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WonderCon 2011 – Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Iron Man Anime Panel Report

by on April 4, 2011

It’s Saturday, April 2 at The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Iron Man Anime Panel. “There are S.H.I.E.L.D. agents… that are posted throughout this place,” said Jeph Loeb. “You can see them, they’re wearing blue suits. Believe or not, these guys have night vision goggles on—I am not making this up. If you are recording while we’re showing stuff up there, they will remove you and remove your recording device.” The S.H.I.E.L.D. agents were really just security guards, but Loeb was taking no chances after videos screened at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo had shown up on the Internet. No one was removed.

Having greeted the crowd with huckster patter (“Is everybody having a good time here?” “Do you people know how to party?!”), the veteran comics writer, finishing up his first year as Marvel’s Head of Television, gave a preview of the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series, to air in 2012. “It really is the first time that Marvel has been able to produce its own Spider-Man show,” said Loeb. “Even the shows all the way up to Spectacular Spider-Man—which I know there’s a lot of fans of—those shows were not made by Marvel. They were shows that were made by licensing [Spider-Man] out to other companies, so it’s really their interpretation of what Marvel is.”

This was part of a larger trend of Marvel taking greater creative control of films and shows created for its characters. Marvel may have prized the X-Men and Spider-Man movies, but “Iron Man feels like a Marvel movie,” noted Loeb. He then added that previous Marvel-derived films weren’t necessarily bad (coughing to make an exception for Daredevil).

To “put together the best damn writing staff that we could” for Ultimate Spider-Man, Marvel hired Paul Dini, marking the first time he had ever worked on a Marvel animated property. “He’s a huge Marvel geek, he knows stuff that I don’t know” marveled Loeb. Additionally, Brian Michael Bendis, writer of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic, had “just turned in his second script… it might have something to do with Nick Fury.” Since the season consists of 26 episodes, Marvel has also employed the Man of Action production team (Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, and Steven T. Seagle) behind the Ben 10 franchise and Generator Rex.

To give Ultimate Spider-Man a truly Marvel look, various artists—including Stuart Immonen, Edward McGuinness, Paolo Rivera, Humberto Ramos, and Joe Quesada—were asked to draw Spider-Man and their conceptions of his world. These images were put on the walls of a “war room” in the show’s animation building, where the show’s designers “live and breathe that stuff.” Ultimate will feature a 16 year old Peter Parker in high school.

Loeb then screened a one minute animation test, making sure to say it was “not what the show’s going to look like when we get done,” but it “shows you where we’re going.” The footage consisted of Spider-Man swinging through the city skyline, past screens of a ranting J. Jonah Jameson. We then saw our hero on the receiving end of harangues by Nick Fury, who Spider-Man put off, saying “looks like I have a great responsibility moment coming up!” The backgrounds were impressive, but the character designs looked generic.

Loeb next turned to The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The show would return with new episodes after the Thor feature film premiered in May; meanwhile, they were “hard at work on season two.” He then screened a never-before-seen episode, “Ultron-5,” which will air soon after new episodes resume on Disney XD. Opening with the Avengers in combat against the Serpent Society, the episode shows Ant-Man, an avowed pacifist, quitting the team. His android Ultron misinterprets Ant-Man’s pacifistic programming and decides the best way to eliminate chaos, and instill peace and order, involves destroying the Avengers. Two moments drew great applause, involving the Hulk in space and Iron Man resorting to a change of wardrobe. The episode also serves up a new twist in Thor’s existence.

The presentation moved on to the upcoming Iron Man anime, which will air alongside the Wolverine anime on G4 this July. He introduced Blair Butler, from G4’s Attack of the Show, to help him describe the project. Loeb said there will be four different anime serials, each in 12 parts and starring Iron Man, Wolverine, X-Men, and “the one that always get the biggest round of applause,” Blade. The stories were devised by Warren Ellis, who turned in episode outlines to the Madhouse studio staff, which scripted and animated the final product.

The audience was given a preview of the Iron Man anime: a trailer put together from the first episode and an action clip from the same source. Both were in Japanese, with no subtitles. Glimpsed were outstandingly vivid backgrounds; Iron Man’s armor glowed with a CGI sheen as he fought a similarly-armored villain and a scorpion-themed bad guy.

Next, Loeb and Butler showed the opening sequence of the Wolverine anime, excerpted and subtitled specially for WonderCon. Loeb warned that the show will air later at night, will be more adult-oriented and very violent, and cautioned children under 12 about watching. The episode, titled “Mariko,” opens with Wolverine and a female character on board a yacht being attacked by frogmen. The attackers shoot up Logan, who then regenerates quickly. The credits are set to hard rock and feature dojo combat imagery. Afterwards, Wolverine is shown battling (and stabbing) several assailants. As with the Tony Stark design, Madhouse has done its usual job of aging down and prettying up a rugged character’s face, with the result of making him bear an unfortunate resemblance to a gigolo.

Loeb ended the panel by disclosing the English-language lead voice actors for Iron Man and Wolverine: Iron Man will be voiced by Adrian Pasdar, with Milo Ventimiglia as Wolverine. “Their personalities are very similar to these guys,” said Loeb of the actors. Recording sessions for the anime have recently begun–Butler will air previews from them this week on Attack of the Show, which is devoting its programming to news from WonderCon.

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