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Friendship and Family Lie at the Heart of Battle of the Super Sons

Friendship and Family Lie at the Heart of Battle of the...

By Joshua Lapin-Bertone Tuesday, October 18th, 2022

What happens when a pint-sized assassin with social issues befriends a middle schooler with super strength? Things get a bit crazy, but it sure is fun to watch. Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons is the latest DC movie to come out of Warner Bros. Animation. A coming of age film with world-shattering stakes, the movie’s inspired by Peter J. Tomasi’s popular Super Sons comic, which showcased the team of Robin (Damian Wayne) and Superboy (Jon Kent) for the first time.

The idea for the fully CGI film came from conversations that writer Jeremy Adams had with producer Rick Morales. Morales had been wanting to do a Super Sons film since reading the comics, but it took years to get off the ground.

“He gave me one of the Tomasi trades,” recalls Adams. “I read it and I was like ‘Oh my gosh, we have to do this.’ We kept begging Warner Bros., ‘Please let us do this,’ and they were like ‘No.’ That went on for several years. Meanwhile, Rick and I would just get together and we’d start talking about the story.

“As destiny would have it, Warner Bros. went through several upheavals in the last several years, and there was this weird window where Rick said, ‘I’d really like to do this Super Sons I’ve been pitching,’ and they said, ‘Sure, why not?’ and we already had the story done.”

Battle of the Super Sons features Jack Griffo as Damian Wayne and Jack Dylan Grazer as Jon Kent. Casting two Jacks for the lead roles was a happy coincidence.

“It just sort of happened,” Morales admits. “We did some auditions, but it became clear early on that these were the guys.”

DC fans likely know Grazer from his role as Freddy Freeman in the 2019 film Shazam! and its upcoming sequel Shazam! Fury of the Gods. The chance for the young actor to expand his presence in the DC Universe was a dream come true.

“My guys were the Justice League,” Grazer shares. “Aquaman and Batman were my two favorite people in the world growing up. It’s actually pretty remarkable and a dream come true that I’m able to be involved in this world.”

Griffo was unfamiliar with Damian Wayne, but he gravitated to the character after reading his backstory.

“When I first got the role, I didn’t really know much about Damian Wayne,” he recalls. “I figured he was raised in the Batcave by Batman, but it wasn’t that way at all. Finding out that he was the son of Talia al Ghul and wasn’t even able to meet Batman for so long, and that he was a trained assassin by the League of Assassins—there’s a lot going into that which made me go, ‘Wow! This is a very deep multidimensional character.’ He’s so brutal, so aggressive and so badass.”

Griffo played Max Thunderman on the Nickelodeon superhero sitcom The Thundermans. Like Damian, Max was the rebel within his superhero family and idolized super-villains. Still, while there are some similarities between the two characters, Griffo said that Damian is the real deal.

“He came from a little darker means than Max,” he says. “Max was surrounded by superheroes and he was kind of going against the grain. Damian is actually legit. It’s interesting to compare the two. DC and the whole Batman and Superman story is so much deeper and more complex than The Thundermans. It’s great, and I love it. I love that character, but Damian is definitely deeper for sure.”

Adams also spoke about finding the right tone for the film.

“Originally, I wanted it to be a rated-G Iron Giant-type, but Jim Krieg, who is one of the producers, said ‘No, Jeremy, it needs to be like an ’80s PG movie.’ You know, that’s slightly inappropriate,” he shares.

“This is PG-13, but let’s be honest, we were watching PG-13 movies when we were ten or five,” Morales adds, who looked at 1980s coming-of-age films for inspiration.

“I was approaching this almost like an Amblin film from back then. I think those are the movies that have had such a huge influence on me. I’m a child of the ’80s. That’s when I grew up. The Goonies and stuff like that—those are movies that I came up with.”

If you’ve read the Super Sons comic, then you know that Damian and Jon have their fair share of personality clashes. The two boys grow to become great friends but getting there takes some effort. The chemistry between Griffo and Grazer made this dynamic fun, even though the actors hadn’t met in person until after the movie had been recorded.

“We met today for the first time,” Griffo reveals. “That’s how animation is sometimes. He’s such a funny guy and a really talented actor, so I had a lot to play off of. It was interesting because we had really good chemistry, even though he wasn’t there with me. I could just tell it was going to work together.”

Grazer recalled hearing Griffo’s take on Damian when recordings were played for him during ADR sessions. “His voice as Damian was more broody, kind of emo and pissy, and I felt like he nailed that,” he shares.

The friendship with Jon and Damian is the heart of the film, while the relationship between Jon and his father Superman is the soul. Travis Willingham, who voiced the Man of Steel, spoke about how Clark guides Jon when he learns about his new powers.

“He relates to where Jonathan is coming from,” he says. “He’s probably going back to when he first discovered his own powers and realizing that everything has changed, but not everything has changed. His place in the world has changed a little bit, but it’s also about staying grounded. You’re in a house where your mom and your dad love you, and as these things start to present themselves, they’ll handle it as a family.”

“I think when you become a father you have to learn,” Morales suggests. “You have to teach, but you’re also learning. The whole thing for Superman in this is that he’s got a responsibility—he has to do his job, but he has to be there for his family too.”

While Clark and Jon have their struggles, Grazer feels the revelation that his father is Superman helps strengthen their relationship.

“For any kid, your dad is your hero, and then finding out your dad is the ultimate paramount superhero, that’s just world-shattering news in the best way possible,” he says. “I think he receives that news with the ultimate elation.”

But the biggest kryptonite any parent has is time management, whether they’re a Superman or not.

“One of the things that happens with such a busy schedule is that there are some times when you can’t make it home, and there are other times when it’s a choice,” Willingham notes. “After, you realize that you don’t ever get that time back. It’s a little different for Superman if there’s a tsunami approaching Japan because you’ve got to go. With those conflicts between time and responsibility, you have to communicate. Clark Kent and Lois Lane are two very busy people, but they make sure their son knows that if they can be back for his baseball game, they will. ‘It won’t happen every time, but know that even if I’m missing it, I’m thinking of you.’”

Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital. For more on the film, and to watch the latest trailers and clips, visit our official movie page.

Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.