X-Men ’97 Proves Some Superheroes Don’t Belong In Live-Action

By Zack Zagranis | Published

Adaptations are funny. At some point, we all decided that live-action narratives were the be-all, end-all goal of fiction. Case closed. So when the vibrant, kinetic, action-packed X-Men ’97 came out and totally blew away every live-action iteration of the X-Men that came before it, I had to ask myself: why do we put flesh-and-blood adaptations on a pedestal? As X-Men ’97 proves, if fans want to see their favorite comic book heroes come to life, animation is the way to go.

Cartoons Are For Adults Too


In theory, animation is just as valid a medium as live-action or print. Yet, there’s this perception that cartoons are only for children. Even animation geared toward an older audience, like most anime and some DC animated films, is not seen as legitimate in the way live-action is.

If it were, we wouldn’t see live-action adaptations of Cowboy Bebop and Death Note. I’m willing to bet that many of the fans who suffered like me through the “homages” to The Dark Knight Returns that Zack Snyder sprinkled throughout BVS didn’t even know that the perfect, two-part animated adaptation of the Frank Miller classic already exists. With freakin RoboCop as Batman!

It’s like the “We have Batman at home” meme, except the Batman at home is way better!

The Answer Is In Cyclops

x-men 97

So why do I bring up X-Men ’97? Because it might be the best example right now of how superhero stories, in particular, translate better to animation than live-action. Take Cyclops, for instance. Scott Summers was the MVP of the first two episodes of X-Men with moves that were so sick it truly was like a comic book come to life.

I’m talking about jumping out of a plane and using his optic blast to slow his descent. Taking out an entire group of MAGA stand-ins all by himself, switching deftly between eye beams and punches. X-Men ’97 is how fans of the comics have always pictured Cyclops fighting, and yet the biggest question online is, “Woah, when did Cyclops get so cool?”

Live-Action Cyclops Was Never Used Correctly

He’s always been that awesome, but the movies—many younger fans’ first introduction to the X-Men—never used him correctly. As a result, the consensus among many geeks was that Cyclops was just the lame dad of the team. Some fans even went as far as to compare Cyclops to a cop, which, if you’ve ever read the X-Men comics, you know couldn’t be farther from the truth.

And I understand why the films didn’t give Cyke much to do. The special effects in the earlier films weren’t up to the task of convincingly showcasing Cyclops’s abilities to their fullest potential. By the time they could do it, nobody wanted to see it. X-Men ’97, on the other hand, can show Cyclops using his powers creatively because in animation, anything the writers can dream up, the artists can draw.

Animation Pulls Of What CGI Never Can

And it’s not just Cyclops. At one point, I watched X-Men ’97 awestruck as Storm unleashed so much lightning that it literally turned the sand beneath her to glass. Even in 2024, convincingly reenacting that scene with CGI would be difficult. Which brings me back to my initial point: Why even bother?

Superheroes Were Made For Animation

spider-man movies spider-verse spide-man across the spider-verse

Superheroes, with their brightly colored costumes, crazy feats, and fantastic powers, just look so much better in animation. As much as I love the majority of the MCU, I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t be better if the whole thing were animated. After all, didn’t Sony prove twice now that the best way to bring Spider-Man to the big screen was as a cartoon?

I have my fingers crossed that if X-Men ’97 continues to be successful, we’ll see more animated superheroes. After all, animation is the only medium after comic books where they truly belong.

robert downey jr

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