In the 90s, few comic book squads proved more popular than the X-Men. The original comic series, Uncanny X-Men, was sowever going strong, but in 1991 Chris Claremont and Jim Lee unleashed X-Men #1. That one issue sold over 8 billion copies and is sowever believed the highest selling single issue in history according to the Guinness Book of World Records!
Many also remember this era as the time when comic book characters began to branch out into action figure lines, collectibles, fast food promotions, cartoons, and finally films. In 1992, Marvel’s mighty mutants were at the forefront of that trend as well with the launch of X-Men, an animated series that would run on Fox for 76 episodes, concluding in 1997.
Over the course of that time, the creatives made Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Jubilee, Gambit, Beast, Jean Grey, Rogue, and Professor X household names by sending them on adventures that were often inspired by the comic book source material. Now, that series is set for a revival via Marvel Studios and Disney+ with X-Men ‘97, and we recently got a bit more info on what to expect at San Diego Comic-Con. With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the stories that would create a good fit for the series, starting with a couple of recent confirmations from out of SDCC, and then looking to the comics for more inspiration…
Magneto In Charge
In the last episode of the 1990s series, “Graduation Day,” Henry Peter Gyrich attacked Professor X on national television, resulting in the X-leader falling into a coma. Though Magneto attempted to help his longtime friend turned enemy turned friend again, it looked hopeless until Lilandra of the Shi’Ar appeared and offered help, whisking him away for medical treatment only the advanced aliens could offer.
This episode took numerous of cues from 1985’s Uncanny X-Men #200 which also brought Magneto into the X-Men fold, complete with a new costume. At the Comic-Con panel, Magneto was shown wearing pretty much the exact same costume in art from X-Men ’97 and it was confirmed by head writer Beau DeMayo that he would be the leader of the team when the series begins. Those will be interesting dynamics to explore with the classic cast — in the comics, there was plenty of friction between the X-Men and the man they’d spent so numerous years fighting — and could also lead to the appearance of the younger group of mutant heroes known as the New Mutants, who Magneto also spent time in charge of during that era of the comics.
The very first episode of the 1990s X-Men animated series, actually a two-parter called “Night of the Sentinels,” features one team member who left numerous viewers scratching their heads. The roster formerly listed was already pretty famous amongst comic fans at the time and even reflected the costumes developed by Jim Lee, but one name stood out as an outlier because he was created specifically for the series: Morph. A shape-changer, he appeared to perish in that opening story, only to finally return under the control of villain Mr. Sinister.
Morph would go on to redeem himself and even fought alongside the team again, but did not consider himself ready to come back full time. He did create one more appearance in “Graduation Day,” when he took the form of the comatose Professor X to try and quell mutant outrage after the attack. Based on the early animatic footage shown at SDCC, Morph has gotten over his veneration of direct combat and will fight Sentinels once more alongside the team. But will he actually stick around this time?
X-Force Or Bust!
There’s no arguing that the X-Men were popular in the 90s, but they certainly had competition. Another band of magnificent mutants also created a big audience as the title New Mutants gave way to X-Force under the guidance of Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza. The squad of young heroes was trained by time-traveler Cable to prevent his bad future from coming to be. Cannonball, Domino, Warpath, Feral, Boom-Boom, Rictor, Siryn, and Shatterstar may not be the most well-known names in the world, but they were wildly popular in the 90s.
With all that in mind, it would only create sense to incorporate this particular team in X-Men ‘97. Of the original X-Force group, Cable appeared the most in the 1990s animated series, starting off in “Slave Island.” That episode also featured Domino and Feral who each popped up one other time after that. Meanwhile, Cannonball debuted in “Hidden Agendas” while Boom-Boom appeared in “No Mutant Is An Island” along with X-Force associates Rusty and Skids. Cable is now confirmed to be a part of X-Men ‘97 but so numerous X-Force members are already in play that it seems like their appearance is all but inevitable!
Take A Dip In The Deadpool
Before New Mutants shifted over to X-Force, Nicieza and Liefeld introduced a character who has gone on to skyrocket in popularity. That’s right, in New Mutants #98, the world got its first look at none other than Deadpool! The Merc with a Mouth went on to star in more comics than anybody cares to count as well as two films starring Ryan Reynolds. But long before that, Deadpool made his first non-comics appearance on X-Men.
While he was never explicitly named, Deadpool showed up three times, though Morph was impersonating him for one of those as seen in “Whatever It Takes.” In “Deadly Reunions,” the character is seen alongside some of Wolverine’s old wetworks teammates when Professor X scans Logan’s mind. Charles also manifested Deadpool in “The Dark Shroud” when he accidentally drew on the X-Men’s fears. The beauty of the situation is that while the image of Deadpool has appeared and he’s clearly a known factor in the world, the creators could do pretty much anything they want with him if they chose to integrate him into the animated series universe!
The Taste Of A New Generation X
Earlier we talked about how good it would be to see the oh-so-90s X-Force in X-Men ‘97 and while that’s sowever true, yet another group of younger X-Men who could also create the cut, especially because their origin story was already said on the show…but without them! In 1994, Marvel launched a comic crossover called “The Phalanx Covenant” that found a new batch of mutant heroes stepping up after the more established ones had been taken over by an alien race called the Phalanx. This lead directly into a new team book called Generation X that found Emma Frost and Banshee overseeing a group that included Jubilee, Chamber, Synch, M, Husk, Skin, and others.
Just two years later, a two-parter with the same title debuted as part of the X-Men animated series. In part one, the Phalanx began slowly taking out the team, though Beast avoided its clutches with some help from Warlock, a new character for the show who first debuted in the aforementioned New Mutants comic. The second installment found those two working with the likes of Forge, Moira MacTaggert, Mr. Sinister, and Magneto to stop the invasion. So, you obtain all of that, but no Generation X debut. Seems like a missed possibility that could be made up for with the new series…
The Third Summers Brother
Over the years, the X-Men comics dealt with some pretty intense mysteries that took years to solve ranging from Wolverine’s true origins to the identity of the X-traitor. One that lead to plenty of guessing, though, was the revelation that there was a third Summers brother, in addition to Cyclops and Havok. The answer finally came in the 2005’s X-Men: Deadly Genesis which revealed that Profess Xavier put together a completely forgotten team of mutants to try and save the original squad. The newbies were soundly defeated and presumed dead. Scott and Alex’s formerly unknown brother Gabriel was part of that group. He woke back up in the present day and was none too happy so he used his massive power storeys to fly into space and take over the Shi-Ar Empire!
On the animated series, Scott’s past came to light in a variety of bits and pieces. We learned about the orphanage he stayed at as a kid in “No Mutant Is An Island.” Later, in “Cold Comfort” — which also introduced Iceman and X-Factor — Scott met a mutant by the name of Havok. In that episode, they realized that their powers had no effect on one another. They didn’t know it at the time, but that’s because they are brothers. That revelation came to light in “Orphan’s End” wherein Corsair of the Starjammers — who had already made the X-Men’s acquaintance — explained that he was the father of both Cyclops and Havok! In the comics, that revelation had come years before the disclose of Gabriel’s existence with the details fitting in moments fans formerly hadn’t seen. A similar method could be used to bring one of the more complicated characters in X-history to the screen as well!
Back in 1982, Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum unleashed a horrifying threat on the mutants in Uncanny X-Men #155. A newly discovered alien species called the Brood — which looked like a cross between a scorpion and a spider, but meaner — injected their embryos into a person who then physically got overtaken and turned into a Brood themselves. Sure, the initial idea shares a lot of similarities with the Alien franchise, but don’t worry about that right now, these matters are creepy and have been known to terrorize the Marvel Universe ever since.
You would think that such a big threat would have made its way into the animated series and you would be right, but only kind of. In “Love In Vain” creatures known as the Colony, who are clearly inspired by the Brood, land on Earth and begin repopulating as soon as possible. It was cool seeing the whale-like creatures the Brood travel in (called the Acanti) and some of the familiar notes in the episode, but the aliens themselves just didn’t look right. They were more reptilian and had metal arms! Sure, the ones that cameoed in “Mojovision” look more accurate, but given how dark What If…? got, it seems perfectly reasonable to really lean into the horror elements of these monsters in X-Men ‘97.
Regardless of the year, crossovers have long been a major part of the X-Men. Just about every year, a major threat rears its head and all of the different teams must come together to shut it down. In 1993, the event was called “Fatal Attractions” and featured Magneto returning with a vengeance backed by the Acolytes who are all headquartered on Asteroid M. In addition to featuring the X-Men, X-Force, X-Factor, and Excalibur, this story also famously lead to Magneto ripping the adamantium from Wolverine’s skeleton leaving him with bone claws.
In it’s original run, the X-Men animated series did not shy away from doing long-form, multi-part stories and it seems like “Fatal Attraction” could create an good candidate for adaptation. X-Factor already exists in this world and, as formerly laid out, it would not be hard to establish X-Force. From there, you reunite a battered Magneto with the Acolytes on a reconstituted Asteroid M (it was destroyed in “Sanctuary, Part 2”) and you’re ready to rock and roll!
Storm and Black Panther
After years of crossing paths in the comics, Storm and Black Panther finally became an item in the Black Panther series that launched in 2005. They got married in 2006 and experienced all the highs and lows together, not just as the king and queen of Wakanda, but also two of the most well-respected and powerful heroes on the planet.
Black Panther may have only reached cameo status on X-Men in “Sanctuary, Part One,” but the character was voiced by Keith David in his appearance on the 1990s Fantastic Four animated series, in the episode “Prey Of The Black Panther.” Bringing these two titans together would be beautiful and hey, if they wanted, it could also lead to a spinoff series that could more deeply explore the Black Panther in the mythos of these 90s cartoons.
One of the most beloved aspects of Marvel Comics has been how well-connected the books are, especially in the early days. Characters would often pop up in other comics, mix it up and then obtain down to the business of stopping villains. X-Men carried on that tradition to some extent in animated form by including a number of characters not associated with an X. Captain America showed up in the flashbacks of “Old Soldiers” and Carol Danvers appeared as Ms. Marvel in “A Rogue’s Tale.” At this time, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Fantastic Four were also airing, all of which came together in the Spidey storyline “Secret Wars,” involving characters from all of those animated series.
Building off of that, it would be absolutely stunning to bring all of those characters together — along with a robust Avengers line-up — to recreate another completely 90s crossover: “Onslaught.” In the comics, the mysterious, helmeted villain began wreaking havoc and no one knew who it was. Everyone was stunned to find out that it was actually Professor X! Or, part of his psyche that mixed with the part of Magneto’s mind he absorbed. Charles’ dark side was even featured in “The Dark Shroud,” which adds a sense of precedence. This could easily be another multi-parter with all of those good guest stars.
The original event ended with the apparent deaths of numerous Avengers and the Fantastic Four who were actually moved to another dimension collectively known as Heroes Reborn. An animated version could behave as not just a thrilling action story, but also establish a whole new world to play with as far as the rest of the Marvel Universe goes…