“Invincible” is not like other animated superhero series.
For one thing, the episodes are over 40 minutes long, a departure from the shorter run times of most superhero cartoons. He is also extremely violent and explicitly bloody. One of the opening scenes of the first episode includes a gruesome eye injury that nonetheless seems almost innocent compared to the blood-filled, bone-pulverizing battle that occurs in the final moments of the premiere.
The mayhem, brutality and ghoulish battles are true to the roots of the show’s “anything goes” comic, which premieres Friday on Amazon Prime Video. “Invincible” is based on the comic of the same name, which was created by “Walking Dead” mastermind Robert Kirkman and artist Cory Walker and was published by Image Comics from 2003 to 2018.
“Invincible does not shy away from the ugly side of massive power super beings who go toe to toe with each other,” said Kirkman, who also created the series. “The fact that we show, in a somewhat realistic way, how dire these consequences are and how wild these beings can be is very important.”
However, some characters have been reinvented. Teenage idealist Mark Grayson, who becomes the main hero and learns the burden and responsibility of having powers, is now of Korean descent to match the show’s star, Steven Yeun, the “Walking Dead” veteran who just finished. be nominated for best actor. Oscar for “Minari”. The main cast is completed by Sandra Oh, who plays Mark’s mother, Debbie, and JK Simmons as his father, Omni-Man.
“Especially in my early days, as a silly white person, you find your default state to be, ‘This character starts out white,'” Kirkman said. “So it was good to be more aware of that and to have the opportunity to bring diversity to the series that, frankly, should have been there from the beginning.”
“Invincible” begins with three episodes on Friday and will continue with five weekly installments to complete its inaugural season. And there’s even more “Invincible” ahead: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are developing a live-action movie for Universal Pictures. Kirkman’s Skybound Entertainment is one of the producers.
In a phone interview earlier this month, Kirkman, who wrote the first and final episode of season 1 of “Invincible,” discussed the voice cast, the cost of special effects, and a possible return to the Invincible comic. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Was adapting the Invincible comic to television easier or more difficult than adapting The Walking Dead?
In some ways it’s a little easier than “The Walking Dead” just because the comic was done, so we had a much more definitive roadmap for where to go and how to get there. It was great to sit down and say, “Okay, well, you know, if this is a hit, this is a seven-season structure, this is a five-season structure.”
Did you ever think about handing over the program to someone else?
He definitely wanted to be involved. I worked very closely with Simon Racioppa, our lead writer, to map out what parts of the book would be covered this season and how we would rearrange things. Writing the pilot and the season finale was very important to me because there was some material in those episodes that I really wanted to tackle. Also, I love animation. He was not going to pass up the opportunity to be practical enough to bring Invincible to the world of animation.
Were there concerns about bringing the level of violence from the comic to the screen?
My main concern was possibly that we would be limited in what we could do. The blood that exists in the Invincible comic is nothing but extreme, but at the same time I think it’s absolutely essential to making Invincible what it is.
Comic creators often say they have an unlimited budget for special effects. How different is that in animation or live action?
Every time someone says in the comics that you work with an unlimited budget, you are pissing off an artist. That’s technically true, but it falls on the shoulders of the artist. This amazing 12 page alien invasion that takes a little time, the artist has to do a monumental level of work to achieve it.
I would say that the animation is the same. It does not rent games, but it is actually a labor cost. We were going to be able to do all these crazy things on this show that we wouldn’t have been able to do on a live action TV show, but that would be an extreme strain on our animation studio Maven Image Platform. We had to negotiate a lot with them about how that was going to be handled.
Can you talk about the race or ethnic changes of some of the characters?
Well, the Invincible comic was made by white men in the early 2000s. Every now and then, you think, “Oh yeah, we have to put a little more diversity into this,” but at the end of the day, we really don’t. you have a book that necessarily represents the population of the country or the world.
Mark and Debbie’s actual career in the comics was somewhat ambiguous. But I knew I wanted to cast Steven Yeun, and that made it very easy to tell that these characters are of Korean descent. And we are very careful with our voice casting to make sure all the ethnicities of the characters match the actor who was cast.
Invincible’s mother seems to have a bigger role on the show than she did in the comic.
I think the main reason for that, aside from Sandra Oh’s casting, is that Debbie becomes a much bigger character as the series progresses. In the comics, at first, I don’t think we really understood what we wanted. So it’s definitely a by-product of going back and saying, “We’re going to take a character in these different directions; let’s go ahead and start building that now and make this a more well-rounded character right from the start. “And then you have Sandra, and she’s going to make him a thousand times better with her acting. So that makes him an even richer character and robust to play.
You have a pretty distinguished voice cast, including Jon Hamm.
I spent a lot of time with Jon Hamm at various AMC shows. It’s nice to be able to beg a guy to play a role once in a while.
Covid didn’t affect animated productions as much as live-action productions, but did it create challenges for “Invincible”?
It definitely took us some time because we had a team in Los Angeles, a team in Vancouver, and a team in South Korea, and they were all working together in the offices. Everyone had to stop and make sure they had the technology available to go from working in the office to working from home. So you have, I don’t know, a thousand different people trying to rebuild their home office setup and catch up. But after that transition process, it seemed pretty smooth.
Is it strange that the animated series continues with the live action movie in development?
No, in any case it is more market research. We have the comic that accomplished certain things, and now we have the animated series that accomplished certain things. The movie version will be a somewhat different experience – those differences keep things from overlapping.
Does working on the show make you want to go back to the comic?
I’m definitely tempted. I think a lot about where the story ended and the different possibilities of doing little things. For now, I’m comfortable with the finished comics and the animation working, but who knows what the future holds?