[UPDATE: Marvel was kind enough to provide additional information about their animated projects.]
The Marvel Animation Group panel at this year's New York Comic Con was a rally for support-- Cort Lane, director of development for Marvel Animation repeatedly asked for fans to $upport Marvel Animated projects, so that the company could continue to grow and provide fans with animated shows and features they want to see.
Reading between the lines I got somewhat of an impression that this is an important juncture for Marvel Animation. Personally, I've always been more of a DC Animation fan, though this panel did give me one or two reasons to consider making a switch.
WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN
Wolverine and the X-Men was the first show covered on the panel. The show has been NickToons' biggest premiere ever, increasing the channel's viewership by 808% with its first episode and 1055% with the second. Not a bad start. A trailer of upcoming episodes was screened for fans, which included the mutant-occupied nation of Genosha being attacked by Sentinels, Magneto seizing control of the Sentinel armada to strike back at mankind and previews of new characters to the show like Jean Grey, Archangel and other familiar faces.
While I disliked the wannabe-anime style of Wolverine and the X-Men, the actual plot-points seemed very cool and very much in line with X-Men comics of more recent years. I might have to check it out.
Next the panel discussed the Hulk Vs. direct-to-DVD feature. The two-for-one release, which contains both Hulk Vs. Wolverine and Hulk Vs. Thor has become something of a fan favorite since it hit stores at the end of January. Eric Rollman, head of Marvel Animation Studios, [half] joked that if we hadn't bought a copy of Hulk Vs. yet we were required to leave the room. Jim McCann, Marvel's marketing wonder-guy, asked if fans wanted to see more installments of the Vs. series down the line, to which the crowd responded with a resounding "Yes!"
Marvel may have found its niche in the animated feature market.
Black Panther is going through something of a resurgence right now: the comic book was re-launched this past week and sold out its first issue, and Marvel Animation and BET are collaborating on an animated series which will feature the voice work of Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Push) in the titular role, along with Kerry Washington (Last King of Scotland) and Alfre Woodard (Desparate Housewives).
“[Djimon] was a powerful presence in the booth,” said Reggie Hudlin, who is both the writer of the new Black Panther comic, the President of Entertainment over at BET, and the man primarily responsible for much of the renewed popularity the character is enjoying right now.
Ironically, the first story arch in the new Black Panther comic is about how the original Black Panther, King T'Challa, is in a coma, leaving a woman to fill the role as protector of the African nation of Wakanda.
Black Panther will premiere on BET in the first quarter of 2009.
MARVEL SUPER HERO SQUAD
If you've ever seen the "baby-versions" of your favorite comic book superheroes then you know what's in store for you with the upcoming Marvel Super Hero Squad. Concept art from the show (which is still in development) was shown during the panel, with Rollman mostly describing how the creators are attempting to fit just about every character in the known Marvel Universe into the series at one point or another.
A core team will be made up of Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Wolverine, and Falcon, with Silver Surfer dropping in to help out now and again. A new character, Reptile, was introduced and pics of other Marvel Universe characters (Captain America, Ms. Marvel, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Fantastic Four, X-Men, Heroes for Hire and even The Defenders) were previewed for the crowd.
Marvel Super Hero Squad will also feature a hell of a lot of classic villains (banded together in a "Lethal Legion"), including Loki, Abomination, Mole Man, Fin Fang Foom, Screaming Mimi, Dormammu, Claw, and the Wrecking Crew. Dr. Doom will be leading the Lethal Legion and a small animated clip featuring a pint-sized Doom blowing his stack was shown. It was actually kinda funny.
Marvel Super Hero Squad should be fun for kids and adults who love pint-sized heroes. An accompanying video game from THQ and toy line are already being developed to coincide with the show.
IRON MAN: ARMORED ADVENTURES
The panel ended with a screening of an episode from the upcoming Iron Man: Armored Adventures. The animation style is much like that of the Spider-Man cartoon MTV ran a few years ago, mostly CGI animated characters and f/x. The series focuses on a teenage Tony Stark, who fights teenage versions of Iron Man's rogue gallery.
Sorry to be a downer, but Iron Man: Armored Adventures was lame. It doesn't offer anything we haven't seen before and is chock-full of cheese. It really is just for the young'ns; I'll be passing on this show.
If you would like to check it out, Iron Man: Armored Adventures will be premiering on April 24th, 2009 on NickToons.
After the panel wrapped there was a brief Q&A session the managed to reveal a lot of info about upcoming plans and projects fans can expect from Marvel Animation. Here's a quick recap list:
- Thor: Tales of Asgard. Will be released in the late 3rd quarter or early 4th quarter of 2009.
- Wolverine and the X-Men has already been given a second season. The entire cast and crew will be back and new characters will be introduced. Colossus may return before season 1 is over.
- Spectacular Spider-man is going to have a new season on a new channel, Toon Disney. DVD's of the past season with extended episodes are in the pipeline. No plans to kill Gwen Stacy on that show.
- More direct-to-DVD features after Thor and Planet Hulk are possible depending on sales.
- Projects like "Marvel Zombies" or more Vs. features were suggested by the crowd. Rollman and Lane said they’d consider it, if we would be willing to shill out for it.
- Method Animation is the company animating Iron Man: Armored Adventures, using Maya animation software. An Internet videogame based on the show is also in development.
- The Toon Disney syndication of Marvel cartoons from the 90's will continue; those shows will also soon be available on Marvel.com.
- The Avengers and Thor animated series are currently in production.
- "Marvel Music" has been launched and will handle things like the theme songs to their animated shows and features.
- A number of fans would like to see Wolverine and the X-Men air on Nickelodeon, in addition to it being on NickToons.
- Nick Fury will figure into a lot of upcoming animated projects, but will not have his own series.
That's about it for the New York Comic Con Marvel Animation panel. There's a lot of info there, but once you've had a chance to digest it all, let us know which project is shaping up to be your favorite.
Source: New York Comic Con