While the slick animation, strange villains and Japanese locales of Marvel Entertainment's recent string of anime adaptations may make the series feel different from past TV efforts, the company is still placing a premium on the authenticity of its effort.
Aside from initial stories written by comics scribe Warren Ellis, the anime series produced by Japan's Madhouse studio and airing Friday evenings at 11:00 on G4 (so far "Iron Man" and "Wolverine" serials have debuted) also include actors who are well known to comic fans. Former "Heroes" star and occasional comic creator Milo Ventimiglia voiced Wolverine for the mutant's solo series, and starting on October 21, viewers can hear "Friday Night Lights" actor Scott Porter take on the part of Cyclops in the new "X-Men" serial.
A longtime comics reader, Porter has been a fixture at comic conventions for years, but 2011 saw his very first official work on a mainstream comics property. The actor voiced new character Adrian Luca in the just released "X-Men Destiny" video game, and now with Cyclops is bringing his love of everything from the classic Chris Claremont X-Men comics to Ellis' own "Astonishing X-Men" run to bear on his work. Porter told CBR News about what it took to meld two eras of X-Men comics in anime, the challenge of dubbing a previously finished film and his own personal picks for comics.
Scott Porter: Yeah, it was Jeph Loeb. I met Jeph a while back when I went in for an arc on "Heroes" that ended up not working out. It was for the Marine that ended up getting super powers in the third season. I met him then and kept in touch. He has respect for people he knows who are fans or who he's worked with, and in my case he knew I loved comics and called me out of nowhere to ask if I'd be interested in this. And of course I was.
So as an X-Men reader, were you a Cyclops guy or a Wolverine guy?
Neither! [Laughter] It's weird. Everybody always loves Wolverine, and Cyclops to me was just so stiff. But to me, it was never between those two. Wolverine has experienced this odd and, to me, out of character evolution where now he's leading a team of X-Men. When I see the "X3" movie where he's saying "Hold the line" after they've killed Cyclops...that was totally out of left field. I know some people really like the evolution of Wolverine to become a leader – more of a team player and less of a loner. But that doesn't ring true for me.
To me, it was more between Cyclops and Storm growing up. That was the division. They'd battle, then Storm lost her powers and still took Cyclops down. She took control of the team, and then X-Factor formed. It was all about that. But neither of them were my favorite character then, though I have a different opinion of Cyclops now. Going back and looking at his history and then voicing him in this cartoon helped me see why he always has to be so in control. Now that I have a better understanding of it, I appreciate him a lot more.
This version of the X-Men story is a very modern one that Warren Ellis initially wrote with a lot of influence from his "Astonishing X-Men" run, but the one twist that brings in the classic thread for Cyclops is that the series starts just after the death of Jean Grey at the end of "The Dark Phoenix Saga." What was it like to pick up the character after the worst tragedy in his life?
That made it completely interesting for me. To allude to why I have such respect for Cyclops, it's because he's been through hell. He's lost Jean how many times now? He has to control this odd band of misfits who are under constant duress by the universe. He is ultimately powerful and has to always rein this power in or he could level cities with it. Seeing the control that Cyclops has to have and then seeing him in a very vulnerable position at the start of this cartoon where he just doesn't care anymore and is more careless with his powers. He wants to hang it up and quit. That's a very emotional place for the character, and then he falls back into his natural role where he's always been the leader because the X-Men need him. You really see all that here.
I loved both Whedon and Ellis' "Astonishing" runs. Seeing those characters in cartoon form was awesome. Seeing Armor make her first appearance in an animated project was amazing. Having all these characters come to life, and to be a part of the X-Men's world myself now? To me, that's the ultimate.
Definitely for me it was a little more difficult than working on a show where you're working with other live actors. A lot of what we do as actors in television, film and even theater depends on a huge number of people – set designers, directors of photography and lighting technicians. Everything sets the mood for you to come in and say the words that finalize the scene. In the cartoon world, this show had already been produced, voiced and aired in Japan before it came to us. So there was definitely a situation where all those other pieces were in place, but you're just by yourself in a room with no one else to bounce off of, and you've got to deliver.
Luckily, when you're in the room you watch the animation, and you can see the emotion in the face of the artistic rendering of Cyclops. I can see how humongous the pressure is around him or how dangerous the scene is and change my voice according to all of that. The cartoon was easier than video games. I just voiced a character in the X-Men's world as well for a game called "X-Men Destiny," and that was probably the most difficult thing imaginable. You're just in a room alone with a sheet of paper. It's completely out of context, and you have to lay down three different options on a line and keep moving. You have the luxury of time a bit more in cartoons than in video games, but this was still a difficult adjustment for me. I think I started to warm up a few episodes in. It was my first time doing this, and it was nerve-wracking, but I think it's going to turn out well.
The season is 12 episodes in one big arc, but there are definite adventures and stories within that broader adventure. What were some of the things that got you most excited about this story as a fan watching the anime unfold from that recording booth?
Like I said, seeing Armor come into play was great – a character who's never been animated before. And the anime art style of the show is waaaaaay, way over-the-top and action-oriented. That's really cool to see. There's not a lot of sitting down and talking. For me, it was also cool to hear the other voice of the actors who in some cases you'll recognize. Beast and Wolverine – these guys are old pros with the characters, and it was amazing to be in a scene where I could work off their voices when they had recorded before me.
The other thing is that you see glimpses of other characters and glimpses that this 12-epsiode run could open into a much bigger thing. This mostly takes place in Japan because of the idea of how "X-Men" anime originated and where it was made and aired. It's all set over in Japan, but you see hints of the rest of the world, and you see other characters that aren't tied to our direct story line. That comes towards the end of the series, and it was very cool for me. And not to spoil anything, but when the big bad guy is revealed at the end of the series, it was a lot of fun because he's one of my favorite Hellfire Club members from reading the books. To see him take center stage as the main villain was great.
Man, I've got to tell you that I don't read much of the big publishers anymore. Company-wide event crossovers have left a bad taste in my mouth as they always want to slap a banner on ever single book they put out. I understand they're trying to survive and that the industry feels like it needs these big crossovers, but I can't take it anymore. It's really started to ruin some of my favorite characters. I'm not picking up any of the DC New 52 reboot. It's erasing my entire existence as a comic book reader, and I feel like it's doing this "Heroes Reborn" publicity stunt. I don't know how long it's going to hang on, and I'd rather not jump into something that will only last two or three years before the old number comes back.
I do read "X-Factor" and "Uncanny X-Force" right now as well as "New Mutants." I can't wait to read "Schism" and to see "Alpha Flight" come back. Those are all characters I grew up with, so it's fun for me. I was a big fan of the Ultimate line, but then "Ultimatum" happened. Jeph's going to hate me for saying that. [Laughs] It's just that I'm more of a traditionalist. I don't love it when the status quo gets flipped upside down and everything is on its head. I do pick up a lot of books in trade, though. I love "DMZ" and "Fables." I pick up "Walking Dead" and "Invincible." I just stared reading "Chew" so I read most of what I'm into now in trade.
And I'm really digging Archaia's format of books now too. With "Rust" and "Mr. Murder Is Dead," there are all these cool, quirky books that Archaia's putting out. And "Mouse Guard" is great because I loved "The Secret of NIMH" as a kid. But I like how they're experimenting with brand new characters and titles rather than just doing characters that are rooted in tradition and canon.
What else have you got on the horizon outside the "X-Men" anime?
Well, people can pick up their controllers and play as me in "X-Men Destiny." It just came out from Activision, and me, Milo Ventimiglia and Jamie Chung voice three brand new characters to the X-Men universe. So anyone interested in the anime will be really interested in this game. I'm on television every Monday night at 9:00 on The CW in the brand new show called "Heart of Dixie" with Rachel Bilson and Jaime King. It's a bit of a romantic comedy, which is different for me. I did dramatic roles for the last six years, and I wanted to get back to my roots because where I stared as a performer was in comedy and musical theater doing kind of over-the-top work. This show allowed me to do that in a leading man type of way. It was everything I wanted in a new project, and it's turned out well. It's a definite change of pace for me.
I also have two movies coming out that don't have set dates. One is called "The Hand Job" which is a pretty raunchy, R-rated comedy with Aubrey Plaza from "Parks And Recreation," Donald Glover from "Community," Connie Britton and Andy Samberg. It's a really, really funny, small film. And then I have another movie with Channing Tatum, Justin Long and Anthony Mackie called "Ten Year" which is about a ten year high school reunion that was written and directed by one of my best friends: Jamie Linden who did "We Are Marshall" and "Dear John." So I've got a lot coming out, but it's been a great year. This year has been a time for me to try new things, experiment in different areas and do something I love. That's how the "X-Men" anime gig came up. I wanted to do voiceover my whole life, and this was my first shot at it. So to be able to do a character like Cyclops right out the gate was a huge honor.
G4's "X-Men" anime series debuts October 21 at 11:00 PM Eastern and Pacific.