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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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 heard there was a movie coming out today with the name of one of our X-MEN:TAS team in the title. And since there is only one Rogue, I can’t see how I could be mistaken. Let’s hope that “Rogue One” lives up to our hero’s name.