Cyclops In Animation - A Retrospective
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Part Three -
Pretty much the leader of The X-Men since it’s incarnation, Cyclops has been present in every single translation of the team since they begin as the world’s strangest teenagers in 1963. Created by Stan The Man Lee and Jack King Kirby, ol’ one eye has been one of the most popular X-Men from the beginning in the comics.
He made his animation debut alongside the other original X-Men in The 1966 Submariner cartoon in what can only be described as a complete mess of an episode. The story is lifted from a comic book but with one major exception – The X-Men were never presented in the comic! It was originally a Fantastic Four/Namor team up, but the FF’s rights were optioned elsewhere (and they too would shortly debut in their own show the following fall). From what I’ve been told, the show isn’t that good to begin with and The X-Men’s appearance won’t do anything to change your mind. I’m sure that fans of Kirby will love seeing the old school X-Men suits animated, if you could call them that, but alas, The Allies For Peace didn’t quite leave a lasting mark.
Marvel spent most of the 1980’s trying to get an X-Men cartoon on TV. The comic book received a revamp in the mid 70’s to huge success, which I won’t attribute entirely to Wolverine because some fanboy will come in and take us off topic, I will fight them and we’ll stop talking about Cyclops, which is why we’re here right? Anyway, having succeeded at getting Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk on network television, Marvel made many attempts with Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends to introduce Saturday morning audiences to The X-Men. Iceman, one of the original members of the team is now part of Spidey’s group and the new original character, Firestar, was written as a former X-Man in the show’s continuity.
A few different versions of The X-Men were littered throughout the show’s criminally short 24 episode run. The creative team were obviously big comic book fanboys as cameos from the vast Marvel universe were featured in nearly every episode and Marvel’s mighty mutants were no exception. The original X-Men once again don their Kirby suits in The Origin Of Iceman, which tells the story of how Bobby Drake came to join the group whilst Cyclops and the gang perform tricks for the audiences’ amusement in the Danger Room. Cyke’s legendary skull cap costume would make it’s animated debut in the next episode as we learn how Angelica Jones came to be Firestar and how she joined The X-Men. The episode is best known for making Wolverine out to be a complete tool and it’s excellent animation. The villain of the piece is Juggernaut, who is actually one of the show’s better attempts at translating the vast supervillain gallery of the Marvel universe. Cyclops doesn’t really do too much here – the writer understandably had
more important things to do, or more accurately, had three leads to write for, a villain to look impressive and a array of guest stars in 22 minutes. There’s nothing greatly offensive here. Unless you’re a Wolverine fan, of course.
The Education Of A Superhero sees the Spider-Friends enlist Video-Man at Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters in hopes of getting them their own show. They thought by adding in a character created to tap into how popular arcades and video games were becoming, they could shoehorn him into an X-Men cartoon in hopes of getting a network to pick it up. Thank Christ, they were wrong.
The X-Men got their own story at long last in the penultimate episode of the third and final season as Iceman and Bobby return to Xavier’s School while Angelica’s old boyfriend attacks and The Spider-Friends and The X-Men are trapped in The Danger Room. The story was pretty lame to begin with and there are some curious choices in the roster – Thunderbird manages to make the cut, while Beast, Jean Grey and Angel are missing? Wolverine is obviously missing – fists had no place in 80’s action cartoons, never mind razor sharp claws. Once again, the backdoor pilot wasn’t picked up.
Would the third time be the charm?
Deciding to bite the bullet and fund an entire pilot themselves, Marvel Studios commissioned a full 22 minute episode in hopes of obtaining network interest, entitled Pryde Of The X-Men. Once again – the roster was a confusing one. Wolverine was back, complete with his irritating Australian accent. Unlike his Spider-Friends appearance, this version of Logan redeems himself because he is wearing his badass tan suit – like he should do damn it! Dazzler is featured, but yet again Rouge, Beast and Angel are nowhere to be found.
Regardless, the show was never picked up. Some falsely claim that it is the pilot to X-Men: The Animated Series, but it had no bearing on that show. The pilot is best known for its dazzling animation, which is still the best animation I’ve ever seen come from the 1980’s. Given that they had to introduce each individual member of the X-Men as well as the unusually large Brotherhood of Evil Mutants most of the character didn’t really get a chance to shine. Kitty managed to annoy the hell out of me an obscene amount of times for such a short feature, but Cyclops wise, they did very, very well here. The suit just looks so cool. I’m not fond of the black visor with the red dots but the shading on his costume is simply mesmerising – it even trumps the blue’s on Batman’s cape in Batman: The Animated Series a few years later. Not only did Cyclops look great, but voice acting legend among legends Michael Bell was brought in to voice Mr. Skullcap and as always, he delivers.
Again, everyone remembers the animation and how annoying Wolverine and Kitty were. The likes of Cyclops, Colossus and Nightcrawler are rarely mentioned despite the fact they were actually pretty good.
In 1992, The X-Men would finally get their own show. Huzzah!
I remember sitting in my front room in my PJs with my brother, watching a new show called Live And Kicking. The legend that is Andy Peters (Annnddyy Peters!) introduced himself and co-host Emma Forbes as they promised an exciting morning’s television and announced that a new X-Men cartoon would debut later that morning. I’ll be completely honest – I had no idea what The X-Men were at that stage – I just remember thinking that I had to see it this show. I’m not sure why a 10 second clip of the opening credit managed to sell an entire series, but as an action hungry 6 year old, I sat through the entire show and waited to see X-Men premiere. From that day on, I never missed an episode of X-Men. People are quick to mock or bash the show now, but at the time, X-Men was unlike anything I’d ever seen at the time. It wasn’t your typical action show – for starters, everyone hated them!
Night Of The Sentinels sees the group breaking into a government compound in hopes of learning why a gigantic 30 foot tall robot attacked an innocent mutant in a populated shopping mall. Cyclops leads The X-Men into The Mutant Control Agency’s headquarters to destroy their records in order to stop any further attacks but Sentinels overwhelm the group, forcing them to retreat. Unfortunately for Cyke, Morph is ‘killed’ by the robots and Beast is knocked unconscious by their attacks. Rather than risking their lives to go back for them, Cyclops decides it’s a suicide mission and orders them to fly home, much to Wolverine’s dismay.
The entire sequence is played out beautifully – the majority of the story is told in flashbacks and there’s an emotional punch to the gut from Wolverine as he labels their leader a coward for abandoning his friends.
Wolverine: Soldier boy here left them behind! For all we know Beast and Morph may still be alive!
Jean: Beast is…
Wolverine: …What about Morph?
Add this to the tension already created by Wolverine’s feeling’s for Jean and you had a great love triangle – you don’t get good relationships on TV anymore. Apparently kids don’t care for them. When I saw at school, a lot of my friends hated Cyclops, simply because they felt he was keeping Wolverine and Jean apart. I thought she was dull to begin with, and Wolverine could do better than a whiney red head. (I’m waiting for Arsenal to come in now to defend the honour of his beloved flame haired fixations)
What interested me most about the opening was… they failed. We didn’t get a happy ending – we got a crushing blow and we hadn’t even made it to episode three yet. I think it was such a great idea to start the show with The Sentinels – the enemy here isn’t some idiot in brightly coloured spandex – it’s bigotry, and they lost.
Oddly enough, despite the fact he was the leader of the group, Cyclops didn’t really do that much more this season, or even in the rest of the show. He’s considered by many to be too much of a boy scout in this show, which I would agree with. He’s not un-likeable in the role but he does come across as a little too square sometimes.
Design wise – there’s no point debating this too much. It’s his Jim Lee costume, which looks awesome when Jim Lee draws it. Crappy animators from AKOM? No chance, it, like nearly everyone else in the show, looked crap. They did a stellar job casting though – a lot of Cyclops’ lines could’ve been unbearable if they had a lesser actor perform the role but Norm Spencer brings his A game. They sometimes had problems with the dialogue in this show and often miscast, which often made for some horrifically cheesy scenes (re: anytime Storm opens her mouth).
He would redeem himself from the opening blunder (if you could call it that?) when they learned that thousands of Sentinels had been created and Cyclops decided that he was going to stop them then and there. This time, he would lead the time into a suicide run, not shy away from it. Wolverine is the first to back him up, as the others contemplate the decision. All great stuff – it made for a brilliant season finale. Hell, it practically was the first season finale in a cartoon that didn’t just feel like any other episode.
They even tease a happy ending as Cyclops celebrates their victory by proposing to Jean, who accepts as a voice most Sinister narrates over them…