Tag Archives: X-Men

X‑Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series

Most vis­i­tors here know that my first job in ani­ma­tion was on X‑Men: the Ani­mat­ed Series. I’ve not exact­ly kept that a secret. I learned a lot on that show, not only from my boss Lar­ry Hous­ton, but also from my co-work­ers. When I start­ed, I knew only the basics about how ani­ma­tion was done. I knew more about comics. But that kind of knowl­edge was def­i­nite­ly help­ful on this show.

Some­thing else I’ve learned, as time has passed, is that there are a lot of peo­ple who real­ly loved the show. A lot. When you have co-work­ers who dis­cov­er you worked on it tell you, “Oh, I loved that show! it was my favorite as a kid!”, there are mixed feel­ings. But seri­ous­ly, it’s good to find out that you’ve con­tributed to some­thing that peo­ple have loved that much.

And, to my sur­prise, the love is appar­ent­ly so much that X‑Men Sto­ry Edi­tors the Lewalds were con­tact­ed by Abrams Books, and asked to do a book on the art of the show! Which is now avail­able on Ama­zon.

Of course at first, they attempt­ed to see if any­one knew where the orig­i­nals were. But after all this time, who knows which box in which stor­age facil­i­ty that stuff might live in, for a stu­dio that no longer exists?

So that meant reach­ing out to all us artists who worked on the show, to see what we might still have after all these years. And per­son­al­ly, X‑Men being my first job in ani­ma­tion, and com­ic-relat­ed, I made and kept copies of pret­ty much every­thing I did for the show. So I had a lot. And so did oth­ers. With­out that, this book prob­a­bly would have had very few pictures.

By way of cel­e­brat­ing, I thought I’d share some pieces that very few out­side the stu­dio have ever seen (I’m not sure whether these are in the book or not). Lat­er in the show’s run, after Lar­ry had moved on to oth­er projects for Mar­vel, his for­mer assis­tant on the show, Frank Squil­lace, end­ed up in the Producer/Director chair. At this point, I was begin­ning to do more design on the show, not just char­ac­ter mod­el clean-up, as design­er Frank Brun­ner became more involved in oth­er projects for the studio.

My rec­ol­lec­tion of this is a bit fuzzy now, but I believe it was Frank S. who ini­tial­ly sug­gest­ed we re-design the show. The look of the show had been orig­i­nal­ly based on Jim Lee’s art in the com­ic, and by this time, Lee had long since left Mar­vel to become one of Image Comics’ founders. At this point in the comics, the look of X‑Men was informed by the art of Joe Madureira. Madureira’s work was more ani­mé- or gam­ing-influ­enced. So not only was it the cur­rent X‑Men look, it also seemed like going this route with the show would be more animation-friendly.

With Madureira’s work in mind, Frank S. and I col­lab­o­rat­ed on some re-designs of the char­ac­ters, as well as gen­er­at­ing some who had­n’t appeared in the show before (at least offi­cial­ly). We felt like we were on to some­thing here. In fact, as oth­ers at the stu­dio found out about what we were try­ing to do, they were excit­ed. Will Mueg­niot, who had a big hand in launch­ing the show orig­i­nal­ly in the first place, told us one day that he loved the idea too. He gave us his bless­ing, and said he was ful­ly on-board with it.

Obvi­ous­ly it did it not end up hap­pen­ing, or you would have seen these. When you work in ani­ma­tion (or enter­tain­ment in gen­er­al) for any length of time, you dis­cov­er that behind the scenes, there are always things like this that would have been cool, but did­n’t end up hap­pen­ing for one rea­son or anoth­er. So this is a fun “might have been.”

I hope peo­ple enjoy the book, and thanks to the Lewalds for reach­ing out and invit­ing me to contribute!

Don’t Try to Con Me!”

Hm. How to explain this? It’s a par­o­dy of the cov­er of X‑Men #4, obvi­ous­ly (with all apolo­gies to Jack Kir­by!). Yes, it’s pret­ty sil­ly stuff. And there’s a rea­son I did it.

Back before I start­ed my ani­ma­tion career, I kin­da thought I was going to make comics my life’s work. I had just fin­ished get­ting as much train­ing at Art Cen­ter as I could afford on my own dime, and set about launch­ing my comics career in earnest. I hon­est­ly don’t remem­ber now exact­ly how we end­ed up cross­ing paths, but I was in con­tact with Don Chin, who was at that time pub­lish­ing comics under the names Par­o­dy Press and Enti­ty Comics. His inde­pen­dent titles were actu­al­ly doing pret­ty decent num­bers. I was­n’t going to get rich doing this work, but every career has to start some­where, right?

As you’d expect from the name, Par­o­dy Press was all about lam­poon­ing exist­ing comics. One of the projects I agreed to do for Don was a par­o­dy of the X‑Men, called X‑Cons. The book had sto­ries from sev­er­al peri­ods in the his­to­ry of the char­ac­ters. I pen­ciled the open­ing chap­ter, fea­tur­ing the debut of the Sil­ver Age ver­sion of the team: Pro­fes­sor Ex, Dum­b­kophs, Beast­ie Boy, the Anglo, Sno-Cone and Jean­nie Okay (AKA Mar­velous Girl).

I did oth­er projects for Don too, but over time the mar­ket for these books began to dry up, until some projects I’d worked on did­n’t even get enough orders to go to press. At that point, I thought maybe I need­ed some­thing that might pay a bit stead­ier, so I put some feel­ers out and wound up get­ting into ani­ma­tion. Fun­ny to think about it now, in this con­text, but my very first job in ani­ma­tion? Char­ac­ter mod­el cleanup on X‑Men: the Ani­mat­ed Series.

Fast-for­ward to recent­ly: Don got back in touch. He told me he wants to do a reprint of the X‑Cons book, with addi­tion­al mate­r­i­al and in col­or this time. He was curi­ous if I might be game to con­tribute some­thing, per­haps a vari­ant cov­er. It hap­pened to be good tim­ing. We talked about it, and you see the result here. Sil­ly, but fun. I did two ver­sions: reg­u­lar, and extra-crispy!

When Don gets his cam­paign up and run­ning for those inter­est­ed in this book, I’ll update and post a link here.

Black Panther’s First Cartoon Appearance?

Like a lot of peo­ple, I’m look­ing for­ward to the release of Black Pan­ther, the lat­est Mar­vel movie this Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 16th. This last week­end, I had an email from my first boss when I start­ed work­ing in ani­ma­tion, Lar­ry Hous­ton (whom I also con­sid­er a friend). Lar­ry was the producer/director of the orig­i­nal X‑Men: the Ani­mat­ed Series (as it seems to have become known now). I did char­ac­ter mod­el clean-up on the series, and a fair amount of char­ac­ter design too, along the way.

Lar­ry point­ed my atten­tion to a video on YouTube some­one had assem­bled, of Black Pan­ther’s var­i­ous ani­mat­ed appear­ances. Right up front was his cameo appear­ance on an episode of X‑Men.

That sparked a mem­o­ry. I went back to look, and sure enough: I’d had the priv­i­lege of being the one who got to draw the mod­el for that appear­ance, which I’ve post­ed here! If I’m not mis­tak­en, I think it might well be Black Pan­ther’s first ever appear­ance in a cartoon.

I can’t take cred­it for the idea of putting T’Chal­la in there. It was Lar­ry’s idea. Lar­ry felt very strong­ly (as did the rest of us on the show) that, tak­ing place in the Mar­vel uni­verse, we would like­ly see oth­er Mar­vel char­ac­ters from time to time. Because that was always kind of a Mar­vel Comics trade­mark! Occa­sion­al­ly the pow­ers-that-were got a lit­tle anx­ious over who might hold the rights to var­i­ous char­ac­ters, so some­times things got labeled a lit­tle… dif­fer­ent­ly. In this case, the script we were work­ing on at the time required we show some African mutant refugees, and we felt this was as good a time as any to give T’Chal­la a cameo. Hence, “African Mutant Refugee #3.”

With­in the con­fines of the style of our show, I tried to get some hints of Kir­by in there. Because, why not?

Update – Feb­ru­ary 28, 2018: It’s fun­ny how things work. Aaron Couch, Heat Vision Edi­tor for The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, did an inter­view with Lar­ry Hous­ton about Black Pan­ther and the X‑Men car­toon. Lar­ry point­ed him here to my site, and Aaron want­ed to ask me a ques­tion or two also. The end result wound up part of this arti­cle. Thanks again for your inter­est, Aaron!

X” Marks the Spot

I think I’ve men­tioned this here before, but my first job in ani­ma­tion was work­ing on X‑Men: The Ani­mat­ed Series. And recent­ly (due to inter­est expressed by some of my cur­rent col­leagues at work), I’ve had occa­sion to dig out the box con­tain­ing my copies of some of the work I kept from that series. This led to my re-encoun­ter­ing a sto­ry­board sequence I’ve always thought of as “Wolver­ine down in the Sub­way.” I thought per­haps it (and the sto­ry behind it) might be of interest.

My boss on X‑Men was Producer/Director Lar­ry Hous­ton. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bet­ter first boss in ani­ma­tion to teach you the ropes. Lar­ry and Will Meugniot co-direct­ed the first sea­son, but by the time I was hired at the start of the sec­ond sea­son, Lar­ry was the one still run­ning with the baton. If you liked the series, Lar­ry deserves a siz­able por­tion of the cred­it for that. He was a big time comics fan him­self, and was com­mit­ted to doing the absolute best job he could with the time and resources that he’d been given.

To get back to this sto­ry­board sequence, this was part of an episode in which Pro­fes­sor Xavier suf­fered some kind of psy­chic schism, and a sort of dark ver­sion of his psy­che broke loose and was run­ning free, cre­at­ing prob­lems for the X‑Men. It’s long enough ago now, I for­get some of the specifics. Lar­ry found he need­ed a sort of addi­tion­al bridg­ing sequence that was­n’t called for in the script, so he set about to cre­ate it him­self, sto­ry­board­ing it on the fly. It start­ed off with Wolver­ine down in the sub­way, unknow­ing­ly encoun­ter­ing this dark ver­sion of Prof. X. As Lar­ry board­ed the sequence, it kind of grew and took on a life of its own. He could­n’t stop!

When he final­ly fin­ished, Lar­ry asked me to do the cleanup over his pen­ciled board. The art­work was very clear, but in com­ic art terms he had what might be con­sid­ered break­downs, and I was being asked to embell­ish them. Fun! And that’s the board sequence I’ve post­ed here. “Wolver­ine down in the Sub­way.” Except for the next-to-last page (122, inked by Frank Squil­lace, because we were com­ing up against the dead­line), it’s all my embell­ish­ment over Lar­ry’s board­ing. We were all pret­ty hap­py with how the final board here came out!