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.
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.
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.
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.
The answer to yesterday’s quiz: The only love-of-his-life that romantic Wolverine ever married was Storm. That’s right, his fellow X-Man. But if you missed the first half of episode one of the two-parter”One Man’s Worth” you wouldn’t know. That’s because in this story Logan and Ororo were introduced in an alternate timeline, caused by a time-traveller who went back in time and assassinated Charles Xavier before he could form the X-Men, thus creating a choatic, dystopic, and very different world — but a world/history where Logan and Ororo were husband and wife. When Logan is offered a chance to travel back in time to save the X-Men’s world, to even allow them to exists, he at first turns the offer down. If he were to succeed in changing history, he realizes, he and his wife would no longer be together. He says he will condemn the whole world to keep Storm’s love. Hero that she is, Storm talks husband Wolverine into changing his mind and going (they’ll always have Paris?). Logan is talked by his beloved wife into making the noble, a-man’s-gotta-do-what-a-man’s-gotta-do sacrifice. One last kiss, and he’s gone…
HUSBAND AND WIFE LOGAN AND ORORO SAY GOODBYE
I don’t trust movie trailers. I’ve been tricked too many times by 90 seconds of images, cleverly cut together, that hide/sell a mediocre or bad movie. Telling a compelling 100-minute story is hard, and most fail. I just saw the trailer for the new Wolverine movie “Logan.” It had the great Johnny Cash singing “Hurt” under it. It showed a bruised, aging, weary Logan, struggling with personal loss. It looks like an intense, personal movie with only the minimum of required superhero action. It looks like a tough movie that I could love. I am hoping that this time my fears are unfounded. The word is that in 2017, in the 18th year of the X-Men movie franchise (2000-2017), this will be Hugh Jackman’s final performance as one of pop culture’s greatest characters. Logan meant a lot to us as we worked to build the stories for the 76 X-MEN:TAS episodes. He was so raw, so much the beating heart of the team, that we had to struggle not to over-use him. The movies could have screwed up Wolverine’s character . In large part thanks to Hugh Jackman, they got it right. (Few remember he wasn’t even the first choice for the role.) So I’m looking forward to next March when we get a chance to say goodbye to Jackman’s Logan. I’m hoping that he gets his farewell in a great movie.
I have been asked this question one way or another by TV executives for 30 years: “Why can’t you write younger?” I don’t know why. It could be that I believe in making action-adventure storytelling as believable as possible. (I happily wrote “younger” on Winnie-the-Pooh — I can do childlike and whimsical). But teens or little kids fighting city-destroying villains are less real. I also never bought the idea that young audiences need or prefer young heroes. If you were eight-years-old, who would you rather aspire to be: Batman or Robin? I always believe that a “younged down” version of a hero or team (for example “Young Indiana Jones”) tends to be a weaker, watered-down, more timid version of the original. Why do that? I understand making sure that the X-Men have a teen along — Jubilee or Kitty Pryde — for contrast and a different point of view among the team. But imagine if she were the oldest X-Man, that her colleagues were “extraordinary youngsters” like the original book envisioned. I truly believe that one reason the first book (’63-’70) failed was that the team was made up of secondary-school students, not adults. When the far more successful ’75 book was launched, everyone was an adult, led by a 75-year-old with claws. Adults have broken hearts, a sense of responsibility, regrets, long-time friends and enemies. They have love affairs. They have a sense of cities or countries or even planets at risk. Adolescents don’t tend to. (I know I didn’t.) Below are three of the youngest characters we wrote (Larry Houston designs for Mjnari, Jubilee, Longshot), and then a clever imagining of severely “younged down” mutant fighters. In one episode, Jubilee got to giggle and blush a little at Longshot’s attentions. It was a nice moment. In “One Man’s Worth,” Wolverine got to tell Storm (his wife in the future — few remember this) that he would damn the whole world to chaos and misery before he would give up their love. That is drama, and it’s adult.