Warner Bros. won't be continuing the big screen DC universe established with Superman reboot Man of Steel until 2016's release of Batman vs. Superman, but DC properties will see adaptations across multiple platforms in the meantime. NBC is adapting Constantine, Fox has Gotham on the way, and the CW's successful Arrow will see a spinoff centered around The Flash.
Meanwhile, 2014 will see two releases from WB's animation studios in the form of Son of Batman and Batman: Arkham Asylum, and while the latter will be a standalone project based on the popular Arkham Asylum video game series, it turns out that Son of Batman will be just the latest chapter in a series of animated films all set within the same DC universe, consciously similar to DC's "New 52" reboot of their comic book continuity.
James Tucker, supervising producer for Son of Batman and many other DC animated features, recently spoke to Comic Book Resources about the development of the title, which introduces Bruce Wayne's biological son Damian, who was raised by his mother Talia al Ghul to be an assassin, and eventually becomes the new Robin.
Tucker previously told CBM that: "We’re using the New 52 world as a launching point where we can kind of tell our own stories, kind of like we did on 'Justice League Unlimited.' " He elaborated on using the New 52 as a model for a connected animation universe:
And we're not strictly doing New 52, meaning just because New 52 did it, it doesn't mean we can't veer from that. We're just piggybacking what we're doing by changing the universe and creating a connected universe within the DTVs. That wasn't done before. Before it was just each movie was its own thing, an adaptation of a classic story. So we're trying something different by actually having almost an OVA version of the DC universe where there's connectivity between the movies.
The direct-to-video releases existing within this new continuity are last year's Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, this year's Justice League: War and Son of Batman, with Assault on Arkham standing apart. Tucker spoke about the decision to adapt the newer Batman stories in this continuity, saying:
A lot of the things we adapted in the old days were old stories. I mean, they had been out already 10 years or something, and it's just oh, this is a classic story. Let's do our spin on it. Well, this is clearly taking something that's not even that old and bringing him into the film world, and he's an instant classic. So it was a great opportunity to do that and give Batman a fresh spin because now he's a dad, he has to act in a different way than he's used to acting.
Writer Grant Morrison's inclusion of Damian Wayne in the comic books was one of the more celebrated developments for Batman in the past few years. Hopefully, the animated version will do the source material justice.
Tucker pointed out that while these titles will draw on the New 52, they will not be beholden to them:
Well, the thing is we want continuity, but we don't want to be hamstrung by it. So if there's a story that happened pre-New 52 that we think is a strong story, we'll adapt it into our universe. So that it doesn't rule out things that have already been pre-New 52.
Some comic book fans have been vocal about their disappointment that the actual New 52 hasn't used as many pre-reboot stories as they would've liked. Perhaps the shared WB Animated Universe will be more appealing for them.
James Tucker was asked about the possibility of heroes like Aquaman getting their own animated feature (there was a rumor that he was left out of War specifically for that reason). And while Tucker wouldn't name any future characters with a film in the works, he did suggest that plenty of thought has gone into this continuity, saying:
We have a lot of plans, I can say that. The world's wide open. We don't really have a lot of restrictions on that. I mean, I just wish we could do 10 a year because - no, I don't, because that's a lot of work. But there are ideas we want to do and characters I want to tap into. It takes time to get to them. We only do two a year that are in continuity, so it takes a while to get around to everyone. So as long as each movie has something or somebody in it that no one's seen on DVD before, I think we'll be accomplishing our goals.
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Tucker confirmed that for now, WB and DC will focus on more established characters like Batman and the Justice League, but did hint that they have big plans for Damian Wayne:
[…] I think Damian's one of those characters that the minute everyone knows about him, he's gonna pop, and he'll probably get a movie at some point. Don't quote me. I don't know! But he's that good a character.
Read the entire CBR interview here.
The recent spate of animated DC films have been pretty good across the board - read our positive reviews of Justice League: War and The Flashpoint Paradox - and the upcoming Son of Batman and Assault on Arkham look promising.
When James Tucker spoke about Damian Wayne getting his own movie, could he have been hinting at plans to introduce Damian in the live-action Batman universe? Maybe not, but the notion of mixing some New 52 storylines with older, classic narratives should result in some fascinating future animated releases.
Son of Batman is available for digital download and VOD as of April 22nd, and will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on May 6th. Batman: Assault on Arkham will be released later in 2014.