Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham is an exciting Elseworlds story infused with a refreshing Lovecraftian horror sensibility. The film’s co-directors, Christopher Berkeley, Sam Liu, and screenwriter Jase Ricci spoke at WonderCon about the film and their thoughts on Guillermo del Toro’s vocal advocacy of the animation medium.
Disclaimer: These Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham interviews have been edited for clarity.
LadyJenevia: We’re hitting an all-time high saturation of superhero media. What is it about Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham that makes it stand out compared to all of the other superhero media that the general audience is perpetually being bombarded with?
Berkeley: It’s not necessarily a superhero film. It’s more of a movie about our beloved character Batman, and if anything it’s more of a horror film than a superhero film, which makes it stand out among the rank and file of the normal superhero films that are out there. Not to say that he’s not being a hero in this world. He is a superhero.
LadyJenevia: What are the advantages to telling stories for these iconic, well-known characters, specifically in the animation medium?
Liu: I think accessibility. Maybe this is an older way of looking at things but a lot of things that influenced me, I saw on TV because it was very accessible. When you go to see a movie, it’s like an event, right? But it’s different now because there’s streaming and stuff like that. Maybe everything moved towards television. In that sense, it casts a wide net as far as exposure is concerned.
Even though it starts from comics, I think a lot of people know a lot of characters because of cartoons, TV series, things like that. Does that answer your question?
LadyJenevia: Yeah, and it was just really cool to see more of a horror spin. Horror tends to be an R-rated genre so we don’t get to see a lot of that in live-action [superhero films].
Liu: Yeah, I hope people are accepting it.
LadyJenevia: I love a good horror, adventure romp!
Liu: Yeah because horror, especially Lovecraftian horror, basically it’s just… everybody’s gonna die. It’s just how they die and how they get mutilated. How do you tell a compelling story with that? Getting the source material, what I thought was most interesting at its core was that there’s a story with Batman, his sacrifice, what does he know, what he has to learn, what he has to give up. As far as thought process, but also physically, what does he have to give up in his fate? What does he need to become in order for him to save Gotham? Conceptually, all these themes really did it for me. It’s not your traditional Batman story. Even just building this was really difficult because the plot is so complicated. It’s not just, ‘Hey, here’s the bad guy, we’re the good guy and he did this bad thing, we’ll just go take him out and then the city is saved.’ It’s way more web-like and so some of it might be confusing to people but if you want to dig, I think the answers are there.
Ricci: I mean, you’re right, there is an over-… I don’t want to say ‘over-saturation’ because I work for Warners Brothers…
LadyJenevia: You don’t have to say it, I’ll say it! [laughs jokingly]
Jase: There is a glut of superhero media out there which I think is great and if my 12-year-old self knew that this was day was going to come, I’d be flipping out. There’s a lot and there’s a bit of exhaustion but I feel like with the DC animated movies especially, they’re accessible for everyone but they’re targeted more towards the fan base, the hardcore comic fans who are always going to seek [them] out. They have that background and that sort of base knowledge for the characters that allows something like an Elseworlds story to exist. You don’t have to see the scene where Batman’s parents get shot and the pearls fall onto the ground one more time. You could take it to the next step.
LadyJenevia: Guillermo del Toro has been in the headlines quite a bit for really being a strong advocate and champion for the animation medium, dispelling misconceptions about ‘animation is only for kids,’ ‘animation is a lesser art form,’
Liu: God bless Guillermo del Toro.
LadyJenevia: I love him, and [Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio] was amazing and made me cry! Would you like to share your point of view on that? It might be just reiterating what he already said, but just from your personal and professional experience of really advocating for the animation medium.
Liu: I’m definitely all about that. I didn’t get into animation, I mean, it was never on my radar [at first] because I’m not into the ‘comical kids thing’ but even though when I started, there were fewer action-adventure type of things, this is why I stay at Warner Brothers and DC. They allow us to tell these types of stories. I think even in other studios, with this big name stuff, you can feel like the direction is ‘just kiddify these stories’ but in these movies especially, we’re allowed to do something that’s like feature. We can treat it seriously. It allows a different view and vision of how you consume something, but it can be just as serious, just as poignant.
Berkeley: That’s a good question. It’s a loaded question. That’s a great question. He’s correct in saying that animation isn’t just for kids. Ultimately, when you watch a lot of movies, there is a lot of animation going on that you just don’t see or notice. CGI will replace, like the special effects that you see, like just an explosion happening that might have to be crafted in CGI which is ultimately an animated explosion.
LadyJenevia: Right, of course.
Berkeley: There’s aspects of animation that I think are taken for granted. Ultimately, I agree with him a thousand percent. In the States, there is that perception that animation is for kids. I’m glad you asked this question though because I was just thinking about this with a friend of mine. There was a Bugs Bunny cartoon where he’s encountering the Sheriff of Nottingham and Bugs Bunny is dressed as the King. He’s like, “I Knight thee, Sir Loin of Beef.” It occurred to me that back then, cartoons were showed in movie theatres for adults. It wasn’t until the 1960s that they got repackaged for children.
LadyJenevia: To make money.
Berkeley: Yeah, to make money, and now those cartoons are being used to babysit the children instead of be entertainment for adults. Children actually watch adult entertainment that’s not intended for them. I think that’s part of one of the stigmas, of forgetting the history of animation. Animation has, in its infancy, been intended originally for adults. Adults, go out and appreciate some animation!
Ricci: I think there’s so many talented writers. There’s a lot of talented artists out there who are putting stuff together that is beyond us. I think the general public doesn’t understand this. They’re not exposed to the sophistication. There’s a great deal of sophistication. They do think it’s for little kids and it’s not. It’s for everybody. I’m glad people who actually have a voice like Mr. Del Toro are championing it because then it will bring people like my mother-in-law who wouldn’t watch animation. I think it’s great and animation is a lot. In terms of storytelling, it’s a lot more free in a lot of ways, both production-wide, budgetary, and stuff like that. Hopefully people like him keep talking; it’ll be great.
Watch my full interviews with the cast and crew of Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham here: