While many of us are stuck at home and unable to play games in person with our friends, there’s a group of people who are having a game of their own — filmed months ago — in a mixture of seeing some fan-favorite celebrities who are involved in popular genres such as Star Wars mixed with something a lot of the KSiteTV audience loves: The DC Universe.
DC Universe itself is a great thing to pick up at this time anyway, as they have DC classics including the original Flash TV series, Superfriends, Lois & Clark, and more alongside many of their animated movies and comic book content. There are also fantastic original series including a Harley Quinn animated series, new episodes of Young Justice, the live-action series Doom Patrol and Swamp Thing, with Stargirl on the way. These weeks, DCU has been running new episodes of DCU All Star Games every Friday – where celebrities Freddie Prinze Jr., Clare Grant, Xavier Woods, and Vanessa Marshall play the classic DC Heroes role playing game under the guidance of GM Sam Witwer of Smallville and Supergirl fame.
Directing DCU All Star Games is Jon Lee Brody, a man who many of you have surely seen as social media as first and foremost a fan of the DC Universe, but also an accomplished director and producer who even had a film called Office Uprising that was full of DC favorites such as Zachary Levi (Shazam!), Brenton Thwaites (Titans), and Alan Ritchson (Smallville & Titans)! Jon also was a consultant for a film called Band of Robbers which included Melissa Benoist (Supergirl) and Kyle Gallner (Smallville‘s version of The Flash known as Impulse), technically making it the first-ever Supergirl and Flash crossover!
Jon took the time to speak with KSiteTV about DCU All Star Games, how it came about, and his larger connection to the DC Universe, and we’re happy to share that with you.
KSITETV’s CRAIG BYRNE: The first question I’ve got to ask: How did you get a copy of the classic DC Heroes game, mint in box?
JON LEE BRODY: I was up in Vancouver visiting some of the Arrow family, and I visited a toy store called Toy Traders in Langley, BC, which is where they film Supergirl. It’s pretty much if you took four Costcos and put them together and it’s all toys — toys you’ve never seen. I saw the mint copy of DC Heroes in a display case, and realized it was a first edition, meaning it’s got the introduction to the Teen Titans, plus it had Silver Age storylines, pre-Crisis and post-Crisis, because it was released in 1985, and it’s the only one of the versions that’s like that. I was shocked because it wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be, and they were gracious enough to give me a discount on it because they’re nice people.
Taking place in that era was kind of perfect, because you were shooting DCU All Star Games at the same time the Crisis on Infinite Earths episodes aired on The CW, correct?
It wasn’t lost on me that if we timed this right, it would be pretty close in [timing] to The CW’s big Crisis crossover, which I thought was pretty cool.
How did it come about to do this game for DC Universe?
We had done a Star Wars run on our YouTube channel [GEGGHEAD], and I said it would be cool if we did, like, an 80’s RPG in the world of DC because that’s the world I know.
How did “The Breakfast League” come about?
[This game] came out in 1985, and so did the Breakfast Club, so that was kind of a happy accident. Actually, Sam [Witwer] pitched the idea of “hey, what if they’re in Saturday detention?” And that’s how we approached it, sort of like a John Hughes movie.
There are moments where Sam Witwer is kind of like a high school principal in this series. Did he channel his Riverdale character for this at all?
That I don’t know for sure, but I’m gonna just say he probably channeled his principal from Glenbrook South High School in Illinois.
You’re also from Illinois. Did you know him then?
I met him maybe 2, 3 years ago, actually, and then we found out we’re both from pretty much the same area, which is kind of crazy.
It’s also funny, because years before you became friends with Sam, you were a big fan of Smallville, a series where he played the alter ego of Doomsday, Davis Bloome.
Big fan. Smallville was my world for 10 years, and when when it comes to shows where it’s like these characters live in your living room for those amount of years, they still live in my living room. I still watch the reruns on Hulu. I was also not just a big fan of Smallville, but I also [spent time] on KryptonSite [run by KSiteTV owner and the person interviewing here, Craig Byrne]. Because there was no social media back in the day, there was no place to talk about kind of nerdy topics, so I had to go to the KryptonSite Forums to be able to express those things. And then here we are years later — my first official interview with K-Site. Like I said, things come full circle, and I’m very happy about that.
Is Sam aware of your Smallville fandom?
Most definitely. Though I haven’t been able to fully pick his brain about how he approached Davis Bloome/Doomsday. One of these days, hopefully.
How did this cast come together? Obviously, you worked with Freddie for years, and you’re friends with many of the gamers on the show.
The only person that didn’t know going in was Xavier Woods, but Freddie knew him, and Freddie vouched for him, which was enough for me. Vanessa Marshall, I’ve worked with previously on our previous RPG series called GEGG Wars for our GEGGHEAD channel, and Clare Grant is one of the co-founders of GEGGHEAD. Knowing them with our close friendships and working relationships, it was like a no-brainer, and then bringing in Xavier Woods — he was almost like the catalyst we needed to really get into overdrive. You never know what he’s going to be up to. Watching him play was something fascinating.
Can you talk about the proliferation of gaming shows like DCU All Star Games?
Especially now that we have things like the Twitch community where they have like 20 million active monthly viewer users, I give a lot of credit to Matt Mercer and Critical Role, because they really inspired Freddie and myself to start our own RPG games on GEGGHEAD, but we also set out to not do Dungeons and Dragons because those guys pretty much had it covered, so we went for Star Wars [before DCU All Star Games].
Critical Role really laid the foundation for us. I guess you can say they’re kind of what Smallville was for the Arrowverse, or for basketball fans, they’re what Magic and Bird were to Michael Jordan. They set the foundation so that people like us can make our shows. [With that said], we didn’t want it to look like Critical Role, not that that would be a bad thing. It was more like, “what can we do to make this our own?”
I decided to shoot it like a multi camera sitcom, and juxtapose it with, like, a game show element. We have everything pretty much, short of the canned laughter. Actually, I hope that somebody out there takes a clip and adds canned laughter.
Can you talk about the miniatures and the buildings we see in the campaign?
That was the internal team over at DC Universe – the DC Daily team. We came in for rehearsal, and they showed us the table, and it was incredible. It exceeded my expectations, to say the least, and we had a lot of fun with it. That’s when a lot of the story came together as well, because Sam got a visual of the tables, like, “okay, this can be the high school, this can be this, and we can use these miniatures.” I will say – and they did this in Episode Two – “please, in some capacity, use the King Shark miniature.”
Is it true that Freddie bought some of the miniatures at various convention appearances?
There’s some truth to that. Some of them, they had internally at DC Universe, but Freddie was also doing an appearance and he just bought every single DC miniature, and he’d text me this video, and there’s every single DC character, except for Disco Nightwing. It’s hard to find that miniature. I don’t think he exists. Maybe someday, we can make that happen.
How did it feel to be shooting on the DC stages?
Talking again about coming full circle, as a lifelong DC fan, it’s pretty surreal.
The first vivid memory I have is watching the 1978 Christopher Reeve Superman movie, and my first paying job in the industry was as a background actor in The Dark Knight when I was still living in Chicago. Over the years, I’ve collected things, and then being a huge fan of the Arrowverse, and the Titansverse…. It’s all full circle for me to be directing something for DC. You couldn’t make this stuff up, and you couldn’t write this story any better.
Is it true you are also the first Korean-American director for a DC property?
As far as I know, I’m the first Korean-American director on a DC property. We might have to fact check that. I would hope there are many others.
It’s also one of your goals to eventually direct one of the hour-long scripted DC shows, correct?
100%. It’s been a goal of mine for a long time. I love the world very much. I have a lot of ideas that I’ve kicked around and I’ve also luckily become friends with some of the showrunners, who have shown me support for the things I do. If that chance was presented to me, I’d take it.
You’ve also formed a great friendship with notable Arrowverse director James Bamford. Would you like to talk about that?
Smallville fans will certainly get this: I call [Bam] the “Beeman of the Arrowverse,” or for Arrow, rather. For those who don’t remember who Greg Beeman was, he was the Producer-Director of Smallville who was really like the anchor and glue that held everybody together for the first hundred episodes. It’s funny because Beeman is now on Stargirl, and now people are calling Beeman “the Bam of Stargirl!” Like I said, it’s the recurring theme of circles.
So how many episodes is the first season of DCU All Star Games?
We have six episodes. It’s told like an anthology story; like a miniseries, which was fitting to me, because I love miniseries. There’s something about that, that’s not always gonna work for every story, but I felt like for this — having a self contained, clear beginning, middle, and end, was just a cool way to go.
How cool was it for you to open up DC Universe and see your show as you open up the app?
It felt great. I’m not gonna lie to you. When we premiered on February 28, believe me, I opened and closed the app many times just to make sure it’s still on the front page. And [at the time of this interview] we’re a few weeks in and it’s still on the front page. It’s a cool feeling, and I definitely am thankful for it. Paul Malmont and Veronica Baker believed in us from the beginning, and I have a lot of eternal gratitude their way.
Are there hopes for more DCU All Star Games?
I would love to do a Season 2, and I will say… and I can say this because Freddie’s already said this in interviews… that there’s an idea that’s being kicked around. If they go for it, this could be something really, really fun.
Can you talk about how DC characters fit into the Breakfast League?
It was interesting, because when Sam was approaching the story and we all were kicking ideas around, we were prepared for the notion that ‘hey, we’re a new show. They don’t really know us.’ We thought they weren’t going to want us to use the main characters, and then they came back to us and said ‘no, we want you to use our IP!’ So Sam came up with the secret identity thing, so not everybody is who you think they are. That’s part of the fun of watching DCU All Star Games, because we’re dropping these little clues here and there, and little Easter eggs. I can’t really say who’s who, obviously, but you’ll definitely hear some familiar names.
[Jon also teases that Season 1 of DCU All Star Games has an indirect reference to the Arrowverse that’s in the final episode, so stay tuned!]
Besides DCU All Star Games, where can people find you?
My social media is pretty easy. It’s just Jon Lee Brody, John with no H. Wait, this is being printed, so you know that.
Do you have anything else to say?
I will say the thing about DCU All Star Games it’s I’m really glad it came out weekly, because I missed the days of just event television, where you can wait a week, digest it, and then attack it. That being said, if you missed episodes, [you can] binge watch. It actually would be beneficial to those who are behind to catch up.
DCU All Star Games is now streaming on DC Universe – join here!