Monday, July 16, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: X-Men (1992)

X-Men is a 1992 cartoon that originally aired on FOX. It lasted for a total of 76 episodes across five seasons.
1992's X-Men Cartoon
This is "The" X-Men animated series. It's success has been unparalleled by any prior efforts. The show's title sequence gives us good insight into why this show was such as success. It's simple and straightforward. The music is actually fairly generic except the fact that it plays every episode during the big fight sequence. What it does excellently is introduce each character by name and demonstrate's the characters' powers. The end of the title sequence shows the X-Men charging headlong into a fray with their foes, setting up the show's mutant vs mutant conflicts. The shot where the camera zooms in through the window of the Blackbird and then further zooms in actually going into Cyclops's visor really demonstrate's the quality of the animation.

The X-Men roster for this series is very large. It includes Professor X, Gambit, Wolverine, Beast, Morph, Jubilee, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, and Rogue. With a main cast so large each episode feel really full as each character gets some of the spotlight to varying degrees. What's great is that the interpretation of the characters were very loyal to the essences of the characters from the comics. Dozens of other noteworthy characters (both mutant and non-mutant) make appearances throughout the series.

This show is known for its faithfulness tot he storylines from the comics. While it certainly blazes its own continuity, the story carries over from episode to episode and it wasn't uncommon for an episode to have a cliffhanger ending. Among the story arcs that are presented are The Phalanx Covenant, The Phoenix Saga, The Dark Phoenix Saga, and Days of Future Past along with original storylines such as "Beyond Good and Evil." And while in-show continuity wasn't flawlessly maintained, it really adds something to each episode that you know the stories are all interconnected and the characters are changing and developing from episode to episode. When Morph gets "killed" (he comes back) in the second episode you know that this isn't just one of those cartoons that returns to the status quo at the end of each show.

The X-Men have always been used as a vehicle to tackle controversial topics and this show didn't shy away from that and it, for the most part, managing to avoid sounding preachy as well. This show may have been the second show ever to show a female as President of the United States (after 1983's Hail to the Chief). Evolution, AIDS, religion, racism, and the Holocaust all are highlighted at various points in the series. When Morph dies, the X-Men struggle and react in very human ways to the death of their friend. The series even interjects a fair amount of poetry and philosophy through the character of the Beast such as when he ponders the question, "Are any of us really secure?" in the series opener.

The show's animation has a very clean and simple style. Very little stock footage is recycled throughout the show as it juggles its dozens of characters. As I mentioned before, the show's truly noteworthy visual accomplishment is the way characters were able to move both toward and away from the camera and changed in size to reflect this perspective change. A common camera trick was to show a close up of the Beast only to pull back, rotating the camera as it moves, to reveal that the Beast was hanging upside down. On occasion throughout the series the faces of characters appear distorted. It is worth noting that in the fifth season the animation company changed, resulting in a different animation style.

This X-Men cartoon sets the gold standard that all X-Men cartoons following it have tried to live up to.

1LR REVIEW - 17 out of 20! It's a Solid Hit!

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