(splash image left to right: Jim Krieg and Tim Sheridan (screenwriters); Nyambi Nyambi (voice actor – Martian Manhunter); Patrick Fabian (voice actor – Cyborg Superman); James Tucker (executive producer); Phil Bourassa (character designer); Toks Olagundoye (voice actor – Cat Grant); Sam Liu (producer/director)
At New York Comic Con 2018 in October (…wait, what happened to November?!?), Anime Superhero was able to sit down with the cast and crew of Reign of the Supermen, the newest upcoming animated feature film from Warner Bros Animation. The sequel to this year’s Death of Superman will be arriving on digital on January 15, 2019, and then on Blu-ray/DVD on January 29, 2019.
Questions asked by AnimeSuperhero are marked.
Voice Actor: Cat Grant
QUESTION: Can you talk about what Cat Grant is up to in Reign of the Supermen?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: She’s being her badass self reporting the news and getting in people’s faces. Supporting Lois. Doing her thing.
QUESTION: Has she changed at all since we’ve seen her last?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: Not really. She’s pretty solid in who she is and what she’s doing. I think she’s a good device for moving things forward.
QUESTION: How would you describe Lois Lane and Cat Grant’s relationship, based on the interplay that we’ve seen in that first movie?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: Well, (laughs) I think that they’re very honest with each other, and they’re really good at pushing each other at where they need to be. Cat very much with Lois. She knows when something’s going on and she’s pretty good at getting stuff out of her and pushing her in the right direction. She’s got a lot of tough love, but she’s also compassionate when she needs to be.
I think that she’s a constant source of support for Lois. Lois knows that she’s there, but Cat is not one of those friends that’s too much in her face, you know? I think we all have those friends, especially friends that we work with. You know they’re there, but they’re not like that annoying friend who’s always in your face and you’re like, “Stop it! I don’t want to talk about this right now!” Although, I think Cat does push her every now and then, but only when she knows that she’s ready to take it.
QUESTION: So why do you think Reign of the Supermen a worthy follow-up to The Death of Superman?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: Because it’s just as good. (Laughs) It’s the same people, and they know what they’re doing. More importantly, they love it so they want to honor it, but at the same time bring just enough new stuff to it that it is fresh, you know? But I think that that’s the important thing when it comes to reboots and things that are taken from the written form or the still form into movement. I think it’s best when it’s people who really love it, and want to stay as true to the actual thing as they can, because I think that when you get too concerned with what people are going to think, or “What do these fans want? What’s that fan want? What do the producers want?” that’s when it falls apart. These are guys who do this because they grew up with this stuff, so I think that they’ve created something brilliant and I think it continues in the second film.
QUESTION: Did you have a chance to improvise on this story?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: If I’m being honest, I don’t remember (laughs). There’s so much animation that happens after we record. I don’t think so. I play a few characters, actually, in this one. I think I may have for Cat, but it wasn’t ever anything major. It was just a sassy word here or there.
ANIMESUPERHERO: Do you have any touchstones or inspirations for when you were crafting the character? Like a friend you’re remembering who is that role for you, maybe?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: No. Well, maybe. My mum is a lot like this. Mum’s just this fierce Norwegian woman who doesn’t care about what anyone’s thinking and just goes for it. You know, it’s interesting, in a lot of the stuff that I do, I’ve been very lucky to work on a lot of reboots or enter into things that have really solid fan bases, and I don’t know what I’ve been doing with my time, but it’s usually something that I’ve never seen before (laughs). So I just go with how I read it and when I read what they’ve given me to audition with, however it feels to me is just what I stick with. Because for me, if I’m trying to give them what they want, I don’t know what they want and a lot of times they don’t know what they want. So I just kind of do what feels good to me and what I know I can do well, and if it works for them, great. And I’m always lucky if I have good writers and a good director because then I get amazing guidance.
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: Oh my goodness, I don’t know! I don’t know. Oh, see, that’s one that I’m going to think of an answer to tomorrow. Lois being Lois, she might ask me if it’s credible and fair. Something like that. Another question I wouldn’t be able to answer anyway (laughs).
QUESTION: In a lot of the movies and TV shows, Cat Grant is attracted to Clark Kent. She has a thing for him, and in this we didn’t necessarily see that. So in Reign of the Supermen, do we see any of how Clark’s death or disappearance affects Cat at all?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: Not necessarily in a personal life level, but I think that in what she’s doing with her job and the tone she has when she’s doing it, that does come across, yes.
QUESTION: Any additional little teasers you can give us?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: No. I never say anything because I don’t know what I’m allowed to say. I always forget (laughs). I forget the rules of the game.
QUESTION: In the recordings for this, were you alone in the booth?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: I was alone in the booth, yeah. You know, I think for a lot of these projects, they bring in amazing people who are all doing a lot of other things in a lot of other places. It is better if you can all be in the same place, but if you wait for everyone to be in the same place, it’ll never happen.
QUESTION: Would you prefer doing the live-action thing or the voice acting?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: Gosh, I like them both for very different reasons. They’re very different, honestly. There are people who will say that the way that they carry on in one is the same as the way they carry on in the other, and it’s not like that for me. I find that the energy is different and the level of collaboration with the creators, I think, is higher when it comes to animation. I have to rely much more on them, or at least I like to rely on them, because I know what they’re envisioning. I don’t have that in my head, so I really lean on them and I’m not one of those actors who’s really precious. I don’t hate a line-reading. I’m like, “Listen, if I’m not saying it right and you want me to say it a particular way, tell me how you want me to say it because I want to give you what’s going to work for this thing,” you know?
ANIMESUPERHERO: How much material did you have to work with other than the script? Did they show you character art or anything like that?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: No, I didn’t have anything to work with. I didn’t know what she looked like at first, and then when you do the ADR afterwards, when they re-write it then I got to see a little bit of it. But no, initially nothing.
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: Cat looks very different from how I envisioned her, but I was like “Oh! She’s pretty!” (Laughs) I like the way she looks.
QUESTION: Have you had a chance to watch Reign of the Supermen yet?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: No! I’m the only one who hasn’t. Everyone else has. Last night, everyone else was doing their homework with a link that was provided, and I was out to dinner with my best friend.
QUESTION: So aside from Reign of the Supermen, do you have a favorite version of Superman?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: Oh boy, do I have a favorite version of Superman? I don’t know. I like the Superman films with Christopher Reeve. that’s what I grew up on. And I know this is probably the least loved Superman anything that’s ever existed, but I loved Richard Pryor growing up (laughs), so the Superman film with Richard Pryor is probably the one I saw the most. I wasn’t really into comics when I was a a kid. I was a weird kid. I read a lot of poetry and classics, and I was just odd. But it’s something that I’m kind of discovering now that I’m in the world in this respect, which is kind of cool to figure it out now.
QUESTION: What’s your favorite Richard Pryor movie?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: Oh, God, what’s the one he does with Gene Wilder? See No Evil, Hear No Evil, is that what it’s called? Kevin Spacey is in that film. He was good at the time, I guess we’re not allowed to be happy about Kevin Spacey any more, but that’s a great film. I don’t know if you guys have seen it. It’s so funny. I mean, Gene Wilder was another one growing up. I wanted to be Gene Wilder when I was a kid. Like I said, I was a weird kid. But just brilliant. I love brilliant comedic actors. Goldie Hawn, you guys. Come on! Sorry, tangent.
QUESTION: After Reign of the Supermen, what do you have coming up next?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: For me personally as an actor? You know, these days, you have to sign an NDA for everything (laughs). So I’m on a Netflix show that i think is coming out in January, but I’m not allowed to discuss what it is. I’m on an HBO show that comes out in the spring, but I’m not allowed to discuss what it is…
ANIMESUPERHERO: These are all live-action or…
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: Um….
ANIMESUPERHERO: Or can you not say?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: Yes and no. One is, one isn’t. You’re going to see. What else…I’m always doing something for voiceover. I just did a film with Clara Mamet, David Mamet’s daughter, just as brilliant a writer as he is. So I’m busy, but you know. It’s like you say you’re busy and people are like, “Where’s the stuff?” And it takes so long for it all to come out. But it’s coming.
ANIMESUPERHERO: I’m pretty sure I know the answer to this question, but Cat Grant vs. Mrs. Beakley. Who wins?
TOKS OLAGUNDOYE: Oh, Beakley I think. I think Beakley wins. She’s a tough old bird, literally (laughs).
QUESTION: How did you approach the character designs for Reign of the Supermen?
PHIL BOURASSA: It’s always about looking at the source material and figuring out how much of it we can use, just on a one-to-one. Seeing how much of it translates directly from the page of the original creators and works in the context of the narrative for this film, and in the continuity that we’ve created. Because we’re cribbing from different eras of the comics, so you’re trying to thread that needle. If I can take everything that’s on the page and it works perfectly, then that’s what I do. Because that’s what it should be. But because it’s a different medium, some things work better on the page than they do when they’re moving, even though it’s hand-drawn.
QUESTION: Do you have a favorite design of the four of them?
PHIL BOURASSA: I really like Cyborg Superman. He’s a particular challenge because you have something that’s pretty horrific. It’s like got the Terminator, the cyborg skeleton aspect, but he has to be sympathetic as well. You have to find that balance and create a template so that the animators can bring out a sympathetic aspect, even though you’re looking at almost a horrific look. So he’s a fun, interesting challenge. I think that he turned out great. The animators knocked it out of the park. So I was really pleased with the way he turned out.
QUESTION: In terms of character design, what was it like to take on this Superboy?
PHIL BOURASSA: The role that he plays in the narrative justifies the flamboyant sort of ostentatious aspect of his costume. The way that he’s used in the film, the role that he plays, it really justifies the leather jacket and the shades. Where we could, we leaned into the 90’s influence, you know? And then there are little updates. So none of them are one-to-one from the page, becuase I feel like as a designer, there are ways to punch that stuff up and have it be a better design while still passing the squint test and feeling like you hit all the important landmarks, you know what I mean? So ideally, my goal is to update respectfully and sort of improve on what was done before, and contextualize it for a modern take, but make sure that it is respectful of the existing tradition. And I think in this movie, I think we did that. We pulled that off. But I’ll let you guys be the judge.
PHIL BOURASSA: Probably Cyborg Superman, for the reasons that I stated. The fact that it’s a scary look, it’s kind of horrific and monster-like, but it has to act and it has to emote. It’s not just a mindless robot. Steel wasn’t so much tricky as much as I just had a different take on him than I think anyone else wanted. It was one of those cases where I pitched a design for him that nobody was feeling. Because I’m a big anime fan, I had sort of an Alphonse Elric meets the Iron Giant kind of look. He was bulkier, he was a little more playful, the silhouettes and the shades, kind of a Big Hero 6 thing, because I love silhouettes and I love contrasting silhouettes. I wanted that big shape, you know what I mean? Nobody liked it (laughs). I tried to then get him inserted into other things, other projects. And then DC slapped it down. So what are you gonna do?
QUESTION: What’s your favorite characters in this piece and overall?
PHIL BOURASSA: Batman is the coolest. I always liked Cyborg, I liked the Teen Titans. But I think from a visual standpoint, I think Batman was my favorite. For DC.
QUESTION: As we move from movie to movie, are the higher-ups being more constrained with what they let you do, or are they letting you have more free reign?
PHIL BOURASSA: It really depends. They don’t tell me how to draw stuff. I’ve been doing these movies for a while, they’re all meant to have a consistent look. It’s a look that I’ve developed over the years. I’m always trying to refine it and add to it and streamline it, make it better. Build a better mousetrap, so to speak. So I don’t get notes as far as the aesthetic, as far as the style, but if I depart too drastically for certain look of a character, there’s usually a course correction there. Because it’s a collaborative process, so I definitely like have a lot of respect for our collective efforts, and I trust James Tucker with always being able to kind of guide me back if I’m too shy of the mark. But there’s like an intuitive aspect to doing it as well.
QUESTION: So you’ve seen the movie already?
PHIL BOURASSA: Yeah, I watched the final cut. I usually watch the footage when it comes in, in raw form in case I have to do corrections, and I saw the final cut last week, and it’s great.
QUESTION: What are you most excited for people to see other than Cyborg Superman?
PHIL BOURASSA: I think this movie turned out fantastic. I think it’s one of our better Justice League-centric …it’s Superman, but the Justice League is in it, and I think that it really drives the point home of what an effect that Superman has on the world, you know what I mean? So I think as a story, it’s just great. It really shows it from different angles how he inspires these different interpretations of what that responsibility is, and I think that the movie turned out pretty great. I’m just excited to see what people think.
QUESTION: I think you’re going to plead the fifth or not be able to answer this, but in Death of Superman, Doomsday arrives, it looks like via a Boom Tube, and obviously this universe kicked off with Justice League War battling Darkseid. So for this movie, did you have the opportunity to update Darkseid’s design?
PHIL BOURASSA: I did not update his design. I don’t know why we would have updated it. I mean, I’m always open to that. I did the Darkseid model like six years ago. If I had time to fix it, I would have changed something, but James usually wants me to leave things alone.
QUESTION: Oh, I’m not criticizing it…
PHIL BOURASSA: No, no. I am. I am (laughs).
QUESTION: But is it in the movie, though?
PHIL BOURASSA: You’ll have to wait and see.
QUESTION: How is it working with a character like Superman, who’s so iconic?
PHIL BOURASSA: When you’re working on characters that are that legendary and you love it and they have that much history, there’s always a weight to that responsibility. But I haven’t even done MY perfect version, you know what I mean? And that’s a lot of people’s favorite character. So I have no illusions that I didn’t do right by what someone already had in their head as the perfect Superman. Everybody has some version, some iteration that they like the best, you know? And so you just do your best. For me, I’m trying to accommodate the narrative and the direction that is decided upon from the outset with the producer and the writer and stuff like that, so I’m trying to create a visual that matches their vision.
Voice Actor: Hank Henshaw/Cyborg Superman
QUESTION: How was it playing Cyborg Superman in Reign of the Supermen? How did you deal with the pressure?
PATRICK FABIAN: You know what, it was totally cool. I did not see a mockup of the character until after I had done a first pass, so I relied heavily on Wes Gleason, the casting director and the voice coach, as we were going through it. I smile when I say “coached me through it” only because at the very beginning he very much was saying, “OK, that was good, now let’s bring it down and make it real,” because I was sort of playing at being in an animated film. I was playing at, “I’m going to be a CYBORG! I’ll be Arnold Schwarzenegger,” or whatever the hell I was thinking. And Wes was really good at reminding me that what makes animation work best is the reality of it. It’s like any other play I’ve ever been in or any other show I’ve been in. We all have to buy into the realness of the world. If anyone isn’t playing in the same sandbox, that’s when the audience detects that something’s false and it doesn’t work. So it was really great to be in there, and it’s like, “What are my circumstances? What do I want in this scene? Am I angry, do I ratchet it up, am I in control in this scene? Do I have the power, do I not have the power? Do I think I have the power?” All those things. So it really does become a breakdown of all the acting work that I do with everything else. There is no lessening of it or thinness of it.
QUESTION: What attracts you to the character of Cyborg Superman?
PATRICK FABIAN: Well, I was just glad to be asked back, to tell you the truth. Death of Superman was really my first foray into voiceover in comic books and animation like that. Not that I haven’t wanted to, it’s just very competitive. It’s a tight shop, and it’s hard to get a job. You just need a way in. And being able to play …look at me, look at my resume in my live-action stuff. I play a lawyer, I play the guy next door, I’m the doctor, I’m a CEO. NOBODY lets me play a cyborg. Are you kidding me? So that’s awesome! And that’s the great thing about animation, too, you get to really be somebody you’ve never been. So that was very attractive.
QUESTION: Have you had the opportunity to watch the movie yet?
PATRICK FABIAN: Yes. I was thrilled. I was really thrilled, and what I like about it is…as we all know, animation can be hit-or-miss, but when it works, when it locks in together, when all the pieces are flowing together — and I think this does — you get lost in the world. You can really feel the emotional arcs in the story going on. It’s got plenty of action, it’s got all that stuff that you’d expect from something like this, but having Jerry and Rebecca be Lois and Superman is a great bonus. I know both of them, I also know Rainn Wilson, who plays Lex Luthor, so that’s fun as well. It was great to sort of sit there and watch it unfold, and think of my friends doing that, even though they’re really not my friends in the movie. I think I can say that safely. And it really gets rolling. It picks up where the last one left off, you have some things laid out in the beginning, but particularly that last third is a rocket. It’s great.
QUESTION: Hank Henshaw starts as a character who is totally smitten with Superman. Because Superman has saved him, and we think we see him die in the first film. Comic readers know he becomes a major villain of Superman. How do you balance all of that dichotomy and all that contradiction in a character who is impersonating him while he hates him as well?
PATRICK FABIAN: Well, you got to play one thing at a time, right? The first film, none of the stuff we know later is happening, so there’s very much that sense of, “Who doesn’t love Superman?” It isn’t until he feels betrayed by him. There’s that idea that he feels betrayed because he feels like Superman didn’t have the time for him. Hank’s spaceship and his crew get obliterated, and it’s definitely Superman’s fault! I’m sorry, look at me, “IT’S DEFINITELY HIS FAULT!” (Laughs) But it is! And so later on, how do you go ahead and get back at that. Your feelings change, your heroes are no longer your heroes, and what do you do with that emotion? It changes people.
ANIMESUPERHERO: I know you guys had to end up having to record a lot of your lines alone. How do you adjust to that particular challenge as an actor?
PATRICK FABIAN: I’m OK with that. It is piecemeal work, and it’s a little fractured, but again, we get a good guiding hand with Wes Gleason, who’s the casting director and he knows that in advance. He knows that it’s difficult doing what you’re doing, and he keeps it rolling and he keeps the thread. He doesn’t linger on stuff if I’m not getting it, we’ll come back to it. That kind of thing. But the idea of getting dialogue between people, and getting that bounce…I haven’t experienced when I’ve done that with animation yet, so I can’t say that I prefer it or I don’t prefer it. I just know on a practical level, it’s easier to isolate. It’s easier to concentrate on one character at a time. I mean, just on a practicality of people stepping over each other’s lines, which happens all the time when you’re naturally talking like this, so if you’re in the booth together, and let’s face it, booth time is money time, now you’re talking about production costs. So now we’ve got 3 actors who are all friends doing a scene and maybe it’s funny and it’s just human nature. So the clock starts running, the money starts flying out the window. Keeping it separated, unless you need them together. I don’t know that they had other characters be together, but…hey, wait a second…they kept me all alone. What’s that mean? (Laughs)
QUESTION: Do these movies make you want to continue in animation?
PATRICK FABIAN: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. This was really fun. And when I saw the final product, I was totally thrilled. It was so cool. That’s the only word for it. It was so cool to see my voice coming out of his mouth. It was great. And all the effort in what we had done and all that stuff, to watch those editors put all that together. To watch them piece all that together, and manipulate the jaws and match things up…it’s great. It was really thrilling. Although, truth be told, I have a 6- and 8-year old daughters right now, so my next animation project I hope is My Little Pony, Part 2 or Part 8: Descent into Hell or whatever it is they do. I don’t know what it is.
QUESTION: Do you think Saul Goodman likes Superman?
PATRICK FABIAN: You know, no, I think Saul Goodman thinks Superman is a sap and a sucker. (Laughs)
QUESTION: Would you ever think to play Superman in live-action?
PATRICK FABIAN: First of all, thank you very much. That’s very sweet, but I think we can safely say that’s not happening in my lifetime. But that’s all right! But, you know what I could be? I could be Lex Luthor. I could be a villain. That would be totally cool. I mean, these days, technology has caught up with the imagination in so many ways and these movies have just become almost seamless in the ability to have the imagination be visualized on the big screen. Talk about seeing your dollars on the screen, they spent like a zillion dollars on something and then you sit down, like you go watch Black Panther, and you go, “Wow! Look at that!” Right? I grew up on Adam West as Batman. That was my Batman. And it’s come to the Dark Knight now. It’s come to that, and it’s amazing and exciting and exhilarating, and who doesn’t want a piece of that? I mentioned to my agent, I was like, “Hey is there any way I can get a small part in some kind of DC or Marvel movie?” And he’s like, “Yeah, get in line.” (Laughs) Everybody wants to be in that. But you never know.
PATRICK FABIAN: I saw Suicide Squad and you know, honestly…I appreciate Suicide Squad for what it is and this is just me being a middle aged dad, it was just…it was a liiiittle too much for me. And maybe a little too much My Little Pony in my life has softened me or taken the edge off me or something like that. I know…Clifford the Big Red Dog is kind of my speed these days, you know? He can be edgy, though, you never know.
QUESTION: So Dora live-action is more your aim?
PATRICK FABIAN: Dora live action! Well, you know, who doesn’t want to be a hero to their kids, you know? Spoiler alert, don’t let 6- and 8-year-olds watch Better Call Saul. And even if they did, they’d be bored, so I’d love to do something that my children will be able to point to and go, “That’s cooooool!!!”
QUESTION: Isn’t that one of the reasons why Ben Affleck took the role of Batman? Because his son loves Batman?
PATRICK FABIAN: Oh did he? It’s that and about 48-million other reasons, I think. Ben’s not here, is he?
QUESTION: While we don’t know where Hank ends up by the end of this film yet, would you consider coming back for future films like this? Because I know Hank ends up being a huge villain in the Green Lantern universe as well.
PATRICK FABIAN: Ah. See that’s information that I didn’t know, and it’s funny that they’ve kept that from me. Yes, I would be very interested, yeah, absolutely. I mean, once on board I’ve had such a thrilling experience, and now I get to be here at Comic Con I’d absolutely sign on to do this again, yeah.
QUESTION: So is this your first comic-con?
PATRICK FABIAN: You know, I went to San Diego Comic-Con to promote season 4 of Better Call Saul, but it was a completely different experience, and unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to really hang out with many of the fans. It’s just the way it was situated, but we were just out signing posters and I got to see fans and shake their hands. I got to be in the stairwell where everybody was flooding with their costumes, so I was out getting selfies with Wonder Woman and Aquaman…I totally want to be Aquaman, that’s who I want to be. I mean, I’ll probably be Aquaman’s lawyer, but that’s cool. As long as I can swim, I think I’ll be fine.
ANIMESUPERHERO: So I assume from some of your comments that you weren’t a monster comic book superhero fan growing up?
PATRICK FABIAN: No. You know what, I read MAD Magazine when I was growing up and I just ran with a circle that we just never got into comics. I missed that and I missed D&D and I missed all that sort of thing. It was just sort of lost to me, so the idea to me of Comic-Con until I was there to witness was that sort of vague, nebulous sort of thing of a newsreel maybe I saw. But to be in the middle of the energy is fantastic. because it’s not like Wonder Women are fighting over who has the better sword or shield, they’re actually saying “How did you make that?” Six Supermen were getting shots together, and I was like, “That’s awesome!”
QUESTION: So you’re saying you were an outdoor kid.
PATRICK FABIAN: I was an outdoor kid, yeah. (Laughs) Even though I grew up in Pennsylvania, yes, I was an outdoor kid.
PATRICK FABIAN: No, they have not. You know, they have not. I’m not too crazy…there’ll be enough fighting and violence for them just around the corner, and so I’m trying my best not to shelter them but maybe keep them at bay a bit. Do you have kids?
PATRICK FABIAN: How old are yours?
QUESTION: Six and eleven.
PATRICK FABIAN: OK. Well, there’s only a certain amount of window where they’re soft and beautiful.
QUESTION: They’re boys.
PATRICK FABIAN: Oh, you have boys, well in that case I know what your house looks like. I’m sorry. It’ll be clean when they go to college.
JIM KRIEG AND TIM SHERIDAN
QUESTION: How’s your Comic Con been so far?
JIM KRIEG: You’re looking at it.
TIM SHERIDAN: It looks just like this. But we were standing up some of the time.
QUESTION: So you just got here?
TIM SHERIDAN: Yes. But we’ve been having a great time. There are some great costumes out there.
JIM KRIEG: We were busy at the cartoon factory all week, and they flew us over here to talk about this.
QUESTION: What’s it like to take on and adapt this iconic part of Superman history, The Death of Superman?
JIM KRIEG: I don’t know, Tim what is it like to take this iconic part of Superman history and adapt it?
TIM SHERIDAN: It…it’s uh, all I think about. It keeps me up at night…(laughs) It’s the most incredible opportunity I’ve ever been given in my life! Given by you, Jim, thank you for bringing me in on it to work on it.
JIM KRIEG: You’re welcome. You know, the only way these get done is if you just imagine that something’s going to happen and it’s not going to get made, and you just have to limp along like it’s going to happen. Because if you really think about, “I better do this right” then you kind of can’t do it. This is a huge story, it’s a famous story, everybody knows it, and if you really took a second to go, “Oh, everyone is going to have their own thing that they want from this and maybe we’re not delivering,” it’s too much pressure. What we try to do is say, “Emotionally, what are the beats that you remember from this, and what do we not want to miss?”
TIM SHERIDAN: Because, I mean, I wish we could just use the comics as a storyboard, but we don’t unfortunately have that kind of time.
JIM KRIEG: That would be a 17-hour movie.
TIM SHERIDAN: Especially with these comics.
QUESTION: I think we’d watch that.
JIM KRIEG: Not Bibbo.
TIM SHERIDAN: Coming soon: The Bibbo Movie.
QUESTION: You guys pushed the violence in Death of Superman, and now you guys have the Eradicator, you have the Cyborg Superman. How far are you going to take these characters?
JIM KRIEG: Well, there’s some violence. I should warn you, if you have a trigger warning, I think this takes the story you remember from when you read it and pushes it as far as they would let us go.
TIM SHERIDAN: Look, we’re talking to people who are probably familiar with the story. Some of these guys, they’ll mess you up. And so there’s …it’s tricky. It’s tricky becuase we want to make sure that we’re still hitting those emotional beats, but MAN there’s a lot of action.
JIM KRIEG: There really is.
TIM SHERIDAN: And you get to see Cyborg Superman and Eradicator and Superboy and Steel, and all these guys coming up against each other and against some other really big threats as well.
JIM KRIEG: Maybe.
QUESTION: How much Justice League do we get in this movie?
JIM KRIEG: Well they’re all there.
TIM SHERIDAN: Do you remember in the comics how it’s laid out? Because it’s not a Justice League story, really…
JIM KRIEG: Because they would mess it up. It’s very much Superman’s story, so having the entire League there kind of throws things off. And we don’t do it exactly like they did…
TIM SHERIDAN: They went on a spaceship and they took off and I think that was the end of it.
JIM KRIEG: We came up with another solution.
TIM SHERIDAN: You’ll see some of the Justice League.
TIM SHERIDAN: In some ways it was difficult because there are so many new characters that suddenly show up on the scene, and you want to make sure that everybody’s getting justice. Death of Superman was so great. I remember that movie was still in production, but I got to read the script when we were starting on this and it gave us exactly the right launch pad. I finished that script and went, “I know exactly what we’re doing.”
JIM KRIEG: And the tone was all there, and the voices were all there. It’s kind of exactly the way you wanted that story to play out. Even in the comics, it feels like a different era. I mean, Superman is dead. Now what happens? So it seemed like a logical place for a split.
TIM SHERIDAN: I was a kid who was like, “Superman is dead!” Like we didn’t live in a world where Superman was going to come back. This was it. And these new guys, some of them, one of them, all of them might be Superman, or might not be Superman. That was the difficult thing, because we live in a world where we know that Superman did come back.
JIM KRIEG: Oh, great!
TIM SHERIDAN: In the comics! That is what happened…
JIM KRIEG: I was not a kid when this came out, but I was in college, I had no money. I would go into Forbidden Planet, and pull out the issue and say, “Is it Cyborg Superman? Is it Eradicator? Is that Superman?” I would kind of flip through because I wouldn’t spend the two bucks.
TIM SHERIDAN: You didn’t know! I remember my friends, we would all argue about it. We were like, “Oh, no, it’s definitely Cyborg Superman! It’s going to be Superboy. He’s going to be the new Superman.”
QUESTION: You guys obviously had a lot of stuff to cover in this movie and these movies have a really limited runtime.
JIM KRIEG: Yes, there was a lot to do.
JIM KRIEG: I think it’s a necessary follow-up to the movie. As much as I love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, if the entire Star Trek series ended with Wrath of Khan, it’s a beautiful ending but it’s kind of a bummer. You need to bring Spock back and that’s the place where we were. It’s like, “What’s the most respectful way we could bring these characters back, and address all these characters we know from comic book history?” Cyborg Superman and Eradicator and Superboy and Steel. So we had to give time to each of these characters, and even more time to Lois, because Lois is the heart of the movie and it’s her job to figure out who if any of these dudes has anything to do with her Superman.
TIM SHERIDAN: I looked at it in the reverse, and maybe this is an egocentric way to look at it (laughs), but we’d never seen Reign of the Supermen on screen. I think what we had to do was do Death of Superman and do it as its own thing. A lot of people say, “But they already did that story!” No, we had to do it so that we can do Reign of the Supermen and meet these characters and understand what it means to have that world where Superman doens’t exist. What do we do? I think what we amplified a theme from the comics and brought it to life in an even bigger way, and it is about our responsibility and what we do as everyday citizens when that symbol of hope is gone. How we fight for it and what we do, what are the choices we make to bring it back? In that way, I think it’s a necessary step, like you said, in the story of Superman. You have to learn what it’s like to lose him, you have to learn what it’s like to not have him so you can maybe appreciate it.
QUESTION: In the comics, you see Steel, Superboy, Eradicator, and Cyborg Superman, and these guys willingly or unwillingly are filling the void left by Superman. They’re a little like aspects of Superman’s character. Do we get to see that in the film?
JIM KRIEG: Oh yeah. Absolutely. That’s what the whole thing is about. I think even Lois sees something in each of these guys that reminds her of Kal-El. Hopefully we pulled it off and that you see the same thing.
QUESTION: The other thing I’m also noticing is that there are only 7 plot lines in all stories, and we’ve been telling the same stories over and over again. Voyage and return, rebirth, rags to riches…and I looked over the Death of Superman story and it involves about 4 of them. Did you notice that in terms of your craftsmanship in the story?
TIM SHERIDAN: You know, that’s a great question. I think that we’ve already been through this with Death of Superman. They keep killing Superman. We’ve seen it! We’ve seen it done again and again. That can be disappointing because then, what are we doing? It’s just a snuff film at that point, right? (Laughter) But to then get to do this, which is a story about …not to spoil anything but even if you don’t bring Superman back, it’s a story about bringing the heart of Superman back.
JIM KRIEG: For people our age or younger, there is some satisfaction in finally seeing this story told. Even if this Death of Superman is covered in some other media, our expectation for a moment is, “Oh, he’s dead! We get to see Cyborg Superman and Superboy…but oh we didn’t get that.” So there’s part of us that’s kind of longing to see that played out. I’m hoping we did it successfully.
QUESTION: Do you have a favorite of the four of them to write?
TIM SHERIDAN: Of the four Supermen? I will not choose between my children, no. (Laughs) Superboy was just so much fun to write.
JIM KRIEG: Superboy has some attitude problems. He is really fun.
TIM SHERIDAN: The toughest one is Eradicator. What happened was that James Tucker came in one day in a meeting, and said, “I know what to do. Here’s how we do Eradicator.” And I think he was absolutely right. I can’t spoil it, but he was absolutely right.
JIM KRIEG: Yeah.
TIM SHERIDAN: And I think that it ended up that he’s one of my favorite characters now. But it was a big challenge with him.
Voice Actor: Martian Manhunter
QUESTION: Can you talk about the Martian Manhunter’s involvement in all this?
NYAMBI NYAMBI: Well, yeah, with Martian Manhunter being one of the members of the Justice League…he’s just one of the guys, you know? I mean…
QUESTION: What’s his role?
NYAMBI NYAMBI: When you see the film, you’ll understand what I mean when I say he’s one of the guys. He’s one of the leaders as far as upholding the moral compass of the group. But his skill set is just ridiculous. Someone that is as strong as Superman with the ability to fly, the telekinesis, the telepathy, all that. His role in this is to fill a void.
QUESTION: You said when you get to see the movie. Did you see the movie yet? How do you think they compare?
NYAMBI NYAMBI: You know what I did? I went back and watched Death of Superman again, and then immediately went right into watching Reign of the Supermen. Look, you’re not going to outdo the duel. That duel between Superman and Doomsday was crazy, right? So it’s not going to go that far, as far as that’s concerned, but the fact that now there’s four Supermen and how they battle it out and …I’m trying to make sure I don’t give away anything. I feel like in a very different way, it’s just as interesting. Also the relationship with Lois Lane and her finding out for the first time that Clark is Superman, and then having to deal with the loss of two people now. Who are now the same person in her mind. And the relationship between her and Wonder Woman. There’s some things! You know? There’s some things and I don’t want to give away things. But some things that I think you will love.
ANIMESUPERHERO: How did you find the character of the Martian Manhunter, as a actor?
NYAMBI NYAMBI: See I grew up watching Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and then Young Justice later on, and I was a huge fan of Martian Manhunter. I really loved Miss Martian in Young Justice and I was always loving the relationship between her and Martian Manhunter. So Carl Lumbly was a huge influence on me, and that’s the voice I hear. Then of course, his story, as far as his connection to home, to Mars. He’s harboring the souls of a million green Martians, who are no more. He’s the sole representative. You couple those two things together, and it’s finding sort of that depth and gravitas. It’s one thing to do Carl Lumbly, but it’s another thing to find the depth of truth of what that is, and how you connect to it is by asking, “What’s his story?” That’s how I connected to him.
NYAMBI NYAMBI: I think it’s a must watch because it’s a great story. For me, it’s all about story. If the story is good and makes sense, and sometimes it doesn’t (chuckles), then I think it’s something worth watching. And the animation, of course, the animation in this looks really great. I was watching it last night and I was thinking, “Man, this animation looks really cool!” But for me, the thing that’s most important is the story. Is the story relevant, and at the same time interesting, and I think this one is.
QUESTION: Would you be willing to play Martian Manhunter in live-action?
NYAMBI NYAMBI: if I said no, I’d be an idiot (laughs). Yeah! Hell yeah! I’d love to.
QUESTION: Have you seen what they’ve done so far in live-action?
NYAMBI NYAMBI: I see everything. Yeah, I see everything. As far as the live-action, I watch all of the CW shows, and as far as the films, I see everything. Now what they’re going to do as far as the Martian Manhunter? I’d love to see him be part of the Justice League. I was hoping they would do more with Cyborg. I thought it was very interesting just seeing his origin, and I kind of want to see more. I want to see a Cyborg movie. I want to see a Martian Manhunter movie. Actually, I’d have loved to see those first before they got together. They all got together, and that’s cool, but now I’d like to see them in their own thing. But Martian Manhunter, because his skill set is on-point.
QUESTION: How many Oreos did you eat to prepare for the role?
NYAMBI NYAMBI: I ate none! (Laughs) I haven’t had an Oreo in years. But I had to go through my sense memory.
QUESTION: He and Superman are the last survivors of their planets. And now Superman is gone. Do we get to see how that affects Martian Manhunter? Does that make him just a little bit more lonely, as opposed to having someone else around who understands what he’s going through?
NYAMBI NYAMBI: I think that this is a part of his narrative. Now unfortunately, with these Supermen showing up on the scene, because this now takes place like six months later, now there is no time to breathe about that, it’s more about who are these guys and how do we deal with them? But yeah. There’s definitely a shared thing there, when it comes to our stories and the fact that now he’s gone and as a friend, you know? He was a friend. When I think back to the animated stuff, he’s the one that welcomed me with open arms. Where Batman didn’t…well, he’s not receptive to anybody, but Superman was the guy who brought me in and made me feel at home.
QUESTION: You just said that your character takes on more of a leadership kind of role in the Justice League, How do you change to play that?
NYAMBI NYAMBI: I think that there’s no change, only because it’s not there in the script. But there’s a change as far as stepping up. In the voice, yes, there’s a stepping up. There’s a more authoritative feel for him.
QUESTION: Are you signed on for more movies?
NYAMBI NYAMBI: No, not yet.
QUESTION: Tell us everything about the movie.
JAMES TUCKER: (Laughs) Superman died, and fill in the blank.
QUESTION: What was the decision behind doing this particular story as opposed to something else?
JAMES TUCKER: Well, the original Superman Doomsday movie did really well, and it’s what kickstarted all these DVDs that we’ve done since. It’s been 10 years, and in Hollywood terms, that’s usually when you remake movies. So I think they felt it was time to revisit since the first movie was limited in its running time. They only had one movie to tell the story, so they chose to cut this part of the story out. Ten years later, our bosses are like, “You know, that did really well.” It’s a good story, but because we were just starting out they weren’t confident they could tell the whole story because that would have needed a long movie or two parts. So it’s been 10 years, the original movie kickstarted this line, the line is a success, and now they want to revisit it. It’s kind of ..not a do-over, it’s more of a going back to the same source material and examining it in a different, more full way.
QUESTION: What was the decision behind including or excluding characters that were in the original story? Like a certain Green Lantern…
JAMES TUCKER: There’s a lot of characters where people would go, “Who the hell is that?” The thing that I liked about this version is we actually have THE Justice League to use. The thing is that people forget the original story arc was a part of existing DC continuity. That’s why those particular Justice League members were in that story. So we took that story, the idea of that story, and plugged it into our existing continuity, so it was just was a natural process of elimination. We’re adapting the story, meaning the general story, not the particulars of who was in it at that particular time. There was a Supergirl in it, but she was a protoplasm or something. None of that would play as a story, you know what I mean? You can’t just say, “Oh Supergirl is in this, but she happens to be a protoplasm,” even though there’s a Supergirl on TV who’s not. So there’s necessary changes that had to be made to make it work, but the general story of how we get here and there is basically the same. The particulars are a litle different out of necessity, and fanny packs and Member’s Only jackets aren’t in style any more. (Laughter) Padded shoulders, and mullets. So yeah, some things had to change, but the gist of the story is the same.
QUESTION: Did the success of The Dark Knight Returns Parts 1 and 2 open the doors to this two-parter?
JAMES TUCKER: You know, I wasn’t privy to those conversations, but I’m pretty certain yeah. Probably, yeah.
QUESTION: What were the challenges of marrying the Justice League that you have from Justice League War, which is on a completely different trajectory, and then binding it up with the characters and where they are in Death of Superman, and the Justice League that was portrayed in the comics? Where we start off and we see Superman and Wonder Woman are dating, and we get to here and that’s been dissolved and Superman’s no longer a character drawn with squinty eyes and he’s a hero to the world. Any particular challenges threading those together?
JAMES TUCKER: Yeah, it was challenging because if i had had my choice, we would have gotten to this a little later, because I’d have had another Superman movie in the meantime. I had plans for showing the breakup of Superman and Wonder Woman. I knew they would ultimately have to break up, because that really doesn’t make sense anyway. I don’t know how they got together in the first place (laughs). I’m joking, but you know, that question was solved a long time ago. George Perez and I think John Byrne I think did a story where they talked about why they didn’t date. But I was interested in them dating because I was like, “Well it would be interesting not to see them date so much but to see how they break up,” and how that would go. In Death of Superman, you see that it was an amicable split, they just agreed that they were too similar. There was no yin-yang, there was just yin and yin. But with these continuity movies, sometimes we have to do a little time jump. Some things get left between the movie, and we get the gist of what happened by their dialogue. But it’s challenging because I didn’t know we were going to do this movie as soon as we were going to do it. I thought I’d have a little more time to get to it and build to it, but I don’t set the schedule.
QUESTION: Despite getting to Death of Superman pretty quickly, a lot of fans feel that it’s one of the best animated movies since this new universe kicked off with Justice League War. So obviously, Reign of the Supermen makes sense as a follow up. But from a quality standpoint, why is it a worthy follow-up to Death of Superman?
JAMES TUCKER: It was just natural. Actually, there was a movie in between this in production…I was going to say we flowed right into it, but we didn’t. There was another movie that got some attention, but then we picked right back up. I think we needed the breather anyway, because both movies were huge, but I think tonally it’s a different movie. It’s not exactly in the same mode as the first movie. I always say that the trajectory of the first movie is it starts bright and gets progressively darker. This movie starts dark and it gets progressively…whatever it’s going to end up doing. I won’t say “bright,” but it has a different trajectory. So…I don’t know. You gotta have one part, and part two. Somebody’s got to do it.
QUESTION: Will we see a Steel or a Superboy movie in the future?
JAMES TUCKER: Not in the near future, but I’m game. I thought they turned out really well in this.
JAMES TUCKER: I dug Cyborg Superman. I thought he was a kickass character and he’s one that I know fans have wanted to see in animation for a long time.
ANIMESUPERHERO: (cough) Wonder Woman (cough)
JAMES TUCKER: Well, that too. But we’ve done Wonder Woman. She’s coming in two movies, so…
QUESTION: You guys have been at this for a long time.
JAMES TUCKER: Very long.
QUESTION: What keeps you going?
JAMES TUCKER: A mortgage? (Laughter)
QUESTION: What is it that keeps it fresh for you?
JAMES TUCKER: Well, it’s different challenges. I thought when I got this gig that I was just going to be doing what Bruce Timm had been doing, which was standalone movies. Then they sprung this continuity thing and I went, “Oh. That’s a challenge.” I’ve done continuity for series work, but doing it for movies is a whole different animal because you get two movies a year to tell a story, and it’s been about five years, so you have a handful of movies that have to be connected.
QUESTION: Did you ever consider working in live-action?
JAMES TUCKER: If they ask me, sure. I don’t think they’re going to ask me, but I like the freedom…not freedom, that’s the wrong word. There’s a lot of leeway with animation. There’s a lot more room to be creative without a lot of people signing off on it. I’ve been lucky. People who worked at Warner Bros tend to have a little more autonomy in what we do to pick and choose. And I love animation. There’s things you can do in animation that you can’t do in any other format. If they ask for some advice, sure. I’m full of advice, but I don’t know that I’d want to have that huge responsibility for a gazillion dollar movie. That’s a lot of pressure.
QUESTION: Did Bruce Timm have a similar view?
JAMES TUCKER: Yeah. Well we talk about it all the time.
JAMES TUCKER: Oooh. See…I’m old, I’ve read a lot of Batman comics and comics in general. The stories that resonate with me aren’t big fan favorites. They don’t show up on these exit polls they do at the movies or whatever. So there’s a lot of little small stories…of course I can’t think of any right now (laughs), but any number of Bronze Era stories that are very simple and have beginnings, middles, and ends could be expanded into a movie. The adaptations are an interesting challenge but the standalone movies or the original plots we’ve come up with I’ve liked as much or more than some of the adaptations.
QUESTION: Would you like to see Tim Drake and Superboy at some point get together?
JAMES TUCKER: I’ll put it this way, I like the concept of Super Sons. I don’t know that it would be Tim Drake. It would probably be more the current version. But I like Super Sons. I liked them back when it was the Bronze Age and it was Bob Haney writing it and they all had muttonchop sideburns.
QUESTION: So look out for Super Sons?
JAMES TUCKER: I’d kill to do it, and I’ve made it known that I’d like it. But not from me, not yet.
QUESTION: Is it safe to call this continuity the Tuckerverse?
JAMES TUCKER: No. (laughs)
QUESTION: Well what do you call it?
JAMES TUCKER: I don’t call it anything! I just…Batman: The Brave and the Bold would be Tuckerverse for me, becuase that’s something that I really guided, but I don’t think these movies are New 52-verse either. it’s not like we go into this saying, “Oh, we’re going to name a universe after ourselves.” Bruce Timm doesn’t go around saying “the Timmverse.” He might, but not in mixed company.
Reign of the Supermen will arrive on Digital on January 15, 2019, and then on Blu-ray/DVD on January 29, 2019. AnimeSuperhero would like to thank the cast and crew of the movie for taking the time to talk with us (next time, Sam!), and to the usual bang-up job of the WB PR team setting it all up.