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An Overview of the X-Men Animated Series:
The Classic Stories Loosely Based on the Comics
By Jacob Malewitz

(Originally published in Associated Content)


The X-Men series wasn't just for comic fans or young adults, for many it was a chance to see super heroes in action on Television for the first time. While the series had no effect on the movies, X-Men, X-Men United, or X-Men The Last Stand, it did prove that the comic form could be moved from pages to the screen.

The series was a huge success and too date, the longest running Marvel animated series ever: Longer than Spider Man, longer than Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, the list could go on. X-Men lasted five seasons with 76 episodes.

Marvel had toyed with serious animated series before, even trying Pryde of The X-Men during the eighties, but none carried the weight that X-Men the animated series (TAS) had.

The story was based around the super hero team originally created by Stan Lee in the 1960s. X-Men received a spike in popularity during the 1970s when a new team was unveiled with characters like Colossus and Wolverine.

There are the mutants and, as in the comics, most people hate or fear them. The people of the world don't trust the unknown, don't trust the mutants, which brings about one of the central visions Stan Lee had initially: It would be about people being discriminated against, as during the 60s the Civil Rights movement with Martin Luther King Jr. was a major topic.

Certain mutants decide to turn on the people who hate them. Charles Xavier, a mutant with telepathic powers, recruited others to help the people who scorn them.

That is background, but, when the series begins, the mutant registration act is already in effect and the team is already together. Characters like Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Gambit, Beast, Storm, Rogue, and a new character to the world named Morph are fighting on the side of good. They find fighting for what's right soon becomes fighting against the US government.

As said, some mutants don't just try to fight the US government, some set out to destroy, and go to the side of evil. Magneto leads these mutants who are sick of being pushed around and harassed by a people who don't understand. His is a classic conflicted man, who had watched his people die before as a boy, and wasn't going to let it happen again.

The early episodes shine, but are just a prologue to the early stories. Other villains, whether they be galactic or Earthly, fight the X-Men in places that can include different times.

The characters each are drawn out as perfectly as they were in the comics. Wolverine doesn't know much about his past and has a deep desire for Jean Grey (Cyclops is the one she marries), the New Orleans Cajun Gambit wants to forget his past, Beast just wants to be a normal person instead of being covered with blue hair, and other characters in and out, like Jubilee, Rogue, and Angel, also just want to be normal. With all this conflict and uncertainty, The X-Men are the world's greatest super hero team and biggest chance for peace.

Characters like Gambit and Wolverine quickly became as popular as they had in the comics. Gambit, the man from the thieves guild with the power to charge objects, added in great Cajun dialogue and was never afraid to show his affection for Rogue. Wolverine knew he was a mutant, but much of his past was a haze as a result of being a major government agent.

Perhaps the most notable story told in X-Men TAS was The Phoenix Saga, which put Jean Grey into the role of a destroyer of planets. The story lasted several episodes and embroiled the X-Men in constant battles across the universe.

The best story of X-Men was Beyond Good and Evil, which had the main foe being Apocalypse. And the X-Men found themselves in a fight even bigger than them, all time was at stake. The character Cable was given a big part in this story, as he intends to stop Apocalypse once and for all.

Through all this, the characters stood the tests of inner turmoil and class conflict. There were cameos by people like Spider Man, which added an element of the Marvel universe to the stories.

It was truly a remarkable series, as important as any animated series before it. Nothing revolutionary was done in terms of animations with X-Men TAS, but, along with Batman TAS, it gave birth to a new generation of stories of super heroes told on the big screen. As Wikipedia states, without the X-Men and Batman series the Avengers, Justice League, and Batman Beyond series may never have been created.

In comparison to X-Men Evolution, it's obvious the original had creators who actually cared about continuity and making memorable stories, not just capitalizing on a name.

Most of X-Men TAS hasn't been released on DVD or video, which is depressing as series like Batman have been released in both forms. Still, The Phoenix Saga and some other stories were released. Hopefully, more will come on the DVD format, as there is certainly fan base to capitalize on.

In the end, X-Men TAS could be compared with the greats of animation. It is truly a series worth looking into. Ebay and Amazon are the two major markets for finding any X-Men merchandise.

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