How X-Men ’97 Remixes Marvel Comics’ Best Storylines

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Part of what makes the success of X-Men ‘97 so impressive is that the show has done the seemingly impossible by appealing to both casual fans of the original Animated Series and hardcore fans of the comics. Just how have the writers managed to pull off this tricky balancing act? Simple: by finding clever ways to remix some of the best storylines from the comics into the continuity of the original ‘90s television show. 

The Psychic Affair

One great example of this came from the revelation that Cyclops has been having these kinds of psychic check-ins with Madelyne Pryor, something that understandably angers Jean Grey. While nothing seems overtly adulterous about this X-Men ‘97 plot twist, Jean reacts as if she just discovered that the man she loves is cheating on her. One of the reasons for that is that this is an homage to a story from Grant Morrison’s New X-Men comics where Cyclops began a full-blown psychic affair with Emma Frost that eventually (through a somewhat convoluted story involving the Phoenix Force) turned into a physical relationship.

X-Cutioner’s Song

Another interesting example of this comic book remixing comes in the form of the man who (temporarily, at least) manages to steal Storm’s mutant abilities. The man in question is the X-Cutioner, and in X-Men ‘97, he is an unnamed (so far) individual who uses some exotic technology in order to remove the powers from mutants. In the comics, this character was Carl Denti, basically a mutant-hating version of the Punisher who killed mutants he thought had crossed the line by killing someone else.

Powerless Storm

Incidentally, the Storm of the comics did lose her powers, but it wasn’t to X-Cutioner…instead, it was to sleazy government agent Henry Gyrich, using a weapon that was designed by Forge in Uncanny X-Men #185. X-Men ‘97 basically brought X-Cutioner in as a glorified Easter egg for comics nerds to appreciate and gave him someone else’s story in order to streamline the narrative. That streamlining was particularly important because the show condensed the trial of Magneto as presented in the comics (Uncanny X-Men #200, to be precise).

The Genosha Massacre

Sometimes, X-Men ‘97 includes more obvious references to comic storylines but still finds interesting ways to remix things. For example, the latest episode had Charles Xavier psychically learning about the catastrophic Sentinel attack on Genosha, causing him to exclaim, “No…They were dancing, drinking wine, and making love!” This is a modified bit of dialogue from Grant Morrison’s New X-Men #114,  where Xavier realized that (like in the later show) mutants were being slaughtered in Genosha; in the comics, this was orchestrated by his evil sister (sort of), and Xavier found out while at his mansion rather than hanging out in Shi’ar space with Lilandra.

More Of An Ensemble Than The Original

Before anyone starts throwing their hardcover omnibus collections at me, I’m happy to acknowledge that I’ve probably only clocked a handful of the great comic book homages that have appeared in X-Men ‘97. That’s kind of the point, though: this is a show that you can enjoy for its great Easter eggs referencing and remixing of comic continuity, or you can enjoy it as a great ensemble show with killer stories that (gasp!) don’t all revolve around Wolverine. Speaking of which, the ol’ Canucklehead might have to step down now that it’s clear that X-Men ‘97 took his job and became the best it is at what it does.

Fortunately, what it does is very pretty.

robert downey jr

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