The animated family movie DC League of Super-Pets — an origin story for Superman’s best friend, Kryptonian super-dog Krypto — is built for adult viewers as much as for kids. It’s packed with DC Comics gags, some of which are visual, like the Jonah Hex-themed steakhouse in downtown Metropolis. Others are musical: At one point, Krypto sings a little impromptu ditty about how much he and Superman love each other, to the tune of John Williams’ classic theme from 1978’s live-action Superman. Some are referential: Lex Luthor (Marc Maron) complains that he doesn’t have superpowers, not even the ability to “throw playing cards really hard” — seemingly a dig at Marvel characters like Bullseye or possibly Gambit, who each have used cards as weapons.
But viewers will have to wait through the credits for one of the more audacious gags, where League of Super-Pets openly makes fun of another DC property — and Dwayne Johnson, who voices Krypto, mocks himself. The movie’s co-writer and co-director, Jared Stern, tells Polygon how it happened.
[Ed. note: Spoilers ahead for the post-credits sequence in DC League of Super-Pets.]
In the post-credits sequence, set after the film’s resolution, Superman (voiced by John Krasinski) and Krypto are enjoying a Metropolis park by night when DC antihero Black Adam flies in with his pet dog. The two human heroes share one terse, tense acknowledgement, but the two dogs immediately start talking. (The film establishes early on that animals can communicate with each other; humans listening to their conversations just hear barking, meowing, or other animal noises.)
Black Adam’s sidekick Anubis brags about how his partner is a cool, edgy antihero, while Krypto chuckles that “antihero” is just another word for “villain.” He mocks Anubis for thinking “my owner breaks all the rules, does what he wants, and takes down anyone in his way” is anything but villain behavior. “It’s a fine line, I’m not going to lie,” Anubis says.
But as Krypto continues to call Black Adam a villain, Anubis gets more and more flustered and boastful, until Krypto offhandedly says that Black Adam might be cool, but not cool enough to fly to Pluto. Anubis immediately says he can so, and he grabs Black Adam and takes off into space.
It’s a silly bit of banter ending in a sight gag, but it’s surprising because it’s such a pointed takedown of DC’s impending blockbuster Black Adam, also starring Dwayne Johnson in the title role. Stern says his higher-ups at DC never batted an eye at League’s irreverence toward Black Adam, though, and he says he’s fairly sure the sequence came from Dwayne Johnson himself.
“I believe it was Dwayne’s idea,” he tells Polygon. “He thought it’d be fun to act against a darker version of Krypto. And we all laughed at that and thought, ‘Yeah, that’s gonna be super fun. It’s just perfect.’”
Stern says movies aimed at a comic book fandom now essentially require post-credits gags of some kind, but in this case, he felt it was an opportunity to take the film in a different direction. “These post-credits sequences have become sort of cliche, so we thought we’d lean into it in a playful way,” he says. “The fact that Dwayne was playing roles in both these DC properties, it just seemed like a fun opportunity.”
Most of the animal heroes in DC League of Super-Pets have at least minimal canon histories — PB, aka Wonder-Pig (Vanessa Bayer), is a reference to a Justice League Unlimited episode and an early appearance of a flying pig in Wonder Woman’s comics. Merton the tortoise (Natasha Lyonne) was originally the super-turtle The Terrific Whatsit. The electro-powered squirrel Chip (Diego Luna) was once the Green Lantern Ch’p. And Ace the Bat-Hound has his own long comics history.
But Stern says Anubis is an entirely original character invented for the film. “We based it on an Egyptian dog, the kind of the dog you see in hieroglyphics and in Egyptian statues, in tombs,” he says. (Anubis does closely resemble a black Pharaoh hound, sometimes known as an “Anubis dog.”) “We thought, He’s Egyptian, it’d be cool to model the dog after that, and also, he’d look kind of badass. So we made that up.”
Just to make the jokey post-credits sequence even more meta and self-referential, Dwayne Johnson voices both Black Adam and his dog. “It’s all Dwayne Johnson,” Stern laughs. “As if you didn’t have enough Dwayne Johnson as our star and our producer.”
“We thought it would be so funny, but we were also a little bit nervous — we were like, Are you gonna be able to tell the voices apart? But he did a fun thing with his voice where Krypto leaned a little bit into a higher register, a little goofier, and then he went into his deeper badass antihero voice for Anubis, then kind of his normal Black Adam movie voice, though Black Adam just says one thing: ‘Superman.’ So, yeah, that scene was John Krasinski, Dwayne Johnson, Dwayne Johnson, and Dwayne Johnson.”