Traditionally, films starring Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman start off with an imbued sense of goodwill towards the team’s protagonists. But Alan Burnett, the writer and producer of Justice League: Gods & Monsters, has just one concern about the heroes of this film.

“They are not likable in the beginning,” he said. “I don’t know how the audience is going to respond to that.”

Mind you, the names are the only thing these characters have in common with the versions we know and love. Justice League: Gods & Monsters features an alternate version of the characters, including a vampiric Batman and a Superman who is the son of Zod.  Executive Producer Bruce Timm, who said he’d actually pitched the idea of a vampire Batman during Batman: The Animated Series and was denied, noted the upshot to losing those built in personas was the chance to take the characters to new places.

“With these characters, because they’re all new characters…we get to make the rules from ground zero,” he said. “It’s really seductive to know I can take them down weird paths that are shocking and unpredictable and weird in a way that I can’t really do with the traditional characters.”

Burnett, who describes the film as a mystery rather than a typical action/thriller, echoed those sentiments.

“One of the things we talked about, we’ve talked about off and on for years, is that its kind of frustrating that these major superheroes that we work with, if they get in a fight, they can’t really hurt the other guy,” he said. “We sort of wanted to do a character who, if he felt like he had to kill in a fight, it would happen. So that’s the main difference between what we’ve been doing before and this.”

The film also marks Timm’s recent return to the DC animated world.

“I took a little bit of a breather,” he said. “I developed a couple of different properties, original ideas that weren’t superhero related. I developed them, pitched them, and nobody bought them. And I was like, OK, well I’ve got to do something, because I like having food, and I like having a roof over my head. And it was around that same time that I came up with this idea.”

Paget Brewster and Tamara Taylor, who play Lois Lane and Wonder Woman, each said they were surprised and even confused by the marked difference in the characters compared to their traditional portrayals.

“I kept going back and thinking why am I not understanding this, and they explained that this is an alternate universe,” Taylor said. “I had to let everything go and go with this sort of upside-down town we were in.”

Dialogue director Andrea Romano cast Dexter alumn Michael C. Hall, who she’s been trying to cast in various roles for years, in this new take on Batman.

Dexter was wrapping, and I thought, let’s try one more time, and it just lined up perfectly,” she said. “This is a very different Batman. This is a Batman who is, first of all, quite young – we meet him in a flashback where he’s a college student – and he’s kind of frail, in fact. He’s ill. He’s not strong and robust like Bruce was. He just made it his Batman.”

Justice League: Gods & Monsters will be available for purchase on July 28.