It wouldn’t be Comic-Con International: San Diego without Stan Lee. And it is fitting that on opening day of the Con’s 40th anniversary, the tireless 86 year-old comics legend was in the building hyping his newest venture, Stan Lee’s Time Jumper.
Time Jumper is a digital motion comic produced by Lee’s POW! Entertainment in tandem with Disney Home Entertainment. The 10-episode series will be available on iTunes starting Friday, July 24.
Along with Nick Ratchet, another Lee project for the Mouse House that is currently in development as a feature film, it’s one of the projects Lee is developing under his deal with Disney.
With a near-capacity crowd on hand in Room 6B giving a him a standing O, Stan the Man walked onstage along with one of the voice stars of the comic, actress Natasha Henstridge, and the digital artist (and Joe Kubert art school grad) Anthony Diecedue and the writer, Omar Ponce.
After a brief introduction and clip reel setting up the comic, the crowd was treated to a screening of the first episode.
20 year old college kid Terry Dixon has a portable time travel device Articulus infused with his personal DNA. It was devised by his brilliant dad. After a tragedy, Terry becomes a reluctant hero, traveling thru time, using the Articulus, which only Terry can use because of his unique DNA. But he’s far from perfect.
At the beginning of the episode, he screws up history by messing up a person’s timeline. His boss Jane can’t stand Terry’s nonchalance towards time jumping. Her pleas for him to take his work more seriously fall on deaf ears.
The main thrust of the Time Jumper story is about trying to capture the female leader of a deadly criminal cartel named Charity Vyle (Henstridge).
The series has a straightforward tone that’s seems almost … quaint… compared to modern comics. The way the dialogue is transmitted across the screen is easy to follow and the camera movements were utilized throughout the first episode to enhance the action.
Lee not only created the characters and story. He lends his voice to a man called “Lee Excelsior.” the head of the H.U.N.T. Corporation, which uses corporate big business as a front for a crime-fighting organization.
The supporting cast includes some comic books mainstays, such as Eric the chubby tech support guy.
“We were trying to take comics to the next level. It’s not an animated cartoon. It’s a moving comic book, with sounds, effects,” Lee said.
When asked why he chose a time travel story to work on, Lee said it was all about working with new technology. He called motion comics the missing link in comic book storytelling.
“As great as it is now, just imagine how great it’s going to be in the future,” Lee said in his characteristically enthusiastic manner.
Henstridge, who admitted to not being much of a comics fan, also says she hasn’t done much voiceover work in the past. But she was intrigued by the chance to portray a power-hungry character like Charity Vyle.
“She just wants to rule the world, like Madonna,” she said.
Artist Diecedue, who cited Jim Lee, Mike Mignola, and Frank Frazetta as influences, says the artwork on this series was completely different than traditional pen-and-ink work.
“All of the art was digital, none of it was hand-drawn,” he said, something Diecedue admitted was a bit strange at first.
When asked about how historically accurate the series will be, the creative team said it hasn’t really been an issue yet. “We really haven’t dealt with any historical figures yet, so [it hasn’t been a problem yet], Diecedue said.
Ponce and Diecedue didn’t give specifics on where the story is headed in future episodes, which prompted Henstridge to playfully interject, “Wait, Charity’s going back in time to take over the world, right? That’s what I signed up for.”
In regards to whether motion comics are the future of the industry, Lee said he knows no more than any of the fans what lies ahead. But he believes traditional comics will always be around, and this new technology will provide new avenues for storytelling.
Lee sidestepped a question about the creative process to say how lucky he’s been to always work with creators who have so ably executed his ideas. Then he took a page out of the pro wrestling handbook on generating ‘cheap heat’ by name-dropping legendary artists such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and John Buscema.
The crowd ate it up, proving once again that when it comes to working a room, Stan is still The Man.