Uncategorized

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.

Logen poster 2.jpg

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

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.

arkham sessions logo.jpgwondercon logo.jpg

Uncategorized

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.

Logan-Charles 2017.jpg

Uncategorized, X-Men Show

THE DANGER ROOM: Use it Carefully

According to Stan Lee, the Danger Room was created for the very first X-MEN comics issue by Jack Kirby (see Beast working out in it below), then given its official name in issue #2.  So it has been around from the start (and preceeds by a decade the similar “Holodeck” used in later Star Trek incarnations, actually first seen the ST cartoon!).  In X-MEN:TAS we used the Danger Room sparingly for a few reasons.  First, action in real crises is always preferable to “training problems.”  But more importantly, since the Danger Room can create spectacular but unreal dangers, it is tempting to trick the audience by creating big pretend fights or jeopardy (like in a character’s nightmare) which are then revealed to be “only projections” or dreams.  We did allow ourselves the luxury of intense Danger Room imagery once, to great effect.  That was in the episode (#14: “Till Death Due Us Part”) where Jean is about to marry Scott.  Broken-hearted Wolverine takes out his unhappiness by obliterating some Scott-like projections, some of which end up looking like Scott-Sentinels (second image below).  It provided a dramatic physical manifestation of Wolverine’s tortured inner struggle.  By choosing not to overuse the Danger Room throughout the series, the few times we did it proved effective.

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the book, X-Men Show

BEAST’S FAREWELL FROM CHARLES

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.

Beast farewell.jpg

the book, X-Men Show

DEATHSTRIKE IS DELIGHTED: @xmentas reaches 4000 followers!

Yuriko is all up-in-arms over the fact that we have reached another Twitter milestone on @xmentas.  4000 followers.  Real fans, no bots.  Thanks again for your continued interest and for telling your friends about us.  It seems we have established a basic pace — adding 1000 people about every month-and-a-half.  We appreciate the response and will never take it for granted.  As we look forward to the publication of the X-MEN:TAS book (currently set for mid-July, with 32 cast and crew interviews completed so far), a little teaser of a look ahead: There’s a sub-chapter about a controversy over Lady Deathstryke’s design.  No spoilers.  You’ll just have to guess for now.

yuriko

X-Men Show

BESTS OF THE YEAR: Cosplay

You’ll have to forgive me.  I have friends shivering in Toronto, Boston, Denver, and Minneapolis, and I’m down here in Southern California laid up with a cold.  So no deep thoughts the last couple of days.  And today, just fun.  Since we went online in July, we have seen thousands of X-MEN:TAS-realted images.  Some of them just make me smile.  Today I have deceided to arbitrarily make the first of many occasional posts just for the fun of it.  December is a time for “best of” lists.  So I thought I’d start with the Cosplay image that I liked best over the past year, that of Mystique in mid-shape-shift.  It is hard to “animate” cosplay, yet this ingenious young woman managed it perfectly.  Thanks for the memories as I chug chicken soup.

Mystique cos play.jpg

Mystique.jpg

X-Men Show

X-MEN vs. Street Fighter

There is an endless fascination of “who would beat who” in the immense, ever-expanding world of superheroes.  I can’t imagine a more classic (and over-used) comic-book cover than the pairing of one beloved character or team against another.  It’s also a no-brainer for 2-D or 3-D-Fighter video games: combat is their essence.  Feature movies have tried “A vs. B” with mixed success (Alien vs. Predator, The Avengers: Civil War).  It doesn’t even need to make any sense — it just sets up a challenge, a deeply human competition complete with a satifying mix of spectacle.  It compels us: we gotta know who wins.  I was reminded of this yesterday when I saw the announcement of the most recent Capcom-vs.-Marvel game, “Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite,” specially featuring characters from X-Men and Street Fighter (see below).   This spoke to me since I and producer Will Muegniot and my wife Julia and writer Michael Edens were part of the core creative teams on both of these animated series, nearly back-to-back.  Their worlds were so different that it never would have occurred to any of us to pit one set of characters against the other.  But that didn’t stop a more imaginative Capcom from creating a 20-year run of incredibly successful games.  Powers and fighting were an essential part of our stories on X-MEN:TAS and even more so on Streetfighter:TAS.  But the human side of the characters was even more important to us.  We could tell a good story with very little fighting, but we couldn’t tell a lasting story without the humanity.

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X-Men Show

GAMBIT: Man of Mystery

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.jpg       two gambits.jpg

CHRIS POTTER                                                                     CHANNING TATUM

behind-the-scenes, X-Men Show

COLOSSUS vs OMEGA RED — The Episode that Never Was

To quote Joe E. Brown from the movie Some Like it Hot: “Well, nobody’s perfect.”  We had a tight schedule and a tighter budget on X-MEN:TAS.  Some big animated series (at Disney, Warners, etc.) have the time and money to try all sorts of stories, develop them to script, see which ones everybody likes, then toss the ones they don’t.  We didn’t have that luxury.  The one-line ideas that were chosen were going to get made — we on the writing staff just had to make sure the 40-page scripts all came out well.  Well, 76 out of 77 did.  The one exception was a hard-edged episode set in rural Russia called “Bring Me Charles Xavier.”  Many note-givers raised concerns early, at the premise and outline stages, like they are supposed to.  But I liked the story and bull-headedly pushed it and the writer through to a couple of versions of the script — only to be told that no, many of my colleagues still didn’t like the story.   So, after many weeks of trying, it was gone.  I appologized to the writer, got him paid, and faced one of the heaviest repsonsibilities that the showrunner has in our corner of the business.  Production needed a 40-page script to keep their schedule, so I wrote a completely new one over the weekend.  Below are the would-be adversaries and the cast page from the abandoned script.  Too bad : looks like it could have been fun.

bring-me