Like most of the people involved with Warner Home Video’s line of DC Universe animated films, James Tucker’s involvement can be traced back to the DC Animated Universe, in his case beginning with ‘Superman: The Animated Series’. From there, he was involved either as a writer or a producer with each subsequent DCAU production. Tucker’s involvement with the current line of DC Universe animated films began with 2013’s ‘Superman Unbound’. Since then, he has shepherded the continuity that developed across the animated features beginning with ‘Justice League: War’ a year later. With the tenth anniversary of the animated films at hand, Tucker was present at New York Comic Con, where we had a chance to speak with him about his approach to that continuity and more.
Of the DC Animated features you’ve worked on, is there one you’re especially proud of?
Let’s see, I’ve done in-continuity titles, and of those… I love ‘Justice League Dark’, but I think ‘The Judas Contract was the harder nut to crack because that’s something fans have wanted for a long time and it was a difficult story to break, but I think we did justice to it. Other than that, ‘Flashpoint’ was a good one, but ‘Assault on Arkham’ was probably a bigger surprise for me. I think I had more fun watching that with an audience, just because we were following up a video game and I just think that’s a lot of fun. And it’s pretty dirty and tawdry, so…
Is there a difference in the way you approach the continuity titles versus the non-continuity titles?
For the continuity titles, basically, we were tasked, around the time the comics were doing the New 52… When I got the gig – I’m jumping back – Bruce (Timm) was doing ‘Green Lantern: The Animated Series’ and I just thought I’d be stepping in and there was no continuity at the time. We had a whole other script ready to go. ‘Flashpoint’ was one of them, and ‘Unbound’. I did those two, and then there was another script we had in production. And then our bosses from Home Video and Animation came and said “You know what, stop that. We’re going to start a new universe.” That was a Monday, and by Friday we had to… [laughs] It was just that fast. And so we had to use the New 52 that was set up as a starting point. The intention was never to keep doing that. To me, I used it as a way to have a continuity around stories that needed some setup. Like ‘Judas Contract’. There were plans to do that as an isolated standalone, but there’s no way to really… You almost have to do a Titans movie before that. And so for me, the continuity titles have been great because we’ve been using it as ways to introduce these, not lesser known characters, but characters who may not have an easy greenlight with the Home Video people. And so we did ‘Justice League vs Teen Titans’ as a way to say “Here’s the Justice League. We’re going to put the Teen Titans with them.” As long as we had the Justice League in it, everyone was fine with the Teen Titans. And that did really well, so now they’re like “Oh, why don’t you do a Teen Titans movie?” Well yeah, I’ve been wanting to for years, so… But basically, the approach is to build on each movie. Now we’re at a place where we’ve done so many of them that it’s like the Marvel universe, where now Iron Man can show up in somebody else’s movie and nobody’s going “Oh, wow! It’s Iron Man!” It’s more “Yeah, Iron Man’s there.” So that’s what we’re trying to achieve with the in-continuity titles, where people can cross over to each other’s movies, you can introduce new characters and spin them off.
Is the upcoming ‘Death of Superman’ two-parter one of the continuity titles?
I don’t know if that’s been officially announced, but yeah. It is. I don’t know if that’s a spoiler or… I don’t think Home Video cares. But that’s another one where, because we have a continuity set up, we have a Superman that we’ve watched in a few movies, we’re able to bring in characters that may not have made sense in a standalone movie. I mean, Bruce did ‘Doomsday’ as the first one. And it was just really impossible to just say “Oh hey, here’s Steel! Here’s Eradicator!” Whereas we have a framework now where we can introduce characters and there’s some context. All I can say about that is that we’re trying to stay as true to the feel of those stories, even though two movies doesn’t cover the whole saga of the death and return of Superman.
How does it feel when the impact of these movies reaches a point where ‘The Flash’ does its take on ‘Flashpoint’ and now the live action Flash movie is going to be ‘Flashpoint’ too. That may not have happened if it wasn’t for the animated film.
Well, I know that because they actually looked at the end of our movie to sell the series. They actually took that final scene in ‘Flashpoint’ where he’s running through the city and they actually took it to the head of the CW, is what we heard. So you know, it’s nothing new. The comics get the bulk. They’re the first. And animation kind of follows the comics and tweaks it. And live action follows the cartoons and tweaks it. We’re just part of this whole thing.
Which of the live action shows and movies has been your favorite?
Of the live action? Well ‘Wonder Woman’. ‘Wonder Woman’ was great. Of the TV shows, I really dig ‘Flash’. I’m looking forward to ‘Black Lightning’ and ‘Titans’. And I can vibe on ‘Gotham’ a little bit. It’s not quite what I’m used to, but yeah, it’s fun. It’s like they just threw Batman into a Cuisinart and said “Oh! Gumbo!” But it’s cool. All I can say is we’re in an era where there’s multiple live-action TV series, multiple animated series, multiple animated movies, multiple live action movies… I mean what’s not to love? If you don’t like one thing there’s always something else. So I think it’s a great time to be a DC fan.
Given the success of ‘Wonder Woman’, has there been any talk of more female lead animated features?
There’s been talk. I mean, I don’t know about female lead, but definitely, if you’re interested in Wonder Woman. But again with the continuity titles, it’s easier to introduce characters who wouldn’t… Like we got Batwoman in a movie. She’s pretty off the grid as far as the general public. I’d love to do more with Batwoman.
How about the New Gods? Anything with Darkseid?
He’s on the horizon. I don’t know if he’s going to be in any of the live action stuff, but we’re definitely going to be interested in bringing him back into our thing. We started ‘War’ with him, so yeah. He’s out there.
You’ve made a push to diversify the lineups of your DC movies a bit. What lead you to do that?
Boredom? [laughs] Well, everyone before was “You can’t, you can’t, you can’t.” And when they said to do some continuity I realized that gives us room to do some world building. It gives us multiple movies to introduce characters. And you know, I was coming off ‘Brave and the Bold’ where no one told me not to do anything. So it just seemed natural for me as a fan that that’s what I wanted to see and the way I saw it was if you’re going to do a continuity, why would you just keep doing Batman and the Justice League if you could use them as a tool to get these other characters in.
The DC Universe 10th Anniversary Collection, a box set featuring the thirty DC Universe Animated Original Movies released to date will be available on Blu-ray on November 7th, 2017. This includes all of James Tucker’s contributions to the line thus far.
Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more on upcoming DC animated features as it becomes available!