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FOX Snares X-Men
By Andy Mangels

(Originally published in Wizard Magazine)

Bursting from your TV screens this October (delayed from a September 6th premiere), The Uncanny X-Men will be fighting for the rights of mutantkind every Saturday. FOX is bringing you the 10AM show, co-produced by Saban Entertainment and Marvel Productions. Thirteen episodes are being produced, starring your favorite Marvel mutants. But which mutants?

"My first instinct was to go with the characters I liked best," says supervising producer Will Meuginot. "I liked the pre-#200 characters. Stan Lee is involved in the project, and he wanted to do the characters he liked best, which was the original team he created [pre-#94]. In discussing and planning the show, we decided that the best thing to do was the X-Men characters that the consumer wanted...the current team!"

Leading the X-Men is Professor Xavier, bound to a floating wheelchair and teaching the team how to use their power in the X-Mansion. He's aided by founding members Cyclops, Jean Grey, and the Beast, mid-level members Wolverine, Rogue, and Storm, and brash newcomers Gambit, Morph, and Jubilee. Morph, a man who can change his features to resemble anyone, was created for the series. The X-Men will fight many of their common foes and meet many of their X-allies. Sunfire, Domino, Cannonball, and Havok will make cameo appearances, while Cable, Colossus, and Archangel will all have starring roles over the 13 episodes.

Though the X-Men shows are basically self-contained, story arcs will play out over several episodes, making it a serial. "There aren't very many action-adventure animated shows on the market today," says Meuginot, "and none that are serials. Each episode will bring the resolution to one storyline, but, like the comic, we'll have ongoing subplots that may not be immediately resolved." The exceptions to the single-show rule are the first two episodes featuring the Sentinels, and the 11th and 12th episodes, which feature Bishop and an aging Wolverine in a new version of "Days of Future Past."

"Night of the Sentinels -- Part One" is the first episode. As it opens, anti-mutant hysteria is on the rise as Sabretooth goes on a televised rampage. Trying to help, Jubilee's foster parents have just registered her with the government as a mutant. A Sentinel comes to get her, only to find that it must pursue her through a crowded shopping mall. Unfortunately for the robot monster, Storm, Rogue, Gambit, and Cyclops all happen to be shopping there! Major robot destruction ensues.

Jubilee is taken back to the X-Mansion, where she gets a crash course in mutant history and powers. Scared and sad, she leaves for home, unaware that the Sentinels lie in wait for her. Meanwhile, the X-Men are about to raid the headquarters of the Mutant Control Agency, to destroy the mutant registration files Henry Peter Gyrich, Senator Kelly, and their cronies are keeping. But what surprises await them in the bowels of the building? Watch and see!

The Sentinels and the government persuction of mutants will remain a strong thread in X-Men, as will the proponent of "Homo Superior," Magneto! "I see the X-Men story as having strong ties to the history of the civil rights movement," says Meugniot. "Magneto is their Malcolm X, while Professor Xavier is their Martin Luther King. Just as readers have been identifying with the outcast nature of the X-Men in the comics for years, so too they will do so here."

X-Men won't be without controversy or violence, either. One of the mutant heroes of the team will be killed in an early episode. "For viewers to take the storyline seriously," explains Meugniot, "it has to be clear that the characters can be affected in their pursuit of justice, acceptance, and integration into the larger society."

Facing down the mutant heroes are the more radical and dangerous elements of mutantdom, including Callisto, Sunder, the Morlocks, Mystqiue, Pyro, Blob, Avalanche, Juggernaut, Apocalypsee, and his Four Horsemen. As hinted at in the first episode, the X-Men will come into contact with Sabretooth, resulting in a bloody battle in the fourth and fifth episodes between Wolverine and Sabretooth. As to whether or not there is any familial relationship between the two bestial warriors, Meugniot says to look to the second season. Meanwhile, check out episode #7 for a visit to Genosha, and #9 and #10 for an exciting stopover at Muir Island!

FOX and Marvel are hoping for at least three seasons of X-Men, with a second year of 13 shows and a third year for a total of 39, allowing the series to be "stripped" (shown daily on weekdays). Meugniot and his partner, Larry Houston, whose Graz Entertainment is producing the animation in conjunction with the Korean animation company AKOM, is sure that his X-Men will do better than the ill-fated pilot of several years back. The pilot, now out on video from Best Entertainment, was co-produced by Houston, Meugniot, and comic artist Rick Hoberg (who has done the model designs on the new X-Men show).

You can help make the long-term success of X-Men a reality by turning in to FOX on Saturday mornings at 10AM, beginning this October. Faithfully produced by people who know the comics, the new X-Men cartoon should have everyone wondering what those pesky mutants are going to do next.

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