May 21, 2014 1:05pm PT by Graeme McMillan
Disney's 'Big Hero 6': A Primer on the Obscure Marvel Comic
As the first teaser trailer for Disney’s Big Hero 6 debuts Thursday, you might be wondering one simple question to yourself: “What is Big Hero 6, anyway?”
Sure, you already know that it’s an animated adaptation of a Marvel Entertainment property from Walt Disney Animation Studios set for release this November, but let’s be honest: Big Hero 6 is hardly the most famous Marvel property that’s ever seen print. Just the opposite, in fact; with literally only a handful of appearances in comic book continuity since the team’s creation in 1998, it’s arguably the most obscure Marvel property to make it to the big screen yet — albeit one with a surprisingly strong creative pedigree, which we'll get to soon enough.
In the original comic books, Big Hero 6 is a team of superheroes brought together by the Japanese government with a membership that has included former X-Man Sunfire, former Wolverine villain (a version of whom made it into last year’s The Wolverine live-action movie) the Silver Samurai and characters created specifically for the team with somewhat problematic names like Honey Lemon, Wasabi-No Ginger and Go-Go Tomago (Somewhat surprisingly, each of those names survives into the movie version). The team is headquartered in an amusement park in Tokyo.
Most, if not all of this backstory appears to have been dropped for the animated version, which officially describes itself as having been “inspired by the Marvel comics of the same name." Instead, the movie synopsis introduces a “brilliant robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada,” who lives in “the fast-paced, high-tech city of San Fransokyo” and teams up with the group of superheroes to save the city.
With so much of the original concept changed in transition between media, you might wonder what it was about the comic book Big Hero 6 that caught the eye of Disney in the first place. For an answer to that, you only have to look at the two men responsible for the creation of the team: Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau, or, as they may be better known these days, half of Man of Action, the studio responsible for Cartoon Network’s Ben 10 and Generator Rex, currently showrunning Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers Assemble animated series (writers Joe Casey and Joe Kelly round out the group).
The Ben 10 connection isn’t the only thing that could make Big Hero 6 attractive for adaption; there was also a 2008 comic book miniseries that brought Chris Claremont, longtime writer of Marvel’s X-Men and the man responsible for plots that fueled three big-screen outings for the Fox franchise, on board to guide the destiny of the team.
Obscure as it may be (and it is), based on the creators who have worked on the property in comics, and the fact that it’s a super team that’s both disconnected enough from the core Marvel properties and, for want of a better way to put it, silly enough to be easily repurposed into a stand-alone property for a younger audience, there’s reason enough for Disney to choose Big Hero 6 as something to test the waters for a male-skewing animated feature — even if the finished version may include little of the original DNA.
Big Hero 6 is released Nov. 7.