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Comic-Blog ’08: New BET Animation

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Comic-Blog ’08: New BET Animation

Reggie Hudlin, president of BET (Black Entertainment Television), unveiled footage from the upcoming BET Animation series including the The Black Panther and Hannibal The Conqueror at Comic-Con in San Diego over the weekend. Both series look very promising, stylishly bringing to the screen adult-oriented action animation with strong African-American appeal. Hudlin led a panel discussion featuring Denys Cowan, senior VP of BET Animation; Eric Rollman, president of Marvel Animation; Cort Lane of Marvel Animation; and Black Panther comic-book artist John Romita Jr.

The Black Panther is slated to debut on BET in February. The footage screened involved a rival tribe advancing on Wakanda, the fictional Aftican kingdom of the Black Panther, a black superhero created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the mid-1960s. As the warriors make their way through tall, brown grass, they begin to fall prey to elaborate spring traps that snap shut on their abdomens, impaling them with sharp spikes. ‘Jaws of the Panther,’ they’re called. Arrows then black out the sky and shower down upon them, further reducing their numbers. We didn’t get to see the Black Panther himself, except for some rough animation featured in a behind-the-scenes look at the production process. Obviously done on a modest budget, the animation nonetheless looks great. It’s more focused on strong artwork and veers away from the Saturday-morning cartoon look that marks many of Marvel’s other animated properties.

‘We’re doing something that’s never been done before’actually bringing a comic book to life,’ Rudlin proclaimed. ‘A lot of comics have been adapted for the screen, but we often hear ‘It’s great, but I wish it looked like the art of Jack Kirby or various other comic artists.”

The series is being animated by Titmouse, the Los Angeles-based studio that currently produces the Adult Swim series Metalocalypse. Titmouse is using After Effects to animate the art of John Romita Jr. from the comic-book series Who is the Black Panther? The first six episodes of the show will come directly from the comics, which Rudlin wrote.

‘I got chills watching it,’ Romita said of the footage shown. ‘I was very proud of the work, but it also just makes sense to do it that way.’

Action fim star Vin Diesel is working with BET to bring storied African military leader Hannibal of Carthage to the screen with Hannibal the Conqueror. Hannibal is perhaps best known for scaling the Alps with an army of elephants to challenge the Roman Empire, but the series aims to highlight other aspects of the general’s extraordinary life and career. The show will delve into his tutelage as a warrior under his father, the king of Carthage, as well as his history-making invasions of Spain and England.

The brief bit of Hannibal animation that was screened also looked like comic-book art brought to life. A lot of it was unfinished, but successfully portrayed the epic scale of the project and offered a taste of cool things to come. Hudlin noted that they are toying with the idea of putting together a study guide for the series so it can be used in schools to help teach ancient history. He added that they are also in discussions with comic-book publishers to launch the property in that arena.

BET has several other animated shows in development, but Rudlin and company didn’t offer any tidbits of information, only mentioning that the network has been in discussions with such animation shops as Film Roman, Mike Young Prods. and Wild Brain.

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