Retro Marvel TV
Marvel's Not-So-Awful Animation of the 80s

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 27 Aug 2014 12:15
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And now to the "What Might Have Been?" category...

In the mid-80s, Chris Claremont's second-wave X-Men were finally starting to break out from comics-popularity into the mainstream, buoyed by the embrace of Wolverine by figures of the hard-rock and alternative-sports crowd. Unfortunately, the popularity of the comics was due in part to its writer and artists' exceptional skill at getting "edgy" sexual material and fairly brutal violence past the censors, which wasn't going to fly in an animated adaptation no matter how badly Marvel wanted to get an X-Men cartoon onto TV (kind of hard to get around the whole "no stabbing" thing when one of your biggest characters' sole marketable ability is having knives come out of his hands).

But they did finally get a series pitch worked out and a pilot produced, built mostly on redoing the simpler X-Men vs. Brotherhood setups from the 60s comics with the more popular characters from the Claremont/Byrne/Cockrum era. But around 1989, Marvel was hitting the beginnings of the financial troubles that would plague it for a decade -- and ultimately their animation projects closed up shop, leaving Pryde of The X-Men as the only remnant of the series that might have been. It's most lasting contribution the X-Men lore being that since they all went into early production during the same period as it was being developed, the aesthetic and casts of the video games X-Men: Madness in Murderworld, The Uncanny X-Men and Konami's legendary X-Men: The Arcade Game were all sourced mainly from this pilot. (Oh, and also for fandom eyeroll's about Wolverine having an inexplicable Australian accent -- apparently the result of his voice-actor believing that a line calling Toad a "dingo" meant that he should be doing an Aussie voice.)

As for Pryde itself? It's actually pretty good, overall -- unfortunate theme song notwithstanding. It's about what you'd expect from the first episode of an 80s X-Men cartoon: The same "New student as audience POV" introduction setup used in the first movie and Generation X except this time with perennial fan-favorite Kitty Pryde, so... actually better than either of those. Kitty just happens to be making her first visit to the Xavier School (Cyclops, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Dazzler and Storm are the current team otherwise) on the same day that Magneto and The Brotherhood (White Queen, Juggernaut, Toad, Pyro and The Blob) attack the place. Everything comes down to a big fight on Asteroid M that even finds time to introduce Lockheed the miniature space-dragon.

I honestly think that if this had gone to series it would've been a success -- and who knows what the eventually mainstream mega-popularity of the X-Men would've been? (Obviously, we'll talk about the 90s series next week.)

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