Avengers Assemble is debuting with a one-hour premiere this Sunday, May 26, on Disney XD, and in anticipation of that, Marvel is holding a conference call with the comic book press about the new animated series. Marvel chief creative officer Joe Quesada, vice president of Marvel animation Cort Lane, and writer Joe Kelly (who, along with his Man of Action colleagues, are executive producers on the series), are all scheduled to be on the call.
Things are slated to get started right around 3 p.m. — keep reloading this page, as we'll be on the line, updating live with the latest details.
First question, from Marvel's James Viscardi, moderating the call: What makes Avengers Assemble stand out from other Marvel animated series? "The inspiration for the show is pretty obvious," Quesada says, pointing to the success of last year's Avengers live-action film. "We wanted to have a show that reflected the attitude of the movie, with a bit of the look of the movie, and the flavor of the movie," while fitting in with Marvel's animated world.
What inspired the choice of Falcon? "We wanted to bring in a new character that would be, in essence, the eyes and the ears of the audience," Quesada says. "He's the newbie of the group, he's the youngest member. I think seeing the Avengers through the eyes of this particular character will really give our audience a unique perspective. It helps that we'll be seeing him in the Cinematic Universe as well," but primarily the character is there to act as the viewer's eye into the Avengers world.
Other Marvel characters that might guest star this season? "It's the Avengers, so these are big stories, big villains, they all have a rich history, as far as their own individual backstories," Kelly says. "There are definitely guest stars who appear, but we spend a lot of time at the beginning of the season just focused on our core cast. There will definitely be guest stars, but they come a little later down the road."
"The interaction between our lead characters is so interesting, and the dynamics are funny, and they create conflict," Lane adds, which is why the main cast is being explored first.
The series will feature a "Cabal" much like the one from the "Dark Reign" era of Marvel Comics, albeit this time led by Red Skull and M.O.D.O.K. It's a very different roster than what's been seen in the comic books, but "there are some villains who don't accept membership in the Cabal, and that's interesting, too." Lane says, mentioning Dracula as another member of the group.
"These are immensely powerful villains in their own right," Quesada says. "I can assure you they are all level-10 villains, and they all aspect in different areas of the Marvel Universe. It's always a thrill when I see things that originated in the comics end up elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, because at the end of the day, the comics are really the creative hub of what we do at Marvel. It all comes from publishing."
Kelly says that The Cabal is Red Skull forming something that he "doesn't totally understand," as he's watching what The Avengers do, but doesn't quite know how to replicate their formula on the villain side.
"Skull starts to develop this plan, he starts to cook up his idea of The Cabal, and what that really means to him," Kelly says, adding that there's a "constant tension" with The Avengers. "There's still questions as to how they hold this team of rivals, this team of equals, team of gods and monsters together. Who's going to really lead, and can that leader hold that group together?"
Lane says that Marvel understood that they had to "raise the stakes, and raise the level of sophistication" with Avengers Assemble. "You'll see that in terms of animation, the work done in post, and the score. The show itself has a cinematic feel."
"The idea of getting to play with these toys at this time is really exciting," says Kelly, a comic book veteran. "Marvel has done such a great job of building the Avengers franchise, in a way no one has done before. For us to get to be a part of that was exciting and an honor. The challenge is to keep it epic, keep the bar raised, and still address the necessities of animation, and our network, and all of that kind of good stuff."
Kelly says that they look to have each series to have a separate feel, saying that this show is very different than Ultimate Spider-Man, or Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.
Favorite moments from the show so far? "Cookies," Quesada says. "It's not some sort of a euphemism, he means actual cookies," Lane adds.
"I am a huge Hawkeye fan," Lane says. "Him being snarky to Cap, or Iron Man, or Thor, making jokes, going out of bounds a little bit — there's a lot of that in this show."
Kelly says that he likes the general banter between the characters. "When a zinger comes from Thor trying to do humor and not succeeding, that sort of thing makes me laugh." The writer adds, "The Skull is pretty great in this show. He does something right off top that when we talked about it in the room, it was sort of an 'oh snap' moment, and we were pumped to see it happen." Kelly says that the villain "goes to the next level in a hardcore way early on in the series."
First press question, from CBR: How do you see as this show from being different from the "stylized" Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, but also sharing some things in common? Quesada: "Earth's Mightiest Heroes was a great show, and it was very stylized. We started developing our own style at Marvel Animation. A lot of it actually comes from the comic books. Story-wise, one of the most significant changes is that in Earth's Mightiest Heroes, there were cliffhangers, there were longer stories. With Marvel's Avengers Assemble, you can look for more stories that are complete, told in one, but all add up to a larger story in the end."
"We never wanted to disregard the Earth's Mightiest Heroes work," Lane says. "We all liked that show. This doesn't come off as a reboot. It's not the characters meeting each other for the first time. These are characters who definitely have a history. We wanted you to get a sense that a little time had passed, and now we're picking up X amount of time later."
Next press question, from iFanboy: What are the key relationships in the show? "I think all of the relationships are interesting, and we've thought about all of them," Lane replies. "But for me, Cap and Iron Man, because their point of view is so different, and their tactics are so different. You find this interesting dynamic of them being friends and allies and supporting each other, but maybe a level of frustration, and there are specific stories that explore that so well."
Kelly says that it feels like "a group of brothers and a sister." "I love almost any downtime scene with Hulk. He's a really great character on our show. Hulk and Thor have sort of a fantastic rivalry that was definitely inspired, for me, from watching them in the film. Hawkeye is just one of those guys that you're pretty much allowed to let him say whatever is on his mind."
Next press question, from IGN: Will there be more synergy between the various animated series and the movies going forward? "Absolutely," Quesada says, calling synergy a point of pride for Marvel. "We're constantly talking to each other. That's kind of a big part of my job as chief creative officer."
Next press question, from the New York Post: What can you do with the characters in an animated form that you can't do in print or in the movies? "Just from a budgetary point of view, we have a lot more latitude, obviously," Kelly answers. "We really can jump all over the place from episode to episode, and give a nice, wide landscape to the Avengers adventures. From a storytelling point of view, these are quick, fast rides. We get to keep them bouncy."
"For me as an Avengers fan, getting to see that much Avengers stuff is the coolest part," Lane adds.
Next press question, from us: In what way does the success of Ultimate Spider-Man inform Avengers Assemble? "I think seeing how people respond to the humor in an adventure show was really refreshing," Kelly says. "You can do both. Spidey, obviously, because the cast is younger, leans a little more heavily on the comedy. The character stuff is so important — it's so critical to why we love the Avengers."
Next press question, from Word Balloon: What's the balance between reaching out to younger, new fans, but also pleasing existing fans of these characters? "We want to try to start with the best stories possible," Quesada says, comparing it to a problem he saw in Marvel's publishing line years back. "We were too concerned with servicing the continuity, as opposed to the consistency. I think those two words are radically different, but can feel similar. We're doing this for the entry-point fan. This is for the future of Marvel and these characters, and keeping them iconic, and making them even more iconic than they are." Quesada says that the key is to make sure that there are new people coming to Marvel through the show, but also to "keep the stories compelling enough, and the characters consistent enough" that long-term fans can enjoy it as well.
Next press question, from The Beat concerns the show's settings: "We start with whatever the character story is, and whatever environment or set-piece serves the character," Lane says. "Some of the great moments are them in Avengers Tower, hanging out together," yet you can have those same types of interactions, he says, if they're underwater, in the arctic or in outer space.
Last question, from Marvel.com: Will there be interaction between the three current Marvel animated series? "I think it's fair to say that when we write and create these series, they exist in the same universe," Quesada says, "but we do want to make sure that these episodes are inclusive," so that a viewer won't feel like they're missing out on something. "They all exist in the same universe. I don't think we can get more specific than that."
Lane says that occasionally they'll have a guest star between all three shows — it's not a focus, but every once in a while, it's fun for fans and kids.
That's it! To recap: Avengers Assemble debuts this Sunday, May 26, on Disney XD, and has its proper series premiere on Sunday, July 7.