With MarvelFest NYC happening tonight, we're shining the spotlight on the creative geniuses behind the ASTONISHING X-MEN Motion Comic. Make sure you come down to Union Square in NYC on October 28 at 6 p.m. to see the world premiere of the ASTONISHING X-MEN Motion Comic, take part in the costume contest and more. Visit marvel.com/fest for more info. And even if you can't make the event, click over to iTunes to download the first episode of "Astonishing X-Men: Gifted"!
By John Rhett Thomas and Chris Arrant
[reprinted from MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: ASTONISHING X-MEN MOTION COMIC]
Are you ready for the premiere of a new X-Men film? In the early evening of October 28, the southeast corner of New York City's Union Square will play host to a movie premiere of a different kind. The first episode of "Astonishing X-Men: Gifted"—a tale that won series creators Joss Whedon and John Cassaday a boatload of Eisners, including Best Continuing Series—will be unveiled for a throng of X-Men fans, film buffs, passersby and curious travelers. What they'll see is the art of John Cassaday's X-Men filling the screen as if it was made for it. But... it wasn't!
As Cassaday originally toiled on the critically-acclaimed series, he had no idea it would later be adapted into one of Marvel's premiere motion comics, in the wake of the huge success of "Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D." But the artist's inherently filmic style makes his seminal run with superstar Whedon a deft choice for Marvel's motion comics rollout. John is serving as a director on the project, and sits with Spotlight to give us some insights into the process.
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: How did the idea of motion comics get initially presented to you and what were your thoughts?
JOHN CASSADAY: I'd seen a lot of motion comic animation and the quality varied. So when Marvel approached me, I was initially hesitant, but after looking at some test footage and hearing how committed they were, I joined in.
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: The average comic fan may not know this, but you have a background in film—you studied filmmaking in college and you were even a director of TV newscasts in Texas. What elements of that training and experience come into play for directing this motion comic?
JOHN CASSADAY: It's less technical for me and mostly about watching over the entire process to keep the story in check and make sure we're all on the same page.
ASTONISHING X-MEN #1 cover by John Cassaday
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: How did the process of adapting the original work go from your point of view?
JOHN CASSADAY: There was no changing any of the lines, that's for sure. Joss' dialogue is naturalistic and real. There was no concern about the lines coming off strangely when spoken, as can be the case with some writing. In terms of coordinating, my role came down to talking with the animators here and there, doing some additional art where there were gaps in the animation. Some of the most fun I had on the project was working with the voice director, James Snyder, to cast actors as well as sitting in on as many voice sessions as I could. He really knocked it out of the park. Getting to watch these characters I've come to know so well come to life was really something. They speak!
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: The company helping translate this to motion comics is Neal Adams' Continuity Studios. Have you worked directly with Neal?
JOHN CASSADAY: I've known Neal for a while and am pleased to finally be working with him. He's the one handling the animation and doing the heavy lifting. I get to peek in and make tweaks where I see fit and act as general counsel.
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: In addition to directing this, you've also been announced as director of an episode of Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse." Can you tell us a little about that?
JOHN CASSADAY: I'm directing episode 10 of the new season of "Dollhouse" and couldn't be more thrilled. I've visited the set several times in the last year and a half to shadow Joss and other directors in order to prepare. It was important for me to get a feeling for the crew and how they interact. Any time you get to work with creative people—animators, actors, directors and producers, all of this—it helps to refine what tools you'll need moving forward. At this stage for me it's about being a sponge.
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: Marvel's other major motion comic, SPIDER-WOMAN, is aided by the fact that artist Alex Maleev does all his work straight to digital and he drew it with the motion comic in mind. Being that the ASTONISHING X-MEN print comic was done well before it was thought of as a candidate for motion comics, what was that part of the process like?
JOHN CASSADAY: It's apples and asteroids, I suppose. I haven't seen SPIDER-WOMAN yet, but I understand it's being treated very differently than AXM. A lot of that has to do with the fact that's it's not an adaptation. The animation comes first with a mind for the comic in the future. AXM is essentially the other way around.
A page from ASTONISHING X-MEN #1 by John Cassaday
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: Would you consider doing a project like SPIDER-WOMAN where it's being produced as a motion comic and print comic simultaneously?
JOHN CASSADAY: Possibly. But there's a different method to each artist's madness. It would depend on the subject matter and how open it was to the different aspects of each medium.
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: Should this be successful, would you be up for adapting your other issues of ASTONISHING X-MEN to motion comics?
JOHN CASSADAY: Absolutely. I couldn't be more pleased with our run on the book and seeing the rest of it play out would be very exciting.
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: Did you find any revelations about your art as you were looking at it from an animator's perspective?
JOHN CASSADAY: It was mostly just marveling (no pun!) at the process. To see these two-dimensional images I drew start moving and speaking was incredibly strange and opened up some very interesting possibilities in my mind. It's an experimental process and there's a learning curve, but I'm anxious to see where we wind up.
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: Did you find that some of the art you were working with was a bit ornery trying to get it to work with motion comics? How did you adapt to that, if so?
JOHN CASSADAY: A lot of what Neal has been doing is drawing bits here and there, such as mouth movements and in-between actions to fill out what's needed. I've helped on occasion and know that this is just part of the beast.
Make sure you come down to Union Square in NYC on October 28 at 6 p.m. to see the world premiere of the ASTONISHING X-MEN Motion Comic, take part in the costume contest and more. Visit marvel.com/fest for more info. And even if you can't make the event, click over to iTunes to download the first episode of "ASTONISHING X-MEN: Gifted"!
Not a subscriber to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited yet? Join now!
Download episodes of "X-Men: Evolution", "Wolverine and the X-Men", "Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes" and "The Super Hero Squad Show" now on iTunes!
Check out the official Marvel Shop for your favorite Marvel Heroes!