The 90s were one of the most prolific eras for superhero animation. With the advent of Bruce Timm’s DC Animated Universe, in addition to the 90s Spider-Man series, one that is often left of these conversations in the pantheon of these achievements and contributions to superhero cartoons, is X-Men: The Animated Series. Today, we’re going to get to the bottom of why that is. Is X-Men The Animated Series an overlooked hidden gem of this genre? Or are the ones fawning over it wearing Rogue-tinted glasses? *coughBenandRobbiecough* Let’s find out.
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For this exercise, I watched the first two episodes of X-Men on Disney+. Now I understand that will not capture the scope and nuance of the entire show, but I feel the first two episodes should at least capture the essence of what the show embodies, and what X-Men embodies. Also, I have a massive galaxy brain, so my judgment is on point when it comes to these things. I will be making my evaluation based on aspects that I believe go into making an animated show memorable. Things like voice acting, theme music, art style, and how well the show executes its themes are what we’re going to be discussing today.
Alright, based on this alone, X-Men The Animated Series should be getting more respect put on its name. This opening track is nuclear heat. Any kid watching this in the 90s hearing this on their TVs had to have been instantly hooked. The synthy tune is incredibly catchy and sets the vibe for the show. This is especially evident when the first episode is so action-packed. Easily one of the strongest elements of the show. Like just TRY to listen to this without getting hyped. You simply cannot!
“Dated” is probably the nicest word I could use when describing X-Men’s voice acting. I understand that you have to consider the context of X-Men being a nearly 30-year-old show. However, it doesn’t make the wooden line delivery of cringey dialogue any more bearable. Cartoons in the years since have shown us that dialogue doesn’t have to be dumbed down, or overly expositional in order for kids to understand it. That’s something that I think would have helped X-Men to reach status among the Batman’s and Spider-Man’s of the cartoon world.
While some may criticize the animation/art style as dated, I quite enjoy the traditional comic book-eqsue look of the show. The show is in a similar vein to the Spider-Man series that came out around the same time. The colors pop off the screen with great contrast, and the hero’s costumes are fantastical and highly stylized. When I watch this show, as well as the Spider-Man series it shares a universe with, I feel like I’m peeking into a different era of comic books and characters, and that’s something I can really appreciate.
The story of X-Men has always been timely, pertinent, and relevant to American culture. An allegory to race relations in the U.S., the story of a group of people fighting to be viewed on an equal plane has been a timeless struggle. It’s also one that can help people gain a better perspective on issues that currently sit on the collective consciousness of this country. The X-Men series focuses in on this from the very start. Jubilee is disillusioned about how people treat her because of her mutant abilities and is taken in by the X-Men. I think this show does a good job conveying these ideas, and for any kids who were watching at the time, this may have been a great introduction into more nuanced X-Men stories that explore these themes even further.
X-Men is definitely a product of the times and shows its age in some not-so-glamorous ways. However, I don’t think that robs it of any merit. Based on what I’ve seen in these first couple episodes, I can see myself diving deeper into the series. And while I may not be ready to put it on the GOD TIER of comic book cartoons, AKA Justice League Unlimited, Batman Beyond, and Batman The Animated Series, I am far more willing to include it on that list now than I was before watching.
If you’re looking for more 90s X-Men series content, the latest episode of The Other Identity features the show’s creators; Eric and Julia Lewald, and their journey towards getting the show on the airwaves. Listen to it below and be sure to subscribe!
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