The early 1990s was an absolutely boom time for animated shows based on superhero properties, thanks to two classic series based on enduring and iconic properties. The first was Batman: The Animated Series, which is considered nearly 30 years later by many to be thee greatest animated superhero series of all time. Batman: The Animated Series came first, but it was followed closely by X-Men: The Animated Series, the first ongoing series to feature Marvel’s legendary mutant team.
While both Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men:The Animated Series had different storytelling and animation styles, each had significant impact on fans and creators alike, and are celebrated in new books that are ideal gifts for fans of either or both series.
In the case of Marvel’s merry mutants, the new book X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series is a gorgeous, in-depth exploration of everything that went into creating the show’s five seasons. At the time, X-Men: The Animated Series was a risky proposition for its creators and even the FOX network that wound up broadcasting it. While the X-Men were the biggest thing in comics, they’d never made the transition to animation, other than an appearance on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and the relatively little-seen failed pilot, Pryde of the X-Men. I vividly remember the excitement I felt when a new, ongoing series was announced. The tone of the series complimented that of the comics, even going so far as to having a continuing story arc throughout its first season, something that was unheard of in animation at the time.
Written by series veterans Eric Lewald and Julia Lewald and published by ABRAMS Books, X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series delves deep into what it took to get the series off the ground, and how it progressed over its run. X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series is chock full of storyboards, character designs, production cells and more. It’s both an education on animation, and a celebration of one of great Marvel animated series ever. If someone you love has Disney+, X-Men: The Animated Series is currently streaming there and this book would make for a perfect companion piece.
For fans of Batman: The Animated Series, we’ve been superserved over the last few years, with the essential Blu-ray release of the series arriving back in 2018 and looking better than ever. That was followed in 2019 by its spiritual successor, Batman Beyond: The Complete Series. While there are no Blu-rays this year, Batman: The Animated Series is being celebrated with a new book, the stunning Batman: The Animated Series The Phantom City Creative Collection. Founded by Justin Erickson and Paige Reynolds, Phantom City Creative does incredible art for films, album covers, Blu-rays, and more (and they’re from Canada, so three cheers to my fellow Canucks, eh!).
Published by Insight Editions, this new art book collects Erickson’s wonderfully vivid Mondo posters devoted to various episodes from Batman: The Animated Series along with the designs done for the vinyl soundtracks for the show. The book features an introduction from series co-creator Paul Dini, along with and interview with and commentary from the artist throughout its pages.
Justin Erickson has a distinct style which is on display throughout Batman: The Animated Series The Phantom City Creative Collection. What I find quite exceptional is, that while his Erickson’s work is clearly his own, it manages to beautifully compliment the aesthetic of Batman: The Animated Series. It’s hard not to look at the various images, marvel at them, and then want to run on and put on an episode of the show.
Both X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series and Batman: The Animated Series The Phantom City Creative Collection capture the spirit and impact of both classic series, and are perfect gifts for old school fans and ones who may just be discovering these two enduring and influential shows.
You can purchase X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series here.
You can purchase Batman: The Animated Series The Phantom City Creative Collection here.