They kicked off the big-budget superhero movie trend back in 2000, the X-Men animated series is an iconic mainstay of the nineties and a few of their video games really aren’t too shabby. With the release of Logan adding another chapter to the tangled film franchise, let’s take a look at Every Adaptation Of The X-Men, Ranked From Worst To Best.
This was before the big relaunch of the X-Men ten years later, meaning that we get the old style uniforms with the yellow and blue (with Iceman looking like he’d had an accident in a whipped cream factory). The X-Men actually took over a story from The Fantastic Four due to rights issues, pitting them against Enamor the Sub-Mariner in a match-up that absolutely no comic book fans will recognize.
The series had Iceman and Fire star teaming up with Spider-Man to create ‘The Spider-Friends’, because comic books are endearingly stupid and their animated adaptations aren’t far behind. The show is notable for featuring the first animated versions of Nightcrawler, Kitty Pride/Sprite, Colossus and even Gunfire, who finally got to exist after he’d been shafted by an upstart female clone.
The Super Hero Squad Show began its run in that dark time, meaning that the X-Men are relegated to a single episode that seems to have been inserted at gunpoint. Of course, the episode featured a sparse X-team (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Shadow cat and Iceman, plus Lockheed) and had the entire team put out of commission so that Wolverine could go on to save the day.
Not such a bad idea in theory, though we’d question naming the entire show after Kitty Pride; popular though she may be, the erstwhile Sprite doesn’t quite have the show-carrying potential of, say… Wolverine. The show only ever made it as far as the pilot stage, and would’ve featured Kitty Pride as a POV character as she joined the X-Men and had various comic-inspired adventures.
The pilot itself is up and down, with some decent animation for the time but a few issues that raised the ire of fans who’d been waiting for years to see the X-Men headlining their own series. Notably, the action was toned right down for the impressionable kids, creating a camp atmosphere too reminiscent of the comic books of old, where Spider-Man was banned from punching bad guys and Captain America had to pause every twelve panels to give a speech about the dangers of doing drugs.
You can check out the pilot and see what you think, but even though it was terminated before going further than a single episode, it’s pretty clear that the latter animated series learned a few lessons from Pryde’s failure. That’s right, kids: young folk used to go to special places called arcades, where they paid to play games in gigantic plastic boxes.
Players used their character’s unique abilities to smash their way through various stages in a bid to stop Magneto from doing a vaguely dastardly thing, because this was a 1992 arcade game and this was a time when plot definitely came second. And let’s be clear: the gameplay is no masterpiece, but it’s still a bit of simple fun, with some really shoddy dialogue tossed in to keep you amused.
Jumping forward a few years, we come to Wolverine and the X-Men, a third major animated appearance that only managed to scrape a single season before being axed. The X-Men ensemble is pretty well-rounded, featuring both classics and favorites such as Rogue and Nightcrawler, plus a few who appear in a post-apocalyptic future where Professor X spends most of his time.
Well, as realistic as you can get when people are firing lasers from their eyes, midriff-baring tops are mandatory for all female characters and everyone spits out one-liners as if they’re reading from a teleprompter. The new start allowed for different interpretations and spins, such as turning Jean Grey into a sassy, fun-loving flirt and Magneto into an affable-yet-horrifically-genocidal maniac.
The series had some great moments, even though a few story decisions didn’t go over very well: mutants are revealed to be the result of a failed experiment, and yep, Wolverine is still right at the forefront of everything ever, despite being portrayed as a lecherous psychopath. More recently, a new team has been formed under Kitty Pride, though the series remains as dark and gritty as ever with the X-Men basically fighting to stay alive under a Sentinel regime.
It’s just that there’s only two: Colossus (now Russian and not quite as shiny) and Masonic Teenage Warhead (absolutely nothing like comics' counterpart, who was a telepath and a villain). X-Men showed us something new and sparked off a series that’s currently approaching its second decade with no signs of slowing, and has grossed over $4.3 billion worldwide.
Just going to make an assumption here: that’s probably more than Fox paid for the film rights, and Marvel aren’t going to forget it in a hurry. Still, there’s no denying Hugh Jackman’s fit for the role; toss in a stellar Patrick Stewart and Ian McLellan as Professor X and Magneto, and it’s enough to make you forget that a third film ever existed.
An example of how to make a fresh start and do it right, First Class kicked off a new trilogy that did its best to avoid stepping on the toes of the originals. This time, the black hole of star power instead revolves around Mystique, who is elevated from her villainous comic book role by virtue of being played by Jennifer Lawrence.
It makes up for really awful graphics by being huge mounds of fun to play, capturing the spirit of the X-Men and letting you form a team of four from fifteen playable characters. Naturally, they all have their skills and strengths, plus the system encourages teamwork; attacking an enemy with mutant abilities at the same time can create some pretty devastating combos.
Overall, X-Men Legends was just fun, letting you build (and command) your own dream team and fighting your way through a host of nefarious villains with a massive variety of powers. Not sure how that happened, but be glad it did: we got four anime series out of the deal that were designed to introduce Japanese audiences to Marvel characters: Wolverine (of course), Iron Man, Blade and X-Men.
The X-Men anime is partially based off the then-current version of the team: Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast, Storm and Emma Frost, with the plot revolving around them travelling to Japan to rescue Hispano Chili (later known as Armor). And yeah, there are a few of the more cheesy anime tropes creeping in- the power of friendship, original villains with a focus on bizarre anatomy- but it’s still a very solid adaptation that deserves a watch.
Wolverine and Storm are portrayed as older and mostly stay out of focus while the youngsters grow up, learn life lessons and generally try to keep their powers under wraps at school. Evolution managed to run for four seasons, despite plans for more, though it went out on a high note with a massive finale featuring Apocalypse and a lot of foreshadowing that which was never to be.
Featuring the line-up of Cyclops, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Rogue, Beast, and Gambit, this time the plucky newcomer was Jubilee, who the show runners seemed to wisely shove to the sidelines whenever they wanted to adapt an important comics' storyline. And there were quite a few of them; the series pretty closely adapted The Dark Phoenix Saga and made its own versions of Age of Apocalypse, Days of Future Past, and many other classic tales.
Other adaptations have their iconic moments, but this series was practically made of them, from the X-Men leaving on a suicide mission to rescue Senator Kelly from a den of Sentinels all the way to the team battling the Shi’Ar Imperial Guard to save Jean’s life. The series wasn’t perfect, with a few bizarre story decisions (and terrible animation) polluting the later episodes, which are pretty much devoid of any overarching plot and continuity.
And then there are the accents, with anything other than American being utterly butchered (special apologies to all the genuine Scottish people who had to sit through the X-Men’s visits to Muir Island). Along with their expansive lineup of Direct to Video animated films, they've also created some of the best -animated TV series of all time.
*Updated on 5/13/2021, by Richard Keller: Marvel heroes have been part of the television landscape since the late 1960s. Nevertheless, these 1981 series, which aired Saturday mornings on NBC, was the entrance for many kids into the Marvel Universe.
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was a little comedy, a lot of action, and a concept that carried into the Ultimate Universe years later. The most important part of the show was its introduction of the mutant Fire star -- a hero who would have a big career in the 90s.
Meanwhile, the Marvel heroes confront Phineas and Verb who, in turn, try to find a way to get their powers back. During its 1967-1968 Saturday morning run, the 21 episodes put a strong focus on the team and their rogues gallery.
Granted, it didn't have the grandeur of Jack Kirby's illustrations, but it did have appearances by characters like Silver Surfer, Doctor Doom, and Galactic. In other words, each episode featured a main plot and a subplot that was resolved at the end of the season.
Some plots were pulled from various comic book storylines, making it a good partner to other media. After being featured in other Marvel cartoons, the Silver Surfer got his own animated series on Fox Kids in 1998.
Combining CEL and computer animation, the show was praised for its unique settings that were rendered in the styles Jack Kirby once produced. The show's 13 seasons track the Surfer from his origins as Norris Add, to his space adventures.
When compared to a lot of the best and worst that we've seen of Spider-Man TV shows, this version of Spider-Man is nowhere as awful as something like Spider-Man Unlimited nor has it aged terribly to the point of freedom as Spider-Man 67. Here, he befriends other geniuses, such as Gwen Stacy and Miles Morales, and balances his life as a student while being Spider-Man.
Some dialog and characters scream late '90s teen melodrama, like Dawson's Creek, but that's also part of its charm. While nowhere as compelling as its predecessor, Avengers Assemble managed to create a solid, if unremarkable superhero show that both kids and adults can enjoy.
Ultimate Spider-Man had everyone's favorite web-slinger working with Nick Fury and teaming up with teenage versions of Nova, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and White Tiger stopping some of Marvel's biggest foes. It also featured the best animation for a Marvel show, leading to some genuinely outstanding action sequences and character design.
The show, created by Thor: Ragnarok writers Craig Kyle and Chris Most, featured some of the best storytelling and character development seen in the X-Men franchise, more so than in any previous incarnation of Marvel's Merry Mutants. It's a shame what happened, as WHOM ended on a cliffhanger that teased Apocalypse being the antagonist of the second season.
While more recent versions of the X-Men may have portrayed story elements and specific characters much better, this classic 90s Cartoon still holds up well. X-Men featured epic storylines, grandiose action, and well-developed characters that were true to their comic book counterparts.
X-Men also managed to handle its themes of prejudice and how minorities are mistreated in a way that never talked down to its young audiences. The show also managed to adapt iconic storylines to the small screen much better than their film counterparts, especially with their portrayal of the Age of Apocalypse.
There are some silly moments and references that are of its time, but it still manages to get you pumped up and watch your favorite superheroes beat the hell out of each other. It might not make this Peter Parker as relatable to young kids, but it does give the audience a character to look up to.
The animation has shown its age, and it moves at such a fast pace that can make moments rushed. A lot of Spider-Man fans hail The Spectacular Spider-Man as the definitive take on Marvel's most recognized character and for good reasons.
The team did care about the subject and didn't want to talk down to its audience, while also having some great superhero action to boot. Alas, with Marvel Buying Disney and the show being produced by Sony, Spectacular Spider-Man only lasted for 26 episodes and ended on a cliffhanger.
The Characters were just as fleshed out as in the films, the art style was exaggerated in the best possible way, and the animation was top-notch. Combine that with excellent storytelling and great voice acting, and you can see why EMT still has a dedicated fan following.