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Interviews - Boyd Kirkland

How did you get the job boarding for each of these episodes and what specifically did you do?

Larry Houston, the showís producer, is a friend who Iíve worked with off and on over the years, and he asked if Iíd help him out on the show. I was still at Warner Bros. at the time, so drew the boards as a freelance job. Typically, a half hour show is divided into three acts, and a different artist draws each act in order to get it done on a very short schedule. Storyboards function as a blueprint for the show, setting up all of the staging, scene transitions, camera moves, and acting/expressions on the characters. Often, backgrounds and props are designed based on what the storyboard artist draws, as well.

Which was your favorite episode to work on Fantastic Four?

I enjoyed them all, as they were based on the Kirby/Lee comics I loved as a kid in the 60ís. But I particularly enjoyed drawing the episode with Doctor Doom stealing the Silver Surferís power, and his encounter with the Thing in Central Park.

As Hulk didnít have his own show at the time this episode was in production, how difficult is it to properly develop a hugely popular character in a mere 20 minutes? Is it all in the writing?

Of course, the writing really determines the story. As the artist, you just try to convey the power and pathos of the characters in how you pose them and stage the scenes. In live action films, the body language, lighting, camera angles and movement all play important roles in affecting the audienceís involvement and emotional response, and they do the same thing in animation.

Being that the show aired in the mid 90ís, how much did you have to worry about Broadcast Standards and Practices when drawing out the fight scenes?

Having already done a lot of this stuff, I knew where the boundaries were, for the most part. But you always try to push it, to go where the scene demands, and then leave it to the censors to pull it back, if necessary. Of course, post-Batman, we were able to go further than had been previously allowed. The pendulum has been swinging back the other way in the last few years, unfortunately.

Youíve previously worked with both The Fantastic Four and The Hulk in earlier shows from several years ago. Which did you prefer the 90ís version or the 70ís show?

In the late 70ís and early 80ís, I drew layouts for the shows, so didnít really have much effect on the tone or content of them. But as an artist, it was a real kick to be drawing characters I loved from the comics. Of course, the earlier shows were much softer, and less accurate to the comics due to network restrictions, and often had less production value, with more limited animation, canned music and sound effects, etc. The biggest kick was drawing layouts on the Depatie-Freleng FF show because Jack Kirby was drawing the storyboards. He didnít quite have a handle on scene cutting or continuity, etc., so we had to fix those things, but his drawings were just so powerful and great to look at, like his comics, they were a great inspiration. The best use of his talents in animation was as a designer for the Thundarr series, which I also drew layouts for on the first season.

What do you think about the overall outcome of the 90ís Fantastic Four show?

I really disliked the first season of the show, but it really turned around when Larry took over on the second season. I had been asked by Marvel to produce the first season of both the FF and Iron Man, but turned it down when I saw what they were planning to do. The later stuff at least had some decent storytelling and production values. Larry was also a big fan of the 60ís comics, and it showed.

Youíve worked on a vast majority of superhero shows, doing an incredibly varied amount of tasks. Writing, producing, directing, storyboarding and layouts for the likes of Batman, Hulk, Spider-Man, The X-Men, with The Avengers soon to follow. What made the FF stand out?

I always loved the FF comic when Kirby was drawing it. He was creatively at the peak of his career, putting out a non-stop stream of incredible characters and mind-blowing cosmic concepts that everyone since has mined, but never topped. Plus, Stan Lee made the FF a family, investing them with great humor, affection and pathos that was just great character-driven storytelling. Brad Birdís Incredibles movie owes them a great debt of gratitude.

The staff at Marvel Animation Age would like to say a big thanks to Boyd for the interview!