War Rocket Ajax #27 with ‘Batman: The Brave and the Bold’ Director Ben Jones! [Podcast]
This week, ComicsAlliance’s War Rocket Ajax podcast welcomes our first guest of 2012, animator and director Ben Jones! We talk to him about his work on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, including episodes like “Mayhem of the Music Meister” and the series finale, “Mitefall” — and you can listen to the whole show, right here at ComicsAlliance!War Rocket Ajax v.2, #27: My Mom Knows Who Ghost Rider Is with Ben Jones
(WARNING: Contains NSFW language)
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As we bring War Rocket Ajax into the new year, Chris and Matt are joined by Hundo Club member James Meiers, who explains his pursuit of The Reverse Euge. He joins in for some talk about comic book conventions, the mysterious connections between War Rocket Ajax and the Shadowrun roleplaying game, and Chris’s difficulties with Skyrim. Plus, the return of everyone’s favorite segment, Chris Reads Thrasher!
When Ben joins us, talk quickly turns into how he was a fan of comics before he ever got into animation:
That’s how I started drawing, was copying copies of Justice League of America that I had as a four year-old, back when Dick Dillin was drawing it. My background has always been super-heroes and comic books, but then when I got down here, aside from that brief sojourn on WildC.A.T.S., it was all Bugs Bunny and comedy stuff.
So at a certain point, I applied for a job on Teen Titans, where I had to sort of re-establish my super-hero credibility, because professionally I had none. At that point I was just thought of as a comedy animation guy, so I had to do a test. And fortunately that worked out, so since then, it’s been almost non-stop super-hero stuff.
The test was actually a couple of script pages from the first episode of Justice League with Green Lantern and the Flash, because they didn’t even have a Teen Titans script at that point.
He also tells us a little bit about his time on Harvey Birdman:
With Birdman, when I was hired the original plan was for the show to be, I think, roughly 90% reuse of old footage, and 10% new stuff. But what happened was the writers wrote pretty much the opposite of that, and because they were also the producers, I think they just said “well that’s fine.” And that’s how we proceded from that point.
I only directed two of those, but I did like the moments where I got to sort of simulate the old styles, like that sort of animation forgery. I did like that, even if it was for a show I didn’t care for, like when we did the episode that used the Chan Clan characters. I watched a couple of episodes of that, which was… you know, sort of slow going. But I realized that when they made the show originally, they just sort of photocopied the model sheets and pasted them in as much as they can, so I did that. In literally every shot where they appear in Birdman, I just photocopied the model sheet and maybe moved an arm or a leg if I had to, and that was it.
We also ask if there was any character he wanted to use that he couldn’t or didn’t get around to:
There are a few. There’s always going to be something that pops into your head afterwards, but even during the series I was thinking of trying to do something with Shade the Changing Man. Just because I remember seeing the house ads for that when I was a kid and they scare the crap out of me. I was trying to figure out a way to bring that sort of fright to the screen, but I never figured out a way to do the Shade effect in animation. The way Steve Ditko draws it, sometimes it’s over top of him, and sometimes it’s behind him like this looming demon, and I don’t know how to tell the overseas animators how to do that and where to do that. I still haven’t fgured that one out.
Another one, Michael Jelenic, the story editor and head writer, he wanted to do an Animal Man story. Like, a specific one from the comic books and adapt it for the show, and he couldn’t talk James [Tucker] into doing it so he was trying to get me to sort of back him up and say “that’s a cool story, we should do that.” But it was one where I couldn’t figure out how we could do the ending on TV, so I sort of demured and said “I don’t know if that’s the one to do.” And now I’m really regretting it.
I guess I won’t get into any trouble for saying it, but it was… issue 5, maybe? The one with the coyote. So obviously it would’ve been great to animate that, but there were a lot of things, like the coyote getting shot by a silver bullet that was melted down from the necklace of a guy whose partner died of AIDS. Like, that detail, maybe we couldn’t have gotten into the show.
It probably would’ve worked without it, but that story kind of has to end with the coyote dying in a Jesus-y pose, which is trouble for Standards and Practices. And for our show, I didn’t know how to wedge Batman in there.
And that is how the Grant Morrison/Chas Truog “Coyote Gospel” issue of Animal Man almost got animated for a kids’ TV show.
You can find Ben Jones on Twitter!
If for some reason you haven’t seen Brave and the Bold, you can check out clips at Cartoon Network, including the scene from the finale (directed by Ben Jones!) where Batman fights John Wilkes Booth!
The Skyrim Macho Man edition, in case you haven’t seen it:
Don’t forget to leave your comments telling us which episodes of War Rocket Ajax v.1 should be put into the new feed!
Chris’s Rec: Saints Row the Third, the unquestioned Game of the Year.
Matt’s Rec: Alan Wake, quite possibly the game of two years ago.
James’s Rec: The Filmdrunk Podcast.
Amazing Spider-Man #677: “It is amazing. It is an absolutely perfect Spider-Man comic.” “I particularly liked how Spider-Man introduced himself to Daredevil in this issue.” “It cracked me up! There’s so many great touches in this issue like that.”
OMAC #5: “The latest issue of the soon-to-be-dearly-departed OMAC crosses over with Frankenstein, and as you might expect from those two books, this issue features a knock-down, drag-out fight between OMAC and Frankenstein. But the real plot was going on between Brother Eye and Father Time, who were trying to out-think each other.”
The Activity #2: “It’s about an espionage team, and I love espionage and everything related to spies, so I picked this up and I love it. It’s got a great multi-stage operation that comprises most of the book, but what I love is Mitch’s art in it. He’s got this great style… It’s definitely like Queen & Country in that it’s that direct-action paramilitary kind of espionage. It’s not guys sitting in a room talking.”