C2E2: Marvel Animation

Saturday afternoon, in one of the larger rooms at Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, Jeph Loeb took to the stage and stated, "Welcome to the Marvel Television panel." The panel of two -- Loeb, the head of Marvel Television and Mike Pasciullo, "the head of everything else" -- gave the full house an exclusive peek at a few of the studio's upcoming projects. Loeb noted that this May will mark the one-year anniversary of Marvel Television.

Starting the panel, Loeb mentioned that, "Unfortunately, Marvel has a very, very strict policy of not commenting on rumors." Loeb cited the recent revelation and subsequent un-revealing of the "Sandman" television series as Marvel's reasons for wanting to cut off any quests for spoilers or clarification on rumors surrounding Marvel's various television projects.

The first project Loeb shared with the crowd involved everyone's favorite wall-crawler -- "Ultimate Spider-Man," the upcoming animated project featuring a dream writing staff including Paul Dini, Brian Michael Bendis and the collective known as Man of Action: Joe Kelly, Joe Casey, Duncan Rouleau and Steve Seagle. Not only is Bendis involved, but he just finished his second episode which, according to Loeb, "kicks major arse." Loeb said that in an effort to make this series compelling, the group pulls together as a writer's room to discuss story ideas.

Moving on to a project already on the air, Loeb told the audience that right after the "Thor" feature film opens in theaters, "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" will return to television. Additionally, he promised plenty of Avengers between "Thor" and when "Captain America" opens in theaters in July.

Loeb feels that the Avengers cartoon is a step in the right direction of what Marvel wants to accomplish with their new animated projects. He then went on to point out that when you look at the stuff Warner Animation has been doing, beginning with "Batman: the Animated Series," Loeb says that at the end of the day, he doesn't see DC Comics in the animation offerings from Marvel's distinguished competition. Marvel's approach is different in that they are attempting to find synergy between both mediums. In order to bring a tighter marriage between the comics and the "Ultimate Spider-Man" cartoon, for example, Marvel Television is going to the source and has brought Ed McGuinness, Paolo Rivera, Stuart Immonen and "an up and coming artist known as Joe Quesada" to craft what these characters look like. The animators for the series had these images available for reference and inspiration throughout the process.

Frustrated with trying to verbally explain Marvel's animation process, Loeb asked for the lights to dim and presented us with something no one had ever seen -- a clip from "Ultimate Spider-Man." The youthful Spider-Man clip was an animation test. Loeb told the crowd, it's a start and something they're all proud of, but he wouldn't comment on any of the voice talent involved since the show won't be breaking until 2012.

Asking for the crowd's thoughts, the clip received a rousing round of applause peppered with shouts of approval.

In an odd line of questioning, Loeb was asked about "ROM: Spaceknight." The writer explained to the audience that ROM belongs to Hasbro, so there is no ROM in the near future for Marvel Television.

The panel's focus then returned to what Marvel currently has in active development, offering an exclusive viewing of an entire new episode of "Avengers" that no one save the network and the production team had seen yet. Loeb wasn't sure if it was the first episode of the restart or from later in the run, but assured us it hasn't been seen. The episode, pitting the Avengers against the Serpent Society and featuring Thor declaring, "Hawkeye possesses the spirit of a true warrior," had a great deal of crowd-pleasing moments resulting in hoots and hollers, rounds of laughter and thunderous applause.

Once the episode wrapped, Loeb directed the audience to "other things that we've been working on from the 'House of Animated Ideas.' Hopefully we have them." Loeb then explained Marvel Knights Animation goal is to bring fan-favorite comic stories to life. Evolved beyond the motion comics that debuted a few years ago, this new take shares some of the same qualities, but had more actual animation. Loeb showed the assembled crowd a clip from "Thor/Loki: Blood Brothers," available on iTunes on March 28. Loeb then presented the second trailer from the story which focused upon Loki more intently.

The third and final segment of the panel was a discussion and presentation of Marvel Anime projects. There are four twelve-part stories: "Iron Man," "Wolverine," "The X-Men" and "Blade," all based on work by Warren Ellis. Originally done in Japanese, "Iron Man" and "Wolverine" have already premiered in Japan. They will debut in the States on the G4 network.

An Iron Man trailer hit the screen, all high-energy and brightly colored. The crowd loved the minute-long tease. Loeb assured the crowd that the episodes would have subtitles. Iron Man's initial story will feature a struggle with the anime version of Zodiac.

Treating the Chicago crowd to one final treat, Loeb gave the audience an exclusive screening of the pilot for "Wolverine Anime." Loeb, a concerned parent himself, pointed out that the level of violence in the pilot might make other parents uncomfortable. He was quickly proven right as the episode proved extremely violent, with much bloodshed and numerous opportunities to illustrate Wolverine's healing factor.

The session ended with Loeb reminding everyone of the timing of the upcoming shows. Satisfied and excited by what they saw, the crowd rewarded Loeb and Pasciullo with applause.

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