The Xavier Institute is about to get a little more crowded. When the second season of Kids' WB!'s X-MEN: EVOLUTION which takes the bulk of Marvel's mutant characters and turns them into teenagers for a Saturday morning audience gets underway on Sept. 29, nine new mutants will be introduced into the fold.
Although the entire main cast returns, newcomers Boom-Boom, Iceman, Berzerker, Jubilee, Sunspot, Wolfsbane, Magma, Cannonball and Multiple will all appear in "Growing Pains," the season opener.
"The reason why we chose to have new characters is just for variety's sake and as a little bit of a nod toward the fans who are expecting some of these characters," X-MEN: EVOLUTION story editor Greg Johnson says. "We've kept them very peripheral in most instances. Almost every story centers around the main, established characters."
"It'll be similar to what was done in the X-MEN movie, where they're there, sort of flitting around in the background, but we don't focus on them immediately," says producer Boyd Kirkland. "In other words, we're not doing stories about them or who they are and where they came from and what their powers are. You just sort of see them, similar to the movie. And it will be that way for a while. Eventually, we'll get into stuff that deals with them a little further into the year, but not initially."
The new characters are mostly drawn from the NEW MUTANTS and X-FORCE comic books. Berzerker is perhaps the most obscure choice, a Morlock who appeared in just one issue of X-FACTOR, while Multiple is the youngest a 12-year-old version of the Multiple Man.
"We wanted to give the feeling that the mutants' world was becoming more populated," Johnson says. "So, for us, the obvious choice was the New Mutants. Those were the young ones that came in, so many of the old-time fans will remember the new kids."
Johnson acknowledges Iceman as the most obvious choice when selecting new characters because of his previous history as an original member of the comic book X-Men.
"With the other ones, we tried to mix up the powers," he adds. "And we wanted various personalities."
Boom-Boom, a character who was almost a regular in the first season, is perhaps one Johnson's favorite of the new bunch.
"She's a lot of fun," he says. "We've got a character who can really break the rules. Because of the way she's positioned, we don't necessarily have to show the consequences of some of those actions, like you would with some of the main characters."
In terms of where the new mutants fit into the overall cast, they are all X-Men, not members of the Brotherhood, sporting similar, standard uniforms, comparable to that of team member Spyke.
"It's the basic black, with the gold kinds of accessories like gloves and boots and belt with the 'X' on it," Kirkland says. "It's not like they've got the individualized uniforms yet. That will be like a graduation thing or whatever, when they're deemed worthy of becoming a full-fledged member of the team and then they'll get some unique addition to their outfit. That hasn't happened yet."
Of course, the downside of bringing more characters into the fold means that there is more work for Kirkland and crew.
"Steve Gordon, who really designs most of this stuff and is one of my directors, he's just done a fabulous job," Kirkland says. "There's just been a tremendous amount of work in this season because of how huge the cast has gotten and then the stories themselves, which are much bigger and involve crowds and situations with lots of characters. He's just done a great job. They've had a workout this year, but it's been fun. They're doing a really cool job."
Aside from the new characters, some of whom are still unnamed surprises, the creators of X-MEN: EVOLUTION aren't offering many details as to the upcoming season of 17 episodes.
"The whole first season was getting to know who our characters are, what was our story like and what we were trying to do," says Craig Kyle of Marvel Studios, which produces the show with Film Roman. "Now we know."
"An obvious difference is that we've already got the cast fairly well assembled and all together," Kirkland adds. "We had to spend several episodes just introducing the members of the group, so now you hit the ground running with a fully assembled team, with personalities established. We know where we're starting from, so in the second season, everything just gets bigger and more intense and we keep introducing new characters and new situations. It's just gets bigger and more out of control, what can I tell you?"
Johnson, who came aboard X-MEN: EVOLUTION after work on the first season began and acts as this season's only story editor, does reveal that the second set of episodes is much more focused.
"We have a season arc with so many mysteries that pay off at the end, with surprises and reveals," he says.
So how about those villains?
"Magneto is back, doing something that really comes into play at the end of the season. He's building something," Johnson says. "You won't see Mystique. She's vanished. She's left the Brotherhood without a leader."
"You can't keep a good villain down," Kirkland says of Magneto. "He's not going to be back right away, but he's going to be factored in there. And we'll also be introducing other new villains, and there's going to be some real surprises in the season that I don't want to spoil, or else they wouldn't be surprises. We have some interesting character developments and plot twists that are going to keep people guessing, that's for sure."
And while production rolls on for season two, eyes are also turned to what seems to be considering the show's popularity an inevitable third season.
"We have no commitment from the network yet, but the indications are if the ratings hold up as well or better than we've been getting in the first season, then there's very little doubt that they'll want a third season," Kirkland says. "We've kind of structured this whole second season and where it goes and where it ends up with the idea that there will be more, that there will be a third season that will be necessary to follow through and tie up all the loose ends of the things that we're going to introduced in the second season."
Adds Johnson, "We're going to hint at a future villain. There's a clue about the third-season villain in there. Everybody will know when that moment comes."