I found myself bereft of the world of Marvel’s cartoons as they did not feature anywhere on Cartoon Network, my premier portal to the world of cartoons. Then, one fine day, “Voila!” Channel surfing on a lazy Saturday Morning, I chanced upon episodes of Spider-Man: The Animated Series on the Fox Kids segment of Star Plus. And an hour later, I found myself watching X-Men: The Animated series on Star World, its companion channel. To be honest, I was never into X-Men in the comics – the three teams I was never able to wrap my mind around were Teen Titans, X-Men and the Legion of Super Heroes – mainly due to the team roster changing frequently and due to the large number of magazines featuring each.
Of course, it was the late nineties, but comics available in India were still stuck in the eighties – we had Marv Wolfman on Teen Titans, Paul Levitz on the Legion and Chris Claremont on the X-Men – which, in retrospect, were the best runs on the titles to date. No matter, the seventh or eighth grade kid in me couldn’t figure them out, so they were trash. More than Spider-Man though, X-Men changed my mindset completely.
While not on the same scale of the later series, the very first X-Men series had good production value, a roster that was classic as well as contemporary and no holds barred action. The roster had Professor X (Charles Xavier), Cyclops(a.k.a. Scott Summers), Jean Grey, Wolverine, Beast (a.k.a. Dr. Hank McCoy), Storm (a.k.a. Ororo Munroe), Rogue , Gambit (a.k.a. Remy LeBeau) and Jubilee (a.k.a. Jubilation Lee), while other characters like Havok, Nightcrawler, Forge, Bishop, Psylocke and Archangel appear in later episodes. Season 1 (13 episodes) features basic introductions and adaptations of some highly acclaimed story-lines from the comics.
In Night of the Sentinels (Parts 1 & 2) we are introduced to Jubilee whose parents have registered her with the Mutant Registration Center. Bolivar Trask’s Sentinels come calling for Jubilee when a group of mutant strangers, whom she (and we) would soon come to know as the X-Men, save her. After rescuing her from the Sentinels and taking her to their headquarters, the X-Men storm the Mutant Registration Center, an attack that goes awry, and ends up with the X-Men abandoning two of their own, one of whom was presumed dead.
In order to be taken seriously, the script called for the death of a character. The character Morph, a shape-shifter was created specifically for this purpose. In the comics Morph played a minor role in a single issue, prior to the revamp by Claremont. The character proved to be popular and was brought back several times in the series and was also reintroduced in the comics, most notably in Exiles, due to his popularity in this animated series. Beast continues to remain in prison for the remainder of the season.
Magneto makes his debut inEnter Magneto, when he comes to free Beast from prison, who politely refuses. Magneto then threatens the world with Nuclear Missiles (what else?) but Wolverine, Cyclops and Storm succeed in stopping them.
We see Wolverine’s feelings for Jean Grey and also the introduction of the Morlocks in Captive Hearts. The X-Men enter the sewers to rescue Cyclops from the Morlocks and Storm ends up taking leadership of the Morlocks from Callisto.
Slave Island features Gambit, Storm and Jubilee’s vacation to Genosha turns topsy-turvy when they understand that mutants are being kept captive to run their industries and that the production unit for Sentinels – Mastermold – is housed there. The X-Men eventually destroy the operation, with the help of mystery mutant Cable.
The Unstoppable Juggernaut finally makes his debut. Cain Marko is Professor Xaviers half brother, who has always hated him. After gaining the powers of the Crimson gem of Cytorrak, he turns into a superhuman tank – virtually unstoppable.
Apocalypse makes his debut, with Raven Darkholme (a.k.a. Mystique) and Warren Worthington (a.k.a. Angel, and later Archangel) in The Cure and Come the Apocalypse. A scientist, Gottfried Adler is offering all mutants the chance to become normal again – Rogue almost takes the chance, but unbeknownst to her, the process turns the mutants into slaves of Apocalypse. Apocalypse here makes a rather low key debut, for someone supposedly the first and most powerful mutant ever.
The Final Decision is the Season Finale, featuring the X-Men and Magneto’s (supposedly) final fight against the Sentinels. Mastermold gets destroyed at the hands of Bolivar Trask and Professor Xavier; while the rest of the X-Men rescue Senator Kelly and destroy the remaining Sentinels. Senator Kelly gets Beast released from Prison; and Jean Grey accepts Scott’s marriage proposal.
All’s well that ends well, eh? Unfortunately not; as we shall see later, in the review for the second season of X-Men: The Animated Series.