Trips To The DC Universe
Joaquim Dos Santos on Directing DC Showcase
Joaquim Dos Santos brings his unique directing style to
four diverse superhero segments with today’s Warner
Home Video release of the DC
Showcase Original Shorts Collection, anchored by the never-before-seen
Superman/Shazam! The Return of Black Adam.
are really good candy.""
Santos took time this week to chat about the four shorts
that are available everywhere on Blu-ray and DVD today.
Here’s what the director had to say …
GARY MIEREANU: Let’s start with
the obvious -- do you have a favorite among the four shorts?
DOS SANTOS: It’s Jonah Hex. I just think
tonally it all came together. It’s a nice, clear cut
homage to spaghetti westerns, and I thought Joe Lansdale’s
writing was pushing the envelope – in a good way –
as he dealt with themes that were a bit more mature. The
overall art direction was the most consistent -- the color
direction was really strong, and I’m especially proud
of the look and feel of the saloon. It’s got these
great, warm colors that make it feel lived in. You can try
to write that scene and you can try to draw it and art direct
it, but this really translated – Madame Lorraine’s
saloon felt like a real place.
MIEREANU: Do you have favorite moments
in each short?
I love our big monster homage in The Spectre when the make-up
artist gets his come-uppance, only because I’m a huge
fan of horror films and we got to put a little homage to
all my faves. Plus, The Track Team, our composers on the
DC Showcase, did a great job of capturing that late 70s,
John Carpenter, Goblins, Suspiria vibe.
In Green Arrow, the fight on the conveyor
belt between Green Arrow and the thug was a lot of fun.
I boarded that sequence myself, adding little martial arts
disciplines that I thought both Green Arrow and the thug
would employ. And it was kind of cool that Green Arrow didn’t
necessarily win the fight – he got his bell rung by
Shazam, I like the opening sequence with Billy waking up
in the morning. It’s such a great story point that
here’s this kid basically squatting in a dilapidated
apartment complex inhabited with thugs and ladies of the
night, and yet he still has this chipper outlook on the
a ton of fun to see that scene fully realized – when
he’s doing pull-ups, he’s snapping his fingers,
as if to say “I’m not doing too bad here.”
I like the juxtaposition of the contemporary, rundown setting
against his cheery attitude.
MIEREANU: Where did you hide the Easter
killer make-up artist is about to meet his match
in The Spectre.
There’s a bunch of them. The Spectre has a lot of
my favorite monsters in the backgrounds, like Regan from
The Exorcist. The werewolf that attacks the make-up
artist is a tribute to Michael Jackson in Thriller. Plus
we get a little homage to Christine. In Jonah Hex, Red rides
into town past a sign that says “Lansdale Mortunaries”
– a little nod to our writer, Joe Lansdale. In Green
Arrow, Oliver Queen’s phone list on his cell shows
names like Bruce, Clark, Diana – all members of the
Justice League. And in Shazam, there’s a story in
the newspaper that’s about Dr. Silvana.
MIEREANU: What attracts you to the Superman/Shazam
It was tough because Bruce (Timm) had already done the quintessential
animated Superman/Shazam battle on Justice League,
and it was incredible. For me, not having them fighting
with each other was a big point. And the fact that it was
really sort of a play on Billy’s insecurities and
delving deeper into his backstory was far more important
than creating a big slugfest.
have a lot of action, but we get a lot of the cerebral stuff
into a short amount of storytelling time – including
the death of Billy’s parents, the way he looks up
to Superman as an ideal, his being a foster kid, overcoming
his insecurities. It’s all in there in just 24 minutes
MIEREANU: Do you have a favorite casting
DOS SANTOS: James Garner. My hero. It was just
awesome to meet the man. He wasn’t necessarily the
obvious choice – I think people often think of the
wizard Shazam as being regal and maybe having a British
accent. But to me, it makes perfect sense to have James
Garner. Shazam is real Americana, and James Garner sort
of represents that aspect of the entertainment industry.
He’s an icon. You can’t mistake that voice for
MIEREANU: What did Michael Jelenic bring
to the Shazam short?
still has this chipper outlook on the world..."
DOS SANTOS: Michael waa awesome. Everybody sort
of expected to see a script that would at least start out
with Superman and Shazam in a fight, but Michael didn’t
go the obvious route. He cut right to Billy dealing with
an internal struggle, and used Superman as the representation
of the good aspect of that struggle, and Black Adam as the
other direction. And he did it all in 20-something minutes.
It was a monumental task to fit that amount of epic in that
amount of time.
MIEREANU: Did you need to be sold on any
of the characters?
DOS SANTOS: I was not a fan of The Spectre growing
up – he was probably a little before my time –
so I wasn’t as enthused as I probably should have
been. But Bruce (Timm), being a huge fan, kind of gave me
an insight into the character, and I realized I hadn’t
quite given him the chance he deserved.
a huge horror fan, and when the spin got out there that
we could set the short it in the 1970s, and make him this
sort of a Freddy Krueger type who dispatched his victims
in over-the-top, ironic ways, and then I read Steve Niles’
script, I was pretty much locked in.
MIEREANU: How did you approach the art
direction on the four shorts?
DOS SANTOS: They’re not drastically different
in design style, because it all got filtered through me,
and I’ve got a really straight forward anatomical
style. But they are different in their tone and in their
Spectre has a very Grindhouse feel – we put a dirt
and grain filter effect on after the animation to add even
more to the ambience of the period – plus some of
the tones are pretty muted. With Green Arrow, you’ll
notice there almost seems to be kind of a green filter over
everything – it’s all a different shade of green.
With Jonah Hex, the color palette is much more sepia-toned,
and that’s to reflect the old spaghetti westerns.
is the most straight up, super heroic story we’re
telling, and the palette definitely represents that vision.
It’s a much more of a contemporary story with brighter
colors on the whole.
got your Raisinettes and your Sour Patch stuff..."
to have more of a de-saturated color palette than what most
people have come to expect. Things just don’t look
bright and shiny to me. In the real world, things aren’t
as bright and shiny as they are in animation, so I tried
to bring more of the naturalistic color palette to these
MIEREANU: Do you prefer the short form
or long form of animated story-telling?
DOS SANTOS: I do like the short form a lot, and
coming off my previous project where I was doing shorts
also, I think this allowed for me, just as a storyteller,
to fit in enough content without it feeling like it was
overflowing, and without it feeling like it was too crammed.
Showcase, though, I’m definitely ready to tackle something
a bit longer form. The shorts are awesome, though. What
I like is that they’re nice little packages –
it’s like eating your candy at a movie. You’ve
got your Raisinettes and your Sour Patch stuff, and you
love them, but every once in a while you want to sit down
to a full meal. These are really good candy.
to Joaquim and Gary for this interview. You can read the
Fanboy Planet review here.