Home > Comics, Flashback Feature, TV > Flashback Feature: X-Men (1992-1997) [Part 2]

Flashback Feature: X-Men (1992-1997) [Part 2]

X_MEN_Animated_Vol_1_Box_Art_by_david_nakayamaIn the first part of our Flashback Feature on the “X-Men” animated series of the early 90s, we looked at the series’ origins, along with the mutants that made up the core team of X-Men.

Now, in part two, we take a look at some of the villains and other characters featured throughout the series, along with the storylines adapted over its five season run, and how they fit into the bigger picture of the X-Men universe.

One of the highpoints of the X-Men animated series was its willingness to include characters from across the Marvel Universe: some were simple cameos, others had episodes dedicated to them and their origins, and others still were new characters, introduced, created and adapted solely for the series.

Chief amongst them is Morph, a character introduced 250px-Morphanimtedin the very first episode and whose shapeshifting powers scare the newly arrived Jubilee. Morph doesn’t have an equivalent in the comics, but is rather based on the mutant Changeling, initially a villain who then poses as Xavier to keep the Professor’s secrets safe.

In the series, Morph dies in the very first episode, “Night Of The Sentinels” (or at least appears to do so), something the producers intended to happen to show how serious the show would be.  Morph’s death has a profound effect on long-time teammates Wolverine and Beast and when Wolverine suspects that Morph has survived, he goes solo to hunt him down. Morph’s storyline intersects with the other X-Men in the second season when he is manipulated by Sinister with the ultimate goal of capturing Cyclops and Jean Grey. Posing as a priest, Morph marries the two lovers before the wedding is crashed by Sinister and his gang. 

300441-186579-mr-sinister_superSinister’s plans for Cyclops and Jean never really get fully realised, especially not given how they play out in the comics: while the series matches his origins closely as a Victorian geneticist Dr. Nathaniel Essex, his introduction is very different, having appeared first in the comics during the “Inferno” storyline, where it is revealed that he’s responsible for the creation of Madelyne Pryor, a clone of Jean Grey activated after her apparent death. Sinister’s plan for Madelyne is that she will harvest Cyclops’ genetic material, thus combining the powerful Summers and Grey bloodlines, thus creating a powerful mutant. In the comics, that child is taken into the future, infected by a techno-organic virus and where he ultimately grows up to become Cable.

Cable surfaces in the animated series as well, but his ties to Scott (and implied ties to Jean) are not mentioned: in actual fact, while Cable was a time traveller and leader of the militant X-Force, he was only truly revealed to be the grown-up Nathan Summers after “X-Force #18” was published in 1993, when the series was already in production. He is not the only time-traveller to surface in the series, with Bishop also returning from a terrible future in the series’ adaptation of the “Days Of Future Past” storyline to prevent the assassination of the mutant hating Senator Robert Kelly. The story is quite faithful to the original, with perhaps the biggest difference being that Bishop takes the place of Kitty Pryde (absent from the series) who is sent back to possess the body of her younger self to prevent the assassination. Bishop and Cable surface at various times throughout the series, appearing in both “Time Fugitives” and “Beyond Good And Evil” to face Apocalypse.

km-apocSince he first appeared in “X-Factor #5,” Apocalypse has provided a steady villainous presence in the X-Men universe, both behind the scenes and very publicly facing them in battle alongside his Horsemen. At various times, the Horsemen have included Wolverine, Gambit, Polaris and Caliban, but chief amongst his machinations and manipulations is Warren Worthington, the mutant known as Angel and, after Apocalypse’s tampering, becoming the blue-skinned and metal-winged Archangel.

Archangel first appears in episode nine of the series, where he is created when Warren submits to a procedure that he hopes will cure his mutation. Warren has always been complicit in the creation of Archangel, submitting to the disguised Apocalypse’s procedure after losing his wings in an airplane explosion in the comics. Apocalypse is also shown to be responsible for the creation of Sinister, and in many ways, is the ultimate genocidal murderer, seeking to exterminate those too weak to live, thus ensuring the survival of the fittest. In the two-part “Time Fugitives,” both Bishop and Cable travel back in time, the former to prevent the spread of a terrible virus and the latter to stop Apocalypse himself. Apocalypse is so strong, that even the combined force of the X-Men and Bishop prove incapable of stopping Apocalypse, leading to their own destruction.

ai-xmen-magneto-obgOf course, no X-Men adaptation would be complete without the presence of Magneto, who provides the villainous presence for the first season. But Magneto’s character is also significant in that it shows the more human side of the X-Men universe that was taken to heart by the series, in that the villain is capable of reforming: throughout season two, he works together with former colleague Charles Xavier and Magneto’s character exists in such a point between black and white that he becomes the victim of a villain in the end of the third season when Fabian Cortez tries to turn him into a martyr for the mutant cause, which Magneto has lost faith in.

The mutant cause is a recurring theme throughout the series, and the X-Men and their fellow mutants face fear and hatred from all sides, most notably the Friends Of Humanity, Senator Robert Kelly’s Mutant Registration Program and, of course, the giant mutant-hunting robots, the Sentinels. The anti-mutant sentiment draws close parallels with equal rights campaigns of the 20th century, specifically racial relations: the militant nature of the Friends Of Humanity draws uncomfortable parallels with white supremacist groups, especially when the hypocrisy of their leader is laid bare with the revelation that Graydon Creed is the son of Victor Creed, better known as Sabretooth.

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But the fear that humans have directed towards the mutant populace is not entirely misplaced. When Jean Grey adopts the Dark Phoenix persona in season three, the X-Men are near-powerless to defeat her. In fact, the Dark Phoenix proves such a threat that it takes the Shi’ar Empire to intervene in order to provide any resistance to the Phoenix Force and its ultimate power, and it is only through the self-sacrifice of Jean manually targeting the weapons of the Shi’ar ship that she can be defeated at all.

Jean first manifests the abilities of the Phoenix Force during the Phoenix Saga, a very faithful adaptation of the stories written by Chris Claremont and featuring the X-Men’s first real adventures in space, allying with the Starjammers (including Cyclops’ father, Christopher Summers) and Lilandra to prevent the crazed Emperor D’Ken from using the M’Krann Crystal to destroy the universe. Dark Phoenix is born when the power becomes too much for Jean to control and she fights against the influence of Emma Frost and Mastermind (here, members of the Inner Circle Club, rather than the Hellfire Club from the comics.)

There are some minor differences between these adaptations and the original stories, though: chief amongst them is the apparent death of Jean at the end of the Phoenix Saga (no such ‘death’ happens in the comics) and her resurrection on the moon after the events of the Dark Phoenix Saga, using life-essence from each of the X-Men to restore her. In the comics, Jean remained dead for several years, until she was resurrected in a crossover between “Avengers #263” and “Fantastic Four #286,” ultimately returning to ‘duty’ with the original X-Men team in “X-Factor #1.”

Mojo_X-Men_ep-24Several other big storylines from the X-Men family of comics were adapted in smaller scale throughout the series’ run, some on a smaller scale than others, but all allowing characters from the comics to appear: “Mojovision” features the crawling-wheelchair-bound Mojo, leader of a world ruled by TV who uses the X-Men as the subject for a new series; “One Man’s Worth” posits a world without Xavier where humans and mutants are at war, a very loose take on the popular “Age Of Apocalypse” storyline; the first season’s “Captive Hearts” follows the enslaved mutate populace of Genosha; and “Phalanx Covenant” shows the X-Men teaming up with Sinister and Magneto to defeat the technological aliens known as the Phalanx, including an appearance from Warlock, one of the stars of the “New Mutants” series.

The overall faithfulness of “X-Men” as an animated series adaptation of the comics has made the series a very tough act to follow, although attempts have been made. In many ways, the series paved the way for the successful movie franchise starting in 2000, and now on its fourth movie. Coinciding with the movie, a new animated series also debuted in 2000, “X-Men: Evolution” featuring the X-Men as students at Xavier’s School including Cyclops, Jean, Rogue, Iceman, Kitty Pryde and a new character, Spyke (a male version of Marrow from the comics who was also Storm’s nephew.) The series is notable for being the first appearance of X-23, a female clone of Wolverine who later moved into the comics, and that several episodes were written by Christopher Yost, who has since moved on to “Wolverine & The X-Men” and co-writer of several X-Men comics.

“Wolverine & The X-Men” made its own debut in 2008 and crosses between the two series, with the faithfulness of the original series and the action-driven animation of “X-Men: Evolution,” with Wolverine trying to bring the X-Men together after the disappearance of Professor Xavier and Jean Grey. Season two is in post-production, and should be airing during the 2009/2010 TV season.

And that’s it for this Flashback Feature looking at “X-Men”. Check back soon for another chance to look back at shows, movies and games with a healthy dose of nostalgia.

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  1. Dan
    June 9, 2009 at 6:18 PM

    Great article. I was always impressed with how well they managed to do the Dark Phoenix storyline in the animated series and how there were even scenes that matched the book in it. The Apocalypse and Cable stuff was great as well but it didn’t take long for me to get bored with Bishop, kind of the same way it is in the comics for me.

    X-Men : Evolution gets a lot of flack but i think as the series goes on it found it’s niche and managed to get really good, I’d say Wolverine and the X-Men would be on the same level quality wise but unlike Evolution it doesn’t take about 20 episodes to get good.

    • burnallzombies
      June 9, 2009 at 7:48 PM

      I like Evolution (well, the later episodes, anyway) but I agree with you about the slow start, especially those episodes where Rogue might be good/bad and people don’t know about mutants.

      Bishop always has been fairly boring, it’s why I’m glad they’ve made him a bad guy in the comics over the last few years (well, a misled guy, but who wants to kill a little girl, that makes him a bad guy to me.) As for the Dark Phoenix adap, all I’ll say is that my mother watched and enjoyed it. Says a lot, really!

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