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Backstage - Interviews - James Tucker

The World’s Finest caught up again with James Tucker, Producer and Lead Character Designer for Batman: The Brave and The Bold, to discuss the third season of the critically-acclaimed animated series. Tucker has taken a few moments from his busy production work to answer a few questions...

New episodes of Batman: The Brave and The Bold are back on Cartoon Network. What can fans expect over the next few weeks with the upcoming episodes slated to air?

“Batmite Presents: Batman’s Strangest Cases!” is an episode devoted to different versions of Batman that have appeared in comics and in animation. The highlight for me was being able to visualize the BatManga comics in animation. That’s definitely a show I’d love to work on!

“The Malicious Mr. Mind” is a bit of a wacky episode, even by Batman: The Brave and The Bold standards, that features the return of Captain Marvel but this time with Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. along for the ride. It also features the Monster Society of Evil. I believe this is the first time the Marvel Family’s been featured in animation since the old Filmation Shazam series of cartoons. Again, this would be a show I’d love to work on as well!

“Joker: The Vile and Villainous!” teams The Joker up with the Weeper to take on Batman. The thing to know about this show is that it’s told from the villain’s view point, so the context is totally upside down from what it normally is in an episode. This episode also features special guest villain, the legendary Tim Conway as the Weeper! He  was a real pleasure to meet and work with and gave us all flashbacks to his work on The Carol Burnett Show.

“Shadow of the Bat” is our take on doing a vampire story in the Batman: The Brave and The Bold w orld. I think we hit pretty much every vampire schtick in the book but also offer up some truly scary moments. It gets very intense at times. Also of note is that it features the animation premiere of one of Batman’s oldest, original foes from his golden age.

“Night of the Batmen!” is adaptation of a story from the comic book version of our show written by Sholly Fisch and pencilled by Robert Pope. Usually I don’t expect the comic book stories based on our show to be tonally on point with the series because the writers and artists are usually working in the dark and have to do the best they can with the materials they are given which can be limited. But premise of this story immediately struck me as something we could adapt for the show easily in that the tone was straddled the line of serious and absurd perfectly. I think its one of our strongest episodes in season three. It’s basically about Batman’s friends decide to take up the crime fighting slack in Gotham after Batman is nearly killed. I would say more but i’m going to just suggest folks buy that issue and support the comic book version of the show!

With third season episodes already starting to air, how deep into the production of the season are you in? Do you have a timeline or estimation when you'll be done working on the third (and final) season? How are you and the crew handling production?

I have about four more episodes to supervise final bells and whistles (i.e., editing, music, sound fx, sound mixing) on before we’ll be completely done.

Do you have a specific mindset for this last season? What popped into your mind when you learned you get a final batch of 13 episodes for the show?

We really didn’t go in with an overall goal in mind other to tell fun stories. We realized second season did get a bit dark (but no regrets either) around the middle, so we wanted to avoid doing too many somber or unnecessarily dark episodes. Also with only 13 episodes to play with, Michael Jelenic and I didn’t want to be bogged down with any arching elements to have to juggle from episode to episode.

65 episodes is a great run for modern cartoons. Why do you think Batman: The Brave and The Bold has lasted this long and managed to pull in a devoted audience and solid ratings for the network? What kind of edge, or appeal, does this show have that helps it surpass many other current 'toons on the air?

I think the appeal our show had came from the fact that it wasn’t trying to have an edge. It also wasn’t trying to hide it’s geeky comic book roots, and in fact, embraced them. Had this show been done a month or even twenty years after the old Adam West series, it would have and probably should have been rejected. However, now that depictions of superheroes have evolved to the point where dark and gritty is more the rule rather than the exception, we were able to be more nostalgic and embrace earlier versions of DC characters without threatening what DC is currently doing.

I think it also felt like a fresh lighter escapist take on the material that was people really responded to, given these hard times we are going through. The thing is, we only came at this material from a standpoint of honoring earlier eras of DC’s comics and characters but never  making fun of the characters or demeaning them. We just presented these characters in all their silver age glory and let the story evolve from who the characters were. Fans can tell when you don’t know the source material and you’re having fun at the expense of character and thus making fun of the fandom that goes with it. We wanted to expose kids to types of comics and characters that made us fall in love with DC in the first place. I also wanted to do a show that families could watch together and enjoy but that would work on different levels. In the end, it was the show I’m personally very proud of  and it was a wonderful experience to work with the wonderful crew and cast who helped make it happen.  

As a semi-follow-up to the last question, how do you think the network has treated Batman: The Brave and The Bold, both in terms of creative freedom and actually airing episodes?

In the final analysis, the network gave us a slot, were creatively supportive of what we wanted to do with the show and let us do 65 episodes of ‘em. Any qualms I could have about the type of promotion we got or how the show was scheduled are overshadowed by those facts.

Finally, a new DVD release collecting the second half to the first season of Batman: The Brave and The Bold is now available. Are you happy with how the show is getting released to DVD. Anything you'd like to see added or considered for future releases (e.g., bonus features, Blu-ray, etc)?

Of course, I’d love to have the complete series on DVD now with multiple commentaries for every episode, making-of documentaries, Batman: The Brave and The Bold action figures in every package....in 3-D! But that’s not the reality of the DVD market currently. It takes years sometimes for kids shows to get that kind of elaborate DVD/Blu-ray treatment so I will patiently wait for some six year old to grow up and head a home video division and hopefully when I’m 80, I’ll have the complete series on Blu-ray and I can watch it in the Matrix.

The World's Finest would like to thank James Tucker for participating in this Q & A.

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