It was always going to be Phoenix as the one who ripped apart the X-Men and put the future in danger, according to Joshua Fine, Director of Development for Marvel Animation and Associate Producer for the first season of Wolverine and The X-Men. Jaws dropped when fans found out that the explosion which shattered the X-Men’s world in the three-part series opening episode “Hindsight” was not actually caused by the likes of Magneto or anti-mutant groups, but by one of their own.
“Phoenix was always the direction we were heading,” said Fine. “We knew she was behind the destruction of the mansion and that The Inner Circle and Emma Frost kicked everything off and would therefore be integral to the final episodes.”
“While Magneto and Senator Kelly were facing off in an ever-escalating confrontation, there was a group waiting and watching in the shadows that plans bigger than either of them.” Fine adds.
All of the pieces fell into place bit by bit toward the end of the first season, allowing the creative team to carefully sow together the big reveal of the season finale. With the MRD’s defenses all but eliminated and Magneto himself vulnerable, both sides of the anti-mutant war were experiencing weaknesses that allowed the perfect opportunity for the Inner Circle to intervene and seize control, setting up the game-changing season finale.
The choice to bring the Phoenix into Wolverine and the X-Men was a simple one, according to Fine. The creative team was looking for the perfect device to create the post-apocalyptic future and the Phoenix is one of the new Marvel Universe characters that can bring about just that.
“Phoenix not only provided the right transition to that future but also gave us a great mystery to open the series with,” says Fine. “We did take some liberties in dodging some of the Phoenix’s cosmic history from the comics, as we wanted it to feel grounded in the world we had already established.”
“Interestingly,” Fine continues, “the concept of the mythological bird that Phoenix is based on really does appear across many cultures in history, so it didn’t seem like too much of a stretch to say that the Marvel version of the character was the same.
“Research played a heavy role in creating their version of the Phoenix, according to Fine. In the series, The Inner Circle tracked and researched the Phoenix for centuries, as this force of nature made its presence known throughout history, an idea that Fine says manifested itself from conversations with the creative team. Fine adds that their take allowed for the Wolverine and the X-Men design team to cut loose when creating the various Phoenix artifacts from The Inner Circle’s archive, something they took great pleasure in.
A main concern, not only for Fine but the whole creative team on Wolverine and The X-Men, was the level of complexity for the series. From the very first episode, the creative team did not want to dumb anything down for the audience, but provide viewers with real character arcs and story progression that evolved from episode to episode.
“We wanted for this to feel like a single epic journey that you would want to own on DVD or Blu-Ray and watch over and over, but continuity is a double-edged sword.” Fine says. “On the one side you get the benefit of a storyline and characters that really evolve from beginning to end, but you have the looming threat that you might drown in too much complexity on the other.”
Fine said the creative team dealt with this on an episode to episode basis, trying to make it feel like each episode had a distinct beginning, middle and end to the story.
“As a casual viewer tuning into the middle of the season, you might not get why the status quo is the way it is,” continues Fine, “Hopefully you still get a very clear picture of who the characters are and what they’re trying to do in that particular episode.”
In an attempt to help make the series more accessible, one-off Wolverine-centric episodes including “Wolverine Versus the Hulk” and “Code of Conduct” were created to serve as a breather for both the series and the viewer. When production on the series started, Fine says there were key Wolverine stories that the creative team really wanted to explore in single episodes as a way to give the Wolverine and the X-Men’s main protagonist some history and dimension.
These episodes would also serve as an entry point for casual viewers according to Fine, but also provide something fresh and a little different to the dedicated fan.
“I know some fans were frustrated by a couple of our detours because they were chomping at the bit to find out how the main story was going to unfold,” says Fine, “But those episodes shine a lot brighter on repeat viewings, in large part because they are so self-contained and specific. They really added to the show.”