Jonathan Kent and Damian Wayne are finally making their big debut in DC Comics’ first-ever CG-animated movie, Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons! Super Sons follows the story of Jon Kent, son of Superman and Lois Lane, and Damian Wayne, son of Batman and Talia al Ghul, as they learn to adapt with each other and develop their iconic bond from the comics. As Jon learns how to utilize his newfound powers with the help of Damian, the two have several internal problems to overcome. However, following the intergalactic threat of Starro’s arrival, the duo must save the world and those they love before the world succumbs to Starro’s rule!
At NYCC, I was able to sit down with others for a roundtable with the cast including Jack Dylan Grazer (Jonathan Kent), Jack Griffo (Damian Wayne), Travis Willingham (Superman), and Laura Bailey (Lois Lane) and creatives including screenwriter Jeremy Adams, director Matt Peters, and supervising producer Rick Morales. During these roundtables, we were able to hear how this first-time animated project for DC Comics was brought to life and created a new universe for DC to play around with, building on the potential for a new animated universe alongside the likes of the Tomorrowverse and the DCAMU.
[INTERVIEWER will be used to represent the other interviewers who were present at the roundtables. THH will represent me.]
INTERVIEWER: At the beginning of the movie, we’re seeing Jon’s origin play out, but when we meet Damian, he’s already established. What can you say about Damian’s origins in this film?
ADAMS: I mean, there’s a certain element to it, we obviously focus on Jon more in this because he’s being exposed to the world for the first time. Our dream would be that people would love the movie enough and buy it enough that they would let us do a second one so we could concentrate more on Damian. Within the context of Damian, you know, we’re hinting at the fact that the kid was raised to be an assassin and then, in the comics, raised for other purposes. But, I ended up thinking like I have friends like this: they mean well, but they’re totally terribly people, obviously they don’t kill for a living. The cool thing about Damian is that he kind of put that past behind him with his father, he’s trying to reach to be something better, something more noble. I think what’s great about Jonathan is that he’s raised in this wonderfully hopeful environment that he can see. He can see what Damian’s trying to do and so he kind of ignores the barbs and Batarangs to the head. I think so much of this movie is about them finding a brotherhood with each other, so I’m hoping for a second movie.
INTERVIEWER: How is this production bringing something new to the story and how much creative freedom did you have being that you are heavily influenced by the comics?
ADAMS: Yeah, we had a lot of freedom, especially within the story. I think what we tried to maintain from [Jorge Jiménez] and [Peter Tomasi] did was just that kind of innocent, hopeful adventure that was there, but we also wanted to do something unique from the comics in a way and, you know, retelling the origin and whatnot. As far as creative freedom, we did have a lot, it’s one of the rare times where it seemed like everybody got it and understood what we were trying to do and trying to make this kind of hopeful adventure film. This is the first time that Warner Bros. Animation has done a CG-animated movie and that was something that [Rick Morales] who, we had done a lot of CG-animated DC Lego movies (he’s like an expert at that stuff), and I wasn’t totally sold on and then, he suddenly showed me something and like, oh my gosh, this is amazing because the actual artistic expressions the kids can do and stuff, like, that is so much more and it’s just a unique style and you kind of slip into it.
At first, you’re like, “I don’t know… Okay, great!” And [Matt Peters], who’s the director, just did an incredible job. I’m lucky that everything I write is plucked up by the people that are involved and when I saw it, because what I do as a writer is like, “Here’s the script,” you know, you do a bunch of notes and then it disappears from your mind for two years and then suddenly they’re like “Here’s the movie,” and I’m like, “Great! I wrote that? That’s awesome!” you know? It’s just a little different just in terms of what we normally do.
THH: So we are introduced to a villain we’ve seen recently, that being Starro the Conqueror. Why do you think that Starro was a better villain to be utilized in this movie unlike a villain from the Super Sons comics like Kid Amazo?
PETERS: Well, you got Jeremy and Rick working hard to make the script what they wanted it to be and I think Starro was a great threat because once you get Starro introduced, Starro spreads like a virus and basically knocks out the adults and it’s a perfect way to isolate the boys. So, now you have them having to work together as a team and you also get to see them work completely on their own. They can’t go to their dads and ask for help, they can’t go to any other superhero. They’re completely isolated, the whole world is being taken over. So, in a sense, Starro was a perfect villain to bring up against to bring Jon and Damian together as a team.
INTERVIEWER: What was your biggest success, coming through the production and the beginning of COVID, when you got to the end of the process, what were you most proud of?
PETERS: The fact that we could finish it because this movie actually started right when COVID happened and we were looking at one another, by Zoom camera, and going like, “Is this actually weird? We’re doing a movie about an invasion of some kind of spreading virus on the planet and the president is just out of control,” and it just felt like, you know, we were getting too close to home, you know? It’s unreal, it was kid of the common joke. Honestly, this was one that our production team did an outstanding job on: they were able to get us set up at home, they were able to set up all the technical aspects they needed to get done. Artists are pretty much left alone: we just draw and so we had it kind of easy. So, our production team deserves like an award for appointments filmed together because it was monumental. We had to reinvent the wheel being able to work as a team from home and just making this thing happen, so I’d say just getting it done was an accomplishment for us.
INTERVIEWER: I’ve heard this movie is being compared to an 80s-like kids coming-of-age movie, what can you speak on that certain tone?
MORALES: Yeah, I mean, I was approaching this almost like an Amblin Entertainment film from back then, you know? I wanted to make something for kids, I’ve got a really young son and, to be quite honest with you, this movie is directed straight at him. Like, in my view, it’s made for my boy when he’s old enough to watch this and yes, I think those are the movies that had such a huge influence on me. I’m a child of the ’80s so that’s when I grew up so you know like The Goonies and stuff like that, those are the things that I came up with, you know? But also, I still think to this day that that Donner Superman film is the best superhero film ever made, you know? And, to me, I wanted to make something that was akin to that, you know, that had sort of aspirational quality, that soaring feel that I felt that the Donner Superman film has and I feel that a lot of the superhero films that we’ve seen nowadays don’t, you know? So that’s what I was trying to do here.
INTERVIEWER: Do you feel that, with the world being very cynical and polarized, the message your film is trying to creative, can be reproduced in other projects along the lines of the Super Sons like the Titans or other young-generational teams?
MORALES: In my mind, this film and my intent was to open up a world of possibilities. I mean, for me, I would love to continue to make Super Sons movies for as long as they’ll let me, you know? (laughs) I mean, certainly, Jeremy and I have ideas about where this would go, you know? But yeah, I do think it’s important to make stuff that has some sort of moral for little kids and this be PG-13, but let’s be honest. We were watching PG-13 movies when we were ten or eight or five. You know what, Temple of Doom, ripped a heart out, so, you know. Yeah, I think it’s a responsibility to make this stuff because I felt there’s a hole right now in entertainment and that’s kind of what I was trying to fill.
THH: We’ve seen drops of Damian in other DC animated properties like the DCAMU, including Son of Batman and Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, how do you think your version of Damian is different from those Damians?
GRIFFO: I think he’s got a little bit older than the Damian we’ve seen before, but I really got into what I could do to find out about Damian [from the comics]. He’s a pretty big character to step into and he’s so complex from Damian’s past to where he is now, but honestly, I can’t really speak to the other Damians [from those movies.]
INTERVIEWER: What was the sense of getting into the mindset of somebody so dark who views the world as more sinister like Damian?
GRIFFO: I think the responsibility, it was a little bit of pressure for sure to play a character that came from where he came from, you know, it wasn’t just straight up. When I first got the role, I didn’t really know much about Damian and, you know, I figured he was just raised in the Batcave by Batman, but it wasn’t that way at all. You know, finding that he was the son of Talia al Ghul and his origins being raised over there and wasn’t even able to meet Batman for so long and was being trained by the League of Assassins. So, there’s a lot going into it that I was like, “Wow, this is actually a really deep, multi-dimensional character and he’s so brutal. He’s so aggressive and badass.” And I like the idea of playing a little bit of a villainous kind of hero, but it was cool that he was there for his dad and willing to accept the Robin mantle even though he was raised in that other kind of place.
THH: So Jon is being trained and introduced into this new world and his newfound powers, how do you see Superman providing that parental role to Superboy?
WILLINGHAM: Well, I mean for me, I think he relates to where Jonathan is coming from, you know, probably going back to when he first discovered his own powers and realizing that everything has changed, but not everything has changed, you know? It’s about finding his place in the world, but it’s also about just staying grounded, right? It’s remembering that you’re in a house where your mom and dad love you and as these things start to present themselves, you know, they’ll handle it as a family. So, I think that’s one of the really beautiful things of this film: seeing the bombastic personality of Lois Lane, the invulnerable, you know, Superman, who’s not able to handle the situation or erase all of his son’s problems as well.
INTERVIEWER: One of the undertone themes in this movie was balancing Superman’s work life with his fatherhood, what can you say about the incorporation of this theme in the movie and the challenges of being a Super-dad?
WILLINGHAM: I mean, not necessarily just a new dad anymore, [Laura and I’s] son is four, but you know, one of the things that happens with such a busy schedule is that there are times where you can’t make it home and sometimes, when it’s a choice. I think after the fact, you realize that you don’t get that time back. It’s a little bit different for Superman: if there’s a tsunami approaching Japan, then you gotta go, right? But, I think also, you know, with those kinds of conflicts of time and responsibility, you have to communicate right from a parent to a son and from a son to a parent. That’s just the best way to just make sure that everything’s out in the open. So, for me, I always come home, I make sure my son knows that I, you know, I love him. I say, “I love you,” and make sure he knows that he’s the most important thing in the world to me, even if it’s gonna be a long day or anything like that. So, I think watching two very busy people such as Clark Kent and Lois Lane, making sure their son knows that, “Hey, if I can be back for a baseball game, I will. It won’t happen every time, but know that even if I’m missing it, I’m think about you all the time.”
THH: Setting the scene, you’re Jon and Jack Griffo is Damian, how do you feel about the chemistry between the both of you perfectly works in the roles that you were given?
GRAZER: I honestly don’t know yet because I haven’t seen the movie and I never heard him – oh, I guess, you know, it’s not true, I lied straight to your face just now (laughs). I did ADR after my first initial recording, I did ADR for it and I remember like it played really naturally and [Jack Griffo’s] voice as a Damian, like not just like a Robin. You know, just like he’s Damian Wayne, which is like, he’s more brooding. He’s like kinda emo and like just pissy, you know, and I felt like he nailed that right.
INTERVIEWER: Jon has a lot of information that he has to take in really fast: “Oh, my dad’s Superman. Oh, I’m half-alien. Oh, I have these powers.” How is he taking this in and how is he reacting to it?
GRAZER: I mean, oh my god, l mean it’s crazy. At least for me growing up, my personal experience with my dad was like, “Damn, I thought this dude was my hero,” and he didn’t really do necessarily heroic things. Jon was just like, “I’m gonna go and be like my dad!” and if I found out that my dad was Superman? My head would explode, man, like I would lose my mind! I think that for any kid, you’re thinking your dad is your hero and then your dad literally is the ultimate paramount superhero, you find that out and that’s just world-shattering in the best way possible. So, I think he receives that news with the ultimate elation.
THH: What is the biggest takeaway from your previous roles that you can apply to your new role as Lois Lane and what she does for Jon’s side of the movie?
BAILEY: I think, you know, any role that I play has to come from a place of honesty within myself and it’s so fun that Lois so soon after having my own son, um, because it changed the way I would have approached the role five years ago, you know. Just to know that unending love that you have for this little being, Lois has that for Jon and she will support him to the ends of the earth and destroy anything in his path that she can.
INTERVIEWER: Do you feel any pressure, you know, having to be the newest Lois Lane in representing women who are in the role that Lois is and her line of work?
BAILEY: I think, thankfully, more and more characters are being written that show all different aspects of womanhood and motherhood, so yeah. I don’t know if I feel a responsibility to that, but I certainly felt a camaraderie with it. I was very excited to see how badass she actually is in this, and not that Lois ever would be, but she wasn’t just relegated to this mother role, she wasn’t just getting into the wife role. She stands on her own and she can take care of anything in front of her.
Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons comes out on digital and Blu-ray October 18.