On May 3, Warner Bros. Animation will release DC Showcase: Constantine - The House of Mystery, a new collection of short movies that also includes Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth!, Blue Beetle, and The Losers. Produced by Rick Morales (Mortal Kombat Legends, Injustice), these shorts boast an incredible array of talent both in terms of the creatives and phenomenal A-List cast members.
Jeremy Adams, a writer whose credits include Batman: Soul of the Dragon, Justice Society: World War II, and Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms, created and wrote the story for Blue Beetle before Jennifer Keene took over scriptwriting duties. When we caught up with Jeremy earlier this week, we got to take a deep dive into the work he did in this corner of the DC Animated Universe.
Sharing his reaction to learning the plan was to base this short film on the classic Spider-Man animated series, Jeremy also breaks down the roles played by characters like The Question and Captain Atom. We also hear from the writer about his hopes to tell additional stories in this DC Showcase format.
Finally, he also reflects on working on Marvel Studios' WHIH Newsfront shorts and teases lots of exciting developments ahead in the pages of his, Geoff Johns, and Tim Sheridan's Flashpoint Beyond!
When it came to creating the outline story for Blue Beetle, what was your reaction to learning Rick Morales wanted to head down that retro route of something like the old Spider-Man cartoon?
I’m a huge fan of this character and I’ve often thought, ‘Maybe one day I’ll cosplay as Blue Beetle at a convention,’ but no one wants to see that [Laughs]. One of the first books I ever remember buying was Blue Beetle. Where I grew up, we didn’t have comic book stores, but he also really came to life for me in Justice League International. That was one of those formative comic experiences as a kid for me where I read it and said, ‘This is funny, action-packed, and dramatic!’ I love the character.
We came up with the retro idea together. Rick [Morales], Jim [Krieg], and I are all really good friends. Jim is my mentor and Rick and I have done ten movies together. We sat down and were talking about what we wanted to do, and it all organically came from there. Jim is a 60s Spider-Man crazy person. He loves it and did his college film on it - you can find it on YouTube; it’s called ‘Viva La Spider-Man’ - and we were all on the same page there. One of the things I really love is meta-narratives and subversions of things. We could have done a straight version of Blue Beetle as a down the middle action-adventure, but I don’t think it would be as memorable. Seeing Rick and his team do the colour mixing and weird animation styles, and Jim wanting to do a theme song…it does feel like a lost pilot from that time. That’s the type of stuff I adore. How can we twist it a little bit? How can we make it a little more memorable? How can we do this in a way that people will have fun watching it, even when it’s a little outside the box?
It is funny because we knew going in what that was going to be, and that was reflected in the outline and the script, but then you hand it off to the geniuses who do the art and they plus it up so much. They do all the gags and sound effects in ways that makes you realise you can only do so much on the page. When you see what they do visually, it’s amazing. It really is.
You’re obviously telling a story here within a very confined amount of time, so what led you down the route of deciding to tell a mystery story with Ted Kord and The Question at the centre of that?
In the original Ted Kord: Blue Beetle #1, he is fighting the Squid Gang. I was desperate to have that happen, and in that book, The Question was a backup story. We wondered what we could do to bring these other characters in and after doing some research, I found a villain who might work, but The Question was key. He’s all about conspiracies and that piece of yarn that goes from one piece of card on the board to the other. How can we make a story that goes into bizarre places? The Question was that character and it was fitting he was part of Charlton Comics as it made it a lot more fun. I also love how exasperated Ted is with him. I’m obsessed with mysteries [Laughs], so throwing all that together…it was inevitable at the end of the day. We really wanted to stay true to the characteristics of those characters. You know, Steve Ditko was an objectivist and that was definitely what The Question is. It’s such a quirky thing. The reality is that sometimes we have ideas about what we want to do, but constantly think someone is going to step in and stop us [Laughs]. Then, we make things and say, ‘I can’t believe they let us do that. It’s so bananas!’ [Laughs] We were very lucky and blessed to be able to do that.
You’ve got a great villain and supporting characters here in Doctor Spectro, Captain Atom, and Nightshade; what did you enjoy most about throwing them into the mix?
It’s my wish, like when we did Justice Society: World War II, to show the fans that say, ‘Oh, all we get is Batman and Superman’ that we do occasionally try doing other characters, but no one buys them. Because of that, it’s a money thing and we can’t do anything without those characters. So, when an opportunity like this comes up, we jump at it. I think DC has a treasure trove of characters, not just in this short, but in my Flash comic book run, I try to bring up characters and take a deep dive. I would love to only use old characters because there’s a lot of creative energy there. Peacemaker is a Charlton Comics character and here you have someone, to me, who looks objectively stupid with that thing on his head. Then, you give it to someone like James Gunn and you end up saying, ‘This is a great character!’
As a writer, it’s the challenge of hoping you can use one of these characters and make them special or bring them to life for people who dig into the comic books or the DC Universe’s history. Ted Kord had this incredible run with Len Wein. As I said, Justice League International with J. M. DeMatteis, John Ostrander, and Keith Giffen was a favourite of mine too where he and Booster Gold become best friends. There are a lot of cool characters where I hope people think, ‘They’re kind of neat. Maybe I’ll look into them.’ It’s the same with The Question. So, to answer your question, that’s all I want to do [Laughs]. Give me an obscure character and I’ll work with them. They’re so much fun and there’s a lot less pressure to get it exactly right because you’re more introducing people to them than trying to live up to somebody’s expectations.
Something I didn’t have a chance to ask you about last time we spoke are those WHIH Newsfront shorts for Marvel Studios; what was the experience of being part of the MCU like and were you hopeful that might have been a longtime gig?
You always hope that they’ll keep letting you do it. I was working for a marketing company. Literally. I’m not even kidding you. They hired me and my title was ‘Marvel Specialist.’ That was it! [Laughs] No one else knew about this stuff at the time. The MCU was still fairly young, and to be able to do something in that space in live-action was pretty amazing. As you can guess with marketing, there are a lot more hurdles to jump over. I would love to revisit something like that because I love ancillary stuff. I love the stuff in the background. Dwayne McDuffie, who was a genius, his Damage Control comic showing people cleaning up was amazing. Wouldn’t it be hilarious to have The Daily Bugle show on every night and it was just in-world characters doing the news? [Laughs]. That’s meta. We’re moving into that sort of thing, but I was beyond excited at the time and it was a crazy thing because I was still at a very early point in my career. ‘Oh, you want to do this thing in live-action that’s tied to the MCU?’ I’m like, ‘What? I don’t even understand what you’re saying right now!’ [Laughs] Not only was it cool on the face of it, but William Sadler was in it briefly. Die Hard II! He’s Death in Bill & Ted. For someone starting out, it was just great.
Did you work closely with Jennifer Keene on this project or was it a case of writing the story and then handing the reigns over to her?
Jim, Rick, and I broke the story and I wrote a fairly detailed outline, and then Jennifer, who has her background in comedy, came in and made the jokes and dialogue, and put it all in there. That was fantastic. At the time, I was working on Supernatural, so I had very limited time as it was, and I know Jim knew how much I love Blue Beetle in general, so I think he jumped at the chance to let me play with the character in any way I could. Jennifer did a great job and I’m flabbergasted at how well it turned out. Rick and I have done so many movies now that I shouldn’t be surprised, but he wanted to do something different, and he really pointed everyone in the right direction and they knocked it out of the park. It’s so funny, so referential, and if you have any sort of base knowledge of the cartoons of that era, it will blow you away. I could literally write and watch a series that is exactly this. Not super high stakes, just fun and I can sit down having fun watching it. It’s not quite as referential as Venture Bros and is suitable for all ages and just good fun. There’s just a lightheartedness to it that I appreciate.
You’ve spent a fair bit of time in the DC Universe now, but having been part of these DC Showcase shorts, are there any other specific characters or stories you’d like to tell if that decision was down to you?
I have a DC dream story that I’ve pitched in variations as live-action, animated, and a comic book. I think I have a better chance in the latter to do it, but there are a lot of corners to this universe I’m interested in. I love stuff in the Shazam! Universe, even though I still call him Captain Marvel. I love Mister Miracle. He’s blown up because of Tom King’s incredible run. There are lots of characters, but it all goes back to my original love of Batman and Nightwing and Robin. I love Cassandra Cain as Batgirl. The original run of that comic is super cool because it combines my love of Batman and martial arts [Laughs]. The costume design was so cool. Birds of Prey. I could go on and on. I want to do it all. My philosophy is to not just tell a fun, engaging adventure story, but to add to the sandbox of mythology and characters. When I did Soul of the Dragon and say that, in DC lore, Katana’s blade had a twin and introduced that. To explore and expose that mythology has been really fun.
Flashpoint Beyond #0 arrived in stores earlier this week and featured a lot of big twists; what can you tease about Batman’s plans after the extreme lengths we saw him go to in tracking down his world’s Barry Allen and the fallout from that?
I hope everybody really enjoys it. Issue #0 lays the groundwork for everything that comes after. There are a lot of twists and turns and there’s a lot of exploration of this universe and what it is. That’s exciting too, because I feel like Geoff [Johns], Tim [Sheridan], and I had a lot of discussions and conversations about what exists here and the mystery of why Thomas is here. He shouldn’t be here. He should be dead [Laughs]. Even in his mind, he thinks that. He escaped from Hell, and now he’s back in it. All I can say is it’s going to be quite the ride. The art from Xermanico…I cannot say enough. I hope you guys enjoy the story, but I know you’re going to love the art. It’s outrageous how good it is.
Writers get a lot of credit, but as a writer, I’ve got to tell you that the real superstars are these artists. It’s a visual medium and when I see these pages coming back from Xermanico, I’m like, ‘What are we even doing here?’ [Laughs] Any letter I put on the page is going to take away from how amazing this art is. I’m always in awe. They’re magicians and wizards and we’re just little peasants compared to them. Flashpoint Beyond is otherworldly. Issue #3, some of the things happening that Xermanico draws…every page could be a poster. I’m saying to myself, ‘Holy cow, I wish I could put that up in my room. If I was a kid, I’d be cutting it out and pasting it on something’ [Laughs]. It’s really cool.
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DC Showcase: Constantine - The House of Mystery arrives on Digital & Blu-ray on May 3.