MARVEL ON TV BEFORE X-MEN:TAS

From 1966 through 1992, there were eleven attempts to bring Marvel characters to TV animation and no movies.  That’s hard to imagine today in 2017.  You can find videos of the early attempts on Youtube; you’ll be surprised how different that world was. Hollywood just didn’t get the spirit of the comics.  Perhaps that is why it was so difficult (nearly 10 years trying) for Margaret Loesch to get our version of a Marvel title on the air and why there was deep suspicion felt by TV stations and advertisers about X-MEN:TAS until the day our series  proved itself.

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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.

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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.

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CHRIS POTTER                                                                     CHANNING TATUM

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.

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X-MEN TOGETHER, NOT APART

Last night on a podcast, some nice folks from upstate New York asked us all sorts of questions about X-MEN:TAS.  I had answers to most of them, but one eluded me.  “Is there an X-Man you hope to see in a solo film one day?”  After serious thought, I responded: “No.  I always think of them together.”  That’s weird, but it’s true.  I can enjoy The Avengers in individual movies — Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, etc. — because their stories started with them as individuals.  Joss Whedon’s masterful job in the first movie at getting them to work together for a few hours was just that — an effort.  They aren’t a natural team (which is half of the fun watching them try to be).  They aren’t a family.  Does Thor care how Tony Stark’s day is going?  The X-Men came into being as a group.  They live and work together.  In looking back at the team we chose, I believe that losing just a couple of them could have really hurt the stories.  I know and enjoy them in relation to each other.  I believe that’s why they have lasted, off and on, for over 50 years.  So even though I look forward to the “Logan” movie (great trailer), half of the pleasure in that movie will be seeing him interact with Charles Xavier.  They have 35 years of books and 76 episodes-plus of TV history together.  They “grew up” toegether.  That’s why I didn’t have an answer for Tom & Kimber’s podcast.  I just don’t think of the X-Men apart — which to me means they have achieved something special.

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WE CHEATED: Making Connections in the Savage Land

The first season of X-MEN:TAS we got away with something rarely seen in American animated television: we showed a continuing story set over 13 episodes.  For us to be allowed to do this was a tough fight since every business interest invovled worried that delays unique to animation could make us miss our planned air dates.  In the end they were right, and our connected storytelling cost them a lot of money.  They made much more when the series became a hit, of course, but the damage had been done: no more connected stories.  Occasional multi-parters might be okay (we pushed that hard), but episodes must STAND ALONE.  Well, we cheated.  We gave the network a two-part episode, then nine “stand alone” episodes, then a two-parter.  The trick was that the final two-parter resolved a problem (Xavier and Magneto kidnaped together) that we had set up in the opening story, and the nine episodes in-between all “touched base” with the kidnaped characters.  So to our audience, it felt like a continuing story.  This continuing background “B story” seemed to knit it all together.  I’m not sure what would have happened if the middle episodes had been shown out-of-order.  Our theory was that they would still make sense that way.  Perhaps we one day will make an experiment — starting with eps. 14/15 (“Till Death Do Us Part”), then mixing up episodes 16-24 at random, then concluding with the planned season finale of 25/26 (“Reunion”).  Or maybe some fans could make a weekend of it and let us know the results.  In any case, apologies to our network for bending the rules.  But we like the results.

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Change the Team?!

There’s a little known fact: we were going to change the X-MEN:TAS team.  We had written the script where four members left and four new ones came on.  It seems hard to imagine now.  One of the strengths of the series is that we had found an excellent balance of diverse characters.  How would we write stories without four of our team, mixing in four new-comers?  The trick is that we were not planning to.  Fox Network had decided to end the series at 65 episodes with a big story that concluded with four members leaving and four, who had proved themselves within the story, replacing them.  The big four-part story was “Beyond Good and Evil,” and we had finished the four scripts — story laid out by Mark Edens and Michael Edens — with heartfelt farewells included.  Then word came down that Fox didn’t want to end the series after all.  They wanted another season (season five).  Oops.  Now I had to go back into “B. G. & E.” and take out all of the story bits that lead to four characters leaving and four new ones stepping in.  Not pleasant.  What was a really well-constructed 88-minute story now needed to be patched together to be something different.  Fast.  Oh, well.  Below are our original ten X-Men (including Morph), plus some guest stars.  See if you can guess which four of our ten was set to leave and who would have replaced them.  Two of the replacements are among those shown below.

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WHO LEFT AND WHO REPLACED THEM?