How many actors have played Batman over the years? Don’t bother counting, you’d be here all day. Bottom line, it’s been nearly eighty years of films, TV shows, cartoons, audio dramas and more, each one presenting its own take on the character. In all of that, it takes something special to stand out from the pack. One actor who has unquestionably managed to stand out is Jason O’Mara. Since the 2014 release of ‘Justice League: War‘, O’Mara has been voicing the Dark Knight Detective in both Justice League and Batman animated films adapting a variety of New 52 storylines. With Warner celebrating ten years of DC animated films at New York Comic Con this year, we had the opportunity to speak with O’Mara about his experiences working on the DC animated films.
Of the DC animated films you’ve appeared in to date, which has been the most fun?
I think the trilogy, you know, ‘Son of Batman’, ‘Batman vs Robin’, and ‘Batman: Bad Blood’ was really where I got a chance to make Batman my own. And the storyline got richer and we got a sense of what this version of Batman was. And there aren’t many movies that really serialize the story like that. Because it’s not a TV show, so it’s like a real, proper trilogy of animated features. So if I had to pick a movie out of that trilogy, I’d probably say ‘Son of Batman’. Only because it was my first shot at a standalone Batman movie, which is kind of a thrill. But at the same time, I think that the movies got better, I think they got more entertaining as they went along. You know, in ‘Son of Batman’ we were establishing the world, ‘Batman vs Robin’ was kind of like the ‘Empire Strikes Back’ of the trilogy, but then ‘Batman: Bad Blood’ I thought was the most entertaining overall. Having watched each one with a live audience, that was the feedback that I got. I don’t know if I’m right or wrong. But because ‘Son of Batman’ was the first – not my first time playing Batman, but my first time playing Batman sort of on his own – I would probably choose that.
Batman, the most prepared guy on Earth, is suddenly a new dad. As a father yourself, how did you draw on your own experience to portray the relationship with Damian?
I mean, obviously, it’s slightly heightened because you’re dealing with a comic book universe and his son also happens to be a highly trained ninja assassin. So obviously you have to be careful there, but I think there’s a moment in every father and son relationship where the son gets more wise to the world, thinks he knows everything. Like my son right now is thirteen, and he’s bigger and stronger than I am. I mean this is something every father has to deal with at some point, where you’re no longer physically superior. Now, obviously Batman was always physically more imposing than Damian, but Damian was still dangerous. So he had to use methods other than his physical presence to try to guide the child to make the right choices for himself. So I think there’s something universal about that for every parent and child relationship. But you know, Bruce Wayne was having to figure this out as he went and making mistakes along the way. Which is what we all do, right? So that, I think, was the enduring appeal when it came to that stuff. And also it’s kind of fun to see a different side of the character, right? Usually, he’s the Dark Knight, he’s a lone wolf, works alone… And this was a version that I think appealed to fans because we saw that different side.
You’ve been building an impressive body of work as Batman. Do you feel the pressure growing with each film, does your approach change as you go on?
I think the pressure lessens, actually. I remember sweating it a bit for ‘Justice League: War’, the first time I was playing him. Because you get all that stuff in your head, as anyone would, it’s like “Okay, now I’m Batman. So I’ve got to figure this out and I want to be the same but different. What am I going to bring that’s new to this? What ground has already been trodded with this?” There’s a lot of different versions of this character played by a lot of very talented actors over the years. Almost too many to count. I’m sure someone out there has! [laughs] But yeah, so I just decided that I would kind of ease up on myself a bit and just say “Look, this is going to be a process. You’re going to be a little awkward in the first movie, but if you get another crack at it, hopefully then you’ll get a little better and a little better.” And what’s fun about this box set is – certainly from my own selfish point of view – is that you can see how my version of Batman evolves over the course of the six films that are included. Though I’ve done it about eight or nine times. So that’s kind of fun for me. And by the way, there are nine different versions of Batman, I think, on this box set. So I’m only a small part of it. But going back to the original question, many of those movies are standalone movies, and maybe the actor playing Batman plays him once or twice. So I’m very lucky in that, as a repeat offender, I’ve been asked back. God knows why.
Because these are direct to video movies, you can go a little further without worrying about censorship the way you might if you were on TV.
Yeah, that’s true. I mean some of these movies are pretty violent. I was certainly kind of shocked the first time. I mean I’ve been doing these for about five or six years, so I came along about halfway through this. My kid was only seven or eight at the time, and initially, I didn’t want him to see the movies. They were just too intense, you know? And then as he got older and the more I did, he was able to find his way in. And again, that’s another great thing about the character. If your kid is too young for the version in these movies, which can get pretty intense, there’s a whole other version that appeals more to children. So there really is something for everybody.
If you had a chance to do a live-action Batman, how might that affect your approach to the role?
I don’t know. I suppose it might depend on the director. It’d be cool to get a chance. I know the cape and cowl are very uncomfortable. And it’s never been more comfortable, that’s the thing! I actually got a chance to see… I was doing a superhero costume for another role, and I got to see the Ben Affleck costume and talk to the guy who developed it. And for it to actually have left and right movement in the cowl was like cutting edge technology. So it’s getting more comfortable, but I think it’s still pretty hot under that thing.
Though no upcoming films have been announced as of this writing, it seems a safe bet that Jason O’Mara will return as Batman before too long. In the meantime, the DC Universe 10th Anniversary Collection, a box set including the thirty DC Universe Animated Original Movies released to date will be available on Blu-ray on November 7th, 2017.
Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more on upcoming DC animated features as it becomes available!