Man of Action may officially bill itself as a studio, it's difficult to describe it as anything but a creative force, completely unique unto itself. Comprised of Joe Kelly, Joe Casey, Steven Seagle, and Duncan Rouleau, this cabal of comic book and TV writers have united as a coalition that's part production company, part creative agency, and 100% mind-blowing. Together, the team created the Ben 10 franchise at Cartoon Network, helped spearhead Marvel Animation's Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers Assemble, and created their own independent projects like Kelly's I Kill Giants and Casey's Officer Downe--both of which are set for film adaptations.
But even with four members manning the ship, there never seems to be a shortage of exciting work over at Man of Action. The crew is launching the latest iteration of Ben 10 with most creative control they've ever experienced, developing a new Mega Man cartoon series, and developing their respective creator-owned series into movies or television. Below, ComicBook.com spoke with Man of Action from the San Diego Comic Con floor about those projects, along with developments on the Officer Downe film and thoughts on the upcoming Deadpool movie.
You guys have a ton of projects going on right now, between Ben 10, Mega Man, and more. So what are you the most excited for?
Seagle: We’re excited about Ben 10, because we made that character up, and this will finally be the first time we’re in charge of the show.
How has the creative control changed, specifically?
It’s just nice that the process starts with us. It’s something that we’ve often written on and consulted on, but we’ve never been the people leading the charge, even though we made the character up. It’s nice that we get to be those guys now.
Great. And now that you’re in charge, what changes to Ben 10 can fans expect?
Casey: There’s a lot that we’re doing that’s unique to this iteration of the show. We can’t get into too much detail on what’s different, but it is going to have a new feel. It’s a special iteration of Ben 10.
Seagle: It’s everything you love about Ben 10, with new stuff that you wouldn’t expect.
Sounds enticing. You’re other big project, obviously, is the Mega Man animated series. How did that project come about? And I know it’s still early in the production process, but is there anything you can tease about that project?
Rouleau: We’re working with Capcom and Dentsu Entertainment. Dentsu is a company that we’ve worked with in the past on Monsuno, specifically. We also developed a few other project ideas with them over the years. So when they approached us about doing this, I knew that I loved Mega Man. He has a deep mythology. So, we just synthesized a lot of things from his history. And yeah, we are in development right now, so we can’t go into the direction it will take.
Kelly: Our goal is to make a show that we, ourselves, would want to watch. We want a show that’s fun for us. We’re fans of the Mega Man character, so we take our love and look at the DNA of it, and go, “How do we make this cool?” So the goal is to have a really fun and exciting show.
Do you have a release date targeted?
Casey: It’s too early to say, but I do know that Mega Man’s 30th anniversary is in 2017.
Man of Action has a lot of experience with the Marvel Universe as well, helping produce Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers Assemble for Marvel Animation. Creatively, what’s the biggest difference between working on a character that you created, and a company’s character?
Seagle: At this point, it’s not that different, because even Ben 10 has a deep mythology with a ton of continuity. But at with the new Ben 10 show, we did the same thing on Spider-Man and The Avengers. We come to it, and the mandate is that there’s always going to be a new audience that we’re going to try to reach. So, how do we trim away the fat and get to the essence of the characters, so that we have a show that presents the essence of the characters? We don’t want new audiences to tune into either show, and feel like they just walked into a party they weren’t invited to. That’s our whole modus operandi.
Ultimate Spider-Man has carved a niche with its more comedic interpretation of the character, often times literally going inside Spider-Man’s head. Where did the idea to produce a humorous Spider-Man series come from?
Kelly: When we were hired to do the job, Joe Quesada basically said, “We want to introduce Spider-Man to an audience that doesn’t know who he is.” So, what do we love about Spider-Man, especially in the old books? We loved Stan’s narration, and really getting to know Peter’s headspace—via all the thought balloons. So the question became: “How do you replicate that in animation?” And that became the fourth-wall breaking engagement that Spider-Man has with the audience. This was a fun and visual way to communicate Spider-Man’s interaction with the audience.
So how’s I Kill Giants’ live-action film coming along?
Kelly: Very well. Hopefully there will be some big announcements about that very soon. We have financiers on board, and producers that I’m very excited about. And Joe just finished his work on Officer Downe too.
That’s right! How’s the movie coming along?
Casey: It’s good, we’re editing right now. It turned out really well, and hopefully it will be out next year.
What are some of the biggest surprises that fans of the Officer Downe comic look forward to?
Casey: If you read the comic, it’s pretty much the book, just on-screen…and a lot more. The comic is pretty brutal and sick, and so is the movie. But that’s how we wanted to do it. That’s why we made it independently, like I Kill Giants, so we wouldn’t have to answer to anybody as to how to do it. It’s turned out well.
What’s the biggest difference between working on a multimedia project, and comic books? How do you approach the two differently?
Kelly: A huge difference is, live actors and audience. For comic books, it’s all in your head, so the dialogue I write has to sound good in my head as I read it. And it has to look good on the page in terms of how much space there is. It’s very hard to write for an actor, who’s going to come in and read dialogue either for animation or a live-action performance. You just have to leave a lot more room for what they’ll bring. I think there’s a tendency, especially with a lot of the new writers we work with from comics, to write with a lot of direction. They’re not leaving any room for the actor to do what they do.
Joe (Kelly), Marvel just announced that you’re writing a Spider-Man and Deadpool team-up series with your old Deadpool collaborator, Ed McGuiness (For more on that, click here). What ultimately convinced you to join the project?
Kelly: I love Spider-Man. He was one of my favorite characters growing up. Then obviously Deadpool was a cornerstone of my career. And getting to work with Ed McGuinnes again was the trifecta. So the three of those things together just made for the right project.
It made it a really special opportunity. I’m excited. It’s going to be fun as hell. And having some distance from that character has allowed me to approach Deadpool as a different writer.
And why did you want to team the two characters up? What will both characters bring to the table?
Kelly: Both characters have a lot similarities and a lot of overlap, so the trick is finding a balance between those guys, and finding what makes them really distinct. For me, there are elements of Deadpool that never go away. No matter what he tries to do, the universe finds a way of screwing him over for trying to do the right thing. He’s constitutionally inclined to do the wrong thing.
But the universe craps on Spider-Man a lot, too. He just managed to get his act together a little better. They have a very strange relationship. They have a love/hate relationship, but one in one direction. Spider-Man does not really like Deadpool, but Deadpool really loves Spider-Man. So it makes for a very funny dynamic.
What's it like returning to Deadpool after all these years? Does it feel different now that he's grown so much as a character and pop culture icon?
Kelly: In the beginning, nobody expected Deadpool to last six issues. So we were doing whatever the hell we wanted, and it was great. We just had fun and did what we wanted. But it’s a bit different now because there’s a different kind of awareness towards the character, but I’m still just doing what I want. We’ll whether or not they print it, but I’m trying.
And Joe (Kelly), Joe, what are your thoughts on the upcoming Deadpool movie starring Ryan Reynolds?
Kelly: I’m going to be a fan like everybody else. I did have a meeting with the movie people a long time ago, before it was officially a movie. But I’m excited. When they announced Ajax, I thought it was really cool. I have a feeling that it’s going to be the origin story I created, so we’ll see what happens.
What do you hope to see when the film comes out?
Kelly: I just want it to be a fun movie. I want them to deliver on the promise of what the character can be. I hope they bring what the fans want, which is a balls-out adventure, so Deadpool gets his due. He’s a really great character. I want a fearless, fun, ass-kicking movie.
Which Man of Action project are you most excited to see? Let us know in the comments!