By: Nick Smith
There are but a few things that define one’s childhood; riding a bike for the first time, visiting grandparents, that one Christmas you actually got everything you wanted, even if you still got socks, and Saturday morning cartoons … One of our favorites was ‘X-Men: The Animated Series’ and we were fortunate enough to interview the show’s creators, Eric and Julia Lewald. They are currently working on a book entitled, ‘The Making of X-Men: The Animated Series’, which will chronicle the ground breaking X-Men cartoon, and be published by Jacobs Brown Media in August, 2017; a year that marks the 25th anniversary of the show’s creation.
Eric’s biggest influence for their book was another book called ‘The Making of Star Trek’, which chronicled the show that first hooked him into Geekdom. Fortuitously, they still have all their storyboards, drafts of the scripts, inner office memos, receipts of faxes, and other materials that they had stored in the space over their garage throughout the show’s proceedings. Their goal over the next few years is to make the rounds to as many Cons as possible, in order to get the book in the hands of fans who will appreciate it.
In 1992, Margaret Lesh, the head of Fox Kids, after having fought for years, finally got a green light to do an X-Men animated series. At that time, believe it or not, Marvel was the black sheep of comic book properties. Eric, who had worked on the Beetlejuice cartoon, got a call the night before the meeting with all interested parties, including Fox execs, Marvel execs, and Stan Lee, that the funding had been approved and he’d be the head writer. At the time, he had barely read an X-Men comic and was in charge of coming up with the stories for the first thirteen episodes. Absence the luxury of internet, Eric and Julia did a two week crash course and read as many X-Men comics as they could get their hands on, in preparation for the task at hand.
When crafting the stories, Eric and Julia wanted to have a focus on the core group of characters, similar to Star Trek, which was also one of Julia’s favorites growing up. With this blueprint, they dived into the comics, which had four different iterations in publication at the time, and started formulating their ideas. With so many different variations of the team, they found it liberating to have the liberty of picking and choosing what they wanted, and then crafted their own stories around their team, using bits and pieces from the comic book universe to guide them.
When crafting the show, ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ was already in full swing, having been green lit about a year earlier. ‘X-Men: The Animated Series’ was slated to directly follow the Batman cartoon in Fox Kids’ lineup. With a third of the preparation time and half the budget, Eric and Julia knew they’d have to rely on a more fast paced show to grab audiences, along with highlighting their advantage of having eight to ten different characters and their relationships be the bedrock of the show; a stark contrast to Batman’s more loner mentality. Eric noted that an executive put it, “Batman is cool jazz. X-Men is a garage band.” As Dane noted in the interview, “That is such a brilliant way of saying that. If Batman was Scorsese, you guys were James Cameron.”
When crafting the team, Julia noted that Bishop and/or Cable were heavily considered for main members, and Eric stated that the members gradually evolved over time. Jean Grey, Professor X, and Beast, were not part of the main team in the initial meeting. However, they realized throughout the progression of writing the stories that they loved Beast, could not tell the stories without Professor X, and Jean Grey was the emotional connection to everybody. Eric noted that Wolverine was a lot of fun to write, but he and the team tried their best not to overwrite him, in fear that he’d overshadow some of the other characters.
Eric’s personal favorite character was Professor Xavier. As he put it, being the main show runner, he felt a lot of sympathy for Professor X, being in a very similar position in their stories. Julia’s favorite character was Beast. She felt like he was the most romantic character, in that he was the most obviously different. He could not hide his mutant appearance, and yet, felt like the character most comfortable with it at times. Julia also noted that she loved the empowering female characters the X-Men team brought forth. At the time, it was such a refreshing take to see female characters given as much attention as their male counterparts, being seen as equals, both in ability and scope.
‘X-Men: The Animated Series’ was such an amazing, unprecedented series, and our Geek Vibes Live crew were absolutely thrilled to have both Eric and Julia Lewald on our show. Getting to pick their brains on so many aspects of the process was truly an awesome experience, and one we won’t soon forget! To listen to the whole interview, of which there is much more, please follow the link below, and enjoy! ‘Til next time, have a good one, bubs.