This summer sees the release of DC League of Super-Pets, the animated feature film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Krypto the Superdog, Kevin Hart as Ace the Bathound, and a wildly talented cast that includes John Krasinski, Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, Ben Schwartz, Keanu Reeves, Natasha Lyonne, Marc Maron, and many more. The second trailer for the movie released earlier this week, and fans who want to see even more of the Justice League’s powered pets can head to their local comic shop this Saturday.
One of DC’s Free Comic Book Day offerings this year is a preview of DC League of Super-Pets: The Great Mxy-Up, a new all-ages graphic novel spinning out of the movie. Written by Heath Corson, illustrated by Bobby Timony, colored by Jeremy Lawson, and lettered by Wes Abbott, the book finds Krypto and the other Super-Pets squaring off against Mxyzptlk. The Beat sat down with Corson to discuss DC League of Super-Pets: The Great Mxy-Up, the process of working on a movie tie-in book, and what Corson and Timony want their next DC project to be.
Joe Grunenwald: Heath, I appreciate you taking taking some time this morning to talk to me about this book. Can you tell me a little bit about The Great Mxy-Up? You get to get a pretty good idea who the villain of the book is from that title.
Heath Corson: Sure. The Great Mxy-Up picks up where the movie The League of Super-Pets leaves us off. It is the continuing story of the League of Super-Pets and their best friends that just happen to be the Justice League. So now we get to see these two teams as they navigate hanging out together and working together. So that’s really the tension of the book. That’s really what’s exciting about the book is getting to see how all these superheroes react with their pets now, and each of them has a different dynamic. And that was really fun to dig into.
Grunenwald: It’s sort of in the logline, so I don’t think it’s a huge spoiler to say Mxy takes out the Justice League and then the Pets have to save them.
Corson: Yes, he does. This all started from the idea that the big thing in-between our two teams is communication. And they say, ‘Boy, I just wish my best friend could understand me better.’ And what I can tell you is Mxy removes some of those barriers, leading to greater complication. But what they thought was going to be the best thing that could possibly happen makes things a little more complicated. So yes, Mxy does something to the Justice League, but I won’t say that he completely makes them disappear.
Grunenwald: Okay, that’s interesting. You mentioned the communication gap, and in the Free Comic Book Day preview, that was sort of the first thing that hit me. You know, we can understand what Krypto and the other pets are saying, but there’s definitely a gap between what they’re saying and what their best friends are saying. They’re repeating each other because they can’t understand what they’re saying.
Corson: I think everyone has that wish that they can understand their dog or cat when they’re talking to them sometimes.
Grunenwald: Right? That’s the dream. So you mentioned this book takes place after the events of the movie. When you’re working on something like that, that’s a movie tie-in book, how do you balance building off of the movie, and then also telling your own story that’s separate from that?
Corson: That’s a great question. I will tell you that the animation team was super-generous with us. We started working on this probably over a year ago, and they showed us character design, they showed us the backgrounds, there was no actual animatics at the time, but they shared obviously, the script, so I could get some sense of the voices of the characters. But we also got a sense of the aesthetics. There is that sort of classic take on Superman. It almost had sort of a 1950s, 1960s Golden Age version of the characters, so I really wanted to make sure I captured that as we moved forward in the story. I didn’t want to feel like my story wasn’t part of the world that the animation team was putting together. So I put together a bunch of different ideas for them. And Mxy seemed like a character that felt very of that time. And then to see Bobby’s design of him is fantastic, with the overalls and the sort of newspaper boy look, and he just puts a really fantastic kinetic aesthetic on Mxy and all of his fun changes that he goes through throughout the book.
Grunenwald: Yeah, I definitely get a Fleischer feel for sure from Superman. He’s got the red and black emblem, which is very Fleischer-esque. So I appreciated that as well.
Corson: Yeah, as did I. And then Metropolis itself has a certain time feel to it, and that was really fun. So we didn’t want to do anything too futuristic, too crazy. We wanted to do something that really sat with stories of those time, so it felt like it meshed with the world that they have created.
Grunenwald: Nice. So I have to ask, the League of Super-Pets are the pets of the Justice League. Does Mxy have an animal sidekick that’s going to show up in this book?
Corson: That’s a great question. And we debated it, I can tell you that. Mxyzptlk does not have an animal sidekick in this. Because Mxyzptlk can do anything he wants, including understand what the League of Super-Pets are saying. So that is a little bit of a spoiler, but yes, he can understand the Pets, and they’re like, ‘Wait, how do you understand us? No human can understand us.’ And he says, ‘I’m not human, and I can do whatever I want.’ All of a sudden, this guy can understand everything that they’re saying, and that was very, very interesting. He does not have an animal sidekick. But I can tell you, there are twice as many animals in the book as usual.
Grunenwald: Interesting. So I want to ask about Krypto specifically. I don’t know if he’s the lead, but he’s the first the first pet that we meet. How do you approach writing Krypto? Is there more to it than just, ‘he’s Superman but he’s also a dog?’
Corson: Oh, yeah, totally. Listen, I’ve had pets, of course, and then as when we were in quarantine, we adopted a new puppy named Moosie. She is half Pitbull, half German Shepherd. And she was very rambunctious and had a ton of energy and was a little mischievous. So she very much influenced my take on Krypto in this because I saw her, you know, she would promenade and she would just have her head up and she was so happy to be with her family and protect her family. I saw her get scared of things. I saw her check with me if something was okay. It was just so interesting working on the book and being with a developing puppy, to really see that connection.
So that informed a lot of Krypto for me, because I know that he is proud, and he is a hero, and that is really important to him, and Superman is incredibly important to him. And we kind of play on, how is that a positive, and how is that a little bit of a weakness? Even Ace calls it out that, like, ‘You can’t trust that he completely understands you all the time. Here’s a couple times where you were saying something, and there was a disconnect in the communication, and that’s a problem for us, because you’re trying to do the job as well as you can. And Superman isn’t letting you do that, and can’t we work that out?’
And so that really becomes the central conceit of the book is, how do we get over this language barrier we have and understand each other better? That really became sort of my cornerstone for writing Krypto, and him always wanting to do the right thing and be the leader of the Super-Pets and have these guys be victorious and happy and really find their full potential, which is a throughline that we’re pulling through from the movie, and then also just be the best partner he can be with Superman. And how does that get complicated by an imp from the Fifth Dimension?
Grunenwald: You mentioned it a little bit, but I was gonna ask what the relationship is between Krypto and the other members of the league.
Corson: Krypto loves his team. He really is enthusiastic about them finding their full potential. And again, that’s something that we pulled through from the movie. Krypto is their biggest cheerleader. They’re new to powers, they’re new to partners, basically, and best friends. In the movie, a lot of the pets are in a shelter, so being with the Justice League is a brand new experience.
And I really wanted to show how every Justice Leaguer has a different kind of relationship with their pet, you know, for Krypto and Superman, it really is like best friends. For Batman and Ace, they’re more like grizzled old cops who just watch each other’s back. They’re like partners. With Wonder Woman and PB, that’s like younger sister/older sister, right? Like, ‘This is my mentor and I’m just so excited to be hanging out with my older sister.’ With Flash and Merton, it was very much like, they’re into it, they like running around, but they’re also emotionally a little in their shell, like a little afraid to be vulnerable with each other. So I really wanted to find the right dynamic with each person. With Aquaman and Keith, Aquaman is kind of that bombastic, best friend who never lets you pick anything, you’re always going to the restaurants they want to go to, and they take everything that you do, and keep you sort of, you know, swimming in the wake. I just wanted to find a different dynamic for each pair. So I thought that was really fun.
Did that come close to answering your question? I think I veered off into a pole.
Grunenwald: That was great.
Corson: That’s why I’m good at writing Mxy, because it’s a lot of all over the place. [laughs]
Grunenwald: Do you have a favorite member of the League of Super-Pets to write?
Corson: I had a lot of fun with Mark and Keith, who I want to say are named for the writers of one of my favorite series Justice League International, J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen. So I have a lot of fun with that sort of duo writing them as sort of a Blue Beetle/Booster Gold. Now, you haven’t seen the movie yet, but these guys are actually ex-henchmen from Lulu, the bad guy. They’re guinea pigs who were given powers and are former henchmen turned good., so that was a really fun dynamic to write. And I can give a little spoiler that we might see Lulu in this book as well, who is the big villain in the movie? Lulu is an experiment of Lex Luthor, and I believe is a hairless hamster, but equally as genius.
Corson: In the darkest time, sometimes you turn to out-of-the-box solutions in order to find the solution.
Grunenwald: Bobby Timony is the artist on this book. What’s your collaboration with him been like, and what has he brought to this book?
Corson: Bobby and I had a great time. We actually met playing video games. Bobby’s a big gamer, I’m a big gamer, wo we would play some games together. As we talked about the book and stuff that we wanted in it, I would always call him and say, ‘Bobby, what do you want to draw? What’s fun to you?’ You’re dealing with Mxyzptlk, you can do almost anything. I said, ‘What would be fun for you to draw.’ And he would turn around just the coolest — he was always so excited. And so into selling the joke, and making what I put out there just sing. I mean, he’s the MVP of this book, because it’s so cute. Every panel of it is just adorable. And he captured the fun, and the frivolity and the energy of hanging out with a bunch of animals for 150 pages.
And I gotta say, Bobby does a great, great job. The fact that he pulls these emotional expressions out of the animal characters is very, very cool. He has an animation background, and he worked with these sorts of characters before, so it was really great. Bobby put the comedy on the page, which is what you want from great artists. I would write it out, like maybe this is funny, and Bobby could sell it on the page. And that’s everything you can ask for. He tells the story and finds the moments, and then he would add moments with the characters in the background that are interacting as we’re, you know, putting a chunk of exposition or something forward. It’s everything that you want from someone who loves playing with an ensemble and you find all the dynamics and really bringing them to life.
Grunenwald: That’s great. So much of comedy is often in the delivery and the physicality of it. And I agree, it comes through in the preview, definitely.
Corson: The highest compliment I can give Bobby is, once I saw a lot of the art for the lettering pass, I pulled probably 20% of the dialogue because it was getting in the way of the art and I tend to overwrite stuff. So I was like, ‘They don’t need to be talking this much. Let’s look at that awesome art.’ So that’s that’s my tip of the hat to Bobby. He killed this book, as well as the letterer, Wes Abbott, and the colorist, Jeremy Lawson. Matching colors in an animated movie is not easy so they continue to make this so vibrant and fun. We’ve got a lot of very cartoony sound effects that came from Wes Abbott, he really captured the feel of what we were going for, very much pulling the animated world into our plot.
Grunenwald: The animation, from what we’ve seen of it, is sort of the 3D computer animated, semi-realistic looking. And the art in the book really captures it well, while still, you know, translating it to two-dimensional pages. It’s really cool.
Corson: Yeah, it’s something that we talked a lot about. It’s a big responsibility picking up from an animated movie, and we took it really seriously. We wanted it to feel, as I keep saying, of the world.
Grunenwald: People get asked a lot, ‘if you could have a superpower, what would it be,’ but if you were a superpowered animal, what would you be?
Corson: If I was a super powered animal? I have to say, I am not convinced that cats can’t turn invisible. I’m pretty sure cats can turn invisible. We had a cat, an older cat that we had to be really careful with because she had medical issues, but that cat could disappear. Like, completely disappear. And if I was a superpowered animal I would want to be a cat, who I’m pretty sure have invisibility. That’s what I would think I would be.
Grunenwald: What are you what are you most excited for readers to see when they check out The Great Mxy-Up?
Corson: There is a big, big twist in the beginning of the book that solves the communication problem between our two teams. And I’m very excited to get people’s take on that, because I think it’ll be really delightful. And I’m really excited to see what kids say about the fact that all of a sudden, everybody can talk to each other due to a unique circumstance.
Grunenwald: Awesome. I am a longtime Legion of Super-Pets fan, so I’m excited about the the sort of renaissance that they’re having right now. And I’m excited to read the whole book.
Corson: I gotta say, I came in with a whole list. I was like, Can I do Proty? I had a whole list of ones that I wanted to do. I will say also, if you’re a longtime fan, there is a Captain Carrot joke that I put in the book. Being a longtime Captain Carrot fan. I used to play Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew on the playground with my friends.
Corson: Bobby and I are sort of like, ‘Can we do Captain Carrot after this? Look, we can do animals!’ So I will tell you there’s a Captain Carrot joke, and maybe parents of some of these kids can look for it and find it.
Grunenwald: I mean, that sounds like the next Multiversity book right there, a Captain Carrot mini series.
Corson: Right? Let me do the Zoo Crew!
Grunenwald: Is there anything else that you want to say just to plug the book?
Corson: It’s a huge fun ride. It’s for all ages, I’m excited to pull some new readers into comic books. As a kid who grew up with comic books, they were always just one of my favorite pastimes. I used to go to bed with a great big pile of them. I used to take them in the bathtub. To be able to have a book that now kids are going to get a chance to sample on Free Comic Book Day is just, I couldn’t be more proud. So it’s a huge, huge thing for me, and I’m excited to share with people.
DC League of Super-Pets: The Great Mxy-Up is due out in stores on Tuesday, July 19th, ten days before the Super-Pets movie opens. Readers can get an extended first look at this graphic novel as part of DC’s Free Comic Book Day offerings this weekend.