New York Comic Con 2015 hosted a reunion for six of the seven voice actors from the iconic Justice League animated series, plus legendary voice director Andrea Romano. On Friday afternoon on the Empire Stage, moderator Shaun Lynch brought Ms. Romano together with Carl Lumbly (J’onn J’onzz), Phil LaMarr (Green Lantern), Maria Canals-Barrera (Hawkgirl), George Newbern (Superman), Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman), and Kevin Conroy (Batman). Unfortunately, Michael Rosenbaum was not able to attend (Ms. Romano thought that it was either his high school reunion or his birthday). Phil LaMarr certainly dressed for the occasion:
Let it also be known that Kevin Conroy knows how to make an entrance.
Even though she joked that she didn’t remember how she got to the convention, Ms. Romano remembered back to 1999 when she began the casting process for Justice League, with the daunting task of finding seven actors to play DC’s most iconic superheroes made a little easier because Kevin Conroy agreed to reprise his role as Batman. Tim Daly was not available to reprise Superman because had moved to the East Coast, so a major casting call led the producers to George Newbern. Both Phil LaMarr and Maria Canals-Barerra had worked with Ms. Romano and the crew at Warner Bros. Animation on Static Shock, but Carl Lumbly and Susan Eisenberg came from Ms. Romano’s desire to find interesting actors who didn’t have a lot of voiceover experience (although Mr. Lumbly had done one voice on Batman Beyond).
Phil LaMarr relayed that the actor who auditioned before him was Dennis Haysbert, who Mr. LaMarr was convinced would be cast in the part. He joked that for his audition, “I’m just going to do him,” ending up surprising everyone who knew him as the much younger-sounding Static.
Host Shaun Lynch asked about Carl Lumbly’s background, as the son of Jamaican immigrants who lived in Minnesota, and whether that affected his performance as J’onn J’onzz. Lumbly said that the central idea that drove J’onn’s character was that he was an alien who didn’t have a home planet to go back to. He added that perhaps the role reinforced something about himself that he hadn’t known, but he liked the idea that J’onn was alone and trying to find his way on another planet, and really wasn’t very good at it.
The panel spent a few minutes honoring the late Dwayne McDuffie, with Ms. Romano and Mr. LaMarr underscoring his skill in adapting comic books into something that could be acted believably and grounded in real emotion without losing the more fantastic elements in the superhero world. As an old comic-book geek, Mr. LaMarr also got a big kick out of the numerous inside jokes and obscure references, saying that his questioning looks would always get knowing nods from Mr. McDuffie when they were doing their first table reads.
Ms. Romano added that Justice League Unlimited was a bit of a nightmare for her, since the explosion of characters meant she had to cast dozens of actors for speaking roles (sometimes only one line), with the final 7 episodes being especially challenging. It did mean she would go to actors who could do multiple characters in the same session, just to make life easier (such as Phil LaMarr doing double-duty as John Stewart and Steel, or Maria Canals-Barrera playing Fire).
The highlights of the panel were the live readings that the cast did from assorted Justice League scripts, with Mr. Lynch filling in for the Flash (after a quick-change of t-shirts to something more appropriate). The cast read from “Secret Origins, Pt. 2” when all the members of the League meet for the first time (which was dominated by Carl Lumbly’s recounting of his history on Mars); the beginning of “This Little Piggy” (throwing a spotlight on Kevin Conroy and Susan Eisenberg, with Mr. Conroy having a little fun with some ad libbed additions); and the closing scene of the final episode of Justice League Unlimited. The panel was brought to a close with an amusing scene where the actors let the League be the panelists, giving the actors one more go-round as their iconic superhero selves.