In an alternate timeline, fans would be attending the premiere for the new Justice Society: World War II animated direct-to-video film in sunny Anaheim for WonderCon. Sadly, conventions are still on hold but luckily the cast and crew were on hand for the virtual [email protected] Justice Society: World War II panel. Moderated by publicist Gary Miereanu, the Justice Society panel was split into two parts with the first half consisting of the filmmakers that included director Jeff Wamester, co-screenwriters Meghan Fitzmartin and Jeremy Adams, and supervising producer Butch Lukic while the second half featured the voice talent including Stana Katic (Wonder Woman), Matt Bomer (Barry Allen/The Flash), Elysia Rotaru (Black Canary), Omid Abtahi (Hawkman), Chris Diamantopoulos (Steve Trevor), Armen Taylor (Jay Garrick/The Flash), Liam McIntyre (Aquaman), and Geoff Arend (Charles Halstead/Advisor).
According to Lukic, the genesis of this film originally began as a Wonder Woman animated series set during WWII for the now-defunct DC Access that eventually led to this film incorporating the Justice Society. As you can imagine, producing a project with an ensemble has its own challenges, and for Fitzmartin, who grew up watching the Justice League cartoon from the early aughts, it was important to see the relationships between the characters and how the decisions and actions of one affect the entire group.
As Miereanu noted, certain perennial Justice Society members didn’t make the roster for this film. Lukic would have loved to include characters like Alan Scott/Green Lantern or his favorite, Wildcat, but they didn’t make the cut because they didn’t serve the story for this particular project.
JS:WWII is Wamester’s first time directing a DC animated DTV film and has some personal resonance since his grandfather served in North Africa during WWII. Adams and Fitzmartin have been friends and colleagues for years and in fact actually worked on the script for this while also on the final season of Supernatural.
In regards to new character and art designs that began with Superman: Man of Tomorrow, Lukic revealed that he intended the style for the upcoming Batman: The Long Halloween animated adaptation due to the ’40s feel of the designs. The character models themselves were designed by Otto Schmidt and refined by Dusty Abell and Jon Suzuki.
Adams and Lukic found themselves more gripped by the Black Canary and Hawkman relationship in the final film than when they were writing it on the page. Fitzmartin admitted she has an affinity for any snarky character moments. Balancing the action and relationships was a delicate process for director Wamester, since those action moments lack gravity without setting up real genuine feelings and consequences.
Moving onto the second segment of the Justice Society panel with the voice cast, Miereanu asked the voice talent how they were able to pull off a true ensemble performance. Diamantopoulos called it a true testament to everyone involved, in particular Butch Lukic and voice director Wes Gleason considering that, per the norm for voiceover, the actors all recorded separately over 17 months ago. Bomer confessed that in the past year certain aspects of the film and his character Barry Allen resonated more with him in the past year than when he first recorded. Like Barry, Bomer describes himself as workaholic, and said he has found himself slowing down and enjoying the present moment more.
It’s typical for actors to look to the original comics source material for these types of projects, but Abtahi wasn’t afraid to admit the last time he picked up a comics was in high school in the ’90’s for the “Death of Superman,” or that he found Hawkman’s convoluted backstory quite confusing. Rotaru knew many others had their voiceprint on Black Canary and recalled voice director Wes Gleason wanted to keep this iteration modern but still honor the era.
Incidentally, the grandfather of Taylor’s wife grew up during WWII and was a big fan of the original Jay Garrick Flash, so the actor was able to talk to him and understand his expectations. Conversely, Arend had to dig deep for his character, Charles Halstead (better known as the Golden Age Psycho-Pirate).
Just like Gal Gadot in the live-action films, this Wonder Woman speaks with a Mediterranean accent. For her part, Stana Katic did her own research into the potential regional dialects for Themyscira, as well as infusing a bit of her grandmother’s accent as she lived during WWII. In finding the accent for Hawkman, Gleason instructed Abtahi to base it off his performance from their previous project collaboration together.
Diamantopoulos relished the opportunity as an actor to be in this project because he adores this specific era. For his performance as Steve Trevor he felt it was essential to incorporate an essence and aura of the ’40s. He also praised Trevor as being more “woke” than the typical men of that bygone era.
Miereanu joked that as a kid he thought Atlantis was near Australia, and so expected McIntyre to perform Aquaman in his natural Australian accent. For the voice of Aquaman, McIntyre went for a Mid-Atlantic accent.
This isn’t Arend’s first foray into voicing a villain after playing the Riddler in the Batman: Hush animated film. The actor said he has a blasting playing bad guys, and felt his character’s ability to manipulate emotions lent itself well into the art of acting itself.
Though it is obviously altered in post-production, Black Canary’s trademark sonic screams are performed by Rotaru, who pulled out all her theater experience in manipulating her diaphragm for those scenes.
Hawkman is Abtahi’s first time playing a superhero, something he never imagined growing up as a person of color.
Unsurprisingly, Bomer was given the direction of being “more caffeinated” by the voice director Wes Gleason to play the Scarlet Speedster. Rotaru on the other hand was given the cues of “chip on shoulder,” “edgy,” and “youthful.”
And with that, the Justice Society panel came to a close.
Justice Society: World War II arrives on Digital April 27, 2021 and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack and Blu-ray Combo Pack on May 11, 2021.