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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.).