May 30, 2015

X-MEN: EVOLUTION

AVENGERS ROLL CALL: Quicksilver joined the Avengers in Avengers #16, 1965 and has left and rejoined the team repeatedly. Mystique and Sabretooth became members of the temporary team of Astonishing Avengers in Avengers & X-Men: AXIS #6, 2014. Sabretooth then became a member of the mixed Avengers/X-Men Unity Squad in Uncanny Avengers vol. 2 #1, 2015. Cannonball and Sunspot both joined the Avengers in Avengers vol. 5 #1, 2013.




X-MEN: EVOLUTION
(WB, November 4, 2000-October 25, 2003)

Marvel Studios, Film Roman Studios

MAIN CAST:
David KayeProfessor X/Professor Charles Xavier, Apocalypse
Kirsten WilliamsonStorm/Ororo Munroe
Kirby MorrowCyclops/Scott Summers
Brad SwaileNightcrawler/Kurt Wagner
Maggie Blue O’HaraShadowcat/Katherine “Kitty” Pryde
Neil DenisSpyke/Evan Daniels
Colleen WheelerMystique/Raven Darkholme
Christopher GreyAvalanche/Lance Alvers
Noel FisherToad/Todd Tolansky
Michael DobsonBlob/Fred J. Dukes, Caliban
Richard Ian CoxQuicksilver/Pietro Maximoff
Christopher JudgeMagneto/Erik Lensherr
Michael KopsaBeast/Henry “Hank” McCoy (season 2-4)
Kelly SheridanScarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (season 2-4)

For the history of the X-Men, check out the post here.


            While the acclaimed X-Men: the Animated Series was still running, Marvel Comics’ merry mutants made their first leap into live action in the failed 1996 TV-pilot movie Generation X, which starred the next generation of mutants from the comic series of the same name. Two years later, Marvel made the first push into the respect comics currently enjoy when they released the first Blade movie. Blade, unlike previous attempts, was a serious and grounded film about the little-known vampire hunter who got his first exposure to non-comic audiences courtesy of Spider-Man: the Animated Series. It showed Hollywood that comic-based films need not be cheesy neon-colored fare, as Batman & Robin had degraded the genre into.



            With that in mind, the rights to the X-Men were brought to 20th Century Fox and production of the first X-Men movie was underway. Executive producer Avi Arad, who was also working on the film as head of Marvel Films, shopped around the idea of bringing X-Men back to television in the meantime. Kids’ WB snapped up the rights and production was underway, handled by Film Roman Studios as Marvel no longer had an animation division following the end of Spider-Man

The de-aged Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Rogue and the all-new Spyke.

However, since Kids’ WB was geared towards a particular age demographic, the show had to undergo some drastic changes from previous incarnations of the X-Men. For one thing, a lot of the drama and violence needed to be extremely toned down; especially with then-current Federal Communications Commission rules that were particularly strict for Saturday morning programming. This forced the crew to come up with various ways to circumvent those restrictions while telling compelling stories and keeping up the standards they set up on previous projects. In order to better connect with their intended audience, many of the familiar X-Men characters were reduced in age from young adults to teenagers, and much of the focus was placed on the students (and mostly in life out of costume) rather than the adults. Although, despite the fact that the characters were teens, when it came time to portray romances on the series the network made sure to quash any overt depictions in order not to scare away their younger male audiences (because, y’know, girls are icky at that age). In order to get any romance into the show, producers would slip in little things like an arm around the shoulders while the show was being animated, as the network oversaw all aspects of production from script to storyboard.

Xavier's School: Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Professor X, Shadowcat, Spyke, Nightcrawler, Rogue and Storm.

While the crew of the series was not allowed to see much of anything in relation to the movie, Arad kept pushing for elements of the movie to be included in the series. As a result, the Xavier Institute began with the same core cast as the film. Professor Xavier (David Kaye) and his fellow teachers Storm (Kirsten Williamson) and Wolverine (Scott McNeil) oversaw the daily training in the use of the powers of teenagers Cyclops (Kirby Morrow) and Jean Grey (Venus Terzo). Besides the ages of two of the founding X-Men, the biggest change was the fact that their primary education happened not at Xavier’s, but in a nearby public high school in the town of Bayville, New York (changed from Salem Center in the comics) in order to truly demonstrate Xavier’s dream of co-existence. However, their human classmates had no idea they were mutants, or that mutants even existed—at least, not at first. That was a secret Xavier and crew struggled to keep until the timing was right to announce their presence to the world.

The Brotherhood: Avalanche, Quicksilver, Blob and Toad.

Bayville High wasn’t without its own share of secrets. The principal, Raven Darkholme, was actually the shape-shifting Mystique (Colleen Wheeler), an associate of Magneto (Christopher Judge). She kept an eye out for potential new mutants to recruit to her own team, the Brotherhood, while watching the young X-Men. Her Brotherhood consisted of their seismically powered leader Avalanche (given the name Lance Alvers and voiced by Christopher Grey), who starts out as a thug with an intense rivalry with Cyclops; Toad (renamed Todd Tolansky and voiced by Noel Fisher), a slacker with the ability to leap great heights and poor physical hygiene; Blob (Michael Dobson), a bully whose increased body mass made him super strong and resistant to injuries; and Quicksilver (Richard Ian Cox), the self-serving, arrogant speedster who was the son of Magneto. The Brotherhood was little more than a plot device in the first season, a reason for the X-Men to suit up and fight, and Magneto himself was barely seen during the first season; played as more of an ominous presence with a hand in events as they unfolded.

Mystique's Raven Darkholme guise.

Over the course of the first season, new mutants were introduced and a competition emerged between the X-Men and Brotherhood to recruit them. Amongst them were the teleporting Nightcrawler (Brad Swaile, retaining the character’s German accent), who enjoyed goofing around and used an image inducer to hide his blue-fur and tail to appear normal; and Shadowcat (Maggie Blue O’Hara, whose valley girl accent was phased out after the first season), a sheltered young girl who could phase her body through solid objects. Rogue (Meghan Black), who could absorb a person’s memories and abilities with skin-to-skin contact, received the most drastic reimagining. She was portrayed as a reclusive and paranoid Goth girl who has an understandable angst about her powers keeping her from any kind of physical contact. She was initially tricked by Mystique, later revealed to have been her adoptive mother, into joining the Brotherhood until Rogue learned the truth and joined the X-Men. She also had a crush on Cyclops and showed an open resentment towards Jean and their affections for each other. 

Spyke living up to his name.

Created specifically for the show was Evan Daniels, aka Spyke (Neil Denis). Storm’s nephew, he had the ability to produce bone-like spikes from his skin. He was introduced with a quickly-dropped rivalry with Quicksilver after the speedster framed Spyke for a robbery. Of Spyke’s creation, supervision producer Boyd Kirkland had stated that they needed more diversity in their cast, and none of the pre-existing mutants fit the bill. When the underground mutant outcasts known as the Morlocks debuted in the third season, Spyke eventually left the X-Men to join them and become a vigilante. The Morlocks themselves, while featuring familiar faces, also had several new members created for the show.

The "New Mutants": Cannonball, Jubilee, Multiple, Sunspot, Magma, Berzerker, Iceman and Wolfsbane.

In the second season, the producers wanted to show that some time had passed while the network liked how populated Xavier’s school appeared in the film. As a result, a horde of new recruits, dubbed “New Mutants” by fans after the original comic spin-off featuring a second class of rookie X-Men, were introduced. They were a mixture of characters that had previously appeared in animation before, along with some new blood. Amongst the veterans were the genius scientist Beast (Michael Kopsa), who was a teacher at Bayville and later at Xavier’s following his mutation; the ice-manipulating Iceman (Andrew Francis); the rocket-powered Cannonball (Bill Switzer); the plasma-blasting Jubilee (Chiara Zanni); Multiple (Multiple Man in the comics, voiced by David A. Kaye) who could generate duplicates by absorbing kinetic energy; and the wolf-girl Wolfsbane (Chantal Strand). New characters included the volcanically-powered Magma (Alexandra Carter), who was changed from her blonde hair, blue eyed comics version to truly Brazilian with brown hair and eyes, and Berzerker (renamed Ray Crisp and voiced by Tony Sampson), one of the Morlocks from the comics who could harness electricity. These new recruits were generally background characters, with very few of them playing any significant role in an episode and relegated to just scenery or background gags. Another new recruit was Risty Wilde (Nicole Oliver), a purple-haired girl from Britain that many believed to be the Evolution version of Psylocke. It was actually an identity assumed by Mystique in order to stay close to Rogue and steal information on the X-Men. Mystique dropped the persona after a single appearance in the third season. The new recruits all wore black suits with gold accessories.

The "Acolytes": Magneto, Gambit, Sabretooth, Mastermind, Colossus and Pyro.

The villains received new recruits as well. Boom-Boom (Megan Leitch), a girl with a troubled past who could generate explosive energy “time bombs,” was originally at Xavier’s until deciding the Brotherhood was a better fit for her. They also rescued Quicksilver’s sister Wanda (Kelly Sheridan) from the insane asylum that Magneto placed her in out of fear of her reality-altering powers. She was introduced as an unstable and angry individual, until Mastermind (Campbell Lane), a telepath, altered her memories at the behest of Magneto to make her more pliable to the cause. Mastermind was also a member of Magneto’s other team, formed upon a falling out between himself and Mystique unofficially known as The Acolytes after his second team in the comics. The other members included the savage Sabretooth (Michael Donovan), the Cajun thief and mercenary Gambit (Alessandro Juliani), the flame-wielding Pyro (Trevor Devall) and the organic steel-skinned Colossus (Michael Adamthwaite) who, unlike the others, was forced into Magneto’s service with his family held hostage.

Apocalypse model sheet.

Seemingly in keeping with the name, the show continued to evolve. By the end of the second season, mutantkind was revealed to the world and the third season; eliciting the standard hatred towards them from ordinary humans. The third season was spent dealing with the fallout of the revelation. Several of the new recruits disappeared in the third season, many of them said to be as a result of their public outing. Mystique left her post as Bayville High’s principal after her differences with Magneto, being replaced by Edward Kelly (Dale Wilson), who in the comics was an anti-mutant senator named Robert with presidential aspirations. Kelly did exhibit political ambitions when he tried to run for mayor of Bayville. He also expelled the Brotherhood from the school. Shadowcat and Avalanche began a forbidden romance, which made Avalanche try to unsuccessfully switch sides. The biggest bad of all, Apocalypse (Kaye) was gradually introduced beginning in the second season, culminating in his appearance for the final battle in the series finale and with a changing form to match. 

Fashion sense: Wolverine, Mystique and the Future X-Men.

Steve Gordon, showrunner Boyd Kirkland and Frank Paur designed most of the characters, giving them new and simple-to-animate looks that also paid homage to their long history and remained true to their original characterizations. Several characters underwent changes as the series progressed. Wolverine, originally wearing an homage to his brown costume, was given his costume from the Ultimate X-Men comics beginning in season 3. In fact, the Ultimate costume designs were used for Xavier’s vision of the future in the series finale. Mystique was originally intended to be designed in her “nude” form as she appeared in the film, but as that was too risqué she instead was depicted in a version of her classic white dress from the comics. Never happy with that design, Gordon gave her a smaller black two-piece dress, boots, and a covering on one wrist beginning in season 2. Also in season 2, Boom-Boom shaved off Blob’s Mohawk as a joke, and Blob maintained the look until the series’ end. Several characters, in an unusual move for an animated series, had different civilian outfits. While they didn’t change every episode, it did defy the usual practice of a character wearing the same clothing for the duration of a show.


The series debuted on Kids’ WB on November 4, 2000. Throughout the series’ production, it was never known when the network would renew the show for another season until the last minute, making it hard for the producers to plot out their seasons very far in advance while telling a satisfying story. William Kevin Anderson composed the theme and score for the series, giving several characters their own distinctive music. Ultimately, the series ran for four seasons with the final being an abbreviated nine episodes, making it the third longest-running Marvel series to date. The series won the Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Sound Mixing” in 2001 and “Outstanding Sound Editing” in 2003, and the Cover of the Year Award in 2004 for the animated figure of Beast. It was nominated for additional Emmys and Golden Reel Awards, and Steve Gordon was nominated for “Production Design in an Animated Television Production” for the 2001 Annie Awards.

X-23 comin' at ya!

One of the lasting contributions from the series was the creation of the character X-23 (Andrea Libman & Britt Irvin). Conceived by producer Craig Kyle and appearing in episodes written by Kyle and his writing partner Christopher Yost, she is the female clone of Wolverine, the 23rd in a series of failed attempts, possessing all of his powers, two adamantium claws inside each forearm, and one that comes out of each foot. Unlike the character of Spyke, X-23 proved immensely popular and she was soon integrated into the official Marvel Comics universe like Firestar and Morph before her (although Spyke was possibly recycled into the character that appeared in X-Statix, whose name was spelled with a proper “i”). Whereas in the cartoon she was created by the terrorist organization known as Hydra, in the comics she was made the product of a new version of the Weapon X Program that created Wolverine. She first appeared in the 2003 mini-series NYX before making her presence known to the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #450. Her slightly-tweaked origin was fleshed out in two mini-series and she eventually gained her own ongoing

Taco Bell ad.

Toy Biz produced a line of action figures, including the standard 5” variety, 8” figures with interchangeable cloth outfits, and 9” talking figures. In 2000, Taco Bell offered clip-on mini-busts of Mystique with a changing face, Wolverine with extending claws, Storm with sparkling eyes, Cyclops with disc-firing eyes and Toad with a darting tongue in their kids’ meals. In 2001, Burger King was set to offer 28 figurines as part of their Big Kids’ meal with a hero and villain being offered in each set. However, the plan was scrapped and scaled down to feature only 8 figures (Wolverine, Rogue, Magneto, Quicksilver, Nightcrawler, Mystique, Toad and Cyclops) on a base with a character bio visible through a small viewing window, and a miniature CD-ROM disc with some show-related content. Hard Hero released a line of limited-edition maquettes, featuring Juggernaut, Magneto, Xavier, Colossus, Storm, Wolverine, Cyclops and Captain America from his guest-appearance. 

DVD cover.

In 2002, Marvel published nine-issues of a comic based on the series, presenting original adventures by Devin Grayson, Jay Faerber and UDON. A 10th issue was planned, but the series was ultimately cancelled due to low sales. The series introduced the Morlocks before they appeared on the cartoon, although both versions were radically different. They also featured characters that didn’t appear on the show, including Mimic and Mr. Sinister in the cancelled issue. Three seasons of the show had been released to DVD between 2003 and 2006. The first two seasons were broken up across four volumes each, while the third was released in its entirety. The fourth has yet to be released. The series was made available on various streaming sites, including iTunes, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and Google Play.


EPISODE GUIDE:

Season 1:
“Strategy X” (11/4/00) – Nightcrawler gets acclimated to his new home while Mystique plots to use Toad to infiltrate the Xavier School.

“The X-Impulse” (11/11/00) – Jean and Avalanche both try to recruit new mutant Kitty Pryde while Wolverine’s old foe Sabretooth comes to town.

“Rogue Recruit” (11/18/00) – Rogue runs away after discovering her powers, and Xavier is determined to find her before the Brotherhood.

“Mutant Crush” (11/25/00) – When Jean tries to help Blob adjust to his new school, he mistakes her kindness as her liking him.

“Speed and Spyke” (12/9/00) – When Spyke gains his mutant powers, he plans to use them for revenge against Quicksilver.

“Middleverse” (1/27/01) – Rogue and Nightcrawler stumble upon an abandoned lab of Forge’s where Nightcrawler is sucked into another dimension—just as Forge had been decades before.

“Turn off the Rogue” (2/3/01) – A class trip pits Cyclops and Rogue against their classmates.

“Spykecam” (2/10/01) – Spyke records his life for a school project, but his tape could lead Sabretooth to Wolverine and the school.

“Survival of the Fittest” (3/3/01) – With the X-Men in a training boot camp, Mystique frees Juggernaut to break into the school, but Juggernaut has plans for his own revenge on Xavier.

“Shadowed Past” (3/31/01) – Dreams about Nightcrawler set him and Rogue off to discover the truth about his past.

“Grim Reminder” (4/14/01) – A chip in Wolverine’s brain sends him on fits of blind rage after a strange Canadian news broadcast.

“The Cauldron, Part 1” (5/5/01) – Xavier helps Cyclops discover his brother is alive and race to recruit him before the Brotherhood does.

“The Cauldron, Part 2” (5/12/01) – Magneto transports the X-Men to Asteroid M in order to begin his plans for the future of mutant kind.


Season 2:
“Growing Pains” (9/29/01) – The Brotherhood threaten to expose mutants to the world.

“Power Surge” (10/6/01) – Only Rogue can help Jean regain control of her powers.

“Badda-Bing, Badda-Boom” (10/13/01) – Boom-Boom’s father asks her to commit a crime for him, leading her to eventually joining up with the Brotherhood.

“Fun and Games” (10/20/01) – While Xavier tends to Juggernaut’s cell, the younger X-Men trick Cyclops and Jean into leaving the mansion so they can hold a party.

“The Beast of Bayville” (10/27/01) – Dr. Henry McCoy’s mutation turns him into a raging beast, and only Spyke has a chance of stopping him.

“Adrift” (11/3/01) – Cyclops sets out to rescue his brother after a surfing accident, but a huge storm threatens them both.

“On Angel’s Wings” (11/17/01) – Rogue and Cyclops discover a mysterious heroic angel is a new mutant, whom Magneto wants to frame in order to instill hatred of humanity in him.

“African Storm” (12/1/01) – Hungan, an African shaman, wants Storm’s powers in order to take over Africa.

“Joyride” (12/15/01) – Avalanche wants to join the X-Men to be with Kitty, but he becomes the first suspect in a series of mutant-related joyrides.

“Walk on the Wild Side” (1/26/02) – The X-Women strike out on their own to become a vigilante crime-fighting team.

“Operation: Rebirth” (2/2/02) – Wolverine, Rogue and Nightcrawler are sent by Nick Fury to retrieve the device that created Captain America from Magneto.

“Mindbender” (2/16/02) – Mesmero kidnaps and brainwashes several X-Men to commit crimes for him.

“Shadow Dance” (3/2/02) – While the kids prepare for a Sadie Hawkins dance, Forge creates a device that augments Nightcrawler’s teleportation.

“Retreat” (3/30/02) – Kitty arranges a field trip with the new recruits to cheer Beast up, but hunters end up capturing Beast believing him to be Bigfoot.

“The HeX Factor” (4/20/02) – The Brotherhood breaks Quicksilver’s sister Wanda out of a mental institution and enlists her onto the team.

“Day of Reckoning, Part 1” (5/11/02) – Bolivar Trask pits Wolverine against his Sentinels while Magneto commands his Acolytes to provoke war between the species.

“Day of Reckoning, Part 2” (5/11/02) – The X-Men and Brotherhood unite to defeat the Sentinel, exposing the existence of mutants to the world.


Season 3:
“Day of Recovery” (9/14/02) – The X-Men and Brotherhood go to Area 51 to rescue their captured friends, and Cyclops blackmails Mystique into revealing Xavier’s location.

“The Stuff of Heroes” (9/21/02) – While the X-Men try to save a dam from Juggernaut, Beast and Storm speak to the Senate about mutants.

“Mainstream” (9/28/02) – Xavier urges the young mutants return to school, but new principal Robert Kelly has plans for them.

“The Stuff of Villains” (10/5/02) – The Brotherhood is expelled and Magneto tries to recruit them while freeing Quicksilver from prison.

“Blind Alley” (10/19/02) – The X-Men rebuild the mansion while Mystique breaks free and plans revenge against Cyclops.

“X-Treme Measures” (11/2/02) – The Morlocks create a sports drink that’s harmful to mutants, and which Spyke drinks.

“The Toad, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (11/9/02) – Toad steals Nightcrawler’s image inducer in order to woo Wanda.

“Self Possessed” (11/16/02) – Rogue’s powers go out of control, all the abilities she’s absorbed resurfacing including Mystique’s, which changes her into the mutants she’s emulating.

“Under Lock and Key” (11/30/02) – Mesmero takes control of Gambit to free Apocalypse.

“Cruise Control” (8/23/03) – Shunned on a vacation cruise, the X-Men head to a nearby island where their lives are threatened by an erupting volcano.

“X23” (8/2/03) – Hydra used Wolverine’s DNA to create the female clone X-23, who follows her programming to destroy him regardless of whatever—or whoever—is in her path.

“Dark Horizons, Part 1” (8/9/03) – Mesmero takes control of Rogue and has her absorb all the abilities of the X-Men, Brotherhood and Acolytes in order to free Apocalypse.

“Dark Horizons, Part 2” (8/16/03) – Mesmero has Rogue and Mystique free Apocalypse, who absorbs Rogue’s powers and escapes before the X-Men can stop him.


Season 4:
“Impact” (8/30/03) – Magneto takes Apocalypse on while the X-Men try to understand their foe.

“No Good Deed” (9/6/03) – After rescuing people from an accident of Wanda’s, the Brotherhood enjoys their new status as heroes and continues causing trouble they can rescue people from.

“Target X” (9/13/03) – After escaping Omega Red, Wolverine finds X-23 and joins her in her revenge against her creator.

“Sins of the Son” (9/20/03) – Xavier and the X-Men head to Scotland when he learns he has a son.

“Uprising” (9/27/03) – Spyke returns in time to help the X-Men and Morlocks put a stop to hate-crimes against mutants.

“Cajun Spice” (10/4/03) – Gambit kidnaps Rogue to trick her into helping him rescue his foster father.

“Ghost of a Chance” (10/11/03) – After being rescued by Danielle Moonstar, Kitty invites her to the school where the students begin having powerful nightmares upon her arrival.

“Ascension, Part 1” (10/18/03) – Apocalypse unleashes his Four Horsemen and the X-Men take them on with the help of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Sentinels.

“Ascension, Part 2” (10/25/03) – The X-Men, Brotherhood and Acolytes join forces to save humanity from Apocalypse.

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