By James Hancock July 10th, 2015
Bruce Timm is back with one of his best projects in years with Justice League: Gods and Monsters. In a classic Elseworlds scenario, Timm completely reimagines the Trinity of the Justice League (Superman, Batman & Wonder Woman) as violent extremists who see very little difference between saving the world versus ruling it. Their origin stories have been completely reworked and what’s amazing about the movie is how we gradually come to care for these villains when they come under assault from a mysterious adversary seeking to frame them for crimes they have not committed in order to justify their extermination. If you are not a fan of DC Comics nor of DC animation, this is not the movie that is going to change your mind. But if your life is incomplete without dark and interesting new takes on iconic comic book characters then you will spend the majority of this cartoon pumping your fist toward the sky and roaring in approval. As a kid in the 1980s, one of my favorite books on the rack was Marvel’s What If, a comic that took established storylines and turned them upside down with new twists that would never be allowed in the main Marvel continuity due to how they would radically upset the status quo. On occasion, these issues of What If would eclipse the original stories they were based upon and I saw a similar phenomenon at work tonight in Ballroom 20 at San Diego Comic-Con where Justice League: Gods and Monsters made its world premiere.
The god of superhero animation, Bruce Timm, was present tonight to discuss the film along with his amazing cast which included some great talent such as C. Thomas Howell and Tamara Taylor. Michael C. Hall, Jason Isaacs and Benjamin Bratt perform roles as well but were unable to attend the panel (although we did get a video introduction from Michael C. Hall). As much as I love Bruce Timm’s Justice Leagues series, in particular his two seasons of Justice League Unlimited, this new concept is geared toward a more adult sensibility. Filled with bloody violence, foul language, sexual innuendo, and the unexpected sight of superheroes casually swilling booze, I spent most of the cartoon with my mouth agape hearing and seeing scenarios that I would never expect from a movie featuring any of these iconic characters. Without going into too many spoilers, these are not the Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman characters we already know and love. In this world, Superman is the son of General Zod, Batman is a vampire based on the Kirk Angstrom Man-Bat character from the comics, and Wonder Woman is one of the New Gods, Bekka, the granddaughter of Highfather, who has fled from her culture after they committed genocide on Apokolips. If I lost you on that last turn, once again, this is probably not the movie for you.
What’s so great about this approach is not having to be a slave to audience expectations and having the freedom to break completely new ground. During the Q&A after the screening Bruce Timm described how he was inspired by the difference between Golden Age and Silver Age comics. When Flash and Green Lantern were relaunched at the beginning of the Silver Age, DC kept the names of the characters and basically started over from scratch with a new look and new character. The same holds true here but I am already rapidly falling in love with these new characters. When Bruce Timm announced that they have plans for a web series set in this continuity I began performing cartwheels in my head. The action is on another level compared to other Justice League cartoons in that it showcases just how destructive these three characters can be when they have fewer moral scruples. I won’t say who bites the dust in this movie, but many familiar faces from the DC Universe get chopped down mercilessly making it impossible for the new Justice League series ever to resemble the one we are already so familiar with. So if you have ever enjoyed a comic, show or illustration by Bruce Timm, clear some time on your Tuesday schedule and get ready to thoroughly enjoy a bold new look at the DC Universe.
Justice League: Gods and Monsters will be available online 7/14 and the Blu-Ray on 7/28.
I am one of the Co-Hosts of Wrong Reel and you can find our content here: