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Steven Gordon Talks X-Men: Evolution

MAA: How did you come to work on X-Men: Evolution?

Gordon: Boyd Kirkland and I were both working at Saban (on different projects) and had started to toy with the idea of re-designing The Avengers show. I'd worked with Boyd off and on over the years and we had always had a good working relationship. About the time the re-vamping of the Avengers looked like it wasn't going to happen Boyd was hired to produce a new X-Men show for KidsWB and Marvel. I was one of the three artists he hired to direct on this show and it seemed like a good fit.

MAA: What was your initial reaction to making the X-Men younger? Did it worry you at all that these established mature characters would be designed as teenagers?

Gordon: At the time I really wasn't a big comic book fan. In fact, I hadn't seriously looked at comics since I was a kid and the original X-Men were more or less teenagers - in fact I barely knew who Wolverine was. One of the new comics that was out on the stands, at this time, was 'Children of the Atom' so it really didn't seem to be that big a leap to do this show with the charcater as teens - at least to me. The original working title for the show was Children of the Atom. Of course, there was some initial trepidition that we would be forced to make X-Men Babies, but we quickly realized that no one else wanted that either.

MAA: The New Recruits were intended as a homage to Jack Kirby’s original “Jumpsuit” look. Were there any other, more subtle homage’s to previous X-Men incarnations that you feel weren’t picked upon by the shows fans?

Gordon: We did a lot of little things including making Wolverine's colors closer to his brown uniform, making Beast more grey than blue and designing Angel's costume look similiar to a comic version. But I doubt anything we did ever slipped past the fans.

MAA: If you were given the chance to design a Marvel cartoon in a similar look to X-Men: Evolution, which character would you choose?

Gordon: Spider-Man would be fun, but any of the titles would be an interesting challenge. I had a very good time designing characters for the Ultimate Avengers DTV just recently. I 'm really happy with how some of these turned out.

MAA: How does an animation directors work differ from live action directing?

Gordon: They're very similiar in a lot of ways, but the big difference is that in live-action a lot of extra footage has been shot as coverage and edited down in post production. In animation you have to do most of your editing before the show is even animated.

MAA: X-Men Evolution was made in digital ink and paint. Do have a preference between digital ink and paint animation and cel Shaded animation? What are the pros and cons of each method of colouring, to you?

Gordon: I definitely prefer digital ink and paint. It allows for a lot more control and makes many of the things that were dificult to achieve in traditional ink and paint - such as color line - easier to get. Changes are also much simpler to implement.

The only real pro, that I can think of, for traditional painting is that at the end of proiduction you have something tangible to hold in your hands and the cels make great gifts. But that also creates a huge storage problem.

MAA: Mystique got revamped in season two. Now that you had a full season’s worth of episodes to see what did and didn’t work with the character, what thought went into redesigning her?

Gordon: I was never happy with the original Mystique I designed. I felt that she had a very dated feel, but the clock was ticking and we just ran out of time. The second design was influenced by having seen the film and also a better understanding of what Mystique needed to be as a character. If we could have gotten away with a nude - look like in the film we would have, but I don't think Kids WB was quite ready for that. I also tried to make her more physically imposing and look more like a female weight-lifter - more in the vein of an Adam Hughes character. But that didn't go over very well so I settled for a more slimmed down version.

MAA: Are there any X-Men characters you were looking forward to designing, but never got the chance to?

Gordon: Over the course of the show I think I had a chance to tackle any possible character I could think of. I was most happy with Rogue (in her civvies) and Wanda (both versions) turned out. It actually would have been nice to get a second chance to redesign many of the main cast.

MAA: Which characters were most fun to direct, be it either their actual designs or their use of powers/mannerisms?

Gordon: I enjoyed episodes with Kurt, Rogue and Boom-Boom the most. It wasn't becuase of their designs, but what I could do with the characters and the stories they had.

MAA: Adrift was an odd episode, compared to most X-Men: Evolution episodes. What went into making the episode visually exciting when most of the time, the characters were stuck in water?

Gordon: What was most intersting to me was the fact that this was an episode completely about the two brothers and I somehow had to maintain their relationship throughout the course of 22 minutes. Clearly I was heavily influence visually by the film The Perfect Storm - just as the writer was when he wrote the show. I'm not sure it was completely successful and I see things now that I would have done differently if given the chance.

MAA: You animated some of the animation in the main title sequence, were those shots done entirely in studio?

Gordon: When we had to put together a title sequence and we hadn't received any footage back yet we didn't know the level of animation we might be getting back from overseas. So we decided to hedge our bets by animating several of the shots here (mainly the close-ups) and shipping them overseas for inbetweens.

MAA: Who came up with the idea to have an ‘evolving’ design for Apocalypse throughout the series?

Gordon: As I recall the idea of Apocolypse evolving was always part of the concept for the show. I couldn't tell you specifically where it came from, but I assume that Boyd, Curt and Greg collaborated on the specifics and then I was brought into visualize that concept

MAA: What thought went into the future designs for the characters, shown in the final seconds of Ascension, Part 2? Where you ever intending on using these designs again if more episodes were made?

If I recall right this was Frank Paur's show and he came up with some initial design ideas that I used as a starting point. What I also tried to do was take the current designs and push them to where they seemed to naturally go. At this point we knew the show was over and we were looking for a way to wrap things up visually as well as storywise.

MAA: What’s your overall opinion of the show? Which episodes count as your most/least favourite?

Gordon: I'm probably a little predjudiced, but I think it ranks as the best super-hero animated show to date only because we actually tried to make it more than just an action show about a bunch of characters in spandex yelling at each other and fighting every few minutes. Though we weren't always successful I think we made a real attempt at showing what the characters were going through and experiencing in their personal lives.

As to whether the designs were better than other shows or not that comes down to personal opinion. I know what I like and I don't like and I supsect the fans feel the same way.

Marvel Animation Age would like to thank Steve for his participation in this interview. Thanks Steve!