The direct-to-DVD animated feature Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths began life as a bridging story between the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoon series. It was to have told the story of how the Justice League built a new orbital watchtower and found themselves having to recruit an army of new heroes after visiting a parallel world ruled by evil versions of themselves. The DVD kept the same basic story, but it was decided to release it as a standalone story.
The removal of the DCAU continuity necessitated an entirely new set of character designs. Artist Phil Bourassa got the call to work on the Justice League on the day that Obama was elected US President. (Links in text are to model sheets on Bourassa’s Deviant Art page).
His approach to the basic Justice League was very close to the comic book costumes. The characters models were also leaner and lacked the Bruce Timm square-jawed, barrel-chested template that had dominated the animated DCU. The two biggest departures were probably a post-Infinite Crisis style Martian Manhunter and the use of Hal Jordan rather than John Stewart – a deliberate statement that this wasn’t the DCAU League. A seventh member was missing from the League’s line-up. If this story had been done in the DCAU it would have been set just after Hawkgirl quit so she wouldn’t have appeared.
The designs for the Crime Syndicate were based on sketches that Bruce Timm had done several years beforehand. Bourassa took those as his starting point and added his own style. The breakout character of the movie had to be Owlman voiced by James Woods. A hand-painted cold-cast porcelain Owlman maquette was released by DC Direct around the time of the movie.
The Martian Manhunter parallel was the four armed J’edd J’arkus. He was based on a Bruce Timm sketch and the four arms were a reference to the John Carter novels. While Hawkgirl wasn’t not shown in the movie, her doppelgänger Angelique was – albeit as canon fodder. The only two “heroes” from the parallel world are Lex Luthor and a character based on the Joker called the Jester. The designs for the Jester were done by Jerome Moore based on a sketch by Bourassa.
Bourassa collaborated with Jerome Moore, Dusty Abell, Steve Jones, and Jon Suzuki to design the vast roster of other heroes and “made men” (the legion of second tier characters that served the Crime Syndicate). On his Deviant Art gallery Jerome Moore notes that for the Super Family he worked from designs submitted by Alex Ross and Bruce Timm and made sure he stuck to the style of the lead designer (Bourassa). Moore also worked on the designs for Black Canary, Model Citizen, Vamp, and the several shape-shifted bodies.
Of particular interest to fans was a cameo of the evil versions of the Outsiders and the Detroit JLA in a fight sequence in J’edd J’arkus hideout. (You can see a promotional clip of the fight on Youtube, but WB have stopped the clip being embedded for some reason).
The DVD Artwork
The DVD artwork for Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths was created by Phil Bourassa and Dusty Abell and coloured by Joshua Middleton. Bourassa commented that,
I was super thrilled that the honor fell to me to draw the box art, as that sort of thing is often done by the marketing division and we ususally only get to see it AFTER it’s done. My buddy Dusty Abell did an excellent job inking my line art digitally at a high enough resolution for print. I gotta say Dusty is one of the most talented and dependable pros I have ever had the pleasure of working with, he always comes through for me in a crunch. He’s also one of the few cats in animation who can make digital inking still feel organic and not lose the life of the drawing in the process.
After Boursassa and Abell had finished the line work it has handed over to Joshua Middleton for colouring (you may remember from his great run of Supergirl covers). Middleton posted on his blog about the subtles of colouring someone else’s work,
I can only recall one other instance in which I colored another artist’s work, which was a pin-up for Marvel a very long time ago, so this was a fun new challenge. Luckily, Phil and Dusty are both excellent artists, so my job was a lot easier. While I originally set out to color the drawing in a fairly straightforward cel-shaded style, we wound up going for a somewhat more painterly finish. My challenge was to render in such a way as to not overpower the clean line art. I colored with Photoshop CS4.