The DC FanDome "All Super Villains" panel on Saturday (Sept. 12) featured an impressive array of actors — from animation, movies, video games and TV shows — who have all played some of the comic book canon's greatest supervillains.
Included in this rogues' gallery were several Lex Luthors (Jason Isaacs, Clancy Brown, and Dietrich Bader) as well as a couple of Jokers (Troy Baker, John DiMaggio). Also featured were Mark Strong (Sinestro in the 2011 film Green Lantern, Dr. Sivana in last year's Shazam!), John Glover (Riddler on Batman: The Animated Series, Lionel Luthor on Smallville), Marvin “Krondon” Jones III (Tobias Whale in Black Lightning), Tara Strong (Raven on Teen Titans Go! and Harley Quinn in Batman: Arkham City) and Gina Gershon (Catwoman in the 2004 animated series The Batman).
Many of the actors, particularly those doing primarily voice work, have played multiple villains (and some heroes) in the multi-pronged DC universe. But the question was asked of several of them: Which supervillain would you like to play that you haven't tackled yet?
For Jones, who also spoke on the panel about the importance of developing more roles for albino actors (of which he is one), the choice was an easy one. "Joker is my favorite antagonist of all time, and I think he's the best written," he said. "When I was coming up as a kid, every iteration of him I loved dearly for its own individual reasons. I would love a shot at it in some way, shape, or form. That would be a dream. I don't know what the heck I would do with it, coming from what I've seen in recent times, but the Joker to me is the pinnacle of it."
Mark Strong had a two-part answer that we admit sounds like excellent casting: "I recently saw some fan art that somebody had done of me as Mr. Freeze, and I thought that was fascinating because it looked quite incredible. You know, Mr. Freeze has this armory of subzero temperature weaponry and he has this amazing suit and look, and that's the point of the villains — they're all so well-crafted and they get such great lines and such great costumes that I thought that would be an interesting guy to have a go at."
Strong added, "And I've always sort of thought that one day I should play Lex Luthor, just because I look like him and he's Superman's arch-enemy. Most importantly, he's human and doesn't have any particular superpowers."
Isaacs admitted that he always wanted to play the Joker but that the role had been covered extensively already: "If they hadn't done it, I'd like to have a crack at the Joker," he said, before joking, "But since they have, I wouldn't mind having a crack at Wonder Woman gone bad."
Bader, who has also voiced Solomon Grundy and heroes like Batman and Booster Gold, revealed, "I'd really like to be the Riddler. I think he's underestimated as a bad guy, he's really, really smart and he also loves to have a good time. Of all the villains, he seems like he's the one that would just be fun to hang out with."
But it was veteran character actor John Glover who had the shortest and perhaps most direct answer. Glover, who got the role of the Riddler on Batman: TAS after Mark Hamill was promoted to playing the Joker and also landed his role on Smallville as a replacement for another actor, said simply, "I'm waiting for somebody to drop out [laughs]. I don't know. I'll do it if it's fun."
John DiMaggio did not name a villain he'd like to play, but shared a similar experience in landing the role of the Joker in Batman: Under the Red Hood. "He's a wonderful actor, I'm not going to mention his name, but he couldn't get it on," DiMaggio revealed. "He was doing all his acting off-mic. The performance wasn't being captured. He would get it right and be like, 'OK, let's roll,' and then pfzzzzt. And so Andrea Romano, the voice director, she gave me a phone call and said, 'You're gonna play the Joker for me,' and I was like, 'OK, sure,' and then got off the phone and couldn't figure out what had just happened!"
No matter whom they play, all the actors shared the same philosophy about portraying a supervillain. "A great antagonist has a completely believable drive," explained Isaacs. "There's something that we understand as an audience. In other situations, we've had those same either petty or grandiose impulses. They just come in conflict with the main character. All of us, I think, like to play well-written, well-rounded characters, being driven by something that you don't often understand yourself but that the audience gets."
"I think one of the reasons it's so much fun to play characters like that is that they're really super vulnerable," said Gershon. "They're all deeply flawed, and something has happened to them to make them become what they are. So they're supervillains, but intense stuff has happened to them, which I think as an actor, it's really fun to play that, because as horrible or devious as they can be, they're just as vulnerable the other way. That's why people really love them."
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