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 Meugniot, 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!
Congratulations on having been part of something highly acclaimed and fondly remembered, Mark.John
I don’t know what was better, the art, which is really nice to see. It does bring back memories. OR the very interesting story associated with it. This show was a lot of fun to watch and I am glad you were a big part of it.