Some call him “The Blue Bomber,” some call him “Rockman,” but for nearly thirty years audiences around the world have known him as “Mega Man,” the eponymous humanoid robot boy at the center of the mega-popular Mega Man video game franchise. Created in 1987, Mega Man is standing on the precipice of his thirtieth anniversary, and Capcom is celebrating by partnering with DHX, Dentsu Entertainment, and Man of Action Entertainment for a brand new animated series launching in 2017. To take you inside the upcoming animated series, I sat down with the men of action behind Man of Action: Steven T. Seagle, Duncan Rouleau, Joe Kelly, and Joe Casey.
Nerdist: Tell us, why is now the right time for a new iteration of Mega Man?
Duncan Rouleau: Why did we get on board? Well, obviously Capcom is excited to have this legacy character. You know, there’s going to be all sorts of stuff surrounding his anniversary, rebirth, and his thirtieth anniversary. So for us, he’s kind of a timeless character. What he represents, and that figure, when you see him, instantly, like immediate recognition. Everybody loves this character. So for us, it was an opportunity to take a cool toy, play with it in a new way, and just make a really kick-ass show.
Joe Kelly: I mean, the kind of stuff we’ve done on Ben 10, and making up Big Hero 6 characters and Generator Rex and Ultimate Spider-Man, it’s kind of an interesting thing for us to be able to do that for a character that has a kind of different natural origin, so to speak. Mega Man’s had some other shows, Mega Man’s had a ton of video games, but I think this is the first time and American team gets to be a creative imprint and go, “What would that be like if it was made here in the West.” So we’re still very respectful of all that stuff. We’re working hand in hand with Dentsu America, working at Capcom, but we’re also going, “what would this be like if it had a slightly more American sensibility in the creation?”
DR: So I was just going to add one other thing: He’s a very positive character and it’s just good timing to have some characters out there that are just about doing the right thing and trying to be good.
N: Yeah, it would just be a huge bummer if Mega Man was this cynical jerk. It’s like, “Why was I created?”
Joe Casey: No, but the hundreds and hundreds of robot villains are those guys.
N: So, what was the biggest challenge of taking this character who does have 30 years of history and has so much fan attachment to it and sort of reimagining it for a new audience?
STS: You know, it was kind of the same approach we did with Ultimate Spider-Man. You want to take the character down to his bare bones, his essence because a lot of things can get added on over the years and they might have been appropriate for the time, but we just really went through everything and found the stuff that made him what he is and tried to bring that out. Honestly, it’s just trying to be true to the character is what we did.
N: Mega-Man has a pretty sprawling rogues gallery of his own, but are you guys adding any new characters to the Mega-Man canon?
JC: One of the things we’re doing is keeping names and types you know and then going, “What does that look like right now?” So his family, for instance, has a slightly different shape. They’re all familiar, but they have different kinds of things they’re doing. But if there are characters from Mega Man that you like, for example, they’re probably around, but in a shiny new wrapper in a new way. The villains, I mean, there’s so many of them; we’re still in the geek phase of going, “Oh, I want to do this one, I want to do this one!” While that’s going on, we haven’t needed to make any more yet. New takes on old names, for sure, though.
N: And some of the old names were a little wonky.
JC: Fan Man, love it, especially today when it’s hot! We had brought up a touch of equal rights. Not only are there Fan Man and Shock Man and Elec Man and all of them, but we brought in some women characters as well.
N: The art style is very striking from what we’ve seen so far. I don’t think a lot of people were expecting that art style. How did you guys arrive at this visual aesthetic? What was the development of that like?
JK: Duncan can draw and he drew that stuff. We worked very closely with Capcom and they had a lot of very specifics that they wanted to keep and also that they didn’t want to go near some other things. They’ve got a lot of, well, I can’t say what is happening…
DR: Let’s just say they had some very particular aspects they wanted represented in this style. So, it’s most definitely guided with them, working with them, but also a little bit of my own style. I love Japanese anime, and especially earlier stuff. When I grew up, it was Speed Racer, Gigantor, most of that kind of stuff. So I have a retro feel or appreciation. It was working with them–Dentsu America, Capcom, and us–and we just went through a lot of different styles and modes.
JK: I literally look through 30 to 50 fins on the head, and then you redo those 30 to 50 with 20 more and it’s, like, a lot of fine-tuning. For people that are like, “Why are they doing this?” Well, we spent a lot of time…
N: It wasn’t just thrown together. There’s a lot of thought behind it. Are there any weird rules for making a Mega Man animated series?
JC: You know, there was a lot of time developing the universe and what the rules of the world are, and that is coherent and informs the Mega Man we wound up with. But like Duncan said, he’s a legacy character. You know, 30 years, many iterations, Capcom picks and chooses the things they care about and there are sort of signposts we have to go by. Generally, though, it’s like, “What is this world and how is it expressed through Mega Man?” and that’s really fun. I mean, the world is crazy.
JK: He’s also appeared in a lot of different forms at a lot of different ages, too, so we most definitely zeroed in on a much younger version of him. That was the one we thought squeezed the most optimism, too. And also, we can play a lot, what Joe said, in the world, and his purpose inside the world that he’s operating in in the show. So, if there were any rules, it was just making sure he was the little robot that could. So, every bit of his design was an intent to make sure that he looked young.
N: So there’s never a version where he’s, like, late 30s Mega Man still living in Dr. Light’s basement?
JC: No, but there are dark elements in the show. They’re just not him.
N: What do you hope the folks take away from this new iteration?
STS: Oh, gosh, I don’t know. They should have fun. It’s a fun show. What Duncan really hit on the head is that so many of the characters we’re surrounded by are cynical and they’re not just doing the right thing just because they want to be heroes. Like, we’re overcomplicating these characters all the time for younger audiences. He’s just a fun, optimistic character who screws up a lot and is trying to figure out his way. He’s not perfect, but he wants to do the right thing.
JC: We’re spending more time with Aki, the human side of the character, and we mentioned that so we can come clean that it has a little more than the fighting element. It’s got some life in it.
DR: And, you know, like Steve said, there are plenty of darker elements. It’s still very fun, but we aren’t shying away from some more heavier elements in it. I think it’s about time we have a character who just does the right thing.
Mega Man premieres in 2017.
Images: DHX/Man of Action