The creators of the X-Men: Evolution animated series appeared together for the first time publicly at the Los Angeles Comic Book Convention on Sept. 29.
Attending were Marvel Studios' Craig Kyle, producer Boyd Kirkland, story editor Greg Johnson, director/designer Steve Gordon and director Frank Paur.
In addition to announcing a DVD next spring, the creators showed never-before-seen clips and answered questions from fans.
Following is part one of an edited transcription of the question-and-answer session:
Question: I saw that you have Gambit in the show. Will there be more?
Johnson: Well, at this point there's been no discussion about bringing on more. As you know we have a fairly large cast. If any of you have been watching the newer episodes this season, we actually trimmed back. It doesn't mean that we won't. Actually, there was a time when we weren't going to bring on Gambit or Pyro or Colossus, So you just never know.
Kirkland: Let me clarify that a bit. Gambit's going to be in some more episodes this season. So, he's going to show up.
Question: Why are some of the older characters like Iceman students as opposed to adults?
Kyle: When the WB asked us to bring the show forward, it was very important for them to have the focus be on the younger students. And we know that a lot of people do like him and enjoy him as a character, so if we made him older, it would be tougher to focus on him as one of the leads. So, the character's young and it allows more room to do more within the series.
Wolverine is one character people love, but since he's older, we're allowed only so often to really push him in front of the story. He'll have his stuff this year. But when the kids are younger, that allows us room to tell bigger stories.
Kirkland: We really strongly considered, in the first season when we were first developing the show, including Iceman as a regular amongst the young kids in the group.
We just tried to pare it down to what we thought was manageable. There's so many characters in the X-Men Universe. It's very difficult when you're constructing stories to give everybody screen time or get to know any of the characters well enough to really care about them and what they're going through, when you have a cast of thousands. Big shows are tough to manage. So that was just, to some extent, a question of economics and how much we could manage.
Now, he's in there. He's a new recruit and he's on his way up, so to speak, and you'll see more of him. But he's not one of the core, focus characters.
Question: At the show's peak, how big is the staff in the U.S.?
Kirkland: The show is produced at Film Roman, the same studio that produces The Simpsons and King of the Hill. At the peak of the season, there's myself, my associate producer, a couple of assistants. Art-wise, we have three in-house directors, we have our character designer, we have a full-time layout designer, who is responsible for all the backgrounds. Then we have our color designers. We have a staff background painter and a couple of staff colorists, who do the color keying on the characters. In additional to that, we use a lot of free-lancers. And each director has a staff storyboard person that's there to help him with revisions and corrections.
Question: You do artwork off shore?
Kirkland: All television animation, except maybe for high-budget commercial animation, the actual animation is done overseas for reasons of economy. In our show, because we love it and we really care about it a lot, when Steve was on staff with us - and he's an excellent animator; he's worked on a lot of feature animation -- some of the moments that I'd like to think are some of the coolest-looking animated moments in our show were animated by Steve. Where we can afford it and where we think it's important, we do a little bit of it here, but most of it is done in Japan or Seoul, Korea.
Question: A question about the New Mutants: Who is leaving and will be seeing more of Jubilee or Cannonball?
Johnson: At this point, we're not going to get rid of any more. We're not going to bring on any more. Just for clarity, the new recruits or the New Mutants, they came as a result of a request to fill out the Xavier Institute. They wanted to see some background characters.
So when we got that request, we thought, then we should pick some that at least fans will recognize. When we did that, an awful lot of people thought, "Great! We finally got Jubilee. We finally got all these characters. How come we're not seeing any stories about them?" They were never supposed to be forefront characters unless we found some kind of a breakout.
Iceman was one of the exceptions because he was one of the originals and we always intended to bring him on board. Sometimes we focus on some of the kids in the group like in the episode "Joyride" but they were never intended to have episode.
There's only 13 episodes a year and they're only 22 minutes long and we've got a core group we focus on. At this point, we're set with the number we have.
Question: What about a Rogue's story, where she stole all of Juggernaut's powers and rage for Professor X?
Johnson: Stay tuned for an episode called "Self-Possessed."
Kyle: We push Rogue to her limits and it will have some of the stuff you're looking for and hopefully some of those elements.
Question: I was wondering if you will expand on what the mutants can do.
Paur: One of things we're trying to do with the characters is basically what you are suggesting. These are teenagers are they are really not proficient all the time at using their powers, so there are limitations of what they can or can not do.
Using Kitty Pryde as example, one of the questions I saw on the Internet is, why didn't Kitty phase out of the gelatin that was sprayed on everybody and encased them? Well, she just go through fighting the fight on her life and was exhausted. In a previous episode, we had shown if her attention is not there, she can't phase through stuff.
So we try to put limitations in there. It makes the characters a lot more interesting, a lot more human when you do that. They're not Superman. They're not infallible. And they slip up and they can cause a lot of damage.
Johnson: We also wanted to evolve the characters. That was always the plan, to start them out unsure of their powers. The first time you saw Kitty Pryde, she was pretty freaked by it. The first moment she was able to control it, breaking into the school with Lance, she was overwhelmed with emotion. She's progressed to the point where she can phase larger objects, other people, an X-Jet. Those are things that we are slowly introducing to the show.
Question: Why does Jubilee not look as Asian and Magma not as Caucasian as in the comics?
Gordon: That's funny because I thought Jubilee actually looked Asian. She was based on an Asian actress. I looked through the comics, and I didn't see an Asian aspect to her, other than they're calling her Asian. But that's my take on it.
I actually did a lot of work, not that it's always apparent. They have trouble with Asian models. I did a lot of construction sheets showing the correct way to do it. We did make a point of making her as Asian as we could.
Kirkland: It's kind of ironic. I don't know if many of you watch much Japanese animation, but they're supposed to Japanese characters in the show. You'd never know it - other than by their names - because of the way they design it. We give them designs that look Asian, but they have a tough time staying on model.
Question: Why hasn't Storm been to the forefront in more of the stories?
Johnson: Just to make you mad. (Laughs). No. The mandate for the series has always been about the teenagers. I was not involved with the decision not to make her a teenager. When I got involved with the show, she was an adult. And, really, there hasn't been a lot of support for stories about the adult characters unless they are Wolverine. Wolverine has such a huge fan base that he makes up for it.
So what we try to do is involve her. We did give her an episode. We like her as a character, and our intention is to bring her in more this season. Again, when she doesn't have a story of her own that's because we have a group of kids we have the focus on.
Question: Another question about Storm. Why did you make Evan her nephew? I didn't think she had any siblings.
Kirkland: There are several things obviously different about our show than the established comic book continuity. Obviously. When we were first developed the show, the first season, we were sitting in meetings at Marvel with Avi Arad and the other people involved on Marvel's side, and all of these issues were being discussed. And I can't even remember now how the decision was finally made to let's have him be a nephew.
Marvel was involved in the process. And how the decision was made and why it was made, I can't even give you an explanation right now.
They did want to work a core character into the group that wasn't a white, blue-eyed blonde. And that was important to us, and it's important even through the series, to try to be aware of mixed ethnicities in our universe and then to keep that awareness going in the show.
And then the question became, OK, out of the X-Men Universe, where are these characters we are going to use? We struggled in vain to come up with a good answer for a kid to be part of the core group, so we invented one. And it made sense for her to have a relationship.
Johnson: And it makes sense. It gives us an opportunity to tie Storm to our core group that way.
Question: Will Rogue be able to fly?
Johnson: Giving her a specific power that she doesn't shed … I kind of like her limitations. It makes her a more interesting character. If we put her in the air next to Jean, I don't think she'd be quite as interesting. Right now, it's not the plan, but this show evolves. We do plan out the seasons and advance and general arcs where we want to see the characters to go. Right now, we're all pretty happy with Rogue's abilities. We're flirting a little bit with it in the future, you'll see, but as far as giving her permanent powers, there are no plans.
Paur: …Depending on the stories, you'll see more of her abilities. The fact that her power is so unique, she can just grab anyone, it is very interesting. We don't want to make that a fixture for her, where she becomes like Superman and becomes all-power, that kind of takes away from the character.
Question: Will there be other Marvel characters?
Paur: We did have Nick Fury on.
Johnson: It depends on whether or not they're super-heroes. We tried to establish a world like the X-Men movie, where there aren't super-heroes out there because we wanted the impact when they were finally revealed to be mutants to have some impact. That wouldn't be the case if they saw guys flying on the news every day. The world at large has seen something like they've never seen before when the outing came out on television. So, in keeping with that universe, it doesn't make a lot of sense to start bringing in other super-heroes. If they're human, yeah, we'll consider them for stories.
Also, just so you know, there are certain legal obligations, and they're just not available. They're in development for movies, they're in other movies and things like that. So, we're unable to use them.
Question: What's going to be the main focus of this season?
Johnson: Apocalypse is our third-season main villain, and you won't be seeing him until very close to the end. If you've been following last season, there's three mysterious keys to unlock the tomb that he's in. One has been found, one more will be found and one will…
But, by the end of the season, you'll be seeing Apocalypse.
Kirkland: But the other focus this season, obviously if you've been watching the show so far, is this season that the X-Men have turned the corner of now that the public knows about them. So that's sort of an undercurrent that is going to be rising and falling, interwoven through all the episodes, is the rising public awareness and varying responses. It's not going to all be negative from everyone as you've seen already. It's not, "Let's all hate the mutants" all at once. And there's going to factions that are going to be very understanding and factions that aren't so understanding. That aspect of the show is going to continue evolving through this season and hopefully, if we get some more pickups, in future seasons.
Question: Will you focus on other characters like the Acolytes?
Johnson: Apocalypse is not something we're going to jump in where he is in the comics. Without getting into too much of where we're heading, we're not going to launch into the Horsemen immediately - those kind of things Whether or not we ever do, that's a real possibility. We have not begun story discussions for the new season and those are all things we have on our minds. But, again, it's not something we want to rush into.
Paur: It's like a gradual build up.
Kirkland: And Magneto is going to be part of this whole story. We're not going to just shuttle him aside and say, "OK, he's done his thing and now it's Apocalypse's turn." He's part and parcel of everything we're building up to and where the season is going.
Question: How do you receive feedback from the episodes, other than the Internet?
Kirkland: About the only other method we get is the ratings that the network gives us every week. Every show on television lives and dies by ratings. We all anxiously wring our hands every week when a new show has aired and wait for the network to send us the numbers and just hope there's somebody out there watching. So far, the numbers have been really great for our show.
Question: Will you be introducing new characters, like Cable or maybe even Bishop?
Kirkland: Well, we've got to work out next season. We don't know what's going to happen next season yet, so we can't answer that question.
Question: Will there be more Sentinels?
Johnson: What we've done was we brought out the one Sentinel at the end of the last season in "Day of Reckoning." It was a prototype that was destroyed. And Trask, who built it, is in jail. So right now, there isn't an active Sentinel program that the public is aware of. If we were to suddenly bring out Sentinels tracking down mutants, it would shift the entire series into what you used to see on Fox. That worked fine because that's where they took off with their series. But ours, we're trying to tell stories before the world gets to that point. We're not in a real rush to put Sentinels on the street.
Kirkland: It's the kind of thing where we get to go one year at a time, 13 episodes at a time. If the show's on the air another 2 or 3 years - who knows how this thing can run? - the sky's the limit as far as where it all goes. But for right now, you're not going to see any more Sentinels this season. Down the road, sure, there's always that possibility.
Question: Will we see Angel again?
Kirkland: Angel is going to be a guest star.
Johnson: We do have an episode coming up where we feature the five original X-Men. Angel's on that team, on a mission, and it's a pretty exciting episode. It's pretty great to see those guys together.
Kyle: We really wanted to do an original five episode and we struggled to figure out how the heck we could get just those five characters together, and we did a nice job, I think. You get to see the original team in an episode by themselves. It's pretty cool.
Question: Why did you decide to put Season 2 on the DVD?
Kyle: The first nine episodes of Season 1 are available on VHS. We found that once Season 2 started, we had established our characters and the show began larger arcs and bigger storylines. We brought in the New Mutants and Beast came in and a lot of exciting things happened.
A lot of the older fans who want to see the big stories happening - that's where it really began and took place. The finale of Season 1 was strong, but in Season 2 you knew everybody and we just told the great stories. To bring out the DVD and give you what you could already get on VHS isn't as exciting as episodes you haven't even gotten yet on VHS. So we're hoping it will excited the older fans and younger fans.
Plus, you get the three uncut episodes, which no one besides you guys have gotten to see.