Prepare For The Fantastic! Chris Yost Talks Fantastic Four!
Chris Yost is no stranger to superheroes. Having previously worked on X-Men: Evolution, The Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and currently co-writing Marvel’s New X-Men comic, Chris now serves as Story Editor on the upcoming Fantastic Four cartoon, set to premiere this Saturday. Toon Zone News managed to pull Chris away from his comics for a few minutes to talk about his work on the show.
Toon Zone News: How did you come to work on Fantastic Four and what do your duties include?
Chris Yost: Fantastic Four was in development with Marvel and Moonscoop before I came onboard, but when they were looking for Story Editors, I was asked to give my take on an episode. They must have liked what I had to say, and next thing you know, there I was.
As Story Editor, I am responsible for the scripts, head to toe. From idea to premise to outline to final draft. I work with Executive Producer (and VP of Creative Development Animation for Marvel) Craig Kyle , as well as the crew over at Moonscoop to make sure the episodes work creatively, from a production standpoint, and of course that they’re on time. I also write episodes here and there, and work with the other writers we bring in to make sure every episode has the same overall feel, and the characters are all in…well, character.
TZN: Would you say that you’re drawing inspiration primarily from the seminal Lee-Kirby run on the comic, or have other creator’s runs been taken into consideration, such as John Byrne, Mark Waid or Walt Simonson’s work?
Yost: I’m a huge comic book fan, and there’s nothing in FF lore we didn’t look at when drumming up episodes for this series. There’s a good mix of Lee/Kirby, Byrne and Waid in there, but it’s more like elements from their great runs, all thrown together into a new bag.
And I desperately wanted to do the Doom/Reed time travel fight from Walt Simonson’s run, but it made my head blow up too much.
TZN: What appeals to you most in the characters themselves? What makes writing them so much fun (or so much hard work!)?
Yost: The characters’ humanity is the best thing about writing them, with their incredible powers a close, close second. The beauty of Marvel’s characters is that, in general, they are you and me. They are real people in the real world, but with super powers. Reed’s about to be dissected by aliens, but is fascinated by their culture. Susan is battling a 100 foot monster, but is worried more about her brother becoming a responsible adult. It’s the end of the world, and Ben is still trying to get the score of the game. And Johnny does everything in his power to avoid becoming a responsible adult.
Not that they’re blasé about what’s happening, but let’s face it – they’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff.
And after writing some pretty grim comic characters, like Wolverine and Batman, it’s been fun to write a lighter, more upbeat group. No one hates and fears them, and they don’t want to strike fear into anyone’s hearts. They just want to do some good.
TZN:Can we expect a season long arc in the series, or will each episode be mostly self-contained?
Yost: The episodes are self contained, each one can be understood and enjoyed by everyone. But! There are elements in the episodes that are introduced that will have an impact down the road in several occasions. It’s been fun to pepper in aspects of the Marvel Universe throughout, and you never know when one of them is going to cause trouble.
TZN: What’s your thought on adapting comics? Do you think it’s wise to bring stories from the comics to the small screen or do you prefer to tell original stories using the comic characters?
Yost: I can see the appeal in adapting comics, and I know that a lot of fans believe that certain comics can be adapted word for word onto the screen, but we really tried to bring the best elements from the comics and create something new out of it. This series isn’t the comic, it isn’t the movie – this is its own thing, which hopefully will introduce the characters we love and the spirit of the comics to a whole new generation of kids.
TZN: Without spoiling too much, what comic villains can we expect to see in the show, or do you plan on using original villains like the recent MTV Spider-Man series. Will the likes of Galactus, Dragon Man and The Inhumans be appearing on the show?
Yost: No original villains in the first season, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Marvel and the FF have a literal encyclopedia of villains and heroes, we just didn’t see the need at this point. I mean, really – FF vs Doom. Tough to top that. Thing vs. Hulk. The Kree, Ronan, the Supreme Intelligence, The Skrulls, Mole Man, Puppet Master…
There are some big villains that are coming down the road, big concepts and amazing locations that are going to be explored. And of course, heroes too.
TZN: An odd question, but what do you think of the fan reaction of the spray painted ‘4’ logo on The Thing’s chest?
Yost: They love it, right?
TZN: The press releases so far have suggested the show will be going for a more comedic, light tone. Do you prefer to go down the funny route or do you like your cartoons to be action packed?
Yost: It’s not Keystone Cops slapstick, and trust me – some heavy, heavy stuff happens in the series. But overall, it’s just fun. It’s an adventure, in the truest sense of the word. But yes, there’s a lot of comedy to be had with all four characters, and some of the situations they find themselves in are pretty funny. But then you’ve got Doom. Doom does not have a sense of humor, cretins!
TZN: Both The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man have been confirmed as guest stars so far? Do you consider Fantastic Four to be start of a Marvel animated universe or do you think each character should exist in their own world?
Yost: I always think of the Marvel Universe as a shared entity. But different shows show that universe in a different way. We try not to do anything that’s distracting or confusing to the story we’re trying to tell, but I love the idea of the FF living in the same city as other Marvel heroes. I love the idea that the Hulk is out there, somewhere and that the FF can run into him.
Is this the start? I hope so, but time will tell.
Yost: Nope! We made some choices that have similarities to the movies and the comics, but this is its own thing. No doubt the movies and comics will try to be more like us. Ha, ha. Joke.
TZN: Have you seen any of the previous animated Fantastic Four shows, and what did you like or dislike about them?
Yost: Ages ago. The last series ended in 1996, and I’m afraid I missed out on it. I saw the one with HERBIE, of course, way back in the day, but my big thing was Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. I still have a thing for Firestar.
TZN: What would you say are the relative advantages and disadvantages of making a comic book-based animated production for TV in today’s environment, considering that both Marvel and DC are looking increasingly toward animated Direct To DVD productions?
Yost: I love series television. I always want to know what’s next. And preferably, I’ll find out next week. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Direct to DVD movies – Ultimate Avengers ruled, and I can’t wait to see Dr. Strange personally, but I’m greedy when it comes to this stuff. I want a LOT of it. I’ll take 26 half hours, heck even 13 half hours vs. one movie any day of the week. Actually, I want both. Series AND movies. Movies of the series. Series spin offs from the movies. Anything.
I can’t get enough of it!
The Fantastic Four is set to premiere this Saturday on Toonami.
Toon Zone News would like to thank Chris Yost for taking the time to talk to us. Cheers Chris! Also, big thanks to Josh Fine!