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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Favorites – Best Animated Versions of the X-Men Part 1

You know, there is something missing from TV these days: an X-Men cartoon. While I can’t call myself an uber-fan of the X-Men these days, I can still say that they’re one of my favorite superhero teams. A lot of that fandom mostly stems from the many animated shows. Heck, I think I could almost recite a lot of the dialogue from the 90’s show’s first season. If only I could put that type of power towards something truly worthwhile…

Anyway, ever since Wolverine and the X-Men ended, we’ve seen less and less of them on TV. While the movies are still coming out and there are live-action shows coming, even I’ll admit that they get it wrong at times. The animated shows were able to capture more of what the X-Men were all about. Plus, they knew how to have fun and that is something the movies still struggle with. The X-Men (Wolverine at least) will pop in every so often on some Marvel show but that’s it. I think even Deadpool is supposed to get his own animated show. I bet someone’s happy about that!

So, what are these posts all about? A while back, I was wondering about which X-characters from the cartoons were done the best. I considered everything from the stories to even the voice-acting. Since most characters don’t crossover to different shows, I’m keeping the list to only a few heroes and villains. I’m also only including X-Men (the 90's show), X-Men: Evolution (EVO), and Wolverine and the X-Men (WATXM)I know there’s an X-Men anime from 2011 out there, but I’ve never seen it. Besides, something tells me that those versions of the characters probably wouldn’t make it on here anyway. Also, this isn’t a competition in which show was the best. I felt that these three shows had some great strengths as well as some unfortunate weaknesses.

Wolverine
First on the list is everyone’s favorite mutant: Wolverine. Logan was a major component on all three shows. He was definitely the powerhouse on most of them thanks to his powers. While he was downplayed a bit in EVO, he was still the gruff cool guy. I can definitely say that was well voiced in all three shows too. Cathal Dodd is probably what my generation thinks of when they imagine the perfect Wolverine. He did that character justice on the 90’s show. Scott McNeil’s version for EVO was good but not as memorable as the others. Then you get to Steve Blum who is this generation’s version of Wolverine. The guy’s voiced him everywhere over the last few years.

When it comes to my favorite version, I gotta go with the 90’s version. It was probably the best representation of the character. We got to see all the sides of Logan on the show. He was a fighter, a lover, and everything in between. The other shows handled Logan well, though. We got to see the cool mentor on EVO. That show was also where X-23 (the clone/daughter of Logan) first appeared. WATXM got to show him as the reluctant leader and was more based off the movies than the comics. Still, the 90’s show wins it for me.

Nightcrawler
Next up is the fun-loving, religious dude who’d scare anyone at Sunday Mass: Nightcrawler. Kurt Wagner is one character that would little tough to write for a kids’ show. He was either the goofy guy or a serious, pious dude. The shows really never got the idea that Kurt in the comics is a mix of both parts. He was barely featured on the 90’s show but he did headline the episodes he was in. He got a lot of play both on EVO and WATXM. He also had some good voices behind him as well.

When it comes which version is the best, I’m actually kind of torn. While Nightcrawler on the 90’s show was more pious, it was interesting to see that side in something animated. The version on EVO was a bit grating at times since he was the comic relief. He did calm down over time and mature a bit. Then, we have the swashbuckling adventurer on WATXM. He was actually the focus of a few episodes for that season and they were all nice. If I had to choose on a whim, I’ll actually have to go with WATXM here. You really got to see him in action in that short time. While the others had their good points, Kurt on Wolverine and the X-Men felt like a mix of those two.

Storm
Next up is the “goddess” herself: Storm. Ororo Monroe appeared in all three shows. It was the 90’s show where she had more to do but not much. She even got to lead the team at times. The other shows definitely downplayed her a bit. She was the powerful teacher on EVO. She also had a nephew at the Institute named Evan (Spyke). On WATXM, she was pretty much the Storm we knew. She even had a thing for the Angel of that show.

As I said before, Storm was one character that didn’t get a lot to do on the shows. Still, she served an important part of the teams and it was nice to see a Black character kick butt on Saturday morning cartoons. To me, the 90’s show did the character best. Until a few years ago, I never knew that there were actually two voice actresses for Storm on the show. Iona Morris was her voice for the first season while Alison Sealy-Smith played her for the rest of the show. Yes, the proclamations on her powers were a little cheesy, but I liked that version. Besides, she oozed coolness which is something the other versions didn’t do.

Gambit
Next up is the ‘Cajun himself: Gambit. While he was present for all three shows, he wasn’t always an X-Man on them. The only one you where he was a legitimate good guy was the 90’s show. The other shows took different paths with him. On EVO, he was actually a part of Magneto's second Brotherhood team. Yes, he was a bad guy, but he had his moments of being heroic. On WATXM, he was a thief that wasn’t associated with any team. He’d interact with both teams but he was on his own in the end.

Gambit was one of the other members that wasn’t used as much. Even though he was a major part of the 90’s show for a while, his time did dwindle after a while. He also didn’t appear as much on the other two shows. The voice acting for him was also pretty good on all shows. I didn’t realize that Phil LaMarr could do a good Cajun accent. Obviously, I’m going for the 90’s show on this one. More was just done for the character there. We got to see his relationships with the team and with Rogue. Plus, we actually got to see him be a hero which is something the other shows didn’t do at all.

Rogue
Next up is the other Southern person on the team: Rogue. Rogue was on all three shows a lot. She was a big part of the 90’s show. EVO slowly integrated her onto the team. She actually was with the Brotherhood for a bit. By the way, she just had her regular power-absorbing abilities on there and WATXM, so no Ms. Marvel antics for her! WATXM really took her down a different road, though. After the X-Men first disbanded, she joined the Brotherhood.

The 90’s show showed us the pretty iconic Rogue from the comics. “I can definitely say it showed Rogue in all her glory,” some perverted dude would say. Unfortunately, she had that shriek that… well, was pretty annoying. While they made her into a Goth chick on EVO, she was still pretty cool. The personality was still there and it was interesting to see her interact with the X-Men in a different way. Seeing her use other folks’ powers was also pretty cool. Her arc on WATXM was also interesting. Her relationship with the X-Men was pretty strained because Brotherhood membership and it took a while before she was accepted by them again.

When it comes to which is the best version, I’m a little torn. I felt Rogue was done well on all three shows. They just approached her in different ways without changing the character too much and it worked for the most part. I know I might get looks for this decision, but I’m going with the version from X-Men: Evolution. Of the three versions of the characters, I liked her the best. I liked her interactions with folk like Mystique, Cyclops, and others. She was a nice melding of the movie version and the comic version. Yeah, she was into the Goth scene, but that strangely made her even more interesting.

Iceman
Next on this list of characters is Bobby Drake, aka Iceman. He appeared on all three shows but the one that really gave him “the cold shoulder” was actually the 90’s show. He only appeared in one episode (“Cold Comfort”) as a former student of Xavier’s. On the other shows, he was used much more. Bobby was one of the new mutants introduced in the second season of EVO and was used more as the show went on. On WATXM, he was the one of the former students Logan got back for the team.

Iceman is one of those characters I’m indifferent to. Still, it was nice to see him show up when he did. The 90’s show did try to do something different with him and it kind of worked. He was a former student who basically hated being an X-Man and wanted to live a normal life. Unfortunately, he was kind of bitter and he never came back. The other Icemen were more like the comic book versions were: young and funny. While EVO used theirs more over time, I’m going to go with the WATXM version. Not only did he have a thing for Kitty Pryde, he felt more ingrained in with the team.

Shadowcat
Finally, we get to Kitty Pryde, aka Shadowcat. Unlike everyone else on the list, Kitty has the distinction of being only two shows:  EVO and WATXM. If you thought Iceman got the shaft on the 90’s show, you’d be wrong. I don’t know why they never used her on there. I guess they wanted Jubilee to be the young one of the group but I don’t think she even has a small cameo on there either. On Evolution, Kitty came to the school in the first season and was a mainstay. On WATXM, she was another former student that Logan got to come back.

I thought she was well-suited on both shows. They both showed off her powers well.  On EVO, she got paired on with the teenage version of Avalanche and that was kind of interesting. She was also one of the characters that was actually age appropriate since she was a kid when joined the X-Men. Even though WATXM wasn’t around long enough, they tried to do some things with her. They paired her up with Iceman though we never got to see it go far. As for which one I like better, I’m going with EVO here. We actually got to see more of her and what we saw was good.

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Well, I’m going to end it here for now. If you’re wondering where the other popular heroes are, you’ll see them next time. I’ll also include some villains that were featured in all three shows.

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