NYCC 2014 Interviews: 'Justice League: Throne of Atlantis'

DC's next animated movie, Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, is quickly approaching and you can be we're beyond excited to see Arthur Curry, a.k.a. Aquaman step into the spotlight! In Justice League: War, we witnessed the beginning of an all-new DC animated universe, but the publisher's most iconic team just wouldn't be complete without the King of Atlantis, right? Some fans were very disappointed the hero didn't appear back in War, but it looks like that decision was really a blessing in disguise because now the guy will have an entire movie revolve around his origin story and how he joins the Justice League. We're obviously thrilled to eventually watch this animated movie, so we happily agreed to attend the roundtable interviews for it at this year's New York Comic-Con. The following questions were made us and several other outlets.

Phil Bourassa (Character Designer)

On designing Aquaman

I’m just trying to come up with something that looks really cool, something that the animators can wrap their heads around. You know, a style we can all draw well in. There’s hundreds of hands at work that have to work within the limitations of this particular style. I'm always trying to come up with something that’s cool and functional.

It’s faithful to what’s been done before. You put your own particular spin on it, but you don’t mess with classics. They have to be recognizable. I don’t think that part is really a challenge. I think it’s intuitive and instinctive for most artists. It’s always a thrill to work on these characters, so you don’t want to come in and veer too far away from the traditions. My analogy is always you’re tending somebody else’s garden, to a certain degree.

He's so iconic as well and so well established. I looked at what's being done with him right now in The New 52 comics. Again, while we're not doing straight adaptations, we're creating a universe that's sort of parallel to that, so I looked at what Jim Lee had done and drew something that I felt was pretty faithful to that and fit right in with what we're doing. Some characters are harder than others. He's a character that's been downplayed a lot and looked at as not as good as some of the others. I think that's completely absurd and it actually makes my job a little easier. Because if people have messed the template and draw weird versions of him in the past, they already took it to the extreme that you don't want to go; you already know what to do. There are certain looks that just don't work for him. So I tried to go for a classic take and that's always going to work better.

On designing Orm

Orm is cool. The villains are always cool to do. You have the most fun with the villains; I think they have the most latitude. Characters like Superman and Wonder Woman are the hardest to do; they have the smallest strike zone. You have to really be real considerate to the traditions, but the villains, they play to more pushed silhouettes or extreme takes. You can really push the idea. You really love to hate him in this movie. He's played so well by Sam Witwer. I just had a blast drawing him.

On whether he had the opportunity to design several great white sharks for a certain big scene

Yeah, we have a lot of that stuff! That's always a challenge, the volume of stuff you have to consider in these films. We have a limited budget but we're trying to create something on an epic scale that's going to be really a spectacle. These are big action set pieces.

On Mera

I think she's more badass in this movie than she's ever been. She's not the queen yet, but she's super badass and super cool. We've got Black Manta in there and the basic cast of the Aquaman lore is so fun to play with.

On Black Manta

He's tough. For me, he's always been one of the cooler villains. Like, I always loved his silhouette, so you have to have that. His theme is really cool. That's what I really look forward to. Some characters are easier than others because they have a really powerful theme and his is really cool. I love the Alex Toth Super Friends design. It might seem absurd that he's got this giant like, fishbowl on his head, but I think it's cool. So I'm always trying to hark back to the classics but do my own take. Modern sensibilities, we tech it out a little more, but he's still a guy in a wetsuit. But he's got the awesome technology behind him.

On the story

It's a super fun story. Aquaman seems to not get the love that other characters get. I never understood that; I always thought he was badass, kind of top tier. Maybe it's certain interpretations of him, but he's definitely one of those top shelf heroes. I feel like this character could eventually step into a leadership role in the Justice League... he's on that level. Our goal was to dispel any notions that he's not as tough or not as cool.

Heath Corson (Writer)

On adapting Geoff Johns' event

It's always about story. You've got to tell a good story. You need to be clear, concise, and interesting. The story of the comic series is not the story in the movie because we have a different character of Aquaman. We didn't introduce Aquaman in issue 4 of the JUSTICE LEAGUE like he got introduced in War. So we don't have that guy. We have Arthur Curry who doesn't know he's this guy. He hasn't taken on the mantle of Aquaman yet. So it's a very different story, it's a different guy. He goes from being very lost; he grows up in this lighthouse with his father on the cove. He's drawn to the water but he doesn't know his heritage with the water, so he's a very lost, lost character. And then all of these sort of things happen to bring him into the secret of Atlantis. And they're like, "Great! You're our guy! Come help us, come lead us!" And he's like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa... I don't want any of this." He doesn't want anything to do with it. And then it's about a guy having to step up to become a hero. So we're already off the rails from the very beginning. Then in terms of the big cinematic action, that's all in there. We do that in spades.

On Black Manta's role and origin

At the time, we see Black Manta as Black Manta. We make reference to the event and that is part of the backstory of why he has a connection to the Atlanteans, but we're not privy to that event. At this point, Black Manta is a cherished adviser of Orm's.

On writing Orm

It's awesome, he's a great character. There's some Game of Thrones stuff. I mean, it's all big, it's Shakespearean. The Atlanteans are just incredibly fun to write because it's just big emotion because it's a family that's trying to rule. Here's what I also like: nobody's wrong. The queen's not wrong for trying to protect her people. Orm is not wrong for wanting to avenge his father. This is all very relatable, smart stuff and I really like it when villains have points that you can get behind. He's not a mustache twirler. He's big, he's aggressive and he's loud, but he's not wrong. Again, he doesn't become Ocean Master until really the end. He's a lost prince trying to find his voice.

On Aquaman not being in Justice League: War

It [Justice League: Throne of Atlantis] was in the works way before we finished War. They had a plan which is how we were able to do a tag at the end to hint where we're going.

On whether there will be a credits scene

There was one in the script!

On Flash

Flash gets a slightly larger role than he got to play in War, which is cool because I like writing Flash and he's a fun character.

On whether the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship will receive focus

Yes, and that'll get a little more complicated as a certain intrepid reporter shows up on a date between Clark Kent and Diana Prince!

James Tucker (Producer)

On how heavily they pulled from Geoff Johns' work

I'd say it's about 75% of the graphic novel. But the reason it's only 75% is because Geoff suggested to us making an Aquaman origin story. The graphic novel starts with him already in the Justice League and already the King of Atlantis. It's very status quo, so we wanted to show the audience Aquaman from the very beginning.

On the shift back to establishing a continuity between movies

Quite frankly, we're biting off Marvel! *laughs* The Marvel movies are great, they're all connected. It's kind of a "DUH! Why aren't we doing that?" Comics are like that. Marvel proved you can do movies that way. We already knew you could, but that wasn't the popular belief. But now Marvel has made a gazillion bucks so now we're doing it. I'm happy because I like working on series work. I like comics, I like working on a TV series where you can build a character along. So, doing this as a series of interconnected movies, to me, is great.

On which New 52 stories they'll adapt

What we were doing was never meant to mimic the comic book New 52. We basically did our version of The New 52, meaning we were starting fresh; starting a new universe. Moving on, we may adapt stories that were before the New 52, we'll do our own stories. It'll be different. No one will know what to expect because it'll be original stories or stories inspired by, but it won't be true adaptations.

On the possibility of Superman or Green Arrow solo movies

Both of those are being discussed. I'd love to do something with them.

On a Crisis storyline

I don't know. Only guys our age would know what CRISIS is. But maybe, I don't know. I never say never.

Matt Lanter (Voice of Aquaman)

On being Aquaman

It's great, it's fun. It's been a new thing for me because, to be quite honest, I wasn't real familiar with Aquaman or the comics of the past. So, it's been a new venture for me. I love being in this kind of world. I think it's fun, it's imaginative, it's exciting, it's a rush. So to be part of it and kind of get to bring this to life -- especially since I feel like we have an opportunity to make Aquaman cool -- has been a fun challenge.

On moving from Star Wars to DC

It's been great! Star Wars fans are the greatest, man. It's been fun, but it's actually been easier than difficult. Arthur Curry and Anakin [Skywalker] are pretty similar in a lot of ways. They're both dealing with their inner demons. They're both trying to figure out what world they want to be a part of.

On Anakain Skywalker vs. Aquaman

Ah! Of course you'd have to ask me that! Oh man, I don't know. I think Aquaman's a lot stronger than Anakin. It's difficult when you've got to battle someone who has the force on their side, though. There really is no limit when you have the force. I don't know, I can't even say that. I feel like you're setting me up here! No matter what I say, some group of fans are not going to like what I say!

(Journalist mentions location is a factor)

That's true. Absolutely! That's a good answer! It depends.

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis will be available in early 2015. In case you missed it (or just want to watch it again), we've provided the trailer below.

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