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.
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.
Yes, there’s going to be a book! We’ve resisted for two decades telling the story of how X-MEN:TAS struggled to get made and survive on the air. The 25th Anniversary of our premiere on Fox Kids Television is coming soon (October 31, 2017), and it’s time to get it done. Thanks to the continuing interest of fans everywhere, when we proposed a “Making of…” book about X-MEN:TAS we received a number of offers from interested publishers. So I checked them out to see which one might do the best job helping us tell the X-MEN:TAS history. Julia and I often make references to our fan-obsession with the original Star Trek series (1966-68), now referred to as Star Trek: TOS. Well, the most impressive behind-the-scenes Trek history I could find was the recent 2000-page trilogy (no kidding) “These Are the Voyages” (see Volume One below) by Marc Cushman. (And no, you aren’t getting 2000 pages from me — the man is a detail maniac.) The publishing company is called Jacobs/Brown, and I liked them immediately because they get the joy and magic of popular culture, they’re great folks, and they’re local (to us, anyway). So if getting a paragraph a day on this blog has been frustrating, your wait is almost over. Well, about year away (there’s a lot to write). I’ve already interviewed 30 cast members, artists, and crew, and have just a handful left to go. You won’t be surprised to discover that for many of them, X-MEN:TAS was the highlight of their long careers. They loved doing it as much as you loved watching it. We’ll keep you updated as the book progresses. Best, ERIC.
They came close. The nice folks at Screen Junkies (see PR photo below, then with us at their party at Comic-Con) were the first people to give our website a shoutout. They took the time to talk with us back on the 31st of May when we were just starting our Twitter feed and building this site. When we spoke with them for an hour, they seemed to know as much about X-MEN:TAS as we did, maybe more. They made us feel welcome, and the hour flew by. It seemed like we could have had fun talking for four hours more. It was clear that they love X-Men: The Animated Series. Well, tonight their outstanding HONEST TRAILERS series was up for an Emmy award. We helped nominate it and voted for it. Sadly, it didn’t win. But people need to understand how hard it is just to get a nomination. It means you had to have produced one of the five best of your kind of program that year in either all of television or, in their case, the entire web. Not too shabby. The fact that they should have won does not diminish their accomplishment. This will surely be their first nomination of many.
Today we honor an exalted predecessor to X-MEN:TAS. Fifty years ago yesterday, on September 8th, 1966, the first episode of Star Trek: TOS (“The Original Series”) premiered. I know because I saw it. I still remember my 11-year-old reaction to the “salt monster” episode: “What the hell is this?!” I’d never seen a TV show like it. I was hooked. The next day our family moved 1,000 miles to a new home in Tennessee, where we didn’t get good reception (!) on the network that aired Trek, so I had to catch up on the show when it aired in syndication, Monday-through-Friday at super time. I memorized the 79 episodes. Primary X-MEN:TAS writers Mark and Michael Edens and my wife Julia were only a few of the Trek fans that gratefully acknowledge the impact that a trail-blazing TV series had on their lives. If someone were to look closely, the influences on our storytelling would be easy to find. TOS didn’t have the time or money or technology to look as slick and convincing as later, follow-up series or movies, but that didn’t restrain their ambition. They made up for their production limitations with memorable characters and emotionally compelling stories. We tried to get close to that on the similarly modestly-budgeted X-MEN:TAS. Our 25th anniversary is coming up in a little over a year (October 31, 2017). Here’s hoping that viewers are still in enjoying our show when it turns fifty.
A couple of you have asked to know more about the two of us that are maintaining this blog and the Twitter feed at @xmentas (yes, please follow us there). Well, Julia mostly handles the tweeting and I mostly handle the blogging. She came to Hollywood from Wisconsin via Texas, and I came here from Minnesota through Tennessee. We are both grateful to have been able to raise a family by writing for television. Below please see a couple of collages crafted by our niece Rev that display some of the series we have worked on over the years. Many are the same (it’s nice to be able to take work together while being married), but some we did on our own. The number and variety give you an indication of how we were each able to get by out here in this demanding business: be ready to work on whatever comes your way. The one thing we can agree on is that X-MEN:TAS was the single greatest opportunity in both of our careers. Thanks for making it last.
When Fox Kids TV, upstart also-ran among TV networks, committed to the initial 13-episode series of X-MEN:TAS in February, 1992, most people in the business doubted it would succeed. In 26 years of trying, in eleven attempts, no Marvel-Comics-based show really had. No Marvel movies had. New Fox Kids president Margaret Loesch believed that the X-Men would make great TV. The people she had to report to — senior executives, advertisers, TV station owners — didn’t. She put her job on the line to get the show made. It just goes to show what “people know” in the business of popular culture. Not only did X-MEN:TAS become the number one kids show on TV, it pulled number four-out-of-four network Fox Kids to number one in a matter of months. The amazing animated Batman series helped eventually, as did The Tick and Spider-Man and Power Rangers. But it was the premiere season of X-MEN:TAS that rocketed Fox from last to first. Have a look at the Los Angeles Times annual report on kids TV for the ’94/’95 season (our third season). Ten out of ten Fox shows. If you’d seen this report three years earlier, only Fox’s The Simpsons would have been listed, with NBC, CBS, and ABC holding the other nine spots. Every Saturday Morning series on the list had been put there by Margaret Loesch (and supervised by her crazed right-hand-man, Sidney Iwanter). Thanks to Margaret and Sidney, I was able to help on the development and pilot script of Ben Edlund’s peerless The Tick, and Julia was hired to adapt Robert Heinlein’s Red Planet. It was a great time to be working in kids’ TV, and Margaret Loesch made it all possible.