In 1992, Fox Kids brought us X-Men, the first of four animated adaptations of our favorite mutants. The series, which was a staple in the lives of many '90s kids, was followed by X-Men: Evolution, Wolverine and the X-Men, and Marvel Anime: X-Men. While each series brings something unique to the X-Men universe, some were more successful than others. Here are the X-Men cartoons ranked from most to least favorable:
1. Marvel Anime: X-Men
Far and away the most visually stunning and mature animated iteration of our favorite mutants, 2011's Marvel Anime: X-Men is the show fans waited a long time to see. Unlike other series, Marvel Anime: X-Men was designed to tell a cohesive, one-season story and leave it at that. Focusing on a solid narrative with a core group of characters, all 12 episodes sought to make the most of their limited time.
The story begins in the aftermath of Jean Grey's death, with Professor X working to reassemble his broken team of X-Men for a new mission. Cyclops, Storm, Beast, and Wolverine travel to Japan where new mutants are going missing. Facing off against the U-Men and the Inner Circle, the X-Men team up with their newest recruit, Armor, and the questionable Emma Frost.
The emotional tones of the series are unparalleled in the X-Men animated universe. In particular, the way in which Cyclops grieves and moves on after Jean's death makes an otherwise overused X-Men plot point more gratifying. Furthermore, Storm is portrayed in a more lighthearted way than she has been in movies and television. This makes her more emotionally accessible than usual.
Exciting, tragic, and enjoyable, the characters and their interactions are true to the source material, which is an increasing rarity today. The more mature banter and situations make this a truly unique experience for the adult crowd, which is accustomed to enduring more elementary oriented stories in order to see their favorite team animated. This series is not to be missed.
There is no denying that Fox Kids' X-Men animated series is the most well-known of the lot. Beyond the colorful costumes, the show aimed to thoroughly honor the comics while also featuring loose adaptations of famous plots, such as Days of Future Past and the Dark Phoenix Saga.
The series focused on Charles Xavier and the X-Men members Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Rogue, Gambit, Beast, Wolverine, and Jubilee. Sadly, despite this show being born out of the ashes of Pryde of the X-Men, Kitty Pryde is never seen.
Beyond the aforementioned regulars, many notable guest stars and groups appeared during the show's five year run, making it the most comprehensive collection of X-Men in any one series. Deadpool, Scarlet Witch, Ms. Marvel, X-Factor — these are just a few of the characters that can be seen in roles both large and small.
As a whole, the series was a wonderful start to the X-Men animated universe, which would continue to grow and thrive. It also gave us the most memorable of all X-Men themes!
3. X-Men: Evolution
In the wake of 2000's X-Men movie, The WB brought us the first X-Men cartoon since the early '90s. X-Men: Evolution reimagined the X-Men as teenagers with stories involving coming-of-age experiences, rebellion, ostracism, and acceptance. The cast consisted of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, and Spyke as led by Professor X, Wolverine, Storm, and Beast.
Evolution took noticeable liberties as it reformulated the X-Men: Jean Grey is seen as the popular girl, Kitty Pryde sounds like a valley girl, and Rogue embraced a gothic look. The creative team also introduced two new characters to the X-Men universe: Spyke and X-23. Spyke, who is Storm's nephew, can extend and retract bone spikes from his body. The more successful X-23 is a younger, female clone of Wolverine. X-23 became a breakout character, and quickly transitioned into Marvel comic book canon.
X-Men: Evolution excelled in terms of animation. Unlike the original X-Men cartoon, Evolution's artistic style was more clear, culturally relevant, and visually pleasing. Special effects were used to further illustrate different mutants' powers, without being over-utilized. The choices for character costumes were well conceptualized, providing a nice mix of comic book inspiration and the streamlined combat look presented in the X-Men movies.
While the emotional tone of the show was often stunted and several episodes seemed more like one-off fillers, the series did evolve with each season. Though it was cancelled after four seasons, the last episode provided a glimpse of ever-maturing storylines that would have come next, including a reformed Magneto and Jean Grey turning into the Phoenix.
4. Wolverine And The X-Men
While X-Men: Evolution did not live on, it did lay the groundwork for Wolverine and the X-Men, which aired in 2008. Though not a continuation of Evolution, the same creative team was behind it. It came as little surprise that Wolverine was headlining the show after his rise to stardom in the original film trilogy.
In light of the films and the previous cartoons, Wolverine skipped the usual origin stories and jumped right into the intended plot. The season began with the X-Men disbanded after an explosion caused both Jean Grey and Professor to disappear, while also destroying the X-Mansion. A year after these events, Wolverine seeks to put the team back together, taking on the role of leader in the process.
Wolverine and the X-Men feels like a mix of X-Men: Evolution and the live-action films. The animation and special effects are closer to that of Evolution than any other animated iteration, yet it lacks the more refined touches of its predecessor. Certain character relationships — like that of Logan and Rogue — are directly inline with the films. Some familiar plots are also brought back to life, including the eleventh hour rise of the Phoenix.
The environs of the series, such as the Xavier Institute and Cerebro, are extremely reminiscent of director Bryan Singer's versions. For fans of the films, Wolverine will be pleasing for these reasons. Unlike the films, though, these X-Men don very colorful and comic book worthy costumes.
The series, which aired during a lull in the films after the failure that was X-Men: The Last Stand, was announced to have a second season. This would have featured Colossus, Magik, Deadpool, Jubilee, and Havok. Despite the announcement, the show was abruptly cancelled after Season 1, with Marvel citing financial issues with its partners.
Which X-Men cartoon is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below.