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James MarstersJames Marsters - "Marvel Super Hero Squad" Animated Series - He joins the cast
Sunday 20 September 2009, by Webmaster
Marvel’s SUPER HERO SQUAD Brings the Funny for All Ages
There’s a moment where MODOK is cooking Falcon’s goose with his thought beams. The hero also known as Sam Wilson cries out to his avian companion for help, and the faithful bird comes sweeping down from the heavens to...
...drop the largest load of droppings on MODOK’s head one could possibly do without having the censors follow Redwing like a pack of murderous Sentinels.
The thing is, if this scene doesn’t leave kids—and their parents—howling with laughter, they should have their senses of humor overhauled.
Welcome to the world of Marvel’s latest entry in the animation field, “Super Hero Squad.” It’s a combination of high torque action and, quite frankly, potty humor, that comes across like a mutant hybrid of the old “X-Men: The Animated Series” series and “Ren & Stimpy.” Better yet, make it the out-of-wedlock child of “The Avengers” and “Invader Zim.”
It’s one truly bizarre critter, yet it sure knows how to move.
The series made its official debut this Saturday, September 19th, on Cartoon Network at 8:30 a.m. eastern. CN thinks so much of it they’ve been pulling ‘sneak peaks’ over the previous few days and apparently are getting remarkably positive results.
Then again, it should. It posits Dr. Doom was out to grab the Infinity Sword. He would have gotten it, too, if it wasn’t for a last-minute effort by Iron Man. Now the sword has been broken into itty bitty pieces over Super Hero City, where Stan Lee just happens to be the Mayor. While Doom sends such minions as Mole Man, Fing Fang Foom, the Abomination and more to retrieve the sword shards, IM has rounded up the likes of Silver Surfer, the Hulk, Captain America, Wolverine and Falcon to thwart the dastardly supervillain’s schemes.
Yet look carefully at the artwork on this show. The visuals are all top notch, from the kid-friendly character designs to the incredible backdrops such as Super Villain City. Supervising director Mitch Schauer also has a keen eye for great camera angles and rapid fire action. Story Editor Matt Wayne’s dialog is also as fast and funny as the best of the early Three Stooges routines.
So yes, this show is packed with a lot of potty humor, but that doesn’t mean it’s a gross out. As Marvel Animation Director of Animation Development Cort Lane points out, kids love this kind of stuff. Don’t be surprised if adults make it a regular viewing habit, too
Speaking of Lane, he consented to a fast 20 minutes of his time. Here’s what he had to say:
Newsarama: What are the origins of Super Hero Squad?
Cort Lane: Its origins are complicated. To simplify it, Marvel was interested in creating a brand that crossed entertainment and all kinds of product categories that would make our characters very accessible for younger boys.
Nrama: In putting together the crew, were you looking for that? Fans love Matt Wayne’s work, but probably never thought he could do this.
Lane: We knew we wanted three things out of our series. They’re really sort of big firsts for Marvel. This would be our first Marvel Universe show. So everybody involved had to know and love everything about our characters. For instance, I am a fan boy and have been since I was eleven. I have huge long boxes in my comic room at home. I also collect original art.
We also knew we this was our first action-adventure. That was a big challenge, a very interesting challenge for Marvel. We had never really done that in animation. So we brought out Mitch Schauer as our supervising director. He created “Angry Beavers,” and was a key guy on a lot of comedy shows like “Freakazoid.” Now Matt Wayne has the “Justice League Unlimited” experience. He’s also done “Scooby Doo” and “Tom & Jerry Adventures.” So we put together a great comedy team.
We are also working with Film Roman. We’re on the same floor, for example, as “The Simpsons.” That kind of respect and knowledge of comedy timing was very important to us.
The third is it’s an all ages show. We really wanted to reach boys 4-7. That way, we can be a great entry point for them into the Marvel Universe.
Nrama: One thing I noticed is 4-7 year olds love potty jokes.
Nrama: One scene that had me rolling on the floor is when Redwing stopped MODOK cold by dropping a load of guano on the villain’s jewel.
Lane: We have a lot of fart jokes, too. You can thank Joe Quesada for the fart jokes. I think Joe’s really a 4-7 year old in his heart because he really pushed for Mole Man to be gassy. I wasn’t going to argue because I knew boys were going to love that.
Nrama: So how do you manage to keep it within taste? That’s a real fine line you’re walking on.
Lane: We do want all our fans to know that we will still have intense action shows that they’ve come to know and love, both in production and in development. This is just something different and special that we had an opportunity to do.
We have a creative committee at Marvel that will pull us back from the ledge if we’re going too far. Our real judgment call is it our heroes, especially our key heroes, must always be heroic. That’s the best way to say it. If it undermines their heroic qualities, we won’t do it. They can have funny characteristics as well, though.
That’s the yardstick that we use in the script process and storyboarding. There have been times when we said ‘you know what? That’s too foolish for our character.’
Now the villains on the other hand, they don’t have to be heroic. They have to be threatening. Still, MODOK comes through as a big source of comedy throughout the series, and you will see that. Mole Man is also very funny, but MODOK really has delusions of grandeur. We can play all kinds of scenarios from that.
There’s an upcoming episode where Ms. Marvel is hit by a love spell and falls for MODOK. Obviously, the comedy naturally ensues just from that. The rest of the episode just runs off of that.
Nrama: Grey DeLisle really hits the hammer on the head with Ms. Marvel. It’s just off the hook.
Lane: Ms. Marvel’s the ultimate control freak. There are times where she’s just a little bit unlikeable, but she’s a really fun foil for the boys. We have all kinds of fun female characters in this series. Storm appears frequently. The Wasp appears a few times. She’s played by Jennifer Morrison, who is on “House” from Day 1. She played Kirk’s mother on the new “Star Trek” movie.
Nrama: Now how the heck did you pry Charlie Adler away from all his other work? He makes a great Doom.
Lane: It’s funny because Charlie has no understanding of the Marvel Universe whatsoever and is happy to admit it. He just likes doing over-the-top, fun characters. I think one of the things that’s really appealing to him was he really liked the other cast members.
Nrama: You really have a sterling cast list here. You have Tom Kenny, Cree Summers, Steve Blum still being Wolverine...
Lane: But Steve does a very different take on it. He also plays Abomination. He has a lot of fun with that character. I think we have one of the greatest voice casts in the world, both in the regular cast and in the guest talent. We just recorded George Takei as Galactus and he was absolutely amazing.
Nrama: You didn’t cast Fred Tatasciore as Hulk...
Lane: We cast the net really wide. There was a fine line in Hulk getting too stupid or too threatening. Travis Willingham just came in, and he mostly had anime credits, and just killed the audition.
Steve was able to take Wolverine and go a hair lighter and it worked. I don’t think people don’t realize Steve’s versatility. He tends to play characters with that Wolverine quality, like Spike Spiegel or Roger The Negotiator, but his Abomination is really funny. He also does a lot of other great characters on the show.
Nrama: Now who did the character design? It’s almost like chibi.
Lane: We didn’t want to go all the way to chibi because we wanted something unique for that show, something that could link into the other brand elements. Mitch Schauer designed those characters. He designed every one. Mitch and I are also big fans of the classic look. So the old Kirby and Buscema were things that really appealed to us. You will see a lot of that look in the costumes. There will be some flashback episodes that will be very Kirby inspired.
Nrama: You brought in Fing Fang Foom and other great Kirby monsters.
Lane: We certainly did! We love that old Kirby stuff.
Nrama: How do you think this will work on your target 4-7 year olds?
Lane: I think really well. Even though I am a fanboy, most of my past experience has been content for younger kids.
This wasn’t a focus-testing driven show. We didn’t make our decisions based on that. We did some research up front, just to gauge where we were going. That informed what we did later. We’ve heard really good things from networks we’re working with.
Nrama: So has the show aired on other networks already?
Lane: Just Teletoons and Cartoon Network. Cartoon Network has the official premier on September 19th. They have been sneak-peaking it. Teletoons started on the 13th.
Nrama: Because fans will ask this, Cartoon Network is where the show is airing, but you also now have the deal with Disney. Does that affect the future?
Lane: It’s safe to say it will stay on Cartoon Network for a long as they want to. It’s business as usual. I don’t want to discuss the details, but there’s nothing to stop us continuing with them. Fans should not worry.
Nrama: So how many episodes for the first season?
Lane: 26. We are already in pre-production on season two. I actually wanted to get on season two faster, but we’re working on scripts right now.
As a special gift from Lane, here’s a current cast list and four loglines of upcoming episodes:
CELEBRITY GUEST CASTING:
101 – “And Lo... A Pilot Shall Come!” Written by Matt Wayn
The Squad has a big mission to keep a fractal from Dr. Doom. Falcon is eager to show he’s no rookie, but his teammates underestimate him. Meanwhile, Doom employs the disgusting and VERY gassy Mole Man to find the fractal first – but Mole Man gets freaky powerful when he touches it and decides to use his monster buddies to conquer Super Hero City!
Guest Heroes – Storm & the Mayor, with Captain America & Ms. Marvel and cameos from Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, Thing, Luke Cage, Kitty Pryde & Colossus.
Villain – Mole Man & his minions, Abomination cameo
102 – “This Silver, This Surfer!” Written by Mark Hoffmeier
Silver Surfer can’t get a hang of earth customs, and drives his Squad buddies to frustration. So the Surfer sadly heads out on his own. Dr. Doom seizes the opportunity to capture him, realizing he can suck out the Surfer’s power to combine fractals and make an Infinity dagger. Yet the Silver Surfer enjoys torturing his own captors. Fortunately, the Thing rallies the Squad to save their lost friend in an all-out assault on Villainville.
Guest Heroes – The Thing with Ms. Marvel
Villains – MODOK & Abomination
103 – “Hulk Talk Smack!” Written by Eugene Son
During a chaotic battle with Klaw & Screaming Mimi, a fractal’s cosmic power turns the Hulk into the Gray Hulk. While Falcon and the Wasp babysit this unlikable, brainy Hulk, the Squad chase down the Lethal Legion in a battle to save Super Hero City.
Guest Heroes – The Wasp
Villains – Klaw, Toad, Melter, Screaming Mimi with Abomination & MODOK
104 – “To Err is Superhuman!” Written by Jim Krieg
Introducing Reptil, a teen Hispanic hero thrilled to join the Squad as a trainee. Wolverine is very reluctantly assigned to be Reptil’s mentor. On their first mission, hotshot Reptil gets himself in hot water with the Abomination and the Wrecking Crew. Shaken, Reptil has to get back in the game when he is the only one who can help Wolverine during a Lethal Legion ambush.
Guest Heroes – Hawkeye and introducing Reptil, with Captain America Villains – Wrecker & the Wrecking Crew: Thunderball, Piledriver & Bulldozer, with MODOK, Abomination & Doombots