Since switching from his original career path of becoming a doctor to pursue acting, I think it’s safe to say Max Mittelman has done pretty well for himself. Indeed, over the last decade Mittelman has been involved as a voice actor in some of the most successful animation productions such as Ben 10, Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir and Boruto. He’s probably known best as Saitama the titular character in the anime One-Punch Man whose incredible feats of strength rival those of Superman himself. So it’s rather fitting in the current iteration of the DC Super Hero Girls franchise that Mittelman was cast as the Man of Steel himself.
Typically considered the quintessential “boy scout,” viewers may be surprised to see this reinterpretation veers radically away from past portrayals and instead plays up Superman’s vanity and egotism. Max Mittelman reprises Supes in the new Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse crossover animated film. Ahead of the film’s release, we had the chance to chat with Mittelman about portraying such a vastly different version of Superman, playing up the comedy, and much more!
Taimur Dar: As you’ve pointed out, before you voiced the Man of Steel in DC Super Hero Girls you previously played “Superman’s Pal” Jimmy Olsen in various DC animated projects. To my knowledge, and I could be wrong, but I don’t believe there’s ever been a voice actor who’s played both Superman and Jimmy Olsen.
Max Mittelman: You know, I’m pretty proud of that fact!
Dar: Did you ever conceive the opportunity to play the Last Son of Krypton would come to you?
Mittelman: I have very little expectations for my career. I’ve had multiple opportunities to audition for various superheroes and characters. But you learn very quickly to let your expectations go when you start out in this industry because you face so much failure. Every audition that you don’t get is basically a failure. Whatever kinds of roles that I book I am grateful for. I booked Jimmy Olsen a few years ago before Superman and I was over the moon. He’s somebody that everybody knows. In fact, I remember calling my parents and saying, “I booked this awesome character!” My parents don’t watch cartoons. They won’t know who Jimmy Olsen is. It told them, “It’s this character, Jimmy Olsen.” And my mom was like, “Jimmy Olsen! You get to play Jimmy Olsen! Everybody knows who Jimmy Olsen is!” And that was really cool. But with Superman, it was fun to call my parents again and tell them not only do I get to play Jimmy Olsen but I also get to play Superman. That was another, “What! Superman!”
Dar: Those who haven’t watched DC Super Hero Girls may be surprised to see that this isn’t the boy scout that we’re used to seeing. This version has a bit of an ego. I like to say he’s often “Supermansplaining” to his cousin Kara Danvers a.k.a Supergirl.
Dar: One of the directors admitted that he at first bristled at this depiction of Superman but wanted to make it clear that although he may come across as condescending, Superman’s intentions were good. Did that inform your performance?
Mittelman: Definitely. His intentions I think are pure. Even though he’s got good intentions, unlike a lot of other versions of Superman, this version has a bit of a fragile and bigger ego than most. That definitely informs his actions. He comes off as less than helpful but he definitely wants to be helpful in his own way.
Dar: Superman primarily interacts with Kara in the film and the cartoon and not too many other characters. However, there was one hilarious short where we see him constantly annoyed by Green Lantern Hal Jordan, voiced by Jason Spisak. It’s a great contrast to Supergirl where deep down he cares about her, but with Hal he has no qualms about telling him like it is. Was channeling Superman’s inner jerk something you relished in this case?
Mittelman: What’s fun I feel like is that’s an added layer to Superman that I get to play. I get to play all of Superman’s selfless and heroic qualities but on top of it I get to play that massive ego that lends itself to pretty comedic moments like that scene. One of my favorite things about playing this Superman is there’s so much more room for comedy. That happens to be my favorite thing to play. I’d love to play some other version of Superman, but to be honest this version is probably going to my favorite because he can be snarky but you still accept him as the world’s greatest superhero.
Dar: In the 2nd season you also got to voice Ted Kord/Blue Beetle for a couple of episodes. He’s in Mayhem in the Multiverse in a non-speaking capacity. I believe the first episode he appeared also featured Superman. Did they have you read for Ted Kord just to get a feel for you as the character or were they confident that you could pull it off and they gave you the part?
Mittelman: That’s a great question. That’s one of those where I can’t remember if it was an audition. I definitely played Superman first. It could have been a thing where they knew I could pull off that character and have a voice that was different enough from Superman. I honestly can’t remember if I auditioned for it or if they had me come in and read for it. When that happens and they trust you already because you’re on the project and have you come in, you work very closely and for as long as it takes with the director to nail down that character before proceeding through the project and recording the rest of the character. But I think we got there!
Dar: I think it’s safe to assume in contrast to Jimmy Olsen that your mom isn’t familiar with Blue Beetle.
Mittelman: I didn’t even bother telling her about that one!
Dar: Were you familiar with Ted Kord/Blue beforehand?
Mittelman: I wasn’t. I’m not a massive reader of comic books. So I wasn’t super familiar with the character beforehand. In a way you don’t have to be because the writing on these projects is so good. I get to rely on the writers to inform me. This definitely is different. You know when you work on certain things that don’t have as good as writers on projects like this. The caliber of writing is so good that you don’t even need to read the script in order to perform it well. And by that I mean you can read the surrounding text and gather all the context you need. Obviously, I’m reading the script!
Dar: Finally, a big part of Superman is that duality between him and his secret identity of Clark Kent. Is exploring that dichotomy something that would interest you if given the chance in a potential future project?
Mittelman: Absolutely. I realized that I haven’t played too much of Clark. Most of this role has been focused on Superman. Given the opportunity to play Clark would be quite fun to delve into the other side of things of someone who has to hide his identity from the world. For the most part, he is the same person. He thinks the same thoughts. He has the same feelings. But it would definitely be interesting to explore that side of him.
Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse is available now on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital and will be available to stream HBO Max on June 28.