|Behind the Scenes - Steve Gordon Interview #2
by James Harvey
Taking time out of his busy schedule, a schedule covering a host of different projects, Steve E. Gordon sat down with Marvel Animation Age to discuss the recently revealed albeit long-since canceled Ultimate Avengers Versus Ultimate X-Men direct-to-video animated project from Marvel Animation. Posting early design work and details of the aborted project on his blog, Gordon states a direct-to-video Ultimate Avengers Versus Ultimate X-Men animated feature was in the early stages of production at Marvel Animation and Lionsgate Home Entertainment before it was scrapped and replaced with what would eventually become the 2009 direct-to-video Hulk Versus animated feature.
Gordon shares more details and thoughts on this canned creation in the following Q & A, including a look at his design work for the ill-fated animated feature. Please click on the thumbnails included in this article for a closer look at each image.
Marvel Animation Age: Since pretty much every Marvel Animation fan knows your name, let’s skip over the “who are you” introduction question and go right to “what have you been up to lately?”
Steve E. Gordon: Currently I’ve just been working on some children’s books for HarperCollins, featuring DC Comics characters, and Grosset Dunlap, for Shrek 4, as well as some misc. projects. I should be starting up some storyboard work pretty soon for an animated TV series.
MAA: Recently on your blog, you posted artwork from an abandoned Ultimate Avengers Versus Ultimate X-Men DTV. By any chance do you have any details on what exactly this DTV would have been about, such as an adaptation of Ultimate War or an original story. Additionally, how did this idea come about?
SG: My understanding is this would have been an adaptation of the Ultimate War series. I never read a treatment, but since I was working very closely from the comics I assume they adhered pretty closely. The DVD was going to be done like they did the Hulk Vs. DVD where half would be devoted to the Ultimate War and the other half was planned to be a Thor story. At one point the Thor story they intended on adapting was Beta ray Bill, but I believe they dropped that after some exploration. We never got too far on finding a look for the Thor adventure.
MAA: What influences did you draw from for these designs? Did you look to the Ultimate comics and your previous work on Ultimate Avengers and X-Men: Evolution?
SG: The order was to adapt Chris Bachalo’s designs as much as possible. If you go through my images it doesn’t take too long before it’s obvious I was doing my best to discover what constituted Bachalo’s style. I also used Stuart Immonen as influence when I could.
MAA: Would you be interested in revisiting this project in the future? Is there any appeal you find to these characters and these projects that keep you coming back?
SG: It would be very nice to continue with the work that was started - I was definitely disappointed that it was cancelled just as I was getting a good handle on the look. I wouldn’t hesitate to return to designing these characters in any incarnation. I’d love to take another crack at designing these characters whether based on someone’s comic designs or, even better, start from scratch. Designing for X-Men: Evolution was a big step for my career and I still get asked to do commissions based on them.
MAA: This isn’t the first DTV you’ve done design work on to be cancelled (such as the Batman: Arkham Asylum DTV from years back). How do you feel when, after putting work into a movie and doing so much for it, it gets canned? Is this common in the animation industry?
SG: It happens a lot, but you can’t get too upset. Especially if you were paid for the work. I just put them in my portfolio, when I remember, and move onto the next opportunity.
MAA: When designing, are there any aspects of it you may find difficult? Is it hard to actually come up with the designs? Are there any characters in particular, be it from this abandoned projects or any of your works, that are just difficult to nail?
SG: What works best for me is if decisions have already been made about what type of characters are needed for the project. What their personalities are and how they interact with one another. I don’t mind being part of that process and helping to influence where the characters go, but it gives me a starting point as opposed to a producer saying ”give me something new and edgy”. I like characters that have definite flaws and quirks as opposed to working on a bunch of boy scouts and girl scouts. Those characters without any flaws are the most difficult to capture.
MAA: How was designing the X-Men for this scrapped Ultimate Avengers Versus Ultimate X-Men DTV different than the design and art work you did for X-Men: Evolution and even Wolverine and The X-Men. Is there a different train of thought when creating something for an all-ages audience as opposed to a more adult-skewing title?
SG: First, just to be clear, I did not design for Wolverine and the X-Men. I did models based on someone else’s designs and occasionally I would help out when a face or something was satisfying the producers.
The big difference between designing the Ultimate Avengers Versus Ultimate X-Men and X-Men: Evolutionwas, as mentioned earlier, I was told to base my designs on a specific comic and a specific artist for Ultimate Avengers Versus Ultimate X-Menand X-Men: Evolution I was given free rein to come up with a whole new look. The other big difference for me was when I started X-Men: Evolution I hadn’t picked up a comic since the John Buscema, Gil Kane and Neal Adams days of Marvel so I had to quickly steep myself in research and learn who all these characters were. I had no idea even who Wolverine was, if you can believe that. Quite the opposite was true by the time I was hired to design for this other project. I wasn’t specifically aware of the Ultimate War series, but I had been following quite a few other books by then – especially The Ultimates.
MAA: Speaking of Wolverine and The X-Men, you’re a steadfast part of the show’s creative team, directing and providing character designs. How was your experience working on the first season of the show, and will we see you back for the next? Any hints you can drop about what we may see?
SG: Anything is possible, but nothing is guaranteed. A lot will depend upon timing for me. As far as hints it seems like some of the producers and writers have been already dropping hints about stuff that I’m not even aware of.
MAA: Any last thoughts on the Ultimate X-Men Versus Ultimate Avengers DTV that could have been? Any neat tidbits fan may find interesting?
SG: I was looking forward to seeing how they handled the Pietro/Wanda relationship. It seems like they were going to try and actually ‘go there’ and I like the fact that it seemed like many of the characters would never even appear in a uniform.
MAA: So, as we wrap this up, what can we expect from you in the near future? Can you spill any details on where we will be seeing your name next?
SG: At this point it seems like I’ll definitely be involved with some action/adventure series soon in some capacity, but since nothing has been locked in I can’t be any more specific than that. If you’re interested in the HarperCollins DC books I’m working on they should be available soon (if not already) on Amazon.
Marvel Animation Age would like to thank Steve E. Gordon for his participation.