Warner Bros. Animation is set to release their next animated instalment on May 3, with Matt Ryan once again reprising his role of Constantine in DC Showcase: Constantine – The House of Mystery. The new short follows the next steps of the demon hunter and master of the occult following the events of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, while also collecting shorts Blue Beetle, Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth! and The Losers.
We recently spoke to Blue Beetle writer Jeremy Adams, who’s previously written for Warner Bros’ animated projects Justice Society: World War II, Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms and Batman: Soul of the Dragon, on the upcoming Ted Kord focused short. We discuss the inspiration behind the project, how he picked which superheroes to feature and the Blue Beetle film project.
So I’ve just watched the short and it’s so much fun! What can fans of Blue Beetle look forward to?
JA: A homage and a love letter to kind of 60s/70s superhero style cartoons, contextualised with Blue Beetle. It’s so close weirdly to kind of a deep tone version of Blue Beetle that showed up in like Charlton comics. But it has all those really quirky things that used to happen in animation back then where the pipeline or the streamline, they made a lot of mistakes. And Rick and his team did such an effective job of emulating that. So I think, hopefully what people get out of it – or are looking forward to – is it’s just going to be fun. And it’s just a real fun, diversionary short, that’s not like, super scary. It’s not like super high stakes, it’s just a lot of fun. And that was kind of the main purpose of us putting it together.
And I’m a huge Blue Beetle fan, particularly a Ted Kord fan – I also like Jaime – but tend to gravitate towards Kord as they were the first comics I remember buying on my own and had the squids on it. And I was like, it’s super cool, it was so kinetic. And when Rick and Jim (producers), when we sat down to talk about what the short was going to be, I definitely started adding those things in. We all just start talking what if we did this thing that was kind of funny, and almost sort of meta because of the way it kind of looks at cartoon superheroes of that that time, but at the same time, celebrates these characters and have like all the Charlton characters.
And it’s a kind of a hark back to – obviously with the link to Steve Ditko – a bit of Spider-Man and a bit of Scooby Doo thrown in there as well.
JA: Well, we are never that far from Scooby Doo! Rick and I have worked on Scooby and given variations for many years. And I had done Return to Zombie Island with Rick and Jeff, Jim and I had done Scooby–Doo in King Arthur’s Court – like a bunch of Scooby Doo – so Scooby is always gonna be going there. But Scooby is also a product of that time, which is the time when the Spider-Man cartoon was really kind of the first really good superhero cartoon! Jim is with that era, in fact, you can go look in on YouTube for his college SpiderMan film, it was like called Viva Spider-Man.
JA: Yeah, it’s really really good live action Peter Parker. And it is really, really good. But he was not far off because he co-wrote Spider-Man the Animated Series. And he wrote Fall of the Blue Beetle episode. There are some similarities there. And that was one of the things that attracted me to Blue Beetle, that he was kind of like the Spider-Man version of Batman – like he had the gadgets but he didn’t have superpowers, but he was funny.
And there’s this really hilarious recurring joke about Kord’s real identity and his inventions, how early did that come into play when you were writing the short?
JA: You know, it’s funny, because I did the outline, I did have a little bit of it. But Jennifer (Keene) who wrote the script, she really compounded it and as they say, put a lamp on it like really made it a thing. Because we had talked about it, it was one of the things I think would be really funny about some character like The Question in particular, is that he’s so conspiracy minded he hits upon the truth more often than not and it’s got to be really irritating. And in the short, it’s irritating the Blue Beetle because it’s like, I’m following this guy’s insane connections and they’re coming out right! I have friends like that that are really annoying. It’s where I’m at with my daughters right now. And they know so much more about stuff and I’m supposed to be the adult that knows thing. And my daughter will be like, no, actually it’s like this. And then I’m like, oh, man, she’s right – my eight year old is 1000% smarter than I am!
So as you said, there’s plenty of really fun team-ups. So you got Captain Atom, Night Shade, The Question. How did you draw a shortlist? Because there’s just so many good characters involved
JA: I think Captain Adam, because like I said, I’m a big fan of the Charlton comic books, Peacemaker was already being used, as you know, in in the shows and stuff like that. So it’s not like they needed any more exposure. But for me, I knew that the main three in my mind was going to be The Question, Doctor Spectro and Captain Atom. And then as I started looking back at some of the books – I had like an omnibus of everything – I really liked Nightshade. I really liked her costume, It’s just so different. And mainly because like, it’s not too far from a character called Gold Beetle in the comic books, but also she has a skirt, which is like do you ever see that on a character anymore except for Supergirl?! Then I thought what are other interesting characters, what are the ones that play off each other and have a history? And to me, these are like the kind of main four coming out of that era.
Definitely, yeah. And obviously, I’ve got to ask about THAT theme tune! Did you have any input in that at all?
JA: No, Jim (Krieg) actually had written a theme song – he talked about it more at Wonder Con. But it was just the lyrics, the actual amazing composers put together the final song, but we knew that there was going to be a theme song. And I didn’t even know how good it was until I finally saw it. And I was like, this is so great! Like, if I were Blue Beetle I’d be playing this every time I walk into a room because it’s just such a throwback. And the way that they use the scenes from the actual short to cut together in kind of an opening credit sequence is so funny – it’s just so funny.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to get out of my head though, that’s the only problem! So you’ve previously written Justice League Society World War Two and this is your second sort of retro inspired outing. What is it about the Golden and Silver Age you’ve enjoyed delving into it?
JA: You know, I like the innocence of it – I know that sounds weird, but like, there’s a certain element of like, it’s just about adventure, you know, and I’m kind of doing that in my Flash book right now. I just like the Doctor Who of it, like I just want to go on an adventure sometimes, and I don’t want to be burdened by some of the interpersonal dramatics that kind of happen in a lot of modern things. Don’t get me wrong, that is great sometimes – trust me, I watch enough of it! But sometimes you just kind of want to watch somebody go on an adventure. And, in that time period, because they didn’t have so much news, like you’re aware of things but it’s not so granular that you know every detail, there’s a lot of gaps to make up stories, to hear stories and create stories.
You don’t know exactly what happened, so you as a writer, you have the opportunity to kind of like fill in those gaps. And it’s just a little more like, you know, science isn’t so perfected that nothing is out of reach, you know, it would be like Indiana Jones of it, is like the Nazis are trying to find these occult items and oh my gosh, you know, you’re kind of swept away in the what if? Because it’s a real tipping point in civilisation where it’s before we’ve got too much information. We’ve got just enough information and legends and mythology. Just like just around the corner just like barely on the edge. So it’s a kind of neat place to be. And the JSA when you’re talking about like the World War Two era, there’s a very clean definitive good versus evil that everybody can kind of get behind, you know. But yeah, I like the way things were much more simple.
Yeah, definitely! And when you write these stories, do you ever have a voice actor in mind at all?
JA: Yeah, a lot of times I do. I mean, with The Question the only voice I have in my head is Jeffrey Combs from when he was doing it for Justice League Unlimited. He did such a definitive version of The Question, but that’s kind of the conspiracy minded voice in my head. But yeah, oftentimes, having an accurate voice can really help you know, the way that you approach a character so that you can hopefully write the dialogue in a way that seems natural. Now of course with this Jennifer, I wrote the outline and Jennifer was able to take that and do her own so I wonder if she actually had a particular voice in mind. I don’t know.
So following the recent casting announcements, are you looking forward to the upcoming Blue Beetle film, especially being such a big fan?
JA: I am! Look I’ll take anything Blue Beetle. I always dreamed of a trilogy with Dan Garrett and then you’ve got Ted Kord and then Jaime Reyes. But they’re doing Jaime Reyes and as long as they’re respectful and loving towards Ted Kord, and they don’t shoot him in the head! I really was not happy when I read that comic.
In fact, I really remember being so annoyed and enraged, as I fell in love with the character because you’re like, this makes total sense. But I’m excited. You know, I grew up in a time in which Wizard Magazine was like, but what if they did make a movie of this? And it was always like the hype. Now we live in a world in which it’s so popular, you know, like back then I was the only one who knew who Moon Knight was and now there’s like a show! Kids don’t understand, because I remember I was bullied for liking this stuff and it’s popular now and it blows my mind.
Exactly! Bonkers, isn’t it?
JA: Totally bonkers!
So what is it like going from like writing films like DC Lego Teen Titans and Scooby Doo to films like Mortal Kombat and some of the darker DC outings?
It’s super different. You know, we were joking when Mortal Kombat came out we like we should advertise for the people who brought the new Lego Flash film or Shazam! You know, I love that type of film. And I have kids and I have a very innocent side, which I love to kind of like, do these family friendly things. And then I have like the “Oh, I love John Wick“, I like really hardcore action or whatever. So it’s not so much hard as a release. And really a huge privilege to be able to such a variety of stories because some people just get the same genre. Every writer that has ever been kind of pigeon holed like, oh, you write horror movie? You can never write a comic – you know?
I think what’s cool about genre – especially like superheroes – there are genres within genres. Like when I get to do a superhero movie, it can be a horror superhero movie like the Constantine short, and it’s so much of almost like a horror within the superhero genre. That’s one of the cool advantages of doing superhero stuff. It’s like, oh, look, I can do a family friendly one. Or I can do a super violent one. And I love that that gives you the range to explore as a writer, you want to be able to do everything. You don’t want to be pigeonholed. So I just feel really lucky to be able to do do those things. It helps that like I talk about martial arts a lot. So like at a certain point, they’re like, well, we’d have to give it to this guy because he won’t shut up!
Definitely a huge sandbox to play with!
DC Showcase: Constantine – The House of Mystery arrives on Digital & Blu-ray on May 3.