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BACKSTAGE - INTERVIEW

Marvel Animation Age catches up with Wolverine and The X-Men Head Writer Greg Johnson to discuss the late fan-favorite animated series starring Marvel’s favorite mutants. Now available to own on both DVD and Blu-ray disc in a single collected release titled Wolverine and The X-Men: The Complete Series, made available by Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Johnson took the time to answer a few short questions and look back at the short-lived but much-beloved X-Men animated series.

Please note this Q & A does contain spoilers.

Marvel Animation Age: To get all the readers up to speed, can you fill us in on what your role was in Wolverine and The X-Men?

Greg Johnson: I’ve been an animation writer on Marvel projects for a number of years, and when they were contemplating a Wolverine-centric series, they asked a handful of people to pitch their take. I came in with a version of ‘Days of Future Past” with Xavier in the future, effectively removing him from the X-Men and allowing someone else to come in as leader. So by design, the concept lent itself to a series where Wolverine could feasibly be forced into a leadership role. That was enough to get me the job. So I developed it further with Craig Kyle, and then I served as Head Writer on the 26 episode season.

MAA: Now that the entire series is available in one collection, how do you think it plays out as a “complete series?” Does the show really follow the path you and the Wolverine and the X-Men creative were hoping for?

GJ: I think it’s a complete journey. Scenes and clues from the pilot are revisited and reexamined near the end of the arc to fill in answers. We had the main continuity designed up front, but then had to fill in a lot of episodes that not only catered to that continuity, but furthered it, while being individual adventures in their own right. For fun we’d throw in some stand-alone episodes that side-stepped the arc, but all of it together continued leading the viewer to the finale. So I’m happy with how the series came out.

MAA: Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. Looking back at the series, what do you think really worked and what could’ve used improvement?

GJ: Some of our character arcs worked well, and some could have used more attention. Nightcrawler is an example of a character that worked well, in my opinion. We got to see him become a swashbuckling hero to the downtrodden, then slowly fall in love with the daughter of his sworn enemy. Some characters didn’t get as much screentime as we’d planned. Colossus vanished after the first episode, and we could never find a story compelling enough to bring him back and do that character justice. Storm is another one that I wish I could have done more with. As for Wolverine, I wish I could have messed with him more. Just really had him screw up at the beginning as proof that this guy shouldn’t be leading. Sometimes you realize what’s lacking during the frantic story and writing sessions, but the schedule is king. If we spend a few hours knocking around a story idea or a character direction, and nothing gels, then it’s time to move on to something else.

MAA: Is there anything that you didn’t (or couldn’t) include in the first season but originally planned to (such as characters, stories, etc?). Any missed opportunities, perhaps?

GJ: We had so many story arcs going at once that the series could have become too complex for the average viewer if we’d added any more. We tried hard to get more X-23 in the season, and more Gambit (to further explore his journey from scoundrel to hero), but as I said, we had so many characters to service, we just couldn’t.

MAA: Do you regret including that final episode cliffhanger, one that fans will never see resolved? Is there always a risk in ending the season in such a fashion?

GJ: I don’t regret putting it there. I do regret not having the opportunity to see it through. As it stands, it’s a nice reminder that the X-World is fluid. Every action has a consequence, and this just shows that the X-Men will continue to have their hands full.

MAA: So, for once and for all, can you clear up why a second season of Wolverine and The X-Men was scuttled?

GJ: I was not a part of any closed door meetings when that decision was finally made, but I do know that the production partner responsible for the financing had some investor issues (they lost some due to various reasons that have nothing to do with the show), and they were just unable get it fully funded again. After over a year of starts and stops, it all finally collapsed.

MAA: As I’m sure you’ve been asked dozens of times, what was on tap for the “Age of Apocalypse”-inspired second season?

GJ: As I mentioned recently on a Facebook page called 1 Million to save WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN, I had a very cool Deadpool script, where basically he was sent from Weapon X as part of a larger effort to bring Wolverine in. It was so fun, and Nolan North would have done the voice. We also had an awesome story with Colossus and his sister trying to get out of Russia, which was in major lockdown because of the anti-mutant hysteria.

The future stuff where Apocalypse was ruling, was a massive puzzle.

The “Age of Apocalypse” books were their own universe. But in our series, we needed the AoA to have logically developed from our modern day storyline. For example, Cyclops had to go from where he was in our series, to working for Apocalypse in the future, and that transition had to be plausible. We had many of those types of hoops to jump through, and the rules were slowly falling into place with nearly every script.

MAA: To move on to the actual home video release, what will fans see on this Blu-ray collection as opposed to the DVD release, in terms of both quality and content?

GJ: I know I did an interview for it. Other than that, I have no idea. By the time this interview is finally posted, it will be out and then you can tell me.

MAA: Do you have one final tease, one final drip of information on Wolverine and The X-Men as we wrap up this Q & A?

GJ: I know at one time we were talking about adapting the stories we’d done for season two into a graphic novel, but nothing ever came of it. Maybe if sales are up for the series release, who knows…

Marvel Animation Age would like to thank Greg Johnson for participating in this Q & A and Lionsgate Home Entertainment in helping to arrange it. Wolverine and The X-Men: The Complete Series, released on DVD and Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, can be found at all major retail and online outlets. A review for the Wolverine and The X-Men: The Complete Series home video release is available here.

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