X-Men: The Art And Making Of The Animated Series by Eric Lewald and Julia Lewald (book review)

April 24, 2021 | By | Reply More

I should point out that ‘X-Men: The Art And Making Of The Animated Series’ by Eric Lewald and Julia Lewald is focusing solely on the 1993 TV version. Back then, the X-Men were still only regarded as a comicbook phenomenon and not having a bigger audience who were familiar with the characters. The only animation attempt other than guest-stars was with ‘Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends’, Firestar and Iceman (1981-83) and ‘Pryde Of The X-Men’ (1988).

X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series by Eric Lewald and Julia Lewald © 2020 Marvel (Abrams, £35)

However, this time, Fox TV wanted to use them and Saban Studios had to convince them to take a more adult approach and not to include a goofy dog. Showrunner Margaret Loesch put her job on the line, not to mention having to turn Stan Lee down who wanted to be narrator and assumed the old X-Men he created were being used when the intention was using the new team. That should have been an interesting conversation to have been a fly on the wall to. It also helped that she had a selection of ex-Marvel artists to bring the characters to life. Did I say there was a lot of art here showing off all the talents of Will Meugniot and Frank Brunner amongst others?

p14a – Layered production cels, line and colour, of Xavier’s mansion at night. This was our standard night background of the school.
X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series by Eric Lewald and Julia Lewald © 2020 Marvel (Abrams, £35)

Interestingly, we do see a bit of internal Marvel politics when it came to Jim Lee’s take on the X-Men costumes as he was leaving to start Image Comics at the time and they weren’t keen to have Saban Studios use them. I’m not going to spoil how Will Meugniot resolved this because you need to read for yourself but clearly transcends things with having the right decisions for the right reasons. It’s not as though Marvel didn’t actually own the designs.

Will Meugniot’s influence on the first two seasons was decisive and if it wasn’t for his work on the ‘The Exosquad’s first season, would have been more involved in season three onward. However, seeing is involvement in their version ‘The Days of Future Past’ from layouts onward is jaw-dropping for detail and getting the Japanese animators to get things right all the time shows a lot of hard work going on.

p118i – Production cel with the background of the interior of the Blackbird jet where Jubilee, Rogue and Wolverine sit.
X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series by Eric Lewald and Julia Lewald © 2020 Marvel (Abrams, £35)

I think the biggest surprise was seeing how closely they were following the entire Hellfire Club/Dark Phoenix, just with different characters and an absence of Kitty Pride as ‘Days Of Future Past’ was done earlier. In many respects, Jubilee was her substitute but not always for similar plot elements. Both writers and artists keeping to the essence of the stories. In fact, seeing the number of characters used showed immense loyalty. They even went as far as dropping all number of other characters in the background and was the first to animate briefly the Black Panther and Deadpool.

Going into the aftermath of the series, a lot of things come up. The plastic figures which I suspect many of you own. Also it was the bigger influence on director Bryan Singer than the comics which he didn’t actually read for his ‘X-Men’ film. I had forgotten all about the ‘X-Men Adventures’ comic based off the series but can’t recall the animated adventures being shown over here to compare it to. I did some research while reading this book and the series volumes are hard to buy on DVD although they are streaming out there so hardly forgotten.

p264a – Supervising producer Will Meugniot was in charge of our design team. Will had hundreds of responsibilities that first year, so even though his vision for the series pervades it, artists like Frank Brunner and Rick Hoberg ended up doing much of the actual drawing that built our world of memorable characters. But Will loves drawing our X-Men, even in retirement. The team picture was newly commissioned for this book.
X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series by Eric Lewald and Julia Lewald © 2020 Marvel (Abrams, £35)

This book will obviously sell to the X-Men audience and even more so to those brought up on its first animated series which lasted for 5 seasons, no mean accomplishment even if the fifth season got a bit of an art/animation simplification because of running costs. With such a ready audience, get it before it gets a second printing.

GF Willmetts

November 2020

(pub: Chronicle Books, 2020. 288 page illustrated oblong hardback. Price: £35.00 (UK), $50.00 (US), $63.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4197-4468-6)

check out website: www.chroniclebooks.com

Category: Illustration, Movie books, Superheroes

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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