Iron Man, Wolverine and some other familiar faces are turning Japanese...
NYCC: Marvel TV head honcho Jeph Loeb was on the scene at New York Comic Con this weekend to talk about Marvel Anime, a new undertaking that will see some of the company's most popular characters transformed via that most enduring of animation styles that was once known as Japanimation -- and thankfully isn't anymore.
Loeb was accompanied by Erika Lewis of G4, where the programs will air. First up will be Iron Man beginning in 2011, the first episode of which was screened during the panel. Here's a rundown on what we saw (watch out for spoilers):
The segment begins with a passenger jet flying over Japan -- it experiences a near-miss with another plane… Tony Stark's private jet, rather recklessly streaking across the sky. The episode title flashes on the screen in rudimentary English captions that are certainly reminiscent of certain animes: "Enter Iron Man."
On the plane, Stark says that Japan is the beginning of his dream. Touching down in the Land of the Rising Sun, he meets a textbook anime chick -- a beautiful researcher from someplace called Lab 23. She's working for Stark, and we soon learn that Tony is planning on retiring as Iron Man and mass-producing "Iron Man Dio" suits (no relation to Ronnie James we think) that the Japanese government will purchase. He's even training new pilots to use the armor.
The episode is very much an anime in its style, not that that's a good thing for those of us who aren't aficionados. The crude captions/subtitles run throughout the show under the Japanese dialogue, the show often awkwardly cuts between scenes, there's cheesy guitar music, comedic side characters abound, and even the image quality looks like an anime circa 1994 (though that could be in part because of the projection screen used at the panel).
Having said that, the episode seemed to go over very well with those in attendance, so if anime and Marvel are your thing, than you're in luck.
The Iron Man Dio prototype armor is blue and silver with a triangular chest plate. Three pilots are being trained, though they don't fare so well as the episode proceeds. First Stark breaks his word and decides to debut the new suit himself at a public showing, and then later the suit seems to malfunction while one of the new pilots is wearing it, leading him to repulsor-blast his two fellows before going off on a spree of destruction himself.
Stark theorizes that the armor has brainwashed the pilot (somehow), so he pulls the old red and gold armor out of retirement to take on the Dio suit. He defeats the new armor pretty easily (in an airborne battle scene which is the highlight of the episode) but is suddenly attacked by a giant, talking (mechanical?) scorpion -- one of the Zodiac it says. The thing looks a bit like the xenomorph from Alien. Stark beats it down as it screams/laughs, but when he returns to the Dio, the armor is gone and only the pilot remains. End of episode.
Loeb explained that Marvel and Sony teamed with the anime house Madhouse to produce the Iron Man series as well as the three shows that will follow: Wolverine, X-Men and then Blade. Each series will get 16 episodes.
Acclaimed comics scribe Warren Ellis is writing the series, and while they will all be "true to canon" the stories will take place in the Pacific Rim. There will be reasons why they're there, though -- it won't just be like, "Hey, Wolvie lives in Japan all of a sudden!"
There's a good chance that the various heroes will meet up, including a Wolvie/Blade face-off. And speaking of… the world premiere trailer for Wolverine was also shown. It basically showed everyone's favorite Canadian mutie slicing and dicing his way across Japan, fighting yakuza, and falling from a building -- only to use his claws to slow his descent by digging into the building.
Look for Marvel Anime to start airing this summer on G4.