For the history of the X-Men, check out the post here.
|The original X-Men: 1960s, 1980s and 1990s.|
Marvel Comics’ X-Men were first animated as part of the Sub-Mariner segment of The Marvel Super Heroes in 1966, a limited animation program that essentially used art straight from the comics. Since then, two attempts had been made at giving the X-Men their own animated series. The first came in the Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends episode “The X-Men Adventure,” which was intended to serve as a backdoor pilot to a series which would include original creation Videoman from that series and a version of Ms. Marvel called Lady Lightning. The second attempt came in Marvel Productions’ failed pilot episode, Pryde of the X-Men, whose subject matter networks felt wouldn’t attract their target demographics for Saturday mornings.
|The X-Men: Cyclops, Wolverine, Rogue, Gambit, Storm, Jubilee and Professor X.|
In 1990, Margaret Loesch left her post as Marvel Productions’ President and Chief Executive Officer to become the head of the blossoming Fox Children’s Network; a children’s programming block on the FOX network that eventually became Fox Kids. Loesch was a big believer in the source material for the X-Men and one of the principals behind the production of Pryde. Unsurprisingly, as soon as the opportunity presented itself, she bought an X-Men show from Marvel; putting her job on the line to do so.
|Poster by Jim Lee for the connecting covers of the debut issue of the new X-Men series.|
The series was a labor of love, helmed by those who worked on Pryde. The series was developed by Eric Lewald, Sidney Iwanter and Mark Edens. Will Meugniot served as supervising producer, Larry Houston was the line producer and frequent director, and Rick Hoberg served as a designer and storyboard artist. They combined various elements of the characters throughout their history in order to determine the personalities presented on the show, but they went with the then-current costume styles designed by Jim Lee in the comics at the time.
|Morph says goodbye as he was made to die.|
The team was comprised of X-Men television veterans with some new blood. Previously appearing characters included Professor Xavier (Cedric Smith), Wolverine (Cathal J. Dodd, the first actual Canadian to play the role), Cyclops (Norm Spencer), Jean Grey (who appeared as Marvel Girl in 1966, voiced by Catherine Disher), Storm (Iona Morris for the first season, Alison Sealy-Smith for the remainder, both replacing the originally-cast Nicky Guadagni) and the blue-furred Beast (who appeared in his human form in 1966, voiced by George Buza). Animated for the first time were Rogue (Lenore Zann), a southern belle with super strength, flight and the ability to absorb anyone’s memories or abilities upon skin-to-skin contact; Gambit, aka Remy LeBeau (Chris Potter, later Tony Daniels), a Cajun thief with the ability to charge any object with explosive kinetic energy; and Jubilee, aka Jubilation Lee (Alyson Court), a teenager who could project colorful plasma bursts from her hands. Created specifically for the show was Morph (Ron Rubin), a mutant shape-shifter that was a reimagining of the villain Changeling from Uncanny X-Men #35 (1967). The team largely reflected the Blue Squad featured in the recently launched adjectiveless X-Men comic, with Storm and Jean rounding it out from the Gold Squad featured in parent title Uncanny X-Men.
Much like Pryde before it, the first two episodes, “Night of the Sentinels,” focused on Jubilee’s introduction to the X-Men and their world. Jubilee’s foster parents, upon discovering she was a mutant, registered her with the Mutant Control Agency which prompted the giant robotic mutant hunting Sentinels (all David Fox) to attempt to capture her. The X-Men came to her aid, and after figuring out a connection between the Sentinel attack and the Mutant Registration Program decide to shut the program down. During a battle with the Sentinels, Beast ended up captured and Morph seemingly killed. From that moment, the series set itself apart from shows that came before in not only sidelining a main character for the entire season, but featuring an on-screen death. The death, however, was only granted to them when the producers promised FOX Morph would make a comeback in a future episode; which he did in season 2 under the control of immortal scientist Mr. Sinister (Christopher Britton), who had rescued and reprogrammed him. It was also notable as being one of the few cartoons to run in a serial format, something else the producers fought heavily for.
|The original broadcast (top) vs. the regular broadcast.|
The first two episodes were previewed on Halloween of 1992 as an introduction to the series. Originally scheduled for Labor Day, the animation done by Animation Korea Movie, or AKOM Productions, Ltd., came in with numerous errors that the studio refused to fix. As a result, the episodes were aired with 50 scenes missing and only a single day of editing. After FOX threatened to sever AKOM’s contracts, the episodes were finally fixed. However, the time to do so required the unprecedented move of postponing the show’s official debut for a mid-season one; another gamble for Loesch’s position. The series finally debuted in January of 1993. The series proved a commercial and critical success, earning high praise for its storytelling. Writers for the show included Lewald, Edens, Julia Lewald, Robert N. Skir, Marty Isenberg, Don Glut, Jim Carlson, Terrence McDonnell, Julianne Klemm, Francis Moss, Ted Pedersen, Elliot S. Maggin, Stephanie Mathison, Brooks Wachtel, Adam Gilad, Jan Strnad, Steven Levy, Larry Parr, Len Uhley, Doug Booth, David McDermott, Steven Melching, Richard Mueller, Gary Greenfield, Sandy Scesny, Bruce Reid Schaefer, Luanne Crocker, Jeff Saylor, Steve Cuden, Dean Stefan, Francis Moss, Martha Moran, Mark Onspaugh, Marley Clark, Mirith Colao, James Krieg and Wolverine co-creator Len Wein.
|Older Wolverine protects Kate Pryde (top) while Bishop captures older Wolverine.|
The show closely adhered to the mythology established by the X-Men comics. Many stories from across their run, largely from the 15-year stint of writer Chris Claremont, were adapted into the cartoon with some character substitutions to fit in with their continuity and the combination of similar stories into one. For example, the two-part episode “Days of Future Past” was based on the comic story of the same name, in which a few remaining mutants survive in a dystopian future where mutants are hunted and exterminated. Kitty Pryde (the star of the aforementioned Pryde pilot) had her mind sent back in time to her younger body in order to try and prevent the events that set that future in motion. Another time-traveler named Bishop (Philip Akin), who came back in time to retrieve an escaped criminal, was used in the place of Kitty and physically traveled back with the aid of an the elderly mutant inventor Forge (Marc Strange). The notion of Gambit betraying the X-Men, which was Bishop’s driving plotline in the comics for several years, also played as a subplot for the entire first season.
|Two worlds without an Xavier.|
However, the show was not above influencing the comics itself. In the two-part episode “One Man’s Worth”, Trevor Fitzroy, the mutant criminal that brought Bishop to the past in the comics, killed Xavier in the past creating an alternate timeline in which the X-Men as we knew them were never formed and mutant/human relations plummeted into an all-out war between the races. Once again, Bishop had to put it right. The following year in the comics, the story “Legion Quest” saw Xavier’s son, Legion, go back in time and accidentally kill his father. Without him to form the X-Men, the mutant Apocalypse was able to conquer the world in the event called the Age of Apocalypse.
|Wolverine and Beast with X-Factor's Wolfsbane and Strong Guy.|
Numerous X-Men supporting characters made appearances from major roles to minor ones, such as original X-Men Iceman (Dennis Akayama) and Angel/Archangel (Stephen Ouimette), time-traveling Cable (Lawrence Bayne), second generation X-Men including steel-skinned Colossus (Rick Bennett and Robert Cait), sonic-powered Banshee (Jeremy Ratchford), fire-powered Sunfire (Akayama) and teleporting Nightcrawler (Adrian Hough), and even the government-sponsored mutant team X-Factor. Recurring villains included their arch-nemesis Magneto (David Hemblen), the savage clawed Sabretooth (Don Francks), Xavier’s mystically-powered half-brother the Juggernaut (Bennett), Graydon Creed (John Stocker) and his Friends of Humanity hate-group, Senator Robert Kelly (Len Carlson) who ran the Mutant Registration Act with Henry Peter Gyrich (Barry Flatman) until the X-Men saved him and he won the Presidency on a pro-mutant platform, the shape-shifting Mystique (Randall Carpenter and Jennifer Dale), and the first mutant Apocalypse (John Colicos and James Blendick). Other non-mutant Marvel characters would appear in non-speaking cameos in various episodes throughout the series.
|Ka-Zar and Zabu guide Xavier and Magneto in the Savage Land.|
Season 2 saw a dual narrative of Professor X and Magneto lost together in the Savage Land, a place out of time in the Arctic where dinosaurs still existed, while the X-Men dealt with his disappearance and other pressing threats. Focus was placed on expanding the backstories of the characters, giving viewers more familiarity with them. During this season, Morris was replaced as Storm by Sealy-Smith after episode 7 in a cost-cutting measure. As an American performer, Morris would need to be paid residuals while the Canada-based Sealy-Smith would not. After their initial airings, all of Morris’ episodes were re-recorded for reruns by Sealy-Smith. It was the second time these episodes were re-recorded as Morris had to replace all of the dialogue when she was cast after the producers realized having their prominent African-American character voiced by a white woman was a bad idea; particularly if the show gained the kind of attention they hoped it would (and did). After season 3, ongoing story arcs were significantly reduced as FOX began airing episodes, except continuing stories, in a random order. Continuing animation problems would delay some episodes so much that they would appear in subsequent seasons, with season 4 episodes being used to fill the gaps.
|Jean finally lets her hair down for the last season.|
“Beyond Good and Evil” was intended to be the series finale, but FOX ordered more episodes at the last minute. AKOM was already committed to other projects and Saban Entertainment, the production company and financier behind the show, hired the Philippine Animation Studio (who had worked on the second season of Marvel’s 1990s Fantastic Four cartoon) to complete the final episodes. As a result, beginning with “Jubilee’s Fairytale Theater” (the first episode aired after the change) the series’ animation style and character designs were significantly different and a lot more simplistic. Potter also left the show and was replaced by Daniels as Gambit.
The series’ opening sequence was an original montage of the main characters being introduced and showcasing their abilities for audiences over an instrumental theme written by Ron Wasserman. The intro remained unchanged until the final season. When the animation changed, the theme was altered slightly and the intro became a series of clips from various episodes. When the series was broadcast in Japan on TV Tokyo from 1994-95, a new anime-style intro was created with the song “Rising” by Ambience. After 42 episodes, a new intro was used with the song “Dakishimetai Dare Yori Mo.” The Japanese dubs featured rewrites to make the episodes more humorous and self-satircal, a trademark of director Yoshikazu Iwanami. These episodes were edited for time to allow promotion of Capcom’s then-new fighting game X-Men: Children of the Atom as the actors would pretend to play the game as their characters while cracking jokes. When the series was rebroadcast on Toon Disney (Japan), the series’ translation was more faithful to the American scripts and used the American intro and outro. In Germany, their intro had kids superimposed over various scenes singing a rap about the X-Men.
Comparatively, the series had several ending credit outros. Originally, a rock and roll instrumental played over a faux computer screen where an unseen user accessed a computer-generated model of each character with an accompanying description of their abilities. Network censors felt the CGI models looked too close to toys. To alleviate concerns that the show was actually a toy commercial, another outro ran featuring a complete scene from a previous episode playing out over the credits. A third had the original X-Men intro reprised alongside the credits in a separate box. The fourth version showed clips from various episodes. When the series was rerun by UPN on Sundays, the original Japanese intro was shown behind the credits, although edited to run in the time allotted. The Japanese version showed various images of the comics.
|The X-Men on Spider-Man.|
Outside of the series, the X-Men appeared in a two-part episode of sister FOX show Spider-Man: The Animated Series in the episodes “The Mutant Agenda” and “Mutants’ Revenge.” In these episodes, Spider-Man (Christopher Daniel Barnes) sought Xavier’s help in stopping his radioactive blood from mutating. While the character models appeared close to the series’, the characters’ coloring was altered due to the fact Spider-Man employed a different production studio. The X-Men were intended to appear in the Spider-Man “Secret Wars” storyline, but because the cast was located in Canada it was deemed too expensive to bring them to Los Angeles where Spider-Man was recorded. Instead, producers settled on using only Storm as Morris was located in L.A., marking her brief return to the role since X-Men’s second season. Smith, Zann and Britton also reprised their respective roles in 1995 for the Chef Boyardee X-Men pasta commercial, produced by The Ink Tank and Young & Rubicam Advertising.
|Rogue bio from the comics, mimicking the original ending credits sequence.|
Beginning in 1992, Marvel published a tie-in comic called X-Men Adventures. The first three seasons were adapted across three volumes. In 1996, the series was renamed Adventures of the X-Men and featured all-new stories set within the animated universe. That universe would become an official Marvel alternate universe receiving the designation of Earth-92131 in Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z volume 5, with Bishop’s future being designated Earth-13393 and Cable’s Earth-121893. In 1998, Marvel published X-Men: The Manga, a Japanese import that adapted the storyline from the show. The animated X-Men made a return to the comic pages in X-Men ’92, a tie-in to 2015’s Secret Wars event, which then gained its own short-lived ongoing series. Much like Firestar before him, Morph made the jump into comics as a character during the Age of Apocalypse event in the late 90s in X-Men: Alpha (1995), and later another version (although similar in appearance) became one of the dimension-traversing Exiles in Exiles #1 (2001) and was made a character in the Marvel Heroes video game. As part of 1993’s X-Men Series II trading card set, 9 cards featured stills and summarized the “Night of the Sentinels” episodes. A portion of the animated cast was represented on the Suspended Animation chase set of the 1995 Fleer Ultra X-Men trading card series. In 2017, in time for the show’s 25th anniversary, Eric and Julia Lewald published Previously on X-Men through Jackson Brown Media Group. The book gives a behind-the-scenes account on the production of the show. They followed it up with X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series in 2020 through Abrams Books.
From 1991-98, Toy Biz manufactured a line of X-Men figures featuring various characters from throughout the franchise. While there was no specific series inspired by the show, the commercials made use of the series’ intro and the timing of the releases of certain figures could be attributed to their appearances on the cartoon. There were, however, several figures directly inspired by the show. In 1994, Morph received his first figure, giving him interchangeable character heads, and later was featured as part of the 1998 Shape Shifters line as a transforming figure. 1995’s Civilian Wolverine figure, its 10” counterpart and Projector version directly resembled Wolverine’s out-of-costume appearance on the show. Speaking of the Projectors, each figure came with a slide of stills from the cartoon. The Sentinel released in 1994 and the Blackbird Jet released in 1995 took their designs more from the animated series version than the comics. Also in 1995, several previous figures were re-released as part of the Classics line with an animated series theme. Toy Biz also produced a line of CD-Rom comics, which reprinted a primary comic, several secondary comics, and included clips from the series.
|Character select screen from X-Men: Children of the Atom.|
In 1993, Capcom gained the license to produced video games based on the X-Men. The following year, they released the game that would launch their highly successful Marvel vs. Capcom series of fighting games: X-Men: Children of the Atom. Although it did not feature the same line-up as the cartoon, it did enlist several of the show’s actors including Dodd (who also voiced Iceman), Disher (who voiced all the featured female characters), Buza (who played Colossus, Omega Red, Juggernaut, Magneto and provided announcing duties) and Spencer. Zann and Daniels reprised their roles, as did Bennett as Juggernaut and Francks as Sabretooth, for X-Men vs. Street Fighter. When the series began to encompass the greater Marvel Universe, Dodd assumed the additional roles of Captain America and U.S. Agent, while Court reprised her role as Jubilee and Bayne as Cable. Their voices would continue on in each of their characters’ appearances throughout the franchise until they were all ultimately replaced in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, accompanying new game sprites.
|Storm and Wolverine married in an alternate timeline.|
In 1996, Dodd and Morris would reprise their roles for the PC game X-Men Cartoon Maker by Instinct Corporation and Knowledge Adventure, which allowed users to create their own X-Men cartons featuring sprites with limited animations. The game also made use of sound effects from the cartoon. In 2000, Dodd, Buza, Daniels, Disher and Francks would reprise their roles again for the Activision fighting game X-Men: Mutant Academy, which was created to tie into the X-Men film (the characters were playable in both their comic and movie costumes, with approximations created for non-movie characters). Joining them were Hemblen as Magneto, Sealy-Smith as Storm, and Dale as Mystique. Bayne would also reunite with his former cast members, assuming the role of Xavier. Bennett joined the cast in Mutant Academy 2 as did Strange as Forge and Hough as Nightcrawler, while Daniels would replace Dodd as Wolverine and Rod Wilson (who voiced Gorgeous George and Longshot in the show) came in as Cyclops’ brother, Havok. Daniels would be the only actor to reprise his roles in next follow-up, X-Men: Next Dimension. Buza made a cameo appearance in the first X-Men movie as the trucker who brings Rogue (Anna Paquin) to where she eventually meets Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Hough would appear in X-Men: The Last Stand as young Jean Grey’s (Haley Ramm) father.
X-Men has been released numerous times on VHS between the 90s and the early 2000s. Pizza Hut produced two VHS tapes featuring two episodes each and had a round-table discussion between series co-creator Stan Lee, X-Men writers Fabian Nicieza and Scott Lobdell, and X-Men editor Bob Harras. Universal Studios released 16 tapes containing 2-4 episodes each in the early 2000s, as well as three DVD collections featuring five episodes each. In Australia, “Night of the Sentinels” was included in an X-Men branded merchandise bag offered at various county fairs. PolyGram released selected episodes of the series, predominantly from season 1, in various international markets including the original Japanese dubs. In 2008, Morningstar Entertainment released a DVD in Canada featuring the two-part Spider-Man crossover. In 2003 Buena Vista Home Entertainment released two DVD collections before finally releasing the entire series across 5 volumes beginning in 2009. Liberation Entertainment and Clear Vision handled the United Kingdom versions of these DVDs. It was also made available to view on a number of streaming services. In 2019, it became one of the launch titles for the streaming service Disney+.