The Book, Facebook, and WolverSteve

So the book on the making of X-MEN:TAS is finally on its way (pre-orders begin October 31!).  “Set up a Facebook page about it,” everybody says.  Okay.  But we needed a fun new image, something to do with the book, for the page’s banner.  So what comes to us, out of the ether, but a perfectly cobbled-together image from our long-time friend in Lincolnshire, England, “WolverSteve” (aka Stephen Paulson).  Now every time you go to our new Facebook page (Previously on X-Men), you will be able to enjoy WolverSteve’s clever composition.  If you like it, let him know.  And as to our new Facebook page: It is specifically about the book.  Or is trying to be.  It doesn’t take the place of this site, to which we remain committed.

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X-Men BOOK at the Printer!

“It’s being printed!”  What great words to hear all these months after starting work on the book in January of 2015.  Reviewers, bookstores, and libraries will soon be receiving e-copies to let them evaluate our 450-page celebration of the show we all remember so fondly.

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These are ESTIMATES, and there could be delays, but word is that presale payments for direct sales from the publisher will be taken, appropriately, on the 25th anniversary of the premier of the series (10/31/17).

Hardback books should ship to U.S. buyers within a couple of weeks (early November).  They will be available directly from the publisher’s store (jacobsbrownmediagroup.com) and then from Amazon and from your local bookstores if they have stocked them.  The advantage of buying from Jacobs Brown directly is that you will get a signed copy.  Paperback copies will be available about 2 weeks after that (mid-November),  then Kindle copies 2 weeks after that (end of November).

For international buyers, the affordable way to get the book is through your local Amazon site.  This will be PAPERBACK AND KINDLE ONLY (same size book, 10″x7″) and printed locally based on demand.  Look for them to be available late November.  An expensive alternative for non-U.S. buyers is to buy directly from the publisher.  This would get you early access to the book, and it would be a signed hardback — but shipping is so expensive for an over-two-pound package from the U.S., even to Canada, that the publisher will charge you a $50 fee for it.  If you gotta be the first to have the book, it is an option.

So, happy days here!  And after you get a chance to read it, please let us know what you think at xmentas92@gmail.com.

A Sad Day

In the nearly 15 months since we started this site, there has not been a sadder day.  Our dear friend Len Wein has died.

In the 55-year history of the X-Men, there is no more important name than Len Wein.  Without Len, there might not have been an X-MEN:TAS.  In 1975, he was entrusted with re-inventing a long-dormant, unsuccessful book.  Thinking ahead, he created a Canadian mutant named Wolverine for a Hulk comic on the hunch that Logan might fit in the new X-Men book.  Pretty good hunch.  He created an African mistress of the elements.  He created a haunted blue demon with an angel’s faith.

Len was a comics world superstar.  When I screwed up the courage to give him notes on his X-MEN:TAS scripts, set within a world he help build, he was always as gracious (and inventive) as he was professional.  In our weird business, Len was among the nicest people I ever met.  His long, thoughtful interview in our upcoming book was an amazing gift.

Julia and I will miss Len terribly.  Our hearts go out to his wife Christine.

ERIC

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X-MEN:TAS — It Travels Well

We tell stories for a living.  A major challenge when writing television stories is the question, “Does it travel well?”  To our bosses, who are risking the millions needed to make a show, this means: Will the series stories and characters have appeal for audiences all over the world (and therefore generate enough income), or will they be appreciated only within our culture?  Many things don’t travel well.  Comedy is said to be toughest, especially the type built on word play or that makes fun of local events or people.  Physical humor seems to travel: Charlie Chaplin was the world’s first global movie star.  But there’s not a lot of slapstick in X-MEN:TAS.

Somehow, X-MEN:TAS “traveled” spectacularly.  People from every corner of every continent seem to have found a way to enjoy it.  I have had many such people tell me that they learned English watching it in their home country.  This success is humbling and gratifying, but I’m not sure I understand how it happened.  How did we connect in ways that few other series did?  Heroism?  Personal dramas?  Fun powers?  The creation of a caring family for society’s misfits?

However it happened, today, 25 years later, we all benefit from this globally shared experience.  Most recently, it meant I was able to meet a nice businesswoman from Japan (Yui Kanan) for whom Jubilee was special (see below).  With luck, our series will “age” as well as it has traveled, and more generations will continue to enjoy it.

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INFLUENCES: Mitchum and Logan

A thousand influences went into the making of X-MEN:TAS.  On this, the hundredth anniversary of Robert Mitchum’s birth, I thought I’d celebrate one of them.

I don’t know what models writer Len Wein had in his head when, in 1974, he first built the personality of a short, tough Canadian mutant.  Our show’s voice actor Cal Dodd says he looked at our reference suggestions of Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, and Ward Bond and focused on the strength and authority of Bond, with a bit of the loner spirit of McQueen.  For me, it was always the fourth name we put on the character sheet: Bob Mitchum.  When I was editing Logan’s dialogue in those 76 episodes, it was more Bob Mitchum I was hearing in my head (along with Cal) than anybody — a little angrier, more energetic, certainly connected to the comics, but Mitchum-like none-the-less.  Once we got the cast set, I was thrilled to be writing for Cal Dodd; for the first few months, as X-MEN:TAS was coming to life, I was writing for Bob Mitchum.

Mitchum was everything we wanted Logan to be: intense, brooding, angry, heroic, romantic, but above all, tough.  He was beyond tough: in Cape Fear (1962), he played one of the scariest villains in movie history, calmly, just staring, just talking, just smiling.  You sensed he could hurt you.  Yet something in him made for great romantic-lead heroes as well, like Jeff Bailey in Out of the Past (1947).  Finally, I often mention to people that on our show I envisioned Logan as “world-weary” (as he was in the movie Logan).  Well, no actor in history did world-weary better than Mitchum.  Watch him struggling in The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), and your heart breaks. Finally, there was that voice: deep as a black pool.  When we sent in the voice suggestions to the auditioning actors, when Eastwood and McQueen were listed, I added “but deeper.”  I never had to add that with Mitchum.

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X-MEN Hats

This is a simple visualization of what many of you have written to us about: the fact that connections to beloved popular culture can last a lifetime.  My two sons grew up sharing X-MEN:TAS with us.  The same batch of X-Men hats I bought the family in 1994 still fits them 23 years later.  In fact, they wore them to this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.  Assuming the boys have children, the hats — and the characters they celebrate — will almost certainly be a continuing legacy.  There are worse things to leave your grandchildren.

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Superheroes Were Not Always a Genre

The phenomenon continues.  The newest Spider-Man movie (Spider-Man: Homecoming) is not only attracting huge crowds, the critics love it.  Superheroes are a full-blown, worldwide, movie-and-TV genre, like Westerns were for 70 years.  It was not always so.

There were always genres: gangster movies, musicals, war movies, TV detective shows.  From the early 1900s to the early 1970s, thousands of Western stories flooded our movie theaters and then our living rooms.  Little kids wore cowboy hats and flashed plastic six-shooters (I did).  Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy had better name recognition than NFL quarterbacks or our president.  Then Westerns “died.”  The stories are still told, but infrequently: three stories a year, not three stories a day.

As an article in this month’s Film Comment points out, there had been smaller-scale attempts at bits of superhero storytelling, in newspaper comic strips, early fantastical films, in cheezy 1940s movie serials, and of course in mainstream comic books since the 1930s.  But the superhero TV/movie genre didn’t truly start until the 1990s.  Before that there were once-a-decade TV series (’50s Superman, ’60s Batman, Hulk, etc.), none really starting a firestorm of imitators.  There were a handful of successful superhero movies per decade (a Superman, then a Batman, etc.).  But they weren’t central to pop culture the way the movies are now.  Think about it: There were more successful superhero TV shows this year than in the 50 years of television from 1940 to 1990.

Then Fox Kids Network, under the leadership of Margaret Loesch and Sidney Iwanter, changed popular culture.  I know, because I was there.  While writing the book about the making of X-MEN:TAS (out this fall!) I was struck at the before-and-after of audio-visual superhero storytelling.  Before Fox greenlighted Batman:TAS and X-MEN:TAS and Spider-Man:TAS and The Tick, Hollywood never thought seriously about superhero stories.  The sporadic Saturday morning efforts were throwaways that most comics fans hated.  Then there was 1990s Fox Kids TV.

Suddenly adults were watching cartoons on Saturday mornings.  Kids were dressing as Wolverine on Halloween.  But most importantly, Hollywood could see how superheroes could be the focus of ambitious adult movies and television series.  The floodgates opened, and the popular culture of a new millennium was forever changed.  For those, like the Film Comment writer, who are ambivalent or unsure about this development, I say that heroism is heroism, however costumed.  And, if you look back at Westerns, almost all of the great ones came out during the last 30 years of  their genre’s run after 40 years of practice.  Which may mean that the best superhero movies and TV are yet to come.  Exciting thought.

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Fox Kids Network cartoons change popular culture: Just ask these guys.