This is a short interview that I did with Thomas Perkins, character designer on the Disney XD animated series “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”.
FGS: How did you get in to character design in the animation industry?
Thomas Perkins: I was invited to assist the character design department while working as a Prop Designer during the production Extreme Ghostbusters by lead character designer Fil Barlow. He ended up being my mentor for many years and has had a great impact upon me and my work.
FGS: At what point in life did you know that you were an artist and wanted to pursue a career in art and design?
Thomas Perkins: I am a third generation professional artist. My grandfather was an illustrator and painter named Charles Kerins. My mother, Abby Willowroot, has been a jeweler and sculptress for the my whole life. Though the arts were never forced upon me, I always had the strong drive to make art. Eventually I realized it was a natural choice to make a career of it.
FGS: What was the first animated series you worked on?
Thomas Perkins: My first gig in animation was as a prop artist and later as a character designer on a show called Extreme Ghostbusters back in 1997, for Sony Television Animation.
FGS: As a child were you in to comic books and other geek stuff?
Thomas Perkins: As a child I was (and continue to be) a huge geek. I started avidly reading comics in elementary school in the 1970’s. I was also a big fan of animation, both domestic and foreign.
FGS: Would you say that being a fan of comic books helped your decision in getting in to the animation industry?
Thomas Perkins: Certainly. My love of both comics and animation were manifested early in my life, therefore I always wanted to work in the arts and in either comics or animation.
FGS: How did you end up on The Avengers Earths Mightiest Heroes?
Thomas Perkins: I was very fortunate. The head designer and supervising director of the show, Ciro Nieli, contacted me and invited me to join the crew.
FGS: As a fan of Marvel Comics was this a series that you saw a lot of potential in?
Thomas Perkins: Yes. I thought the show had great potential. Since Ciro Nieli was a fan of the old school Marvel content like I was, it was his desire to see it influence the look of AEMH. Both of us wanted the original vision of the show to stay true to the comic we grew up with. I really liked the vision he had for the show very much.
FGS: I noticed that some of the images include rarer Marvel Comics characters such as 3D Man, Adam Warlock, Alpha Flight, Black Goliath, Captain Universe, Machine Man and The Human Fly. I happen to be a huge fan of some of these characters, especially Machine Man, Omega The Unknown and The Human Fly. Was it up to you to assimilate new characters in to the series, or were these specific choices from Marvel Comics? Who picked the characters to be in the series?
Thomas Perkins: As to the images that caught your eye, I should like to clarify a few things. Those were done by me as a sort of high level fan art. Marvel had no input on them, nor were they indicative of any plans on Marvel’s part. I did these once we wrapped our 52 episode run on AEMH. I decided that in the event that there were no more episodes to be made, I wanted to show a selection of “What If” images that would showcase characters that I deeply wished could have guest starred on our show. I realize that people ended up speculating on other theories, but on my blog, where these images first appeared, I clearly stated their true nature and intent to avoid any misunderstandings. As to the larger image with the Alternate Universe Alpha Flight and the Altered Avengers, That was a poster I designed as a gift for the crew at the end of the production. So the short answer is: I did them for “fun”.
FGS: Can you tell me where the series would have went, story wise if these characters had been able to enter the series? Would they have been mainstay or in just one off episodes? If Avengers EMH wouldn’t have been cancelled, what other characters may have been in the works that we could have looked forward to seeing?
Thomas Perkins: I don’t really know. I have my own thoughts on what I would’ve liked to have seen, but as to what Marvel had as potential futures for the show, I don’t really know. I greatly enjoyed working on the show and had many things I would have loved to have seen done with it.
FGS: I noticed that in some of your character designs some characters look the same as if they were right out of the comic book and some have re-imagined costume looks. This really sticks out with Black Goliath, is there a reason this character looks a little more like Giant Man in your art?
Thomas Perkins: In the instance that you refer to with Bill Foster, I was reimagining him as taking up the mantle as Giant Man with the exit of Hank Pym. It was just a sort of What If of my own. That is why I blended his Goliath color palette with the Giant Man costume design. A clear homage to both character in one amalgamated form.
By and large we tried to stay true to the original designs from the comics for the show… but that being said, it is always fun to redesign things a bit when the opportunity arises.
FGS: If the series had kept on, which of these characters did you really look forward to bringing in as a new character?
Thomas Perkins: There are so many character I would have loved to see on the show! As a lifelong reader of Marvel Comics, the list is huge. I would have loved to have seen Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, The Mimic, Alpha Flight, Daredevil, The Imperial Guard, The X-Men, The Defenders, The Winter Guard / Soviet Super Soldiers… To many to list here… but be assured that there were tons that I would have loved to see.
FGS: If all of them would have made it on to the series, in what order would they have entered?
Thomas Perkins: Oh that would be more organization than I can muster, honestly. Just the opportunity to do them would have been great fun, the order would have been unimportant to me personally.
FGS: Were story lines ever written for these images, or were they just concept art or what if’s?
Thomas Perkins: These were just fun concepts that I had sitting around in my head. I had many more I wanted to do, but I got too busy working on other things over at Warner Bros. Animation which were also great fun.
FGS: Why didn’t you continue character design on to the next series Avengers Assemble? Was it by choice or is it a corporate decision on who get’s to do what?
Thomas Perkins: As Marvel started up their new animation division, they had new ideas and new folks that they wanted to carry them forward. It is a common thing in animation to have different projects helmed by different crews. I enjoyed my stint on AEMH greatly, but when they started the new project, I believe they felt that they wanted a new look to carry it forward to perhaps blend with a new aesthetic that they had in mind and had people that they envisioned for those roles.
FGS: What are some projects that you’re currently working on and what can we look forward to in the near future?
Thomas Perkins: Since completing AEMH, I went on to work on shows like Green Lantern The Animated Series and Beware The Batman I am currently working on a primetime comedy program that has yet to air, and so I am not at liberty to discuss it at this time.
FGS: As a fan of comic books. What characters would you like to work on if a series or movie was green lit by Marvel or DC Comics?
Thomas Perkins: Oh, there are many things that I would love to work on IF the powers that be greenlit them… I fear that the character I would enjoy the most would never see light of day. I would love to see a bevy of Jack Kirby tales done.
For DC, I would love to work on projects like and OMAC, The New Gods, Kamandi, Captain Marvel, Doctor Fate….
For Marvel, I would really enjoy working on some shows based upon The Eternals, Adam Warlock, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange Moon Knight, Squadron Supreme (… the old school version), What If, The Exiles…
There are so many things that both companies have in their toy chests that would be fun to work on….It would be hard to pick just a few were the possibilities open.
FGS: What do you do on your off time? Do you still read comic books? Any hobbies?
Thomas Perkins: I draw almost constantly. I read comics to this very day. I like animation and film. And I spend a lot of time being a dad of three young folks (… who I also draw for almost daily as can be seen on my Lunch Bag Blog at www.lunchbagblog.blogspot.com).
FGS: Have you ever thought about getting in to the comic book industry as an artist, or are you strictly in to design and animation?
Thomas Perkins: I am actually working on a creator owned comic book project currently and will be happy to tell you more about it when it is closer to fruition.
FGS: Any last words?
Thomas Perkins: Thank you for your time and interest in my work! 🙂
Places that one might find my work: