The actor and his Robot Chicken buddies took on Star Wars in three specials, and they’ve turned their attention to Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and all the superhero gang with the Robot Chicken DC Comics Special, airing at midnight (ET/PT) Sunday on Adult Swim.
The stop-motion animated series has lovingly parodied DC characters before in the show’s five seasons â?? with a sixth beginning Sept. 16 â?? but Green wanted to do something extra special since the Robot Chicken team had just moved into a new California studio.
“I wouldn’t say showing off, but it was everybody high-fiving and feeling really good about starting the new place and building a new team and making this project,” says the Robot Chicken co-creator and executive producer.
Green was weaned on Super Friends cartoons in the 1970s as a youngster “and loved that since before I could even understand why,” he says. In addition to having short sketches, Green, co-creator Matthew Senreich and others created a story line for the special that pitted Superman, Batman and the good guys vs. Lex Luthor, Black Manta, Sinestro, Solomon Grundy and the rest of the Legion of Doom â?? with a disrespected Aquaman playing an essential role.
“They’re iconic since before I was born. These are the heroes that represented the great ideals of human potential,” Green says. “These images were held up to me in an educating kind of way, so it’s just embedded really deeply.”
One of the biggest champions of the project was Geoff Johns, Justice League and Aquaman writer and DC’s chief creative officer. The Robot Chicken guys are some of his closest friends, and he had worked as a writer on the fourth season as well as one of the Star Wars specials.
“There were a lot of questions: Do you really want Robot Chicken to dive into DC Comics? Hell yes we do,” Johns says. “They didn’t do the Star Wars specials because they hated Star Wars. They had a lot of fun with it, and it celebrates the love and the laughter we have.
“We laugh at this stuff but we still love the characters.”
Johns also was able to situate himself, Green, co-producer Kevin Shinick and the rest of the writing team in a conference room at DC’s Burbank, Calif., headquarters for a couple of weeks, and they were given carte blanche to hang out in the merch-packed Toy Room â?? “That was thrilling,” Green says â?? and in a massive library that houses every DC magazine and comic a fan could ever want.
The comic-book scribe didn’t get to voice any DC characters in the special â?? “I am strictly behind the camera,” Johns says. “That’s where I like to stay” â?? but Robot Chicken nevertheless put together an all-star cast for the event.
Nathan Fillion (Castle) has voiced Green Lantern in past animation, and reprises his role as Hal Jordan in the special. Megan Fox plays Wonder Woman, Robot Chicken regular Breckin Meyer is Superman, and Neil Patrick Harris and Paul Reubens are the Batman villains Two-Face and the Riddler, respectively.
Green’s favorite guest spot? Alfred Molina as Lex Luthor. “He’s one of our great actors,” Green says, “and I never imagined he would want to be as silly as he was willing to be. That was kind of amazing.”
The late Ted Knight was better known for Caddyshack and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but he was also the narrator of the first season of Super Friends â?? “It’s one of those geek things that not everyone is going to know,” says Shinick, who takes on that role for the Robot Chicken special.
He also voices Booster Gold in a scene that was cut (and will probably be on the DVD) as well as Captain Cold, a Flash rogue who’s one of Johns’ favorites, Shinick reports. “I asked why. He said, â??He dressed like I did growing up in Michigan.’ I said, â??Well, that’s a good reason then.’ “
Green voices Aquaman and Robin, and, given his druthers, would have had Kevin Conroy, who voiced the Dark Knight in Batman: The Animated Series and on other animated projects, be Batman yet again.
But, Green says with a laugh, “I got outvoted. It came down to what they thought was funny, and everybody said I was funny at Batman.
“I try and play the fun of George Clooney but that almost hard-to-hear gravel of Christian Bale.”
Green peppered the special with Easter eggs and obscure comic characters the average person wouldn’t recognize at all, including Captain Carrot and the squirrelly Green Lantern B’dg.
“The fact that we’re going to have people who now know who the Zoo Crew and Mister Banjo are is pretty crazy,” Johns says.
Banjo, a Captain Marvel villain from the 1940s, proved particularly difficult from a design standpoint since Green could only find three pictures of him and they all had different color patterns.
“We had Geoff Johns be the tiebreaker â?? he picked a color and the motif” for Banjo, Green says. “He didn’t even have a Wikipedia page at the time, but I think they’ve rectified that now.”
Sadly, Green had to take out one sketch for time featuring one of his favorite Super Friends characters, Native American superhero Apache Chief, but it will air later in Robot Chicken’s sixth season.
“Something about Apache Chief just always made me happy,” Green explains. “There was this weird moment where the Super Friends were reacting to a growing multicultural sensitivity in America and they started making all different ethnicities and races and seemingly religious affiliations within the Super Friends.
“I didn’t even realize there was anything political behind it. I just thought Apache Chief was so (cool). He could grow to be as tall as a building. He was Godzilla in man form! It was awesome.”
The Robot Chicken DC Comics Special brings out the kid in Shinick, too, taking him back to sitting in his living room, eating cereal and watching Saturday-morning cartoons.
“Everything led to that,” he says. “I had to get my chores done before 9 a.m. so I could be sitting with all my attention focused on Super Friends.
“It was just the greatest moment of the week. And Sept. 9 might also be the greatest moment of the week.”