Jacob here! Being Comicdom Wrecks!’s resident X-Pert (har har), one would assume that when my week comes up for a look at an episode of a cartoon, I’d head right for the astonishing X-Men: The Animated Series from the mid-90’s, right?
Don’t worry, we’ll get there. But first we must first dabble with the first attempt at getting Marvel’s merry mutants their own animated series, and that means heading back to 1989 for the pilot of the series that could have been, had Marvel’s animated studios not fallen onto really hard times and axed everything but Muppet Babies. Does anyone remember that Spider-Man always dropped down at the end of every episode of Muppet Babies?
Anyway, that means we’ll be looking at the cult-classic (or infamous, if you prefer) “Pryde of the X-Men”. Or, as it is known to most people, “the one where Wolverine has an Australian accent”. It’s the final product from the studio that brought you Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, if you want a comparison in quality. It also features the common heap of 80’s animated voice actors, if you want to know why Cyclops sounds like Prowl from Transformers. And Frank Welker does both Toad and Lockheed, so that’s a plus.
Here’s the episode on YouTube, if you haven’t had the experience. It runs about 20 minutes. You have no reason to be complaining about spoilers. The cartoon is almost 30 years old and I gave you the link.
Was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June, the Convoy escorting what looks like a tanker truck with energy beams swirling around it. As all of the soldiers talk about how much they hate mutants (the first line of the show is a random voice saying, “Mutants. I hate ’em!”), we see inside the truck the Army (I’m guessing) has managed to capture the master of magnet himself, Magneto! The colonel in charge, who looks like General Barker from M*A*S*H, says that “muties” don’t deserve to live.
I question how they managed to get Magneto into this position. This isn’t a thing like the movie where they surround him with plastic. He’s in an armored truck here with a bunch of metallic tech around causing the force field. Hell, when Barker doesn’t like Magneto saying his Brotherhood of Mutant TERRORISTS(!) will push out humanity, he runs at him with his metal gun.
Seriously, guy. What’s the plan here?
Unfortunately, the answer doesn’t come because the Colonel gets a call that the Great Big Convoy is SINKING INTO THE GROUND! This is all a telepathic ruse by the White Queen, who drops the illusion as soon as the soldiers have run about 30 yards away. The Convoy returns to the road, since there was no actual quicksand, and ain’t she a beautiful sight?
Anyway, White Queen creates an energy spear out of her head and chucks it at the truck which apparently is enough…uh…mental energy?…to allow Magneto to shake off the force field. He takes the gun from the Colonel, lightly places him into a drainage ditch, then floats away in a sparky bubble.
The next morning, a taxi cab pulls up and drops off a teenage Kitty Pryde with no baggage or personal belongings whatsoever, then speeds off because the place gives him the creeps. Kitty has come because she has received a letter, which I will transcribe:
Dear Ms. Pryde,
It has come to my attention that you have a mutant power: the ability to walk through solid matter. I believe you call it ‘Phasing’.
That’s Dark Brotherhood levels of creepy right there. Might as well put a big X on it and say ‘We Know.’ Kitty walks into the mansion and is greeted by a ghost-like manifestation of Charles Xavier who immediately tells her that he is running the X-Men. Kitty freaks out that she’s a mutant, but then accepts it and joins the school, I guess. And we’re about four minutes in. Tell me that Chuck isn’t using his mind whammy a little bit here.
Anywho, they head into the Danger Room control room and look at the current training session to introduce the team, and it’s a good one. We have Cyclops, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, and…Dazzler?
Now you might be flashing back to those warm, fuzzy memories of playing the old Konami X-Men arcade game with a few of your pals and always wondering why you got stuck with Dazzler. That classic was based on this very cartoon, which explains the odd roster. This is really based on the Paul Adams era of the X-Men, which would mean Rogue would be in that spot, but I guess in putting together a cartoon series, you have Kitty in the teenager coming into her powers role so having Rogue would be a bit redundant. And if you need another adult female X-Man from the late 80’s who would look good in a cartoon, Dazzler is about as good as it gets.
There are some shenanigans about with Kitty phasing through electronics because she’s scared of Nightcrawler but we all get a good chuckle before Wolverine chimes in to complain about a kid being let into the X-Men.
Oh god, Aussie Wolverine. Apparently the people creating this masterpiece didn’t exactly understand the draw of the character of Wolverine, because instead of presenting him like a super-cool fun uncle who calls Kitty “Pun’kin”, he instead is the unlikable jerk that complains about everything because there has to be a Reggie to the Archie. And he talks with an Australian accent, which is about as far away from a Canadian accent as you can get.
So now that introductions are out of the way, the SUPER TROUBLE ALERT goes off and the X-Men jump into two planes (the Blackbird and what looks like the Fantasticar) and take off! But it’s a RUSE! and as soon as they leave, Magneto and Juggernaut make a B-line for the mansion. Professor X has some defenses on the grounds (like mounted laser cannons), but Magneto’s forcefield and Juggernaut’s helmet just plow straight through them. Still, when Kitty accidentally phases through the computer during the…fight?…, Professor X blames her for messing up Cerebro’s defense systems, like they were doing a lick of good. Juggernaut enters the house like he enters any other structure:
Professor X throws out some plot knowledge before the villains get to him, but he makes two blunders. One, he refers to Juggernaut as a mutant. Juggernaut is not a mutant – he gained his powers from the Cyttorak gem. Two, he says that Magneto cannot hide his thoughts from him (what is the point of the bucket?!) and reveals that he’s after “Cerebro’s Mutant Power Circuit” which is essentially the Matrix of Leadership or any other MacGuffin you might want to throw in to have a story.
So the X-Men are away, danger is looming and Magneto wants the circuit, so what does Professor X do? He hands it to the girl who’s been in the house for ten minutes, is unsure of her powers and her potential role as an X-Man, and tells her to run like hell.
The only possible solution.
Magneto finds her two rooms over and nabs the circuit. Juggernaut punches Charles in the face (off screen, I’m assuming).
The X-Men, meanwhile, show up to a space observatory where Pyro and the Blob have come to copy the “tracking coordinates of the Scorpio Comet”. They stare at each other for a bit, Pyro throws up some flames, Storm throws some wind, and that’s that. I guess they ran away? There are some hostages who beg for help, then scream at Nightcrawler for being a “filthy mutant” after saving them. This is the kind of reaction that the X-Men used to get that creators nowadays just cannot wrap their heads around. Anyway, the police arrive on the scene, so Storm takes everyone away in a tornado. Sounds like fun.
In Magneto’s orbiting base, Asteroid M (the M is for MUTANT!), Magneto has constructed a large light socket and just needs a big, bright circuit to really bring the room together. Fortunately, he just stole the Cerebro Mutant Tracking Circuit! So Toad jumps up and plugs the bulb into the ‘Magnetron’. Toad does a good job, so Magneto praises him by telling him to go play in an airlock. Harsh. Toad ends up chasing the little dragon, Lockheed, who is running around the asteroid for some reason.
The X-Men return home to find that their mansion now has several new holes punched into the roof. Storm, Cyclops and Colossus find Professor X under some rubble, but he quickly comes to, apparently unharmed. So unharmed, in fact, THAT HE MOVES HIS FRICKING LEG AS HE SITS UP!
Wheelchair-bound Professor X, paralyzed from whatever you want to say happened to him in his past, just sits up and bends his fully functional right leg there. IT’S. A. MIRACLE.
Over on the other side of the house, Kitty gets woken up by another freakout over Nightcrawler and remembers what happened, just to get another talking down from Wolverine who is about as unlikable a bloke as you’re going to get in this cartoon. He is the least likable Aussie on this show, and the other one is a member of the Terrorists. At least this time she gets up in his grill for being a jerk and he backs off from her!
Professor X throws out a mental “whatcha dooin’?” to Magneto who responds with an show of energy so great it blasts Xavier out of his wheelchair to the floor. But don’t worry about him. At least one of his legs works. Anyway, Magneto’s big plan was to use the MacGuffin as a battery to super-charge his powers and grab a comet coming near Earth from its course and aim it directly at Earth. Apparently, this will kill a lot of the humans and the mutants will rule in their place.
This is one of those plans that really starts to fall apart once you put any kind of thought whatsoever onto it. For one, how will the mutants of the world survive the comet’s impact? Does Magneto plan on having his world with just the five mutants he has gathered (plus Juggernaut) on the Asteroid? How will he deal with the Ice Age that the planet will be plummeted into? Why does he have Juggernaut with him when he’s not a mutant? Why does Emma Frost wear the Hellfire Club S&M attire when she’s not affiliated with the Hellfire Club? Where is Unus the Untouchable???
Anyway, comet’s a-comin’ so the X-Men hop into their jet and fly into space. Why not? Kitty gets booted from the mission by Wolverine, but goes anyway and they all suit up in their X-Space Suits and punch a hole into the Asteroid. Storm gets some weather stuff going in space, so that’s cool.
Then it’s down the hallway and one by one, the X-Men fall off the trail as they battle one of the Brotherhood one-on-one. Dazzler gets in a shooting match with Pyro, then Wolverine takes on Toad (not making this up – Wolverine calls him ‘dingo’) and manages to trap him in some rubble then just stands around while the others go forward. Wolverine is the WORST. Colossus gets into a clubberin’ match with Juggernaut, then Cyclops gets an unexpectedly fitting match up with the White Queen (she digs him), though him blasting her mental bolts doesn’t really make a lot of sense.
Finally, it comes down to Nightcrawler and the Blob, and Nightcrawler does the only sensible move.
He teleports directly to Magneto’s control room where Mags is just a three minute warning away from victory over a livable Earth. But even though the X-Men’s mantra of teamwork has not prevailed here, their other mantra of lucking their way out of any fire comes through when Kitty phases in just as Lockheed nibbles Magneto’s ankle as he is about to give Nightcrawler his finger point of doom.
The deflected shot destroys a connection to the circuit which means the thing Magneto did to the comet cannot be undid. Unless, of course, Nightcrawler uses his own X-Space Suited body as a connector while Kitty tackles Magneto into his machine and resets the comet’s course to destroy Asteroid M instead of Earth. Magneto is a bit miffed by his Earth destruction plan going, but he gets the silver lining that Nightcrawler has to stay where he is until the comet destroys the asteroid or it will (for some reason) return to targeting Earth. Why the destroyed circuit would lock in the Earth trajectory but not the updated asteroid trajectory is not explained.
Anyway, Magneto takes the Brotherhood away in a magnet bubble which can protect them from the vacuum of space and re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere, while the X-Men are returned to the Blackbird by Storm, who can make a weather bubble that protects them from the vacuum of space…you know, in space. Except for Nightcrawler, that is, who has to stay behind to make sure the machine doesn’t go back into destroy Earth mode.
So anyway, Nightcrawler manages to teleport out of the asteroid just before the comet hits it, but finds himself hurling towards Earth’s atmosphere! The X-Men rush to his rescue and fire the grappling arms…but they miss! Nightcrawler burns up and is scattered in tiny little ashes all over the Western Hemisphere.
BUT WAIT! Just as the X-Men are beginning to mourn their fuzzy elf, including Professor X who is a telepath, they realize that Nightcrawler managed to teleport himself into the speeding Blackbird and ended up in one of the lockers in the back. The man’s got talent.
So we end our little adventure with the X-Men not really having won anything, but also managing not to have really lost anything. Except for the Cerebro power circuit, which was blown up in the asteroid. I guess that means that Charles can’t find any more new X-Men to send creepy letters to. Maybe that’s why this show didn’t get picked up.
So what did we learn from our lone view at 80’s animated X-Men? We learned that all space metal has to be orange. Asteroid M straight up looked like the Autobot base. All it needed was a computer voiced by Casey Kasem and it would have been fit to jam into the side of a volcano. We also learned that this show managed to make Wolverine unlikable. Seriously. WOLVERINE IS THE SELLING POINT OF THE X-MEN AND HAS BEEN SO SINCE THE 1970’S. Yet here he is the one character that could be jettisoned to make it an overall better production.
Pryde of the X-Men is a neat little romp, and it certainly entertained me when I first bought it on VHS back when I was like 12. It served as the basis for an awesome arcade game to boot. But I would rank it at the bottom of the X-Men animated attempts, a little below X-Men Evolution, a ways below Wolverine and the X-Men and miles below X-Men: The Animated Series.
See you next month!