Wolverine and the X-Men brought Marvel’s misunderstood mutants back to animation when it debuted on Nicktoons earlier this year, and now it’s three-part debut episode Heroes Return has arrived on DVD. Here’s an exclusive look at a scene from the series:
Wolverine is the star of the new series, which ties in nicely to the release May 1 of the live-action movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine, in which Hugh Jackman reprises the role he made famous in three previous movies. But in animation, Steve Blum is the voice of Wolverine, playing the character on both the recent Hulk vs. Wolverine DVD release and the current series.
Blum says he’s been a comic book fan since he was a kid and follows instincts born of his own love for these characters when doing the voices.
‘If you’re a comic book fan, you sort of create these characters in your head and they float around in there for a while,’ he says. ‘I really try to forget everything I heard before when going into this character and I really did just pull out what Wolverine should sound like. And fortunately they (the producers) agreed with me and it’s kind of an organic thing. It’s a really natural voice for me, it’s right in my register and it just feels good coming out.’
Blum says the approach of the new series, which is more serial in the way it plays out, is different from the previous animated series but still true to the characters and the franchise. ‘I think a lot of the die hard fans area going to appreciate it, I think that’s who they’re going to please first, and then the mainstream audience is jumping on board because it’s just such a fun ride.’
Playing established characters is in some ways easier than playing a brand new character, but it carries plenty of its own challenges, says Tom Kane, who voices the X-Men’s archenemy Magneto. Part of the job is to evoke the sound previous incarnations of the character while bringing something new to the table as well.
‘It may not exactly sound like Ian McKellan or Wolverine may not exactly sound like the living version of that character,’ he says. ‘(But) to the fans, they go, ‘Oh yeah, that’s wolverine,’ or, ‘Oh yeah, that’s Magneto.”
Playing a villain like Magneto is particularly fun because the bad guys are often more interesting. ‘You don’t have to worry about why somebody wants to save a child in peril, because that’s something everybody can understand,’ he says. ‘But it’s more interesting in my opinion to wonder why someone would put a child in peril.’
Blum says some of the same conditions apply to Wolverine, who is a more complicated protagonist and even an anti-hero.
‘He’s very uncomfortable being thrust into that hero position and it makes for an angry and complicated character,’ he says. ‘It infuses him with a lot of human emotion and pain and human torment, and I think a lot of people can connect with that.’
Superhero cartoons in particular have evolved fairly significantly in the style of voice work, going from the bombastic tone of Super Friends in the 1970s to a more realistic and subtly dramatic tone today. Kane says the latter has definitely been the approach on Wolverine and the X-Men.
‘One of the first things they said is we want this to play as if someone closed their eyes they wouldn’t know if it was a cartoon or not,’ Kane says.
Wolverine and the X-Men: Heroes Return Trilogy, arrives on DVD April 21 from Lionsgate with a suggested retail price of $14.98.