Did you pay close attention to the episode titles of the brand new series from Marvel Animation? The two-part pilot to The Avengers: Earth Mightiest Heroes is entitled Breakout Pt. 1 and 2. Not only should that warn fans about how explosive a hit Disney XD now has on its hands, it warns the masterminds at all things Marvel put some serious thought to this action.
“It was important us,” acknowledge co-Executive Producer Christopher Yost in an exclusive phone conversation. “This is one of the first shows that Marvel actually developed and financed by itself. For us, this is like Marvel Entertainment’s (their film division–ED) developing their live action Avengers movies, with the Iron Man films and all that. This is our way to introduce them to the kids and get them going.
“Now I always knew Marvel wanted to do an animated Avengers show. So they came to me and asked what would I do? I just told them that they are the Avengers. There are nearly 50 years worth of stories and comic books. I said all we really had to do was just go for it. From there, I just made a few suggestions of what I’d want to see for season one. The Breakout Pts. 1 & 2 was one of those.”
It also didn’t hurt that Breakout was previously a comic series for Marvel’s Ultimate comic book line. For those who don’t remember, the Ultimate series was used as a way to contemporize many of the House of Idea’s classic heroes. While Marvel stuck to the 60s concept of the Avengers being founded by Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Henry Pym and his wife Janet van Dyne (aka Giant Man/Ant Man and the Wasp), how they came together was a whole new plot.
“When Chris Yost and I first sat down to talk about possible directions for the series, one of our first brainstorming sessions was devoted to figuring out who should be on the core team,” added Yost’s fellow executive producer, Josh Fine. “Iron Man, Cap, and Thor were obvious inclusions as the big three, but when it came to balancing out the rest of the team there were a ton of great options, and Chris and I definitely had our own favorites.
“After a lot of tinkering with different possible line-ups, balancing their power sets and personalities against one another, what we realized was that it was hard to beat Stan (Lee) and Jack (Kirby)’s original Avengers line-up. The different worlds, and in a sense the different genres that each of those characters represents makes them a great contrast for one another…and it makes their respective points of view and subsequent interactions really interesting to watch.
“In the early days of development, we were also looking for a big, iconic Avengers story that we could use as an overarching story thread for the season. A story that would not only force the Avengers to team-up for the first time, but that could act as an ongoing threat for the whole season. We settled on a version of the Breakout storyline from Brian Michael Bendis’s New Avengers. It gave us the opportunity to set up an immense number of villains for down the road, and to get our team involved in huge action right from the get-go.
“There’s no question-by the end of Breakout Part 2 you really feel like even the combined might of every one of the Avengers might not be enough to stand up to a threat of this scope.”
It’s also important to note, that even though Marvel is now a subsidiary of Disney, and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is part of Disney’s all-boys network XD, that’s about the total involvement of the Magic Kingdom.
“This show was started and a good chunk of it completed before the deal with Disney went through,” explains Yost, whose past Marvel Animation work includes Wolverine & The X-Men, Fantastic Four and Iron Man: Armored Adventures. “We were well in the cooker before this whole thing happened. Then Disney launched Disney XD, which is for boys, and it didn’t take either Marvel or Disney much to figure that Avengers was just perfect for XD.”
As such, they did not use any of Disney’s facilities for the production. Instead they went to Film Roman, best known for their work on such shows as The Simpsons and direct-to-DVD releases like GI Joe: Resolute.
“Working at Film Roman has been a very good experience,” says Fine, who not only worked with Yost on the Wolverine and Iron Man TV shows, but also such direct-to-DVD movies as Planet Hulk and the Spectacular Spider-Man series. “We’ve basically been able to handpick our creative team and supervise every step of the process. With Super Hero Squad and Avengers. Tthis is really the most involved and hands-on Marvel has ever been in the creation of their animated series.
“So far the series has had two Supervising Directors. Ciro Nieli (Teen Titans) was with us through development and production of the micro-episodes. He did an amazing job defining the look of the show-from the character design (much of which he did himself) to the stunning background painting style. We also brought on Frank Paur (Gargoyles, Planet Hulk), a real veteran of animation, who has been guiding the process for much of the rest of the series. Frank is someone whom I’ve worked with a lot in the past, and it’s great to have him involved with this project.”
Actually, what fans will find fascinating is how Yost and Fine are layering the future events of the series. The opening credits alone hint at the eventual inclusion of Captain America and the Black Panther. Inside Breakout itself there has already been cameos of even more future Avengers, Black Widow and Hawkeye.
If that isn’t enough, future major plot points involving villains such as Ultron, Kang and Thor having to return to Asgard have been dropped. If that isn’t enough, Marvel has created a series of five-minute micro-episodes that give out an incredible number of clues.
“What would the Avengers be without Cap?” Fine asks rhetorically. “One of the questions I’ve gotten frequently after people see Breakout is ‘where is Captain America?!’ The answer of course, (and those who have watched the micro-episodes know this) is that he’s still frozen in ice. In keeping with the spirit of the original Avengers books, we felt there was a lot of value in not having Cap present for the Avengers’ first team-up. His eventual thawing out and man-out-of-time storyline become big parts of the series pretty early on, but you’ll have to wait just a little bit to see his return.”
“We decided the way to go is introduce them through Iron Man,” says Yost. “These days more people were familiar with Iron Man through the movies than they are wit the comic book. So we took the movie Tony Stark and put him in the show. We also agreed that the Avengers would only get together to take care of something no single hero could handle. We put them up against the worst things that can happen in the Marvel Universe.
“We’re taking the best of everyone’s villains whether it’s the Leader from the Hulk or Loki from Thor, and throwing them at the Avengers. There will even be times when we throw a bunch of them at once.”
“Also, Hawkeye and Black Widow are two of my favorite characters in the series,” continues Fine. “I really don’t want to give anything away-folks who have seen the micro episodes know that some serious stuff has gone down so far. We definitely haven’t seen the end of that storyline.”
“And the great thing about this show is in Day One, we see them form the Avengers,” Yost adds. “On Day Two, we will see them start going for each others throats. Let’s say when you put the Hulk and Thor in a room, watch out. Things are going to happen. Also, as much as I love action, and I do love action, we will also start getting into the individual characters, because it was the characters that made Marvel great to begin with.”
There’s one more thing. These guys behind the series feel they now have a series that will go toe-to-toe with anything their friendly rivalry at the DC Animated Universe, who have been getting a lot of shine from comic and animation fans alike, will throw at them.
“I think it’s a great time to be a fan of Super Heroes” concludes Fine. “Our goal in making the series was to make the most epic, action packed Avengers show we possibly could; to give fans stories on a scale like they’ve never seen before. So far response to the show–mostly by way of the micro-episodes–has been phenomenal. It seems like folks are already giving this show favorable comparisons to some of the best Super Hero series that have come before it. That is a huge compliment and we’re only just getting started. To quote the infamous trickster, no one is ready for what comes next!”
But fans will most certainly find out on Disney XD every Wednesday night at 8:30 pm eastern, when each new episode of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes airs.