig too; I love George Lazenby, all the other James Bonds. There’s all these different James Bonds that I think brings something different to him.

When you achieve the success of something like The Dark Knight Returns, and you’ve been on some kind of roll, does the creativity of that achievement, does that keep it fresh with you, exciting for you after all these years?

Well, I don’t know if I think of it like that. Honestly, we have to do all these things and make big decisions, I wish there was a time where we could sit down after we finished one and just go, “That was wonderful. It’s a wonderful movie.” But that never happens because we’re in the middle of working on three other movies. So we never get the chance to sit down and enjoy what we did. I think it’s when we finish mixing the movie and when we’re finalizing it and store it away and we’re not thinking about it since we’re working on other things. And then we have a screening and then it’s kind of nice to go, “Oh yeah, I’ve forgotten about this movie,” and now that I’m not working on it, I can kind of look at it with a fresh eye.


And yet again, here’s the trailer to The Dark Knight Returns Part 2.


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