Chris Yost: Farewell, Fantastic Four
To celebrate the release of Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes on DVD, The Marvel Animation Age and Toon Zone News managed to catch up with the show’s story editor Chris Yost in an email interview to talk about his experiences on the show.
MAA/TZN: How did you get your start in the animation business?
CHRIS YOST: I had written a couple of screenplays while in graduate school, and was lucky enough to be able to get them in the hands of the right people, specifically Craig Kyle at Marvel. He read them, and I can only assume liked them – he asked me to work on an episode of X-Men: Evolution with him. From there, I worked on a few more episodes of Evolution, then went on to The Batman, TMNT, and then to Fantastic Four.
MAA/TZN: What made you take the show in a more comedic route rather than a straight up action show? What was your overall aim with Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes?
YOST: Fantastic Four (the comic) isn’t a straight up action comic. It’s always been a bit lighter in tone than X-Men or Avengers, especially Mark Waid’s recent run. Even Walt Simonson’s run was pretty fun. And while we obviously went full out comedy, we do have some pretty big end of the world type action in there.
The show was sold as an adventure/comedy. They heard somewhere that kids like to laugh. And as the show progressed, we really felt the most successful scripts leaned to the more comedic, like the Skrull episodes. So by the end we just went for it.
Our intention was to always tell good stories that focused on the characters, and hopefully we achieved that in a fun way. I personally aimed to have Reed personally save the world at least three times, which I accomplished.
MAA/TZN: There was very little romance between Reed and Sue in the show. Was this something you would’ve liked to have done but weren’t able to, or did it never really concern you?
YOST: It never really concerned me. The only reason we considered it was to get Franklin in there, but to have him be any use he’d have to be older, and then Reed and Sue and Johnny become that much older. The thought was that young Reed and Sue were more fun to watch than Parental Reed and Sue.
And we still got some of that tension with Namor, if you look hard enough.
MAA/TZN: There were obvious influences from the movie in the show. Was this something you would’ve done were it entirely up to you?
YOST: It wasn’t conscious, but sure I would have. Hopefully people who were introduced to the FF via the movie could go to the show and see what they liked so much about the movie. But we were able to do so much more with the series, just given the medium.
MAA/TZN: A lot of the show’s better episodes have featured the Skrulls. What was the inspiration to make them a comedic race of intergalactic dumb asses instead of blood-thirsty, planet-conquering little green men?
YOST: They still wanted to conquer the planet! Craig Kyle was the main force in this particular rendition of the Skrulls, and he was right. In the comics today, like Secret Invasion, the Skrulls are are serious, scary force to be reckoned with. But this was funner. Can you imagine what the Kree-Skrull War would look like?
MAA/TZN: Dr. Doom is a tricky character, because his comic book version is vastly more complicated than most villains. How did you approach his characterization for the show and how well do you think you did with the character?
YOST: The classic take, probably a bit more over the top. I love Doom. Doom is THE Marvel villain. I love him. But given the nature of the show, and the connection to the movie, we didn’t get into the full on psychology of Doom. It was just a bit too heavy for the tone we were trying to establish. Doom wants Richards to suffer. His hate just grows and grows and grows. So we focused more on his quest for power.
Obviously Doom, like Magneto, has a vocal fan base. We tried to make him as Doom as we could. But as everyone who knows Doom knows, Doom does not compromise.
MAA/TZN: The show has had various guest spots so far. If given the choice, which would you like to spin off into their own show?
YOST: Elders of the Universe. And Ant-Man. Not necessarily together.
MAA/TZN: On a similar fanboy question (apologies), do you see Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes as the start of a new Marvel animated universe or should each show be kept separate in your opinion?
YOST: No, I don’t think it was the right time. Unlike the upcoming Marvel Studios feature films, the cartoons have more than one master which makes it a little trickier. As a fan, it’s neat to see that kind of continuity and crossover, and trust me – I am a fan. But it can be daunting for casual viewers.
MAA/TZN: Are there any character in the show that you struggled to get a grasp with initially or any stories that were just too hard to get onto the screen?
YOST: Galactus. There’s nothing really funny about him, and funny was our mandate. So… Terminus, which I greatly enjoyed.
MAA/TZN: How has Broadcast Standards and Practices affected the show? Anything you struggled to get past the censors?
YOST: Not at script stage. After that, I really don’t know. But I didn’t see anything massively changed from script for BS&P-y reasons.
MAA/TZN: The show featured a few arcs over certain episodes, but never really had a central arc or event to build up to. What’s your take on season long arcs, and was there any particular reason Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes didn’t have one?
YOST: The networks at the time really felt like each episode should be self-contained, without any huge continuing storylines. I can see both sides of that argument.
MAA/TZN: You’re also serving as the story editor for the upcoming Iron Man: Armoured Adventures show. What can we expect from the Golden Avenger this time around?
YOST: I’m really excited about Iron Man: Armoured Adventures. The scripts turned out great. Dramatic, fun, action packed… and with ongoing storylines. And the animation I’ve seen looks amazing. Young Tony has a full plate ahead of him. And villains galore.
MAA/TZN: Looking back now, is there anything you would’ve liked to have included in the show but never got a chance to? What would you have done with the show in season two if given the opportunity?
YOST: We accomplished quite a bit, if you break it down. Doom, Mole Man, Ronan, Kree, Supreme Intelligence, Sentries, Negative Zone, Annihilus, Frightful Four, Namor, Puppet Master, Hulk, Ant-Man, Frankie Raye, Skrulls, Super-Skrull, Atlantis, Attuma, Giganto, Impossible Man, Grandmaster, Diablo, the Baxter Building getting shot into space, She-Hulk, Lava Men, Squirrel Girl (!), Super-Adaptoid, Iron Man and Terminus.
Not bad, really. If there’s ever another season, I’d like to see the Inhumans. Kree-Skrull War. Magic Doom. More guest stars, and hopefully a way to do the Silver Surfer and Galactus.
MAA/TZN: How would you have ended the show if you’d have known you were going to write the last episode?
YOST: Well, I knew there was always a chance that episode 26 could be the last one, so I wrote it as such. It was big time end of the world stuff, and really carried through the themes of the FF as a team, and as a family. And of course, I focused on Reed. He’s the anchor that holds the team – and FAMILY – together.
MAA/TZN: What’s your overall opinion on Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes? What was the experience like for you?
YOST: It was a great experience, and I’d happily do another 26. Moonscoop and Marvel were phenomenal to work with and the designs, animation and support I received was amazing. And hey, it’s the Fantastic Four. The FF are great enduring characters that are fun, heroic, with amazing powers and almost 50 years of amazing adventures and stories to tell. What’s not to love? (Unless you really, really, really, REALLY focus on on-screen punching.)
The Marvel Animation Age and Toon Zone News would like to thank Mr. Yost for taking the time to talk to us, and for his stellar work on the show. Cheers Chris!