Following the successful launches of the "Iron Man" and "Wolverine" anime series on G4, Marvel Television is set to expand their anime influence with the debut of "X-Men" on October 21, with "Blade" coming soon after. On Friday at New York Comic Con, Head of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb took the stage to give a little more detail on the future of the Marvel anime series initiative, share some clips from "X-Men" and reveal exciting casting news for "Blade."
"It's raining outside, and you guys are here to watch really cool cartoons!" said Loeb to a crowded panel room, kicking things off with an explanation of the origins of Marvel anime.
"Basically, how this came together is that Simon Phillips, who is one of our worldwide presidents of everything, managed to put together a unique deal with our friends at Sony and our friends at Mad House," Loeb told the crowd. "Mad House, did, for those of you that are anime fans, did a little film called 'Metropolis.' The thing that's extraordinary about Mad House as an animation facility is that, believe it or not, they invented anime.
"When it came time for Marvel to experiment, to try to do something that the worldwide audience to appreciate, we went and we got the best people that we could."
Four shows of 12 episodes a piece were prepared to air in Marvel's Anime universe. Although created for a Japanese audience, Loeb cited an "incredible hunger to see these in the United States," which prompted Marvel Television to bring the series stateside.
As Loeb discussed casting the English-language voices, with "Heroes" alumni Adrian Pasdar as Tony Stark and Milo Ventimiglia taking on Wolverine, Ventimiglia jumped out from behind the screen, fresh off his arrival at New York Comic Con.
Greeted by a roar of applause, the actor spoke a bit on his comic fandom and the process it took for him to voice Wolverine. "I had to follow Steve Blum and all those greats. I grew up on comic books, my dad took me to [the comic store] once a week from when I was 7 years old until I graduated high school. Of course, working with Jeph Loeb, it's like this is fucking insane -- excuse my language -- because of all the work that he'd done and the stuff that I had read when I was a kid."
Ventimiglia described, to the delight of the audience, his call with Loeb offering him the part -- and Ventimiglia's immediate acceptance of the role, followed by doubt. "Logan, Wolverine, is one of those voices that you've got to buy it. You've really got to believe that whoever is voicing is going to kick some ass and have all that come out."
"Milo had the challenge of looking at finished animation," Loeb said. "You had to create a character that was already being played."
After Ventimiglia was in the booth for a couple hours, he turned around and began screaming in rage to get into character. "It took a little bit of time to figure out what I was doing with the voice while I was also playing into what these stories were," he said. After a few questions from the audience, Ventimiglia left the stage, saying "I love you guys!"
The actor's appearance wasn't the final surprise of the panel with Loeb next revealing that "Lost" actor Harold Parrineau would be voicing the titular half-vampire in the January 2012-premiering "Blade" anime. Parrineau addressed the audience through a pre-recorded statement, saying "I am really excited that I have the opportunity to provide the voice for your favorite bad-ass daywalker, Blade," said Parrineau. "It's very, very exciting. It's a very cool job, I've been wanting to tell everybody for weeks but I couldn't, but now I can. I am Blade!"
The announcement then transitioned to a sneak peak of the upcoming series, showcasing Blade destroying vampires in the Marvel anime style that has become the line-up's standard. The clip was largely set-up for the first episode, but featured a lot of action and some interesting insight to the character of Blade.
"There are some characters you'll recognize from the Blade mythos," said Loeb after the clip, "but the anime version of vampires and werewolves are just really cool."
Next up was "X-Men," which Loeb revealed would center around the aftermath of the "Dark Phoenix Saga" as re-imagined by Warren Ellis. The new series will focus on Cyclops, voiced by "Friday Night Lights" actor Scott Porter. "Cyclops is really the lead of this story," said Loeb. "It is the dramatic turns of his life, as you'll see."
A clip then played of Porter in the recording studio expounding on his role as Cyclops. "After [the Dark Phoenix Saga] ends, Cyclops has quit the team, so you have to go through him uniting the team and it has to be something big that brings him back into the fold," said Porter. "It turns out that there's this huge disturbance going on in Japan -- the mutant population is just expanding rapidly. Professor X can't see what's happening, so he has to send his team in. Emma Frost will come into play, Armor will come into play, the Inner Circle -- who is our version of the Hellfire Club -- come into play."
Loeb then showed, for the first time, the full first episode of the "X-Men" anime series, "The Return." The episode was largely set-up, with an action-packed pre-credits sequence of the final moments of the Dark Phoenix Saga. A roster of X-Men including Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast and Storm battle against a raging Jean Grey as the Inner Circle looks on malevolently. In the end, Jean Grey ends up dead, leaving only a scarlet locket behind. The next scene is one year later when Professor X must reunite the X-Men for a mysterious mutant disappearance in Japan.
The episode does a great job setting up the general premise of the story, re-uniting the X-Men and giving the audience a great taste of who they are and how they interact in the group. Especially well done is Beast's scene as a lecturer at a university, where he claims to have created a squid that has human intelligence. When he gets his X-Men distress call, he hands the class over to his new teaching assistant, "Mr. Cephalopod."
There were some other excellent throwouts to fans in the episodes, including Gate X-23 at an airport, references to Madripoor and a short appearance of Armor, who will probably play a much larger role in the rest of the series. One thing is certain: the anime is very much telling a story about Cyclops more than anything else. A lot of the focus is on him and his previous relationship with Jean. Warren Ellis isn't really giving viewers anything die-hard X-Men fans haven't seen before, but anime fans or new viewers will likely get a kick out of this introduction to Marvel's merry mutants. The animation is very much of the high quality Marvel has set for their other projects and the voice acting is so solid that it's tough to tell it's an overdub. Overall, the anime is a good first effort that fans of any type are likely to enjoy.