John Cassaday: Making ASTONISHING X-MEN Move

John Cassaday: Moving ASTONISHING X-MEN

Marvel has made it very clear that they are ready for the future. Their digital comic initiative is onto its third iteration, and their first made-for-motion comic, Spider-Woman, just completed its run to much critical success.

Now Marvel is taking one of their most successful comics of the last few years, Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, and translating it into a motion comic. The series, which goes on sale October 28, 2009 on iTunes, takes the admittedly already cinematic style of Astonishing and gives it voice and movement. Marvel is so excited bout this release, they’re throwing a party in Union Square in NYC to celebrate and show the first episode off to the waiting crowd.

We talked with the man who drew the series itself, John Cassaday, about his thoughts on motion comics, his involvement in the adaptation, and his favorite parts of seeing his drawings move.

Newsarama: When your comic was chosen for the motion comic treatment, what was your immediate initial reaction? Just the gut check first thing that came to mind?

John Cassaday: It sounded like a good idea. I think Astonishing X-Men has a filmic quality to it and could translate well into another medium. It's also accessible to audiences who don't read comics and keep up with all things X. That was one of our goals when we approached the series and I think it serves the motion comic well. I'd seen some other motion comic animations and the quality varied, so I was initially hesitant when Marvel asked me to be involved, but after looking at some test footage and hearing how committed they were, I joined in.

Nrama: How much have you gotten to work with the animation team? Is there anything in place to make sure your original storytelling vision of how the reader's eyes should move from panel to panel is preserved in this medium (or should it be)?

Cassaday: I've poked my head in from time to time to help out and lend my thoughts, but Neal Adams and his animators at Continuity are doing the heavy lifting. Most of what I'd like to see is already there in the books, so the challenge is for them to interpret it correctly and keep the spirit of what was intended.

Nrama: When laying out a comic, you have to keep in mind reader interpretation; how do you think the reader experience changes when what's between the gutters is more explicitly shown?

Cassaday: It's not that different to me. A panel break in comics can be easily comparable to an edit in film. It's not always that simple, but it's a clear way to think of the process.

Nrama: Why do you think Astonishing X-Men is a good fit for motion comics? What qualities does a comic have to have to make it an easy transition?

Cassaday: It's a sharp confident soap opera and epic in scale. Joss' dialogue goes a long way when you're bringing something like this to life. The characters need to sound real and believable. You must be invested in them and care what happens to them and Joss is a master when it comes to that.

Nrama: Do you feel you would've approached any of the design differently if you'd known ahead of time that it'd be making the "move" so to speak?

Cassaday: Absolutely not. The comic comes first. In these matters I believe an artist needs to treat the medium in a pure sense and be true to the nature of the format. If it's adapted somehow afterwards, then there will be work done to tinker as needed, but it should never change how the core story was told in its original form.

Nrama: Marvel has allowed/encouraged/commissioned Bendis and Maleev to customize the new Spider-Woman comic directly for the motion comics medium. Is that something you'd like to try?

Cassaday: I'm not sure, really. I don't have a great interest at this time for that, but you never know. It would depend on the story and characters, I suppose.

Nrama: Taking a step back, looking at motion comics as a whole, how does this new format fit in with existing print?

Cassaday: It acts as an additional arm of the publishing unit. It's a way to expose a different audience, who may not be reading comics. In those terms, it may bring a new audience into the book stores to read. I don't believe motion comics will antiquate printed comics themselves. I consider motion comics as an addition to comic books, not a replacement.

Nrama: Is there anything else I didn't cover that you'd like to add about this new motion comic or the medium in general?

Cassaday: Some of the most fun I had on the project was working with voice director, James Snyder to cast actors as well as sitting in on as many voice sessions as I could. I was enamored with the process. Characters I've spent so much time with in the past several years were coming to life right in front of me!

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