WORLD EXCLUSIVE: The Making of "Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths"

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: The Making of "Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths"

DC Comics has enjoyed great success with storytelling “events” involving parallel worlds in which different versions of the characters fans know and love (or hate) come together. Now that creative notion is being brought to life in the animated DVD film, Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths.

As the adventure, which will be released in February 2010, begins, a “good” version of Superman’s arch-enemy, Lex Luthor, arrives from an alternate universe to recruit the Justice League to help save his Earth from the Crime Syndicate, a gang of villainous characters with virtually identical super powers to the Justice League. What follows is the ultimate battle between good and evil in a war that threatens both planets, and through a plan launched by Owlman, puts the balance of all existence in peril.

“There are so many different continuities for all of the characters in the comics over the many years, that we’re sort of used to seeing Batman and Superman in different contexts, which is fun,” says writer Dwayne McDuffie, “but a lot of it, in this particular case, is seeing what the world would be like if they weren’t good people. They have enormous power and there are almost no checks on their power. We dealt with this on the Justice League TV series, where they went to a parallel world where the Justice League met parallel versions of themselves who had decided that the way to get rid of crime was to control everything and had maybe gone too far in that direction. In this case, they’re meeting not direct parallels of themselves, but people who sort of take those same positions. You’ve got Owlman instead of Batman, Ultraman instead of Superman, and Super Woman instead of Wonder Woman. They’re completely different people who have chosen to use their power for personal gain.
“For me, probably the interesting part about this is the rift between Batman and the rest of the group about the responsibilities of the Justice League on our earth,” he continues. “Our Justice League immediately charges over to the parallel earth to help out, and Batman stays here, because he feels his primary mission is to protect the world he lives in. That was interesting. I like setting up conflicts in the group where both sides actually have a point.”

Like previous entries in this series of animated DVDs (which includes Superman: Doomsday, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern: First Flight and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies), the film features an all-star cast, in this case led by Mark Harmon (NCIS) as Superman, James Woods (Ghosts Of Mississippi, Shark) as Owlman, the dark version of Batman; Chris Noth (Sex And The City, Law & Order) as Lex Luthor, William Baldwin (Dirty Sexy Money) as Batman, Gina Torres (Angel, Serenity) as Super Woman and Bruce Davison (X-Men) as the President.

“I was mostly influenced by a classic interpretation of who I perceive Batman to be, with the possible exception that I think sometimes I allow a certain sensitivity or an emotional dynamic to give (the character) maybe a likeability or an accessibility. That's almost an insecurity of mine as an actor – to want to breathe a little bit of those types of emotions into characters, to make them more human.”

“There are a number of things that make playing Batman special. Certainly the history of the character is important. The people that have been lucky enough to portray Batman on screen, or provide his voice, is a short list and it's pretty cool. I'm in good company. I enjoyed it as a child, and the character still resonates for me. Plus I'm the father of an 8-year-old, a 7-year-old, and a 4-year-old – my boy is sandwiched between his sisters, and he just loves super heroes. We watch Justice League together. I try not to let him overdo it too much with television, but there's great, wholesome messages that come out of that series. When I told him that I was playing Batman, his jaw dropped. I almost took him out of school to have him come down to see the recording.”

“I was looking at the script on a plane, and I was really attracted to the character and the piece based on my understanding of Batman. He doesn’t have long monologues, so there wasn’t a lot of memorization necessary – I was mostly focused on getting into the rhythm of how the character speaks, because a lot of his dialogue can be incredibly challenging emotionally. That's the thing about Batman – his spectrum of emotion is fairly narrow, for a number of reasons. He’s always in command, he's always in control, he's always holding it together.”

“I'm actually a little uncomfortable playing Superman. I mean, he’s the guy, but I actually look at this much more as being a part of this amazing team of actors. That’s one of the things that really attracted me to the film. And I'm more comfortable with being included than I am trying to stand out in any way. I wouldn't have done this just to say I played Superman. That's not important to me.”

“I approach any character the same, if you're talking about [real-life serial killer] Ted Bundy or if you're talking about Superman. I'm just trying to make it believable. I try very hard not to pretense the character, and think anything about it when I'm doing it. It's a bad parallel, but if you're playing Ted Bundy, you can't play him as guilty. You've got to play the other part of that. You've got to play the honesty. You got to play that without making an assumption. I feel the same way in a different way about Superman. I don’t think you play him as the guy with the red S on his chest. You’ve got to play the human values of that or the values that connect to a human audience.”

“To me, growing up watching Superman on black and white television or reading it in the comic books, all the superhuman things he did were cool. But the things that attracted me are really the human part of the character, or at least the part that was more real. Hopefully that's what I brought to that. He's a leader. He's a quarterback. He can be tough when he needs to be. He can certainly be direct. No matter who he's talking to, he tries to speak honestly. I understand those values.”

“Owlman is not the leader, but he's actually the brains of the Criminal Syndicate. If Ultraman is Superman's dark doppelganger, and if the Criminal Syndicate is the Justice League's dark doppelganger, then Owlman is Batman's dark side. Ultraman is really more of tough guy, a brute force kind of leader, whereas Owlman is the thinker, which is maybe his undoing and his greatest strength. He's a very calculating, dangerous individual because of his extraordinary brain power. And at the same time, I think it causes him to have incredibly dark, existential reservations about his acts. So he becomes a very dangerous individual not only to the Justice League and to Earth as we know it, but also all the other alternate earths that are created. In fact, the whole future of the multiverse may be in his hands.”

“The fact that this man is so self-destructive and self-loathing, well, there’s an interesting historical parallel to Owlman. All through World War II, some of the most beautiful cities like Paris and Rome were considered open cities. It was understood by both sides of the war that you wouldn't bomb Paris because it was such a beautiful city. Ironically, at the very end of the war when Hitler knew that his fate was sealed, he actually ordered the destruction of his own city, Berlin. I think that's a historical insight into how Owlman himself would think, how he would operate emotionally and spiritually. He’s a very dangerous character.”

“Owlman and Super Woman, who's Wonder Woman's dark side, have this strange power hungry kind of – I won't call it love affair, but certainly a strange attraction. And it is the dark side of love, so it involves a kind of power and domination. And one of the ways that Owlman treats her is, in a sense, making her need him without giving her any kindness. That's the nature of a dark, dark character like this. So their love is sort of a really brutal, bitter kind of love. And to get that kind of tone into it was kind of strange, because it's not what love would be about. So, you have things that are kind of counterintuitive, but it's fun to try it. You have do something and say, ‘Oh, that's kind of weird how that works with the line, but to play it this way makes it really different.’ And then it really works great.

“I'm so glad they called me to do Super Woman, because she's another badass, (she laughs) and I was in the mood to get back in there and be a badass. She's one of those superheroes that knows her power, and is comfortable in her power.”

“It's important to have strong images of women out there, women who aren't afraid of expressing themselves, women who aren't afraid of taking chances, women who aren't afraid of their own power. I think, unfortunately, being a woman in society means that sometimes you have to, sort of, quell what is instinctually broad and magnificent and magical about you. I think a lot of people feel that way. I don't know if that's necessarily relegated to being a woman, because we're all so worried about fitting in, and not sticking out. So, what's great about this whole genre is that it's all about sticking out. It's all about being magnificent to the highest power.”

“There is no trick to capturing villainy. Everybody has different sides to them. Everybody has that that inner villain that you want to sort of break out and express. It's a good time going out there and letting her come out. Lock good Gina in the closet and have evil Gina come out and play!”

“I was extremely excited to be playing the ultimate villain from my youth, so I was very surprised to see that in this world Lex is actually on the right side of the law. That required a whole new thinking on my part on how to approach him. I mean, he’s a superhero in this very complex story about parallel universes – he's actually trying to save all of reality, in a sense, from being destroyed. So when I read it, I was thinking, ‘Wow, I need to get up to date on this new world of superheroes.’ I guess I'm little bit retro.”

“I find superheroes to be more archetypes of values of courage and fortitude and things like that. It's interesting to me that the new world of animation, compared to when I was growing up, has a much more diverse array of characters. It's a more complicated world. In the old comic books that I grew up on, these characters were Shakespearean in that they were very big with their evilness in the same way that Richard III in Shakespeare is feisty, not evil. These kinds of comic book characters today relish being bad. And that's always fun to play – it's a great fun ride.”

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Featured in our premiere issue:

• Behind the Scenes on the "Aquaman" TV Pilot* Exclusive interviews with creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, and director Greg Beeman
• A conversation with actor Justin Hartley, who played Aquaman before becoming Green Arrow on Smallville
• Never before published behind the scenes photos

• The making of all 52 episodes before the show became Justice League Unlimited
• Go behind the scenes on each episode with producers Bruce Timm, James Tucker, Dwayne McDuffie and others
• An interview with voice director Andrea Romano
• Exclusive interviews with the voice cast, including George Newbern (Superman) and Kevin Conroy (Batman)
• Previously unpublished behind the scenes images

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Filed Under "Animated Features" 10/28/2009
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