DC Nation and Marvel Television are making superheroes jump off the page and into television sets, and each shined a spotlight on their present and future offerings Saturday at WonderCon.
Both comic companies have a long history with animated fare on TV. Bruce Timm’s animated creations using DC characters (“Batman,” “Superman,” etc.) have usually been crowd-pleasers, and Marvel’s forays include its new G4 anime offerings, popular ’90s “X-Men,” and even the classic ’60s “Spider-Man” series whose theme song still ranks as one of the best cartoon tunes ever.
But it’s a new day, and first up was Marvel at its noontime panel. The company’s Disney owners have afforded it more of an opportunity and “muscle,” according to chief creative officer Joe Quesada, to put out more products. Head of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb was on hand to present the newest offering, “Ultimate Spider-Man,” which premieres April 1, and to offer a look at the second season of “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” both on Disney XD. Trooper that he is, a sickly Loeb let loose about a few things that Marvel has in development for its XD programming block, including the well-received, documentary-style “Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.,” which isn’t due out until 2013.
DC Nation, a one-hour programming block on Cartoon Network, featured “Young Justice” producers Brandon Vietti and Greg Weisman, “Green Lantern” producers Jim Krieg and Giancarlo Volpe, and DC animated shorts producers Lauren Faust and Ben Jones. The event presented promos for the full-length “Green Lantern” animated series and, to the screaming delight of the crowd assembled, “Young Justice.” A promo featuring the junior Justice Leaguers also spotlighted “Invasion,” a story line involving the team helping repel off-world trespassers. Numerous alien heroes/villains, such as Lobo, were included. And “numerous” is a relative term: The panelists mentioned that the show’s first season yielded a remarkable 179 characters to make an appearance. By the end of Season 2, 241 characters will have been given an animated shout-out — including another applause-induced moment when Blue Beetle’s appearance was announced. That theme, which characters will show up, was a common audience concern in both panels — and none of the panelists wanted to divulge much.
Another common, and really popular, topic in the panels was the emergence of animated shorts — quick, mostly comedic, toon hits that the networks will air alongside the shows. Marvel’s crop includes “Fury Files” (S.H.I.E.L.D. files on heroes and villains), “Marvel Mash-Up” (unexpected takes featuring classic animation edited with a comedic twist), “Animated Reality” (stunt and special effects experts), “What Would It Take?” (the science and technology of heroes’ gadgets and abilities) and “Master Class” (Marvel’s Joe Quesada talks about creators’ methods and motives. The biggest crowd-pleaser may have been the “Mash-Up” re-dubbed scenes from the 1980s “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends” television show. Neurotic heroes, egotistical villains and funny smells wins them over every time.
DC Nation is producing such original shorts as “SBFFs,” featuring the teenage shenanigans of Donna Troy, Supergirl and Batgirl; “Animal Man,” whose antics protecting defenseless animals, including cows and ants, often make him clueless to the real danger to human citizens around him; “Thunder and Lightning,” featuring Black Lightning’s daughter; “Doom Patrol”; “Sword of the Atom” and more. Shorts producer Faust, who also received a rousing ovation when introduced, spoke a bit about making shorts, saying that it was definitely “easier” than making full-length cartoons, but had its drawbacks.
“There’s a lot of stuff that’s just so painful to let go … but you just can’t really have a beginning, middle and end when you only have 75 seconds.”
– Jevon Phillips
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