A Legend in Animation
by Saab Lofton
Bruce Timm is the Emmy-Award winning producer, director and designer of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond and Justice League (if you missed any of their initial runs on Cartoon Network, check them out on DVD). I was blessed to have recently met the man at the 7th annual Emerald City ComiCon in Seattle. Busy as he is, I'm glad Timm took the time to grant yours truly this interview.
Like a lot of comic fans, I feel Timm's work is already legendary. Seeing a beloved character done in his minimalist, angular style has become a joy to be looked forward to. Since a lot of these characters were created in the late 1930s/early 1940s anyway, it only makes sense that someone with such a flair for Art Deco be in charge of them.
Lofton: You got your start working on He-Man for Filmation -- what memories do you have from those days?
Timm: Don't really have a lot to say about He-Man, unfortunately -- frankly, it was just a job.
Lofton: As a black man, I want to thank you for the stance you took insofar as casting John Stewart as the Green Lantern of choice in Cartoon Network's Justice League. As you said at the 2001 San Diego Comic Con, "We did need ethnic diversity in the Justice League. We felt that the show is going to be seen worldwide and I think having a member of the Justice League who is not just 'Mr. White Bread' is a good thing." I must know, though, what was the extent of the backlash you faced for this courageous choice?
Timm: It wasn't that big a deal. Predictably, some die-hard Hal Jordan fans and Kyle Rayner fans were pissed off, and I was accused of Excessive Political Correctness and succumbing to White Liberal Guilt -- whatever. It was the right thing to do.
Lofton: In the premiere of Justice League, Superman is made to look foolish after having dismantled the world's nuclear arsenal at the behest of an alien who shapeshifted into a Human politician. Since said politician was named "J. Carter," of all things, was that a swipe at former president Jimmy Carter? Why was such a right-wing story produced?
Timm: We certainly didn't intend it to be any kind of right-wing "statement" -- it was just a plot device. Personally, I'm all for nuclear disarmament, always have been. As for "J. Allen Carter", it's actually a rather complicated in-joke: "J." for "John", as in "John Carter of Mars", "J. Allen" as in J. Allen St. John, noted illustrator of Edgar Rice Burroughs books.
Lofton: In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Robin is captured, unmasked, tortured, broken and finally turned by the Joker into a version of himself. In all my years of watching cartoons, never have I witnessed something so disturbing. Do you recall the reaction you received; were others as shocked as I was?
Timm: Hell yeah -- freaked EVERYBODY out, especially our friends at Warner Home Video, unfortunately.
Lofton: In Justice League Unlimited, the Cadmus story arc -- in which the government is so threatened by Superman and friends that it all but declares war upon them -- is one of the most radical examples of storytelling in animation history. Did FOX News or anyone else ever falsely accuse you of being traitorous?
Timm: Ha! Not to my knowledge.