Retro Rewind: X-Men The Animated Series.
(AfroGamers.com) Fox Kids in the early 1990s was a fun time for cartoons–as I’ve mentioned before. One of the gems in its program block was X-Men: The Animated Series. Fox just called it X-Men but like the Batman show it had at the same time, distinctions have to be made.
Of the several X-Men cartoons, this is the most fondly remembered. It had video games, there were trading cards, clothes, and a comic based on this period in the franchise. Of the superhero shows on TV at the time, it went toe-to-toe with Batman.
So What About Spider-Man?
What about Spider-Man: The Animated Series? While Spidey is one of my top three favorite heroes, Wolverine’s up there too. Also, for those wondering, Spawn is with Spidey and Logan. At any rate, the Spider-Man cartoon on Fox Kids wasn’t bad by any stretch.
As a matter of fact, it kept to the source material pretty well and had a number of multi-part episodes and story arcs. The main problem with it was that there was it ended on a cliffhanger. I would go into it more but this is about the X-Men and not Spider-Man 1994. Yes, that’s a rant for another article.
The X-Men Team
The line-up for X-Men: The Animated Series changed throughout its run but there were some constant members. Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Jubilee, Rogue, Gambit, and Beast were show regulars. If you include Professor X, him as well. You might say “Why wouldn’t you include Professor X?” He wasn’t a field member. Xavier would get in there and mix it up but that was when things go exceptionally hairy for the team.
Now my point also takes a blow because for a bit of the first season, Beast was behind bars awaiting trial. Yes, this was a superhero cartoon that thrived on consistency. The X-Men had more than enough power to get the Beast out of prison as well but he stayed to see his trial through to the end.
True to the Comic
Obviously the thing I liked most about the series–besides Wolverine and Cyclops constantly butting heads–is how closely the cartoon followed several storylines in the comic. Of course, some characters were changed due to Fox picking its popular team for TV but we still got the fights with the Brotherhood, the political stuff with mutants being discriminated against, Magneto being right, and the Phoenix Saga.
Watching X-Men: The Animated Series at seven or eight at the time, some of the messages and storylines went over my head. I was still in elementary school and simply enjoyed the X-Men and comics because of the cool powers and the colors. It wasn’t until I got older that I was able to take in the storylines and realize that comics were a lot more than muscular men in capes and tights and buxom women dressed scantily.
Mind you, I discovered comics at a very particularly time in comic book history. A time I call the “Xtreme 90s.” It was a period when you knew Jim Lee or Rob Liefeld’s artwork when you saw it.
Back to the cartoon, it did everything well including touching on characters’ quirks, fears, relationships, and strengths. Plus, it started off well in using Jubilee as the proxy for younger viewers without having to age-scale the other members of the team–see X-Men: Evolution, another great X-Men cartoon.
While its extremely old, it’s still worth a watch for strong storytelling. It’s been said before but of the Marvel series, X-Men is the most soap opera-ish of them all and the animated captures a good deal of that high drama and action.
Staff Writer; M. Swift
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.