The book is NEARLY DONE! Our publisher will get the manuscript from me in a couple of weeks, editing will begin, and we plan to have it out this summer. Please let me know what you think of Will Meugniot’s first mock-up of a design for the cover (below). I’m sure it will evolve. One last favor: I have a chapter called “Testimonials,” where fans write, in about a page or so (no set length), about what watching X-MEN:TAS meant to them. There is still room for a few more in the book, but I will need them quickly. (You can send them as document files to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d really appreciate it.) When the book comes out, it will be available on Amazon and at bookstores. But it you buy it from the publisher directly (Jacobsbrownmediagroup.com), or from my table at a Con, you will be sure to get an autographed copy. Also, I am assured that the publisher’s website will be set up to accept pre-sale orders (not sure when yet) before the actual date of publication.
Happy New Year! 2017 is the 25th anniversary of the premiere preview of X-MEN:TAS (10/31/92). It’s going to be quite a year. In February we’re going to be at San Diego Comic Fest with three other X-MEN:TAS writers and Series Producer Larry Houston. If you can, swing by and say hello. We’re going to have 4 or 5 panels about the series on Saturday and Sunday. We should also have more news about THE BOOK — our history of the series. Publishing is currently set for this summer, so we’re going to be incredibly busy trying to finish it up. As a fun remembrance, I thought I’d put up a storyboard page from 1989’s “Pryde of the X-MEN” (courtesy of X-MEN:TAS leader Will Meugniot). So many of the people that got our series on the air and made it as good as it was worked on this one-off attempt at getting the X-Men right for TV. It didn’t succeed, but without it, we very well might not have had the opportunity to do our version of X-MEN:TAS.
We started this site in July, so this is our first holiday season. Our family always takes a holiday picture. This year we celebrate X-MEN, a larger family that has given us so much over the years. You can see in the photo that the extended Lewald family are all fans, espcially our niece, who is helping us on the X-MEN:TAS book. Please forgive the infrequent posts this month: there is always more to do over the holidays than you plan for. Best wishes from the xmentas.com crew, and here’s to an X-ceptional 2017. Eric & Julia.
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.
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.
When Mark Edens wrote the pilot script for me for X-MEN:TAS, there was an X-Man in it that never ended up apprearing on screen as an X-Man. It was the Native American John Proudstar, known as Thunderbird. When the X-Men books were re-started in 1975 (after their suspension in 1970), Len Wein and Dave Cockrum were given the job of coming up with a new team that was far more diverse and international. Fans got a German (Nightcrawler), a Russian (Colossus), a Canadian (Wolverine) and a Native American. In writing stories, they soon learned that they had a problem. To quote Cockrum: “We created Thunderbird as an obnoxious loudmouth, and we already had an obnoxious loudmouth in Wolverine. So one of us decided to kill him off.” Which is why we X-Men newbies (Mark, me, Micahel Edens) decided to use Thunderbird as the character we were going to kill off in our opening story (we were trying to stay true to the spirit of the books). Atop our todo list during the first week was: “Kill off Thunderbird.” Well, somebody somewhere noticed that the only X-Man that we were planning to kill was Native American. Sorry: we don’t care if they killed him in the comics, we can’t do it on Saturday morning TV. Fine. So I dug around and found another character who had died, sacrificing himself for the X-Men: Changeling. Only we couldn’t use the name (long story). So the lone sacrificial X-Man became “Morph.” The rest is history. By the way, to show you how much Thunderbird was in everyone’s mind early on, take a look at an image from the opening credits, on the “opponents” side. There is John Proudstar, next to Juggernaut, angry as ever.
When I mentioned yesterday how we had written out four team members from X-MEN:TAS and written in four new ones in what was to have been the series finale, I thought it would be just a fun note to fans. Then last night Julia told me: “People are guessing on Twitter. You have to tell!” Okay, fine. I was going to just wait and let folks read the retelling of the 10-page, 4-episode discarded premise in our “Making of X-MEN:TAS” book next year. But she’s right: I brought it up, I need to answer the question right away. First, who was to go. Jean and Scott, who we’d tried to marry off and get pregnant as early as episode 14 were now married and leaving to start a family. Makes sense. Xavier was leaving, in this case to take on a new set of much younger mutants (the at-the-time new “Generation X”). This is kind of like Vince Lombardi winning a couple of Super Bowls and deciding to go back to coaching highschool football, but there you are. Finally Storm decided that she too had other responsibilities. Bam. After an 88-minute, time-torturing, mega-villain-filled story, the X-Men are four folks short. Well, in our original story, we made Psylocke a major player, and she ended up asking to stay around (fitting in with some of the recent books). Same with Archangel. The two larger surprises were Bishop and Shard. The hard-fighting brother and sister from the future had become stranded in the present time (1996?). Since they too had proven themselves, the X-Men welcomed them. So there you have it — four out, four in. I have no idea how the delicate balance of our core team would have been affected. Making the new team work as well would have been a huge challenge. I’d like to think that if asked we could have risen to it.