On May 3, Warner Bros. Animation will release DC Showcase: Constantine - The House of Mystery, a new collection of short films 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.
For many fans, when they think of The Losers, it will be the modern reimagining of the team that eventually led to a movie starring Chris Evans, Zoe Saldana, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. However, their roots actually lie in World War II and whether it's the comic books from that era or Darwyn Cooke's The New Frontier, this is a group of characters who are long overdue an adaptation of some sort.
Writer Tim Sheridan does a phenomenal job bringing this iteration of the team to life as part of the latest round of DC Showcase shorts, and we were fortunate enough to speak with him last week.
In this interview, he talks to us about his creative approach to telling the action-packed, wacky story that plays out in The Losers. Tim also explains the differences between approaching characters like these compared to icons such as Batman and Superman, discusses Ming-Na Wen's performance, and sheds some light on a version of the story that put a different spin on the dynamic between its leads.
When some fans think of The Losers, their minds might go to that Vertigo reimagining of the team and the Chris Evans movie, but what did it mean to you to be able to revisit this classic - or true - version of this team?
I’m so glad you said that because that’s what the DC Showcase shorts are all about: getting to showcase legacy characters who are hugely important in the DC canon that may have been underserved on screen because we haven’t seen them a lot. In terms of the classic wartime Losers, because we’re dealing with DC Comics where they have pre-Crisis and post-Crisis, we kind of lost the thread on them back in the 80s. A lot of people don’t have much exposure to them after Crisis, and I’m one of them! I grew up reading Batman, Superman, and Justice League International comic books, and The Losers weren’t sitting in the spinner rack for me every month.
It was the kind of thing I got to come to a little later as part of my job; I was working on the Sgt. Rock DC Showcase short we did and was researching and reading comics like that, Weird War, and The Losers. For me, The Losers was this great lost team in the history of comics. They were well-known characters for a long time, but I definitely approached them as if they were all-new. I think I was concerned they would be inaccessible to me because I didn’t grow up a huge fan of World War II genre stuff and wouldn’t have necessarily gravitated to them, but when I opened those books, I said, ‘Oh, these are absolutely written to me. They’re comic books. They’re characters I understand and can fall in love with and join on their adventures.’ Those aren’t just related to battles during the war, but sometimes, they can be genre-bending. We did that in this short because it’s integral to the comics and how they were originally conceived. In the short, you see a war movie, a sci-fi movie, a horror movie, a mystery movie, and all of these genres coming together on Dinosaur Island [Laughs].
Of course, this isn’t just a World War II story as you get to throw dinosaurs into the mix; what did you enjoy most about getting to throw these different genres together?
It was hard. One of the stranger things about this [Laughs] is the timey-wimey nature of it. The dinosaur element is something I think a lot of fans, if they had any familiarity with the classic Losers team, may think of them in the context of The New Frontier and Dinosaur Island. If people know anything about this team, it’s their relationship to dinosaurs, so we saw that as an opportunity to tell…we’re telling a story that’s basically their last mission. It’s the final mission. The metaphor of dinosaurs showing up on an island alongside these outdated, outmoded characters who are war heroes that we don’t see too often in comics or on screen anymore…the metaphor is strong here! It seems nutty when you look at it on paper. You’re like, ‘Wait a minute, these war heroes are going to come up against some dinosaurs that are time-travelling?’ It sounds bizarre, but folks who know these characters will have seen this before and are along with the ride from the start.
Beyond the comic books? Did you have any other influences in terms of films? When I spoke to Milo, he mentioned Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones as being important for him.
Specifically sitting down to work on this movie, I don’t think I explored any cinematic material. The thing about this Showcase is that these are characters who have a long history. There’s a giant stack of trades full of adventures and stories. My job is to try and realise something that’s as close to that source material as we can get. When translating something from comics to screen, absolutely there are going to be cinematic influences that work your way through the back of your brain and you don’t really have any control over it as a writer! There’s obviously Jurassic Park, but it’s about the characters and relationships and the archetypes of who they are. You can’t turn on something like Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers and not see these similar kinds of archetypal wartime brotherhood characters. Subconsciously, I’m sure all of those things were at work while I was working on this script, but my conscious mission was to try and give voice to characters where all the work had been done on them and the book had literally been written. You need look no further than the excellent comics. I really hope people pick up Losers comics now and read them. I was so surprised by how much I fell in love with these characters. I wasn’t expecting to, and I hope that the Showcase short gives them a little boost and gets people to give them a little try because they’re terrific. Maybe someday we’ll see another incarnation of this great team.
Having worked on DC movies focusing on icons like Superman and Batman, is it refreshing for you, creatively speaking, to tell a story focusing on obscure characters like The Losers?
Yes, it’s refreshing to get to explore characters who are not the ones we normally get to see on screen. Absolutely, it’s refreshing. I will say, it is daunting. More daunting. I actually feel more pressure to get the voices of the characters and the voice of the story for something like The Losers right than I did Man of Tomorrow. I feel like there’s more flexibility with a character like Superman, who everyone knows and knows well. I get to highlight particular pieces of the Superman story and character and things I’m excited about, but I’m not responsible for introducing everyone to him. It’s not my job to make sure people walk away with an understanding of who Superman is when I write something like Man of Tomorrow. That’s incredibly freeing. However, when I did my work on The Losers, I felt a lot more pressure to make sure that people are getting the classic characters and an understanding of who they are. Maybe it’s just me. It’s probably just my personal quirk. I just feel like I want to get it right and I know Jim Krieg felt the same way. He’s a big fan of The Losers and these are great characters who don’t need me to come in and reinvent the wheel. My job is just to bring these characters into a new story that showcases who they are and who they’ve always been. Hopefully, people will fall in love with them the way that we did.
On another note, Flashpoint Beyond #0 arrived yesterday, and I’m curious what you can tease about where Batman is going next in this series and whether there are any specific tie-ins from the original event you would point people to in order to prepare for what’s to come?
Oh man, I am so excited for people to get their hands on Flashpoint Beyond issues one through six. I mean, #0 - written by Geoff Johns - is such a good kick-off and essential reading that gets you into the story. Let me tell you, issue #1 is coming, and if you know anything about the original series, expect some fun stuff with Wonder Woman and Aquaman. We’ll tease that and say I can’t wait for people to read it because it’s a lot of fun. Issue #2 follows close behind. There’s some fun and weird stuff that happens in issue #2.
As a writer, do you enjoy writing these stories in an episodic or short story format or do you prefer having a little more room to breathe as you did with something like Batman: The Long Halloween?
Keep in mind, when we sat down to do The Long Halloween, it was only supposed to be one movie! I said, ‘I can’t do this in one movie!’ [Laughs] and they said, ‘Okay, fine, we’ll do two movies.’ I think when I sat down to write The Losers, I probably said, ‘I can’t do this in one short. You need to give me two!’ [Laughs] Unfortunately, the trick didn’t work the second time. It’s daunting to have a smaller canvas to paint that picture. The Long Halloween is a bit different because we really wanted to make sure we honoured the book. It was so well-known. With The Losers, we didn’t have the challenge of getting the entire canon into one movie. There was a different challenge, but I’m someone where, if you give me an inch, I want a mile. If I could, I would write three two-hour Losers movies. That doesn’t necessarily tell the story in the best way we possibly can. It’s a challenge. It’s always a puzzle to figure out how you do this in a shorter amount of time and in a shorter space, but I love solving that puzzle. Even doing a movie in 75 or 85 minutes is a puzzle to solve and that’s part of the joy in what I get to do. I guess, in the end, that’s a huge part of what I do. It’s an algebra equation!
You’ve got a great cast with this film, but I was blown away by Ming-Na Wen’s work, and was curious about what it was like for you to see her bring Fan to life in this movie? That team-up with Johnny is so interesting.
Oh my gosh, right? So good. That relationship between Fan and Johnny was a little bit deeper in the original version of this. We were really going for a budding romance between them, and there was a lot more there. Unfortunately, it really sidetracked us away from the story and we really needed to get to that. Fan is an original character and getting somebody like Ming-Na Wen to voice her is a dream come true. Fan Long, by the way, means ‘Lethal Dragon.’ That’s kind of a clue to anyone who knew what those names mean when they watch the opening of the movie as they can get a sense of where we’re possibly going with that character. To a lot of people, though, it’s a surprise twist.
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DC Showcase: Constantine - The House of Mystery arrives on Digital & Blu-ray on May 3.