Before there was the Justice League, there was the Justice Society of America. The team of superheroes made their debut in the 1940s and soared to popularity in the Golden Age of comic books. They had faded away by the ’60s, but have made several comebacks in the pages of DC comics over the years. Now the squad is making its debut in the popular DC Universe Movies from Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
The cast and creators of the upcoming Justice Society: World War II gave a preview of the film during a WonderCon@Home panel Saturday. The story finds the modern version of The Flash, Barry Allen, accidentally thrust onto the battlefields of Europe during the war, where he meets the classic heroes for the first time.
Doom Patrol’s Matt Bomer and Castle’s Stana Katic headline the cast as Barry Allen/the Flash and Wonder Woman, respectively, but it’s a true ensemble piece that features Omid Abtahi (Hawkman), Elysia Rotaru (Black Canary), Matthew Mercer (Hourman), Armen Taylor (Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash), Chris Diamantopoulos (Steve Trevor), Aquaman (Liam McIntyre) and Geoffrey Arend (Charles Halstead/advisor). The production team embraced the challenge of creating a unified story while still fleshing out all of these unique roles. “I’ve been involved in many stories that had tons of characters, but they never move anywhere,” said director Jeff Wamester, “and I think the best part about this is that they each have somewhere that they go and it makes it interesting to weave all of those together into this.”
The actors welcomed the chance to step into this world. Katic was enthusiastic about creating a unique accent for Wonder Woman — the team’s fearless and near-invincible leader — with a combination of several ancient Greek intonations. “I’ve done a fair amount of reading and research, and I think my having a deeper understanding of the historical references of the Amazons, and Wonder Woman in particular, helped me add a level of color and flavor to this performance,” she previously told SYFY Wire. During the WonderCon panel she revealed another element she added to the vocal mix: “My grandmothers lived through that [World War II] era, and I put a touch of them in there just as a personal from the heart.”
As for the other characters, Chris Diamantopoulos (who voices Steve Trevor, the team’s government liaison) said the writers, “really did manage to imbue a 1940s spirit in the dialogue without making it feel dated.” In fact, the entire look and feel of the film has a style that speaks to the era but also feels timeless, including the sharp character designs by comic book artist Otto Schmidt and a riveting musical score by composer Kevin Riepl.
The actors, who recorded their dialogue back in 2019, were all blown away by the final version of the film. “When you record it you are envisioning what’s happening, but then getting to actually watch your character fight a Nazi tank is pretty cool,” said Armen Taylor, who plays Jay Garrick, the Golden Age version of the Flash.
And while there is plenty of the action you would expect in a film set during World War II, there is also a prominent romantic theme, most notably the relentless attempts by Steve Trevor to court Wonder Woman. These are woven in amongst dynamic sequences of battles against Nazis and underwater skirmishes in Atlantis. The script was written by Meghan Fitzmartin and Jeremy Adams, who previously worked together on recently concluded series Supernatural. “We’ve spent a fair amount of time together to be able to learn a solid language of story that we get to talk through and about,” Fitzmartin said. “I would like to make people as sad as possible, and Jeremy would like to make them to be as bruised and bloodied as possible, and so therefore between the two we end up with this.” (Adams is also taking over the writing reins of DC’s The Flash comic book starting with issue No. 768, on sale March 30.)
Though Steve’s romantic persistence was played for laughs, Diamantopoulos says his character treated Wonder Woman with the respect and admiration she deserved. “The great thing about the writing for Steve Trevor, and I think his greatest asset is that he's like the first woke man,” he said. “Because men of that era wouldn't have necessarily been comfortable, at least on a grand scale, deferring to the power of a woman.”
The chemistry between the pair brings the movie an appealing tone. “It was one of my favorite parts of the movie, I have to say,” Bomer admitted. “Maybe I'm a hopeless romantic, but I loved the nature of their relationship, how undyingly persistent Steve was. And also everyone else's relationship to their relationship I thought was fun and enjoyable to watch.”
There’s also a less overt flirtatious tension between Hawkman (Omid Abtahi) and Black Canary (Elysia Rotaru). Abtahi admitted that as an Iranian-American actor he never expected he’d get to play a superhero. (His version of the continuously reincarnating character is the American archeologist Carter Hall.) “Growing up, when you're brown and like there's not a whole of characters that you can look up to,” said the American Gods star, who may be best known for playing Imperial scientist Dr. Pershing in The Mandalorian. “If I wanted to fantasize about being in a superhero movie or project, it was never to be the superhero, it was always to be like the taxi driver in the opening scene… That's why it meant so much to me to be asked to be part of this project and to play a character like this. Because 10 years ago, 12 years ago I would have never dreamed of it.”
Justice Society: World War II will be released on digital on-demand services April 27, and will be available 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray on May 11.
Watch the full panel here: