Ricky Church chats with Justice Society: World War II star Matt Bomer…
Though the Justice League consists of some of the most popular superheroes in comics and has been around for decades, they are not the first superhero team in either the DC Universe or the comic book industry. In 1940 the world was introduced to the Justice Society of America, a group of heroes made up of those with superpowers, scientists or highly skilled people who went on adventures, fought supervillains and even took part in World War II, fighting for the Allies against Nazi Germany and members of the Axis.
The original line-up included characters like Jay Garrick and Alan Scott, the original Flash and Green Lantern respectively, Hourman, Doctor Fate and Hawkman with Wonder Woman and Black Canary being added to the team later. While the Justice Society may not be as popular as the Justice League now, the JSA was a pretty big title for several years after its creation and remains a favourite among fans, so much so when DC wiped away the JSA out of continuity in their 2011 reboot many fans cried foul.
In a few weeks the Justice Society will receive their first feature length animated adventure Justice Society: World War II, the latest film in DC’s line of original animated movies. It follows Barry Allen’s Flash as he accidentally travels back in time, landing in Nazi-occupied France and meets the Justice Society, a team of secret superheroes led by Wonder Woman. Flash teams up with them to uncover the Nazis’ latest scheme and find a way to travel back to his time.
We got to chat with Matt Bomer, who plays Barry Allen aka The Flash in the film. Bomer is no stranger to DC animation after having voiced the Man of Steel himself a few years ago in Superman: Unbound. We talked about The Flash’s enduring legacy, teaming up with the original Flash Jay Garrick, how Bomer differentiated Flash and Superman’s voices and the WWII setting of the film. Check out our interview below…
Ricky Church: In Justice Society: World War II you play The Flash. What was that experience like for you?
Well, initially it’s a little overwhelming because you have this whole lifetime of iconography about The Flash and Barry Allen, who he is and what he represents and how he should be portrayed. But then when you’re fortunate enough to get in the booth with Wes Gleason [voice director] and Butch Lukic [supervising producer], you have such a strong vision of the character they need for this particular story. You just get down to the brass tacks of the circumstances of that particular version of the character. It becomes like approaching any role really.
Rather than fighting alongside the Justice League in the film, Flash is instead with the Justice Society, a group of some of the oldest characters in comics including the original Flash, Jay Garrick. What was your reaction to that part of the story?
I have to be honest with you, I wasn’t terribly familiar with the Justice Society. Only peripherally so it was a great chance to get to know some of these characters. Obviously I know some of the more iconic ones, but there were characters like Hourman who I didn’t know anything about and ended up becoming one of the more fascinating characters to me. And also Hawkman who I’ve loved my whole life, but I had never really seen him portrayed on film. I was very excited to see him in this world. Also just to get to play the nuances of really being this interloper, this outsider, who is thrust into some pretty crazy circumstances and to sort of be the contemporary who’s not as odds with but in contrast to these characters who were all existing in a different time period. He brings in a more modern sensibility to their relationships and he actually, I feel, has a lot to learn from the way their relationships are in the 40s.
Yeah, for sure. One of my favourite relationships in the movie is between Barry and Jay Garrick. Like you said, he learns a lot from him and the characters in the 40s. How cool was that to have two generations of The Flash team up and see they’re both learning from each other?
It was so cool. I think that Armen Taylor [voice of Jay Garrick] did such a great job with the role. They’re very different people. I think Jay is bringing a very 40s sensibility to everything and he’s in the middle of a war. There isn’t a lot of time given the stakes for this existential crisis. Barry just has to figure out where he gets in and how he gets into the story, into this world and how he can help almost immediately once he ascertains their motives are pure and good. I love the way that he and Jay really find ways pretty quickly to work together to use their powers in ways that at one time they could have probably done on their own, but now they have to work together to have the same powers that they used to have alone.
Awesome. Now despite not being quite as popular as the Justice League, the Justice Society still have a pretty big and loyal fan base of their own. You weren’t too familiar with the Justice Society beforehand. Knowing that, why do you think they have stayed so popular for over 80 years now?
Consider me a fan now! I became a huge fan of them over the course of being involved in this project. I think there’s something, particularly given the time period we’re working with in this film, it’s the circumstances that they’re in are just such that they hit you in the gut and the fact they’re so pure in a way and not affected by sort of modern ideas about things in certain ways. Their motives are really pure and true to help save mankind. I think there’s something really admirable about that and I think there’s a great array of characters within them. If you look at Black Canary, Hawkman and Hourman, it’s a great lineup. There’s something to appreciate or like in all the characters. I think there are different aspects of oneself, particularly with this great cast, that you can find in any one of the characters.
For sure. Now you’ve mentioned the WWII aspect a lot and the film obviously takes place during that time period. What was your reaction learning the film would tackle some of the heavy subject matter of these heroes fighting in a war like that?
Well, I have to be honest with you, if I had to think back on a time period when I would want the Justice Society to exist this would have to be the first one I would pick that I can think of off the top of my head. I’m not a historian by any means so to me it felt like a really organic place to find them. Like I said, the circumstances of that war are such that they can’t help but hit you in the gut. The fact Barry finds himself just smacked in the middle of this and has to dive in, I found it the perfect setting for this film.
Awesome. Now what’s interesting about you is this isn’t your first trip into the DC universe as you previously played Superman in Superman: Unbound. How did you differentiate their characters’ voices and between Superman and Flash who was your favourite to play?
Well, they’re completely different characters and it’s their life experiences and circumstances and relationship to who they are and the world and their powers and what they’re up against that really inform the register of their voice, the tone of their voice, their rhythms, their cadences. I think there are aspects of each character that I really love. There’s a nobility in Superman and his representation of the best in us that I think is really fun to play and his voice really having a lot of chest register in it. I think there are really fun aspects of Clark to get to play because he is just the polar opposite in so many ways. He’s kind of at times uncomfortable in his own skin in a way because it is this sort of costume he’s putting on so I think that’s really fun to play. I love Barry’s sense of humour. I love how fast he thinks about things. I love how fast he moves. I love that he has this smart, sardonic sense of humor with those around him and it bolsters him. It ingratiates him to people in tough circumstances. It’s a coping mechanism that gets him through this film.
Now the animation is really well done and Flash gets some pretty cool moments. Without giving too much away, do you have a favorite Flash moment in this movie?
I do. I think it’s my favorite moment because I watched it with my son who’s a huge DC fan. I mean, he knows every major and minor character. He’s like my Wikipedia when I have to do a job like this because he can tell me everything! And he’s also a very honest critic. So I was a little nervous and excited to watch this with him, but his favorite moment happens at the very end of the film and that’s all I can really say. It’s action packed and exciting and really heroic. That’s the moment that my son acts out and recalls from watching the movie so I would have to say that’s my favorite!
Thank you very much to Matt Bomer for speaking with us!
Justice Society: World War II will be released on digital April 27th and Blu-ray May 11th.
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.