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.
We established the “obscure literary quote” for Hank McCoy in episode 2, during “The Night of the Sentinels.” It was pure indulgence on our part — not from the books, just a natural extension of Beast’s thoughtful, learned character. I have a section in the upcoming “Making of X-MEN:TAS” book dedicated to Hank’s 23 quotes (which is all I found upon review, perhaps you have found more). The greatest of these moments is when in fact Hank says nothing, just listens. In the series finale, he lets a dying Xavier, instead, quote Hamlet to him. The quote is a father-son moment about friendship, one which voice-actor Cedric Smith makes memorable. The fact that Charles Xavier would quote Shakespeare as his final words to Hank is a sign of Xavier’s deep knowledge of and love for his X-Men.
I’m not sure that we did Gambit justice. I feel like I know Logan and Scott and Jean and Hank and Rogue and Jubilee and Prof X, but I’m not sure I know Remy Le Beau. Part of that is because for X-MEN:TAS we needed Gambit to be mysterious. Twice in the first season we had the team seriously doubt Gambit’s loyalty: on “Slave Island” and during our version of “Days of Future Past.” If our audience didn’t truly believe that Gambit might be guilty of betraying his friends the stories wouldn’t have worked. We could have never tried that with Cyclops or Beast — no one would have bought it. Gambit was a recent Marvel addition and started out with a mysterious background: semi-mystical backwoods allegiences, semi-hidden past. The mystery made him distinct from all of our other heroes. It also fit with his overt sexiness (Gambit was recently voted near the top of this category in pop culture history). Little sexuality is allowed in kids’ TV — we gave most of our allotment to Gambit (and Rogue). A movie has been in the works for quite a while, starring Channing Tatum (below, right). Our Gambit, Chris Potter (below, left), would have actually had the right look for the character during the years we recorded him. Word has been that the feature movie has been a tough nut to crack. I symptathize: it’s tough writing for a man of mystery.
CHRIS POTTER CHANNING TATUM
Hank McCoy is the most thoughtful superhero character I know, anywhere. He didn’t start out that way. In the first dozen books in 1963, he’s just one of the the guys, a big lug who wisecracks and leers right along with the other regular-guy, street kids taken in by Dr. Charles Xavier. Then, to someone’s credit (Stan’s?) Hank McCoy started sounding distinctly more well-read. Not wise or thoughtful yet, but he started to conspicuously use “big words,” a fancier vocabulary that set him apart. The idea evidently was to contrast the fact that he was “the Beast,” erudite despite his appearance. When years later he gained acutal fur the contrast increased, and as he and the other X-Men became accomplished adults rather than mouthy teens his wisdom and eloquence gradually increased. We at X-MEN:TAS ran with this idea, supercharged it. Our constant method was to differentiate our characters as much as we could, so we wrote Hank to be as thoughtful and considerate as we could make him. Wolverine cared deeply about people but, in true rebel-hero fashion, he’d be damned if he’d show it. Our Beast was so confident, so at home in his own blue skin, that he openly displayed his kindness and compassion with no fear of diminishment or ridicule. He was big, strong — and kind. He loved to read, as did we on the X-MEN:TAS writing staff. Below is an image of Beast, at the end of “The Phoenix Saga” when the team has just realized that Jean Grey has decided to sacrifice her life. Moments later he manages to conjure one of his most heartfelt poetic quotes, from Emily Dickinson: “Parting is all we know of heaven and all we need of hell.” Thank you Hank, and flawless voice-actor George Buza, for giving us that moment.
Staging a character — whether within a camera frame or on a storyboard panel, can be the difference between success and failure. We just screened the recent feature X-MEN: APOCALYPSE. There was all sorts of cool stuff in this movie (way too much — a bit of a “kitchen sink” problem). One of the few things that I felt was mishandled had to do with the title character. Oscar Isaac is a great actor. His lines weren’t bad, and his interpretation had weight and intensity. His costume worked (not a small thing with a “living god”), and he had majestic, scary powers. Why, then, wasn’t I overwhelmed by him as I was by the Apocalypse in X-MEN:TAS? True, John Colicos’s voice was awe-inspiring — but there are many ways to sound formidable, and Oscar Isaac’s was fine. It was something more subtle: it was where the character was placed and how and why he moved. The Apocalypse in X-MEN:TAS was massive, immobile. His opponents “crashed against him” (see just below). In the movie, the filmmakers sometimes worked to keep Apocalypse larger-than-life, but often they neglected to, as in the scene below, where 5’9″ Oscar Isaac (the man can’t help his height) looks like adolescent Storm’s playmate. If Apocalypse is larger-than-life, he can’t be smaller than Michael Fassbender. Also, there are scenes where Apocalypse walks over and interacts with people (including a fist-fight with skinny, 5’7″ James McAvoy). Our Apocalypse didn’t walk over to interact with anyone — they came to him. I doubt we were even aware of this as we wrote him and posed him and drew him. It was just his nature. And in that subtle lack of physical deference (posing, movement) to the character’s stature, the movie lost something for me.
The whole world loves X-MEN:TAS. It was our good luck to come out in the 1990s when television networks around the world were starting to open up and feature American shows. Margaret Loesch at Fox Kids Network and producer Haim Saban, salesman supreme (of course his company is named after him) were good at getting series shown in every corner of the globe. Animation “travels well,” action-adventure animation best of all. (Comedy, especially word-play, is tough to translate.) So it was our good fortune that the whole world got to see X-MEN:TAS. How do we known we got through to fans thousands of miles away? Well, the internet has made international contact easy. We will benefit today by enjoying an inspired fan video from Russia. This week of posts, featuring God and Apocalypse, has been kind of heavy. Let’s have a little fun.
Today is an X-MEN fan day. The feature movie X-MEN: Apocalypse will be joining our DVD libraries. Of course we buy them all. I spent four years living with these characters, so I have to keep track of them as they try new things. This is a day to celebrate the villain Apocalypse, only recently created in the books (1986, Simonson, Guice, Harras), but who seems a timeless presence. We loved writing for him because of the world-class voice we got (the late John Colicos) and because we so enjoyed giving depth, doubt, and introspection to a larger-than-life creature who was originally conceived as the incarnation of ruthlessness and destruction. The character Apocalypse has experienced 5000 years of humanity. What a vantage point to ponder the nature of existence! There will be arguments about the movie version of the character versus our X-MEN:TAS version. They are different art forms. There is room for both. Before you slip your new disc into the blue-ray player today, however, we thought you might enjoy a fabulous YouTube video that a fan (maninthemask) threw together using highlights of our Apocalypse from the show.