James Tucker Talks Justice League: War

After sitting down with Andrea Romano at NYCC, I had the chance to sit and talk with James Tucker about Justice League: War. As you may know, James is the new Bruce Timm at DC’s animation group. In other words, he’s the new head honcho.

justice league war box art

When asked if it was a smooth transition taking over for Bruce, James said it was. He elaborated, “He was outside smoking and said, “Hey, do you want to take over the DVDs?” and I went, “Sure.” It was that simple.  It wasn’t like a coronation or anything. I didn’t go into the throne room and he knighted me. It’s very casual at Warner Brothers. ” By the time the official announcement was made, James already had experience in the job. According to James, “When it was announced, I had already been doing the job for two years. We were working on War a year ago. I had been doing the job long before they announced it. He was working on Green Lantern. It was very smooth and not a big deal.”

Regarding the future of the DC animated movies, James said that from this point forward, we’ll be seeing a Justice League movie, followed by a Batman movie, followed by a Justice League movie, followed by a Batman movie. Having movies whose stories focus on specific characters set in the framework of the Justice League. James used Wonder Woman as an example. “With the way we’re setting it up, it’s easier for us to do a Wonder Woman featured Justice League movie, meaning the story has something to do with her, but it’s a Justice League movie.” If you’re wondering why, according to Mr. Tucker, it’s because, “Home Video thinks they can sell it better. Rather than doing standalones.  Because the Green Lantern movie didn’t do so hot. The Wonder Woman movie didn’t do so hot, despite what you see online about statistics. Pretty much Superman doesn’t even sell well. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on the character you want to focus on and in War, if you read the graphic novel, Cyborg gets a lot of the spotlight. Each movie will have one character who gets a lot of spotlight and the other characters will get…story development that will carry over to the next movie.”

In case you’re wondering what the next animated movie will be after Justice League: War, it will be a Son of Batman, based on the Grant Morrison Batman story that introduced Damian Wayne into the DC Universe.  The Son of Batman movie will be in continuity with Justice League: War. “It’s totally different from what Bruce and those guys had done before. I like world building, so it’s a nice opportunity to have continuity among the movies, and yet Son of Batman will feel totally different than Justice League. It’s kind of like comics in a way, in that they’re connected, but not connected. Justice League comics are totally different than Batman comics, yet Batman is in both. ” said James.

For fans wondering why Aquaman is not in Justice League: War, the reason that he was replaced by Shazam (I know, I know, Captain Marvel) in this movie is that DC is planning a Justice League movie centered around Aquaman! Aqua-fans rejoice!

shazam justice league war

Shazam is replacing Aquaman in Justice League: War.

James walked me through some of the process of making these movies. When asked if he used the same animation studios for the Justice League and Batman movies, he revealed that DC has three different animation studios that “we float episodes to. Not one studio can do all the animation.”

When asked how Justice League: War would be different from past Justice League animated projects, such as Justice League: Unlimited, James said, “I worked on Justice League with Bruce and Justice League: Unlimited and I didn’t want to go back and do exactly that.” He elaborated, “When I read the New 52 Justice League, I could see see they were trying to break down the Justice League and make it something where you could not instantly know what to expect. We took that aspect and ran with it and pushed people’s personalities into different areas.” Comparing it to the Bruce Timm Justice League cartoon, James said, “If the fans are expecting a carbon copy of the TV series, they’re not going to get that. It’s going to be a little edgier and definitely more violent. It’s not Superfriends. Even the old Justice League cartoon show was kind of Super Friends, if it’s Friends the TV series with Jennifer Anniston. It was about relationships. This is more like a big movie, and their personalities are more edgy. They’re all new to it. They’re all trying to figure out how to be their own individual heroes. Some of them have codes about not killing. Others don’t. There’s all these areas of conflict we have that we didn’t normally address in the earlier versions of the Justice League.”

wonder woman jl war

Expect Wonder Woman to use the sharp edge of her sword in Justice League: War.

Describing the state of superhero cartoons on TV, James was very blunt. “It’s a different climate for superhero action shows,” he said. The abrupt cancellation of Young Justice was cited. “I don’t think (Young Justice) was a great fit for Cartoon Network. They got caught in a situation where things are changing in the climate on television for animated things. They’re finding action in general is not doing as well on kids networks. A show like that would have been great for Netflix. That might be the next place for a show like that,” James said. Please note that this interview was conducted before Marvel announced their deal with Netflix. James seems very bullish on the Netflix model. He said, “As far as binge viewing, I think a show like Young Justice, Justice League too, will do well and I think that’s the future. I welcome it.” James went on to explain why he liked it so much. “You won’t have the same restrictions. You can do a limited miniseries. You can tell a really controlled story. You don’t have to worry about selling toys. The industry is all wondering what Netflix is going to do next.” With Marvel’s recent deal with Netflix, it will be interesting to see where DC and Warner Bros pursue their streaming model. Maybe Amazon Prime? Or Hulu Plus? We do know that James Tucker is in the driver’s seat at DC Animation and he likes the streaming model, whether it’s Netflix or elsewhere.


Will Netflix be the future home of DC superheroes?

James would like to incorporate lesser used characters into the animated movies. James said, “My goal for all the Justice League and Batman movies is to include at least one character who hasn’t appeared either on television or in the films.” When asked if there were any plans for Batgirl, say maybe Batgirl: Year One, James said that he would definitely like to do a Batgirl-centered story, but it probably wouldn’t be Year One. “The truth is, that’s not going to sell. I hate to say it. For whatever reason, they have a hard time selling that kind of stuff. Granted, that could (work) on Netflix. The thing about Netflix is that it’s open to niche markets. You could do something for a smaller group and not have to worry about selling units.

Justice League: War comes out on February 4, 2014.