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YOUNG AMBITION

We all dream when we’re young.  Some of us dream bigger than others.  The man who designed X-MEN: The Animated Series and directed its course for its crucial first season had the nerve, as an adolescent comic-book fan, to write to Stan Lee and ask him how to get into the comics business.  I can only imagine how earnest and sincere Will Meugniot’s original letter was.  You can see Marvel’s thoughtful response below.  The vision Will had for himself was a crucial element in our show’s success.  Twenty-six years after that letter, Will cared enough about a comic-book to fight every needed fight — and there were a lot of them — to keep X-MEN:TAS on track .  I’m sure teen-aged Will had no idea that he would one day find himself responsible for much of the creative direction of what would become, by some measures, the most successful comic-book-based series in television history, animated or live-action.  But sometimes it pays to dream big.

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LOGAN FADES TO BLACK

The Logan blu-ray that we got today has a black-and-white version of the film along with the theatrical release.  How appropriate.  Two of the characters that have meant the most to many of us for decades fight heroically and die — as all great heroes need to.  The original movie’s look is grim and de-saturated to start with, leaving black-and-white the only way it could be made “darker.”

In late 1974, Marvel Comics employee Len Wein was given a heads up by his boss that the long-suspended X-Men title might come back, but this time with a more international team.  Taking a chance, he made a guest star that he was working on for a Hulk story a short, gruff Canadian mutant – just in case there might be a place for him on the X-Men team.  There was.  Then in late 1992, thanks to the underappreciated voice-over actor Cal Dodd, we all heard Logan’s proper voice for the first time: “I go… where I wanna go…”

In Logan, Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart act their hearts out, knowing this is the end.  Much as we yearn for it to be a perfect movie, it isn’t.  But Logan and Charles don’t let us down.  We have depended upon their strength and commitment for decades, and now, despite being enfeebled and in doubt, they persevere.

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the book, X-Men Show

Previously on X-MEN…

That’s the new title!  I handed in the second draft of the book yesterday, and the publisher and I and a dozen cast and crew that I asked all agreed it’s the best title.

Previously on X-MEN
The Making of an Animated Series

Current estimated publishing date is September 1, 2017.

In celebration, Julia and I are taking a short vacation back in Tennessee, where the co-writers of much of the series live.  Mark and Michael Edens wrote “The Phoenix Saga” five-part episode with me, so it’s only right that we have Phoenix, below, helping us celebrate.

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Celebrate NATIONAL SUPERHERO DAY!

Who knew that there was such an X-MEN:TAS-friendly day?  Not me.  Whose heroes are more super than ours?  You can go back to Homer and the Bible, and our team of misfits holds its own.  Thousands of superheroes have come and gone over the millennia; the best struggle and suffer great tragedy.  Compelling interest in larger-than-life myth and legend endures.  A superhero’s gotta do what a superhero’s gotta do.  Here’s thanks that the heroic ideal has survived all these years and that, through the X-Men, we were able to participate in the storytelling.  Happy National Superheroes Day.

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“Dark Phoenix” Next X-Feature

We were pleased to see this morning that the web was buzzing with the news that “The Dark Phoenix Saga” is to become Fox’s tenth X-MEN movie.  Among the 76 episodes that we produced for X-Men:TAS, this was one of only three stories we were asked to directly adapt for the screen (along with “Days of Future Past” and “The Phoenix Saga”).  There is always a challenge when adapting an admired or beloved story: fans have expectations.  For our 88-minute animated version, we greatly streamlined — paring away interweaving stories within the run of books (#129-137) — concentrating on Jean and the X-Men’s effort to save her.  I’m curious how the feature folks will tell the story in a 2-1/2 hour movie.  It’s funny to look back and realize that on kids TV we couldn’t even call the villains “The Hellfire Club” as the comics did (network censors), and we surely couldn’t have Jean/Phoenix devouring inhabited planets.  But we were allowed great spectacle, and, more important, great emotions among the X-Men team as serious sacrifices were contemplated.  Here’s hoping the new “Dark Phoenix” takes the story even further.

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the book

Wonder Con 2017 – Animated Minds

We were pleased to be two of the guests on a panel this year at WonderCon titled: “The Psychology of Animated Series.”  The hosts of the long-running “Arkham Sessions” podcast, Dr. Andrea Letamendi and Brian Ward (pictured left), hosted.  We and two other, uh, veteran writers (Henry Gilroy and David Wise) were asked to discuss the psychology of some of the characters for whom we had written.  Our hosts specialize in the original Batman:TAS, for which Henry and David have both written.  Henry has many credits within the Star Wars animated universe, and David was the heart and soul behind the original Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Since the four of us together must have a thousand produced TV credits, there was lots of superhero psychology to discuss.  One simple distinction that came up was that writers for Batman:TAS tended to focus on the inner workings of the guest villains (the famous “Rogues’ Gallery”), where on X-MEN:TAS we focused on the psyches of the team members.  It makes sense: there only a single Batman to figure out; we had nine X-Men, complete with extended families, old friends, and spurned lovers.  Some episodes we had enough going on with our core cast that there wasn’t a villain at all.  It is always gratifying to meet fans and answer questions about what went into the making of X-MEN:TAS.  Now back to the book….

Wonder Con PANEL pose 4-17

the book

6,000 Twitter Followers! Jubilee Can’t Believe It

We opened our @xmentas Twitter account late last May.  Thanks to your kind words and daily diligence from Julia (who manages the account), we have grown steadily.  So much has happened so quickly.  When we started, the movie “X-MEN: Apocalypse” was just opening; now “Logan” is assaulting the world.  The X-MEN:TAS book was half-done, and now it’s with the publisher, getting polished up for a hoped-for summer release.  We have had a great first-Con experience, thanks to Mike Towry and his partners, at Comic Fest, with producer/director Larry Houston and three series writers on panels.  We hope to appear at a Con or two each month for at least a year once the book is published.  But today we simply want to celebrate our growing Twitter community by marking another “1000” milestone.  The X-MEN:TAS art below is courtesy of stroyboard artist Keith Tucker, an old friend, whose work appears in around 20 of the X-MEN:TAS boards.

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X-Men Show

SUPERHEROES’ HEADS: We Get Into Them in Anaheim

In two weeks, on Sunday, April 2, at 3:00, we will be at WonderCon, in Anaheim, California, as part of a panel that talks with fans about what goes on in our favorite mutants’ heads, along with those of other superheroes.  Please come by to say hello and to flummox us with challenging questions.  Our kind hosts are Dr. Andrea Letamendi and Shout Factory‘s Brian Ward, longtime co-hosts of The Arkham Sessions podcasts.  While they have specialized in delving into the psyches of Batman: The Animated Series characters (writer David Wise will be there), they have expanded this panel to include experts  on the animated X-Men (us), and Star War Rebels (writer Henry Gilroy).  If you are curious about what makes your favorite superheroes tick, please join us.

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LOGAN: Two Farewells

We just saw “Logan,” and I left it with mixed emotions.  My main feelings were those of gratitude and loss.  When the first X-MEN movie came out 17 years ago, we were only a few years past having lived with these characters inside us for five long television seasons. Our series’ voices were the voices in my head, so I knew that the movie versions would take some getting used to.  I believe that I can say with confidence that my favorite two feature casting decisions were Logan and Charles.  When we had cast X-MEN:TAS in 1992, I had listed Patrick Stewart as a reference point for the voice of the professor.  Relative newcomer Hugh Jackman was a stunning surprise as Wolverine.  He kept our actor Cal Dodd’s spirit while having his own unique sound and physical presence.  So of course saying farewell to these two was difficult today.  It was an intimate, personal story, the kind we liked to tell on the animated series.  The actress playing the girl was marvelous.  And it is it important that our heroes’ journeys end, well, heroically, so in that sense we have given these two a proper send-off.  Whatever you think of the movie, it was good to be able to say our proper good-byes.

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behind-the-scenes, the book, X-Men Show

Finding More Artists: Keith Tucker

As the X-MEN:TAS book races to its thrill-packed conclusion (late June?), I find that I am discovering more people who made major contributions (artists, voice actors) but with whom I never had a chance to work directly.  Storyboard artist Keith Tucker has worked on possibly more series with me than any other artist: X-MEN:TAS, Exosquad, Streefighter, Iron Man, some Disney shows  —  all the way back to the long-forgotten Sky Commanders at Hanna-Barbera.  We writers and artists so often work separately, that a memory of Keith stands out in my mind.  Sky Commanders was the first series on which I supervised the writing (along with fellow Tennesseean John Loy).  I distinctly remember getting a call from Keith, who I’d never met, about an action scene: he had ideas for expanding and complicating the choreography and wanted to run them by me. They sounded great.  At H-B at the time the pressure was on the creative staff to rush through production.  Here was a storyboard artist asking to take an extra few hours to make a scene I had signed off on more exciting.  I remember seeing the board and seeing how good it looked.  I wondered how often we would have to time push the stories like this.  So it’s no surprise that Larry Houston used Keith a lot on X-MEN.  The odder thing is that, while working for 4 years on the stories, I never knew who all of the artists were.  Thanks to the book, I’m finding out.

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the book, X-Men Show

X-MEN Team Celebrates Series Anniversary at COMIC FEST, San Diego

The celebrations have begun.

This past Friday, February 17th, marked the 25th anniversary of the green-lighting of X-MEN:TAS, which officially premiered 11 months later.  The wonderful folks at San Diego Comic Fest (including Comic Con co-founder Mike Towry) asked Julia and me and four other members of the X-MEN:TAS creative team to hold four panels.  Seated with us in the first picture below is producer-director Larry Houston.  Also featured were writers Len Uhley, Dave McDermott, and Steve Melching.  (Steve and Dave Join us in the panel shown below.).  As a nice complement to our presentations, the fest theme this year was a celebration of the 100th birthday of Jack Kirby, co-creator of the X-MEN comic and so very much more.  The audiences were friendly and, as is often the case, many among them knew our series better than we did.  We watched old episodes and discussed how they and the rest of the series managed to get made.  It was great fun for us and was a reminder of why we are writing the “Making of” book, now scheduled for publication this summer.  Once the book is ready, we hope to visit Cons around the country, perhaps one a month.  We hope to see you at yours.

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the book

X-BOOK: Manuscript Goes In Today!

Books take a while.  After two years of interviews and writing, the manuscript of X-MEN: The Animated Series will be handed to Mr. Steven Kates, of publisher Jacobs-Brown (below left, with happy/relieved author), in about an hour.  My understanding is that there will then be a few months of editing, polishing, and laying out of the book before copies will finally be printed for sale, sometime this summer.  But today had to happen first.  Steven tells me that while the Jacobs Brown Media website will take orders for copies as soon as possible, they are not yet taking pre-sales.  If you buy the book through them or from us at a Con or store-signing, it of course will be autographed.  It will also be available in the usual places (Amazon, your local book store, etc.).

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