Comic-Con: Marvel Animation Panel Teases HULK and AVENGERS Series, Plus Spider-Ham

     July 14, 2012

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Reboots have been all the rage in Hollywood for years, but until this morning I don’t think I had ever seen or heard of a reboot of a Comic-Con panel.  Last time on Marvel Animation Panel, Jeph Loeb took to the stage and made hammy joke after hammy joke as he showed off previews of a slew of upcoming Marvel-branded animated programming for Disney’s popular XD lineup.  This year he returned to the Con and brought pretty much the exact same shows, in almost the exact same order.  Only now, there’s footage.  And as with the new The Amazing Spider-Man film, even without the novelty of a first time experience, this reboot panel was better than the first take.

Loeb showed off footage from Marvel Mashups, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., Avenger’s Assemble, various Marvel Knights projects and even a full episode of Ultimate Spider-Man.  Hit the jump for details on the footage, a recap of the panel and Spider-Ham!

avengers assemble logoFirst up was Marvel Mashups a new series that redubs scenes from old Marvel cartoons into silly, but still family friendly, spoofs.  Think of it as a super-powered What’s Up, Tiger Lily? or a raunch-free Archer.  The jokes are obvious and the concept reeks of reverse engineered viral videos, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t laugh at almost every joke.  The room was in stitches, and it didn’t sound like polite laughter elicited by Loeb’s various claptraps and wince-inducing puns.  The series is set to premiere in the fall.  If I were channel flipping and ran across it, I’d probably stop and watch.  And as a 10-year old, I would have found it hysterically subversive.

After a brief bit of chit-chat with the audience, Loeb next introduced Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., a new series from Paul Dini that focuses on a whole team of Hulks including: The Hulk, Red Hulk, She-Hulk, Scaar and A-Bomb.  The animation style looked vastly superior to that of last year’s Ultimate Spider-Man preview, employing a clever mix of CGI and traditional animation that allows for fluid action without looking obtuse or distracting.  Though Loeb stressed again and again how this series would take cues from Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, it seems very aged down.  And that’s fine because, you know, it’s a kids’ show.  I don’t know what an adult would get out of this one specifically, but it looks pretty and I can see young boys loving it.

Next, Loeb took on some internet rumors.  Contrary to web speculation, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes has not been canceled.  When the show was first ordered, it was for 22 episodes.  Loeb and the team at Marvel Animation Studios upped that order to 52, which is a lot.  Enough in fact to tell the entire story, which Loeb promised has an, “Epic, epic conclusion.”

avengers assembleAfter the end of the series, the Avengers will move to the new, rebranded Avengers Assemble.  Loeb made sure to stress that this new series will not be a reboot or a negation of the previous continuity.  Rather, he characterized it as a ‘transition’ and a ‘next step.’

“We are not saying that earth’s mightiest heroes did not happen,” assured Loeb.

The clip from Avengers Assemble was quite rough.  The voice actors have not been finalized and some of the character models seemed a bit off.  Tony Stark, Captain America and Hawkeye all have the same shaped face.  And it’s an ugly shape.  That said, the Iron Man suit looked pretty kickass and it was nifty to see the team fight a creature that I’m pretty sure was modeled off of Ray Harryhausen’s beast in 20 Million Miles to Earth.  The series will feature Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Hawkeye, Thor, Black Widow and an African American character in a flying suit that I could not identify immediately.  Again and again, Loeb stressed the connection of style, tone and even continuity with the Whedon film.

And speaking of Joss Whedon, the new line of Marvel Knights animation was also previewed.  New titles include the second half of Whedon’s run on The Astonishing X-Men as well as Hulk Woverine, The Inhumans, Wolverine Origins and Neil Gaiman’s Eternals.  Nothing but titles were shown.

the ultimate spider manFinally, the panel closed with a rather pleasant surprise; an early peek at an upcoming episode of Ultimate Spider-Man.

I have never watched an episode of this series, but I distinctly remember loathing the early footage from last year.  The jokes were lame, the animation was uninspired, the voice acting was mediocre and the Family Guy style cutaways made we wanna go Oedipus Rex (the end part where he gouges out his eyes, not the incest bit. And not the Antigone part or the Oedipus at Colonus part either…See how annoying it is when someone makes an extended inside joke as an aside that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.  Fuck you, Seth McFarlane.)

This episode however, was totally awesome.  After Loki tricks Spider-Man into eating a cursed hotdog that turns him into Spider-Ham – and presumably Peter Porker when he’s out of costume – a team of hunters descends from Asgaard to capture and eat the anthropomorphized hero as part of a yearly festival.  Thor tries to help, but is powerless to go against Odin’s word.  So, Spider-Ham goes to his high school friends and Agent Coulson, who try to ward off the savage, yet noble, hunters.  In the end, Spider-Ham learns an important lesson about the value of friends and becomes a human again.

This thing was really cool.  Not only did the puntastic writing actually make sense with this silly concept, the elevation of having an enemy that literally wants to kill and eat Spider-Ham gives the narrative a real bit of tension.  The action was fluid, the characters distinct and the cutaways worked structurally, stylistically and thematically.  And Spider-Ham’s personal lesson about being important to others versus being the center of attention rang true and seemed earnest.  I totally wrote this show off after last year’s panel, but it’s time to re-evaluate.  If Ultimate Spider-Man can make something as overtly stupid as Spider-Ham work and carry real tension, then I need to see what they do during a straightforward episode.

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