Robot Chicken kicks off its sixth season this Sunday with the half hour Robot Chicken DC Comics Special. Taking aim at Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and many more beloved (and a few not so beloved) DC characters, the special comes from the Robot Chicken crew, led by Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, working in conjunction with DC’s Geoff Johns – who’s written for Robot Chicken in the past.
Writer Kevin Shinick also does voice work on the special, including providing the pivotal narration that evokes (as much of the special does) the old Super Friends cartoons. When I asked Shinick how he came to be the narrator, he told me, “It’s funny, because those classic words, ‘Meanwhile at the Hall of Justice,’ spoken by the great Ted Knight, had always been a go-to joke for me. I would use it frequently at random moments in high school like yelling from the restroom, ‘Meanwhile in stall #2,’ and it always got a laugh because it’s such a recognizable saying. Yet when we finished writing the Robot Chicken DC Comics Special, I was asked who I wanted to voice and I completely forgot ask for it. Opting instead for Captain Cold and some other characters. Then a day or two later Seth says to me, ‘I think you’d be perfect as the narrator.’ I was like, ‘Of course I would!’ And so thanks to a famous red haired man I get to play a famous white haired man.”
A lot of time is spent with Aquaman in the special, who is the butt of many, many jokes. Said Shinick, “Aquaman always gets a bum rap if you ask me. But he’s like the kid in school who gets a crappy nickname on the first day and it just sticks. He’s probably a perfectly good kid but now he’s got this stigma and it’s just so easy to jump on board. That’s why in our special, I like that he finally snaps and takes matters into his own fins. I mean hands. See, it’s just so easy.”
I recently had the chance to visit the Robot Chicken offices and sat down with Green, Senreich and Johns, to find out how this DC Comics-inspired lunacy came to be. We discussed the depiction of Aquaman, the impressive voice cast, what got cut out (and what will be on the DVD) and much more.
But let’s start out with a brand new clip from the special, as Superman realizes a trick he pulled in Superman II can be very useful…
IGN TV: There have been plenty of superhero bits on Robot Chicken, but how did the idea come about to do a specific DC special?
Matt Senreich: Geoff worked on our fourth season as a writer, but Geoff and I have been working together since 2002.
Seth Green: I never liked him. All the time we’ve known him socially, I’ve just abhorred his presence.
Senreich: We sold our first pilot together in 2002, so we were looking for ways to play. He was at DC and called up one day.
Geoff Johns: I was at DC, and we were just talking, like, “Wouldn’t it be cool to do a Robot Chicken DC Special?”
Green: Because the Star Wars one had worked.
Johns: Yeah, the Star Wars one was so good.
Senreich: So, yeah. It was really easy. It was just, like, “Hey, we should do this.” “Okay, let’s do this.”
IGN: Was it a pretty natural progression at that point to use Super Friends?
Green: I led that charge. That’s just a great in to the DC Universe. You have everybody in a familiar and collected setting. The whole thing was organized so you could have all the good guys and all the bad guys. We thought if we could at least start in that format, then we could spiral off into all aspects of the galaxy. But I really just wanted that shot of the Legion of Doom, with all of them sitting at the desk in the big hall with the archways behind it.
IGN: We’ve got to talk about Aquaman. Poor Aquaman.
Senreich: It’s funny because, when we started, my first question [to Geoff] was, “You’re making him cool in the books, and you realize all we’re going to do is destroy him right now?”
Johns: All I can say is, it’s all about Aquaman getting his groove back, which is why it’s okay to kind of start somewhere… but he goes somewhere. He’s actually the main character, by far.
Green: Yeah, we give him a real arc.
Johns: As much as you can.
Green: But you do, you feel his journey, for sure. You feel the struggle. I focused really hard — all of the writing was so strong, and I focused on making those moments translate.
IGN: At the same time, is it just unbearably fun, in the early parts, where he’s the butt of the joke in so many ways?
Johns: The cool thing is, everyone knows who Aquaman is, and seeing him take center stage for this, it really is the year of Aquaman in a strange way. He’s a fun character. He’s really great.
Robot Chicken’s Aquaman gets a special DC Comics cover
IGN: Batman, in the meantime, has a funny arc through this with Bane. Obviously, you knew that The Dark Knight Rises was coming…
Senreich: We didn’t know much about what Bane was going to be like [in the movie] when we were writing. We just knew him from the comics.
Green: We could kind of guess.
Johns: Right, we didn’t know The Dark Knight Rises was going to be huge… but we could probably guess.
Senreich: Each of the characters we kind of summed up in previous seasons of Robot Chicken to some degree. Superman is the most powerful man on the planet, so he’s allowed to be cocky and arrogant in that fun way. Wonder Woman…
Green: She’s got to stick up for herself. Nobody bests Wonder Woman, but at the same time, she’s the only female on the team, so she has to stick up for herself.
Johns: Then Green Lantern is just kind of out to have fun. He’s like a normal guy that really doesn’t deserve to be Green Lantern.
Green: He just lucked into that position. [Laughs]
Continue to Page 2 as the discussion turns to Captain Carrot, the oddity of Superman’s movie powers and casting folks like Alfred Molina, Megan Fox, Nathan Fillion, Paul Reubens and Neil Patrick Harris.
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