Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Comic book Cartoon Franchises: X-men

I noticed a while ago... some of the greatest Cartoon Franchises have come from Comic Books. Now I'm not talking about one hit wonders like Cadillacs & Dinosaurs... I'm talking about cartoons that just seem to spawn a longevity and following that allows the animated versions to be reimagined and reanimated over and over. What comics just worked as animation?

Part One: X-men
This franchise sprung from the hottest line of comics ever... so why not animate Marvel's top selling mutants? I think it took forever for popular culture to notice what comic fans already knew. When I was introduced to the X-men... it was like Metallica in the 80's. Sure they were huge in the underground music scene, and had a lot to brag about... but no one in the main stream knew who they were. I really feel like the X-men cartoon put the X-men on the general public's radar. I'm going to run down the cartoons I recall. I may be forgetting a series or an appearance... but I think these are the important ones.

1. Spider-Man & his Amazing Friends 1981-1983: Well first off, two thirds of this team were former X-men. (Even though Firestar was created for the show when the Fantastic Four's Human Torch was not available due to licensing issues) This later played out in an episode when Spidey and his team had to go back to the X-mansion because Firestar's powers were having problems. (If I recall correctly... I was 5-7 Years old) This was my first experience with the X-men. I knew of Spider-man. I knew of the Hulk. But this made me curious... who were these super-heroes? Now I can't judge just this on anything but my memory... but It really clued me in on what the core for the X-men was... a school for Super-heroes.

2. X-Men: Pryde of the X-men 1989: This was supposed to be a Pilot for a series for the X-Men, which featured Kitty Pryde's introduction into the Mutant School of X-men. I never saw it on TV... and I'm unsure if it ever aired. I know it was released on video and became infamous for its "Australian" accented Wolverine. Despite this... I remember that this was a great depiction of X-men and their enemy Magneto. Along with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Magneto gives Kitty an adventure that engulfs her completely into the world of Cerebro, The Danger Room, the Blackbird and many of the biggest X-character names of that time. Colossus, Nightcrawler, Cyclops and Wolverine. Again, this series never took off beyond a pilot, but well worth the watch!

3. X-men (Also know as X-men the Animated Series, the Fox series 1992): Starting with the 2 episode pilot of the "Night of the Sentinels", this series impacted me more than any other on this list. I was collecting comics pretty heavy at this time, but I was just a DC guy. I knew the X-men bare basics. I knew who Wolverine was and who Xavier, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler were... but who was this Rogue? Who was Gambit? And Morph? These guys were awesome... This was the first time a cartoon made me want to check out a book. Superman dies making the comic book market very public and QVC has an episode where they elude to a huge X event on the horizon...couple that with this incredible Saturday cartoon... and you have a formula that gets Robb to read the X-men. And the cartoon really did a great job of incorporating the details of the book. Bishop & Cable and Mojo and Apocalypse, you name it... this Cartoon had it!

4. X-Men Evolution 2000 - 2003: Tweaking the make-up of the X-men... making them all younger and in high school. This didn't follow what the comics had established as closely as previous incarnations... but it still totally captured the spirit of the X-men. Setting this story in high school gave it a dynamic level and a cool twist not seen before in an X-men cartoon. Like having Kurt needing an image inducer to hide his blue fur or Mystique as the school's Principal. They did a great job on this show... I think I liked it better than the Fox show. These were fun characters and even if they looked different from their comic counter parts... they perfectly captured the essence of each mutant.

5. Wolverine & the X-men 2008: Again tweaking the original feel... and going with an overall tie in story. What if Xavier wasn't a part of the X-men and Wolverine and Cyclops switched roles. Cyclops fell into the position of the outsider, anti-team member and Logan falls into a leadership, teaching role. This cartoon was not bad. It did a good job with certain characters like Nightcrawler... but I was really disappointed in the whiney, brooding Scott Summers. It just felt out of place. As a whole this show was ok. The future scene with Bishop and Marrow and the like are great. But I'll say this. If you have the DVD... make sure to watch the final episode. There is an AWESOME ending twist. Very cool.

6. Hulk Vs. Wolverine 2009: Kind of an origin for Logan, kind of a re-telling of Wolverine's comic book first appearance against the Hulk. I really liked this portrayal of Wolverine. We have bits of a Weapon X origin and ties to Omega Red, Deadpool and Sabertooth. I loved this cartoon. Its funny and full of action and does a great job of mixing in Wolverine's first appearance. I can't say enough good things about this cartoon.

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