the book, X-Men Show

Memorable 2018 SDCC

SDCC 2018 was a great X-MEN:TAS experience!  First, Julia and I were accompanied by six “Team X-Men” volunteers (some family members), all decked out in “Previously on X-Men” shirts and hats.  Amazing fun had by all.

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We had two panels.  The one celebrating producer/director LARRY HOUSTON’s career was topped off with the SDCC’s highest award for lifetime achievement, the INKWELL.  At the other panel, which celebrated 25 years of X-MEN: TAS, we received a standing ovation (our first) from the standing-room-only crowd.

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At a massive panel hosted by our friends at SCREEN JUNKIES, there was a “Battle,” a five-minute debate whose theme was: “What is the greatest animated series ever — X-MEN or Batman?”  It was close, but the thousand-plus crowd voted for X-MEN!

And finally, we and X-MEN:TAS writer Len Uhley were able to grab some table space beside guest-of-the-Con Larry Houston and sell some copies of “Previously on X-Men.”  Five days of fans, fun, and exhaustion that were truly memorable for us.

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behind-the-scenes, the book, Uncategorized, X-Men Show

X-MEN at SAN DIEGO!

We are pleased to announce that we will be at the San Diego Comic Con next week.  We will be at two panels.  First is SPOTLIGHT ON LARRY HOUSTON on Thursday morning at 11:00am in room 5AB.  I will be moderating this tribute to the animation artist who directed 65 of the X-MEN:TAS episodes and has art credits on 79 animated series!  After the panel Larry will be signing autographs at the Featured Guest area for an hour.  Then from 1:15 to 2:45 Thursday Julia and I will join him at his table (HH16) where we will have personally-signed books (PREVIOUSLY ON X-MEN), script pages, and Larry’s X-MEN model sheets.  Then on Sunday, at 3:00pm in room 7AB, we three will share the stage with writer LEN UHLEY in X-MEN:TAS CELEBRATES 25 YEARS.  After the panel we will join Larry at his table for an hour (4:00 – 5:00 at HH16) and, if there are any left, have books, script pages, and model sheets for signing.  Finally, please join us to celebrate the life of X-MEN legend and friend Len Wein, Thursday evening at 8:30 at room 4. 

(From top left, clockwise: LARRY HOUSTON, US, LEN WEIN, OUR BOOK, LEN UHLEY)

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the book, Uncategorized

Wonderful WonderCon

We’re back!  It’s been a while.  We’ve been getting the word out about the book.  WonderCon in Anaheim was nice enough to ask Julia and me to set up an X-MEN:TAS panel this past weekend.  They didn’t happen to mention that the hall would seat 1700 people!  Well, we found out that there is great love for the show: our panel was standing-room-only.  Producer-Director LARRY HOUSTON and writers LEN UHLEY and BOB SKIR joined us.  Afterward, there was three straight hours of book-signing at our table.  We’re not sure what other cons we can manage to attend (a load of 100 books weighs 210 lbs, so flying places may be tough).   But we’ll try.  We’re set at MomoCon in Atlanta in late May.  Writing can be solitary work, so meeting people who appreciate your efforts can be gratifying.

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WC - Eric, Len, Julia.jpg

Left to right:  niece Rev Wiederspahn, Julia, X-MEN:TAS writer Len Uhley, and me.

the book, X-Men Show

X-MEN:TAS Wrap Party 25 Years Later

Wednesday night, at the New Moon restaurant in Montrose, California, twenty of the people who worked on X-Men:TAS came together to celebrate the publication of “Previously on X-Men” 25 years after the series premiered.  Great fun was had by all.  Below are 15 of us.  Back Row, left-to-right: Bob Skir (writer), Scott Thomas (producer), Julia Lewald (writer), Stephanie Graziano (Graz Entertainment), Dave McDermott (writer), Margaret Loesch (Fox Children’s Network), Larry Houston (Producer/Director), Me, Marty Isenberg (writer), Jim Graziano (Graz Entertainment).  Front row: Len Uhley (writer), Dean Stefan (writer), Avery Cobern (Fox Children’s Network), Steve Melching (writer), Brooks Wachtel (writer).  All are interviewed in the book.

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behind-the-scenes

A Sad Day

In the nearly 15 months since we started this site, there has not been a sadder day.  Our dear friend Len Wein has died.

In the 55-year history of the X-Men, there is no more important name than Len Wein.  Without Len, there might not have been an X-MEN:TAS.  In 1975, he was entrusted with re-inventing a long-dormant, unsuccessful book.  Thinking ahead, he created a Canadian mutant named Wolverine for a Hulk comic on the hunch that Logan might fit in the new X-Men book.  Pretty good hunch.  He created an African mistress of the elements.  He created a haunted blue demon with an angel’s faith.

Len was a comics world superstar.  When I screwed up the courage to give him notes on his X-MEN:TAS scripts, set within a world he help build, he was always as gracious (and inventive) as he was professional.  In our weird business, Len was among the nicest people I ever met.  His long, thoughtful interview in our upcoming book was an amazing gift.

Julia and I will miss Len terribly.  Our hearts go out to his wife Christine.

ERIC

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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….

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the book, X-Men Show

X-MEN Team Celebrates Series Anniversary at COMIC FEST, San Diego

The celebrations have begun.

This past Friday, February 17th, marked the 25th anniversary of the green-lighting of X-MEN:TAS, which officially premiered 11 months later.  The wonderful folks at San Diego Comic Fest (including Comic Con co-founder Mike Towry) asked Julia and me and four other members of the X-MEN:TAS creative team to hold four panels.  Seated with us in the first picture below is producer-director Larry Houston.  Also featured were writers Len Uhley, Dave McDermott, and Steve Melching.  (Steve and Dave Join us in the panel shown below.).  As a nice complement to our presentations, the fest theme this year was a celebration of the 100th birthday of Jack Kirby, co-creator of the X-MEN comic and so very much more.  The audiences were friendly and, as is often the case, many among them knew our series better than we did.  We watched old episodes and discussed how they and the rest of the series managed to get made.  It was great fun for us and was a reminder of why we are writing the “Making of” book, now scheduled for publication this summer.  Once the book is ready, we hope to visit Cons around the country, perhaps one a month.  We hope to see you at yours.

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X-Men Show

Our First Con for 25th Anniversary

It has begun.  Our celebration of the 25th anniversary of X-MEN:TAS kicks off in nine days at COMICFEST in San Diego.  Mike Towry and his crew have been nice enough to set up FIVE panels that in some way honor our series.  Julia and I and Producer/Director Larry Houston (see photo) plan to attend ALL of the panels.  The specific guests and topics follow.
Temporary Schedule:

SATURDAY, FEB. 18
11:00am:  “X-Men, Lies, and Videotape” — writers Dave McDermott & Steve Melching
2:00pm:   “X-MEN:TAS – Creative Round Table” — ALL OF US
3:00pm:   “X-Men Mock Trial on Human Rights” — Legal Geeks & Some of Us

SUNDAY, FEB. 19
10:00am:  “Nightcrawler” — writer Len Uhley
3:00pm:    “Days of Future Past” — writer Julia Lewald

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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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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.

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