ECCC: Man Of Action: Comics Into Media

For their Saturday spotlight at last weekend's Emerald City ComiCon, the four comic creators behind the growing media brand Man of Action kept things informal and friendly. Writers Steven Seagle and Joe Kelly stood in front of the panel platform while Joe Casey leaned casually at the end, and artist Duncan Rouleau parked himself behind the podium. The four friends recalled how they created Man of Action many years ago in response to "wanting a place to sit down at the San Diego Comic-Con." They grew tired of wandering around the large convention and decided they needed a booth. In order to have a booth they needed a company. Thus Man of Action was born.

While awaiting a solution to a technical delay with the preview to their new Cartoon Network show "Generator Rex," Seagle gave a brief history. "The first year we were a company, somebody walked up to us and asked what we do. We said, 'Comics.' He said 'Do you do film?' We looked at each other and said, 'Yeah. We do film.'"

Over the course of the next few years at San Diego, the group added video games and television shows to their profile in much the same way. Upon claiming to be capable of televison, they were introduced to Cartoon Network, who wanted a superhero show. The four went home, thought up 20 show ideas worth keeping in three days and pitched them to the network. The eighth idea was "Ben 10." The network bought it.

They went on to work on a few more shows. When Seagle announced that they worked on "Bakugan," every kid in the room erupted in joyful unison. Man of Action supervises scripts, plots and occasionally fly to Japan, "which is pretty fun" said Seagle. They consult on other shows as well as engage in feature film negotiations with Japan and Korea, though no property names were mentioned. Kelly wrote the video game "Darksiders." After a great deal of success in the entertainment field, they launched their own Man of Action Comics imprint through Image Comics. Major titles include Casey's "GODLAND," Kelly's "I Kill Giants," Rouleau's "The Nightmarist" and Seagle's "Soul Kiss."

As the wait continued for the technical fix that would make the preview possible, Seagle took time to field a few audience questions. "Generator Rex" as it turns out, started as a comic called "M. Rex" published by Image in 1999. The M stood for Machina, and though the comic only lasted a few issues, the idea held in the minds of the creators. Eventually they pitched it to Cartoon Network.

The basic premise is that a kid, Rex, can grow machines from his body with the aid of nanites that exist inside his body. The story later hints that an explosion or event has something to do with the nanite origin, but doesn't disclose anything further. In the world of the show, everything is full of these nanites, but most are dormant. A few people or things are affected more than normal and turn into monsters. In Rex's case, he is the only person who can control the nanites. He is able to create machines that grow out of his body which he then uses to kick major monster "tukhus." He works for an organization called Providence that is responsible for the defeat and or capture of the monsters.

Rex has a partner named Six, named so because he is the sixth deadliest man in the world. He's possibly, though unconfirmed by the creators, a monster. Rex also has a talking, blaster wielding chimp as an ally.

The original name of "M. Rex" was not used because of copyright infringement. After investigation, Man of Action discovered that in response to the term T-rex (the dinosaur), a company had trademarked every letter of the alphabet followed by -Rex in the interest of future marketing possibilities. Besides "M-Rex" being a trademark, "Machina Rex was too high falootin'" said Kelly.

"Generator Rex" is PG as opposed to "Ben 10" which is G. Seagle added that if parents are comfortable with their kids watching the "Clone Wars" cartoon, then they should be fine with "Generator Rex." "It's better than 'Clone Wars' too," joked Casey.

Further questions probed the creative process - "How do you come up with characters?" "How do you work together?" The group all met each other while working on different "X-Men" titles. Eventually, they all ended up working on "Superman" together and were given the directive to "not draw too much attention to the comic because of the movie that is coming out soon." So they spent eight months thinking of how to accomplish this. In that situation, each of them discovered how well and honestly they communicated in a creative arena.

"Do you know how many 'Bakugan' they make?" asked one of the attending children, to which an unknown source replied, "As many as you will buy."

"How long after 'Ben 10' was sold did it actually get produced?"

"Ben 10" sat around for two years. The four creators wrote several treatments, two bibles, the manifest of the show, and a pilot. As they waited, they learned that many Hollywood production companies shun shows that push a toy line. Apparently ideas will get pitched to a creative team using a line of toys as the springboard. However, as soon as Bandai purchased the toy rights to "Ben 10," the show was greenlit. "So no. They do not make shows to sell toys," said Seagle. "If you make a show based on toys, it's not usually a very good show."

Man of Action appreciate character more than anything. They feel like a good idea transcends the medium. They believe in the passion behind an idea, not formulating an idea based on popular trends or market research. "You have to do things that you believe in. Don't second guess," said Rouleau.

"Generator Rex" was purchased two and a half years ago, the animation started a year ago, and Man Of Action saw the first episode a few weeks ago. According to Seagle, "that is a very fast cycle for animation." Everyone else will see it on April 23.

"Do you guys find it better to work on your own stuff rather than comics that have a long heritage, that you can't really mess up?" asked an audience member.

"I think Joe Casey can mess up any character" replied Seagle. The freedom of working with your own characters is the best for them, he went on. "Rah Rah creator owned!" replied Casey. He explained that working for major titles from major publishers actually helps launch the public faith in your work so you can be successful with your own creations.

Finally, the appropriate computer cable was delivered, and the audience was able to get a glimpse of "Generator Rex." They first showed a rough clip featuring pencil test art and fully realized animation set to a loud and energetic rock song. It depicted a teenager manifesting bright orange machinery sprouting from his limbs. Giant fists, chainsaws, motorcycles and blasters came to life amidst citywide action sequences featuring giant monsters and fantastic vehicles. The voice over tells the audience that "One day everything changes. The life you knew is gone, for good!"

The promo clip provided by Cartoon Network was shorter, but comprised of fully animated sequences. The last bit announced a premier date of April 23. Voice talents include JK Simmons of "Spider Man," Fred Savage of "The Wonder Years" and Alex Vega from "Spy Kids."

In response to the question "Why are all of Rex's tools orange?" designer Duncan Rouleau revealed that he wanted the machines to have an organic feel, so he chose to make them copper.

"What sort of female characters will be in 'Generator Rex'?" asked a dan. Doc Holiday is a scientist working for Providence, that fills the roles of strong female character and big sister to Rex, the creators explained.

"How big of a success do you think 'Generator Rex' will be?" came on final query.

"Giagantic!" replied Seagle.

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