These days, superhero adaptations are all the rage, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe popularizing massive budget live-action comic book movies and the DCU, which has a thriving canon of animated films deemed the DC Elseworlds collection.
Before comic book films had taken a stranglehold on modern media, most adaptations were relegated to low-budget cartoons and given underperforming time slots, often causing the property to fly under the radar. One such project, Pryde of the X-Men was almost completely lost to time until a fan shared it on YouTube…unless you have a VHS player.
X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men is a fascinating time capsule of the late 80’s superhero team years before the Fox Saturday morning cartoon took off.
The pilot, which has been digitally upscaled using artificial intelligence imagery to enhance the dated recording errors, originally aired in 1989 as part of the Marvel Action Heroes television block. The one-off X-Men special was meant to kick off a full X-Men animated series, though the studio never officially gave the green light for the rest of the episodes. Though the show never came to pass, X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men served as a basis for Konami’s 1992 X-Men arcade game.
With modern audiences clamoring for the long-awaited arrival of the X-Men in the MCU, as well as iconic Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman’s return to the character in the upcoming Deadpool 3, many fans have been revisiting a number of previous iterations of the super mutant team.
Pryde of the X-Men centers around the team’s youngest member, Kitty Pryde, a young woman with a phasing ability that allows her to become partially or wholly intangible at will. The pilot primarily adapts the comic arc, which plays out between Uncanny X-Men issues 129-139.
Pryde of the X-Men was adapted into a graphic novel, the X-Men Animation Special in 1990, featuring images from the show.
In X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men, the team faces, as they often do, Magneto and his cohorts of so-called mutant terrorists in a clear allegory for pressing social issues of the 20th century. The tale begins as Magneto uses his powers to escape a military convoy which is set to transport him to captivity, leaving nobody but the X-Men to stop him. The team consists of many of the usual fan-favorite characters, including Cyclops, Colossus, Dazzler, Storm, Nightcrawler, Professor X, and Wolverine.
Magneto then storms the X-Men compound with a few of his goons, managing to steal the mutant-tracking computer that Professor X utilizes to maintain control over the potentially dangerous population of mutated individuals. After reading Magneto’s thoughts, Professor X is able to determine that his evil scheme includes redirecting the course of an asteroid set to pass by the Earth in the coming days, causing an apocalyptic event that would launch the planet into another Ice Age.
The pilot ends on an open note, as the thick-skinned Wolverine still refuses to accept the young Kitty Pryde as a member of the team, but suggests that she’ll make a valuable contribution with a little additional training. Naturally, the X-Men manage to thwart Magneto’s plan but fail to put a permanent stop to his schemes, with the bulk of the show likely set to revolve around the ongoing rivalry between the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants.
Pryde of the X-Men adapts parts of the classic Uncanny X-Men “Dark Phoenix” story arc, where fan-favorite character Kitty Pryde made her debut.
Apparently, Marvel producers working on the animated pilot weren’t even specifically given clearance to develop the one-off episode, allegedly funneling the special’s budget from a now long-forgotten RoboCop animated series.
The Pryde of the X-Men special event signals the end of the mid to late-20th-century animated ventures for Marvel studios, as the production company began to suffer significant financial issues shortly after the pilot made it to air, resulting in the end of the long-running animated franchise which began with the 1978 Fantastic Four series.
In 1993, Marvel sold off the film rights to the X-Men franchise to 20th Century Fox, allowing the studio to produce a slew of live-action films. These films, which many comic book fans of today likely grew up on, can largely be credited with sparking the popular comic book movie movement perfected by the MCU, along with the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy produced by Sony.
While many animated ventures within the superhero niche have been overlooked in regard to their cinematic importance, the YouTube rip of Pryde of the X-Men contains dozens of comments from fans who would love to see a return to the animated medium.