Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Things We Hope To See In X-Men '97

If the typical X-Men fanatic is honest, they'll admit they didn't see "X-Men '97" coming. Ever since Marvel regained the movie and TV rights to its mutants in 2019, most of us have been too preoccupied with fan-casting Wolverine in the MCU to think about other mediums. Disney caught us by surprise, those clever rapscallions — and we couldn't be more delighted.

As part of their Disney+ Day festivities, the Mouse House announced in November 2021 that "X-Men: The Animated Series" will be returning in 2023, in the form of "X-Men '97." This show continues the beloved cartoon staple from where it ended in 1997, hence the title. Beau DeMayo has been tapped as executive producer and head writer, while original writers Eric and Julia Lewald and director Larry Houston have been brought on as consultants. Most of the original voice cast is set to return as well.

"X-Men: The Animated Series" is essentially an adaptation of Chris Claremont's legendary X-comics, because in the '90s, his 17-year run on "Uncanny X-Men" was basically the only viable source material around. In the quarter century that's gone by since, the X-Men brand has expanded to include quite a lot more content — some of which positively begs for retro-cool repurposing. What new X-Men stuff do we want to see included in "X-Men '97"? What old X-Men stuff should the show approach in a new way? Let us present our thoughts.

Jubilee being awesome

In "X-Men: The Animated Series," Jubilation Lee is a trendy teenager who develops the marginally useful ability to shoot little blasts of sparkler energy from her hands. She joins the X-Men in a trainee capacity, which enables her to become incredibly useful to the team's enemies as an always-available hostage. Animated Jubilee comes off like a corporate boardroom's idea of what the show's target demographic finds relatable. She's got a lot in common with Poochie the Dog from "The Simpsons," right down to the sunglasses and compulsive use of buzzwords. 

Since her first appearance in 1989, the comic book version of Jubilee has been a sarcastic mallrat, Wolverine's sidekick, a vampire, and the adoptive mother of an infant child who transforms into a dragon. Perhaps Jubilee isn't the most consistently-written X-Man, but she's definitely capable of much more than getting kidnapped by Sentinels, Sabretooth, or whoever else is around. Hopefully, "X-Men '97" will give Jubilee the chance to achieve a destiny more befitting someone who hangs around with Wolverine through her impressionable years.

An emotionally-evolved Wolverine

"X-Men: The Animated Series" set a new precedent for sophistication in superhero animation, but it didn't exactly have to leap over the highest bar to do so. Prior Marvel cartoons are very undeveloped, and while "X-Men: The Animated Series" addresses adult themes like bigotry and death, it also contains more than its fair share of immaturity. For instance, its version of Wolverine is a real jerk. 

Let us refresh your memory of his bad behavior. Wolverine constantly meddles in Cyclops and Jean Grey's relationship. He bullies Gambit. He resorts to threats of serious bodily harm whenever anyone tells him something he'd rather not hear. This characterization is not consistent with the noble-hearted warrior of X-Men comics, movies, or other animated series. Seriously, folks — Logan's a little rough around the edges, but he's also a beloved superhero. Does it make sense for a guy in his esteemed and influential position to throw an embarrassing, violent meltdown because his friends are getting married, like he does in Season 2's "Till Death Do Us Part"?  

In "X-Men '97," let's have a Logan who matches our collective concept of who he actually is: A guy who's nice to his pals, knows how to kick butt, and has a past, but is currently in a (comparatively) well-adjusted place in life.  

No more Morph

Some folks will tell you Jubilee is the lamest member of the '90s animated X-Men, but those folks have forgotten all about Morph. Now, Morph serves an important purpose by apparently dying on a mission in the series premiere, "Night of the Sentinels." By immediately killing off one of the good guys, "X-Men: The Animated Series" makes a statement: Unlike previous Marvel endeavors of the Saturday morning variety, this one kind of takes itself seriously. 

Though Morph is a crucial narrative prop, he's loaded with personal shortcomings. His uniform is aggressively generic, his powers are interchangeable with iconic X-Men frenemy Mystique, and his class clown personality adds nothing to the squad dynamic. None of this would be a problem if the show didn't bring Morph back, turn him evil, and give him a wildly unnecessary redemption arc. But, sadly, it does. Hopefully "X-Men '97" reserves its screen time for mutants who aren't basically overbaked redshirts from "Star Trek." 

A Jean Grey who doesn't faint as often

In the pages of Marvel Comics, when Jean Grey combines with the cosmic entity known as the Phoenix, the amount of raw power at her disposal rivals that of virtually any sentient being in the galaxy. This is an individual who, in a world where Marvel never sold her movie rights, could've saved the universe at the end of "Avengers: Infinity War" by simply thinking at Thanos until his mind turned to goo and his magic space glove became a harmless paperweight. Even when Jean Grey isn't bonded with the Phoenix, she's an Omega-level force to be reckoned with.

So how is it that "X-Men: The Animated Series" depicts Jean Grey as literally the world's most useless mutant? Virtually every time the X-Men go on a mission, Jean gets knocked out, passes out, or falls off a cliff. It's as if she's only on the team so she can get hurt, thereby allowing Cyclops and/or Wolverine to yell "Jeeeeeaaaaaaannn!" and get extra angry.  

This time around, let's encourage "X-Men '97" to offer viewers a Jean Grey who's more like her powerful, competent comics counterpart, and less like the X-Men's answer to Olive Oyl. 

Inspiration taken from the DuckTales reboot

Here's a potentially controversial take: Fans of "X-Men: The Animated Series" don't actually want a continuation of that show. Though it was profoundly influential during its time, if we're being honest, it doesn't hold up so great. It's not the best superhero cartoon of the '90s, as that title undoubtedly belongs to "Batman: The Animated Series." It probably isn't even the best animated X-Men series. What fans do want is a way better version of "X-Men: The Animated Series" that justifies the enthusiasm we had for it when we were youngsters. In other words, we want an X-Men version of 2017's "DuckTales."   

The contemporary "DuckTales" series offers storylines, characters, dialogue, and self-awareness that keeps 30 and 40-something OG fans engaged, without alienating the much-younger target audience. It expands on the 1987 show's lore instead of retreading it, and even fixes some of the original's problems — for instance, Huey, Dewey, and Louie all have distinct and entirely comprehensible voices this time around.  

Basically, modern-day "DuckTales" does all the stuff we want "X-Men '97" to do, except with ducks instead of mutants. Since that "DuckTales" ended in 2020, certainly some of its creative staff are available for a new Disney+ series, right?

The same team, plus a few new members

Part of what sets "X-Men: The Animated Series" apart from other X-Men adaptations is its nontraditional roster. Alongside squad staples — Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey, Beast, and Rogue — the team includes products of the irreverent '90s zeitgeist like Gambit and Jubilee. 

As illustrated by how long the since-scrapped Gambit movie languished in developmental limbo, Remy LeBeau has not remained the dominant cultural force we remember from his Fox Kids tenure. Meanwhile, there's Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Kitty Pryde. All three have generally been considered X-Men mainstays since the 1970s, yet they only make guest appearances at most on "X-Men: The Animated Series." In fact, in a borderline blasphemous oversight, Kitty Pryde isn't in the series at all

We're not suggesting "X-Men '97" drop Gambit or Jubilee, because then the show won't really be '90s X-Men anymore. But adding any or all of the three names we just mentioned could make this version of Xavier's School feel a little less trapped in a generational bubble, and a little more in sync with the many X-Men iterations that have arrived since.

Every X-Man, all at once

If the talents behind "X-Men '97" feel like applying a more expansive mode of thinking to their X-Men roster, might we suggest taking a cue from "Justice League: Unlimited" and simply including as many mutants as possible? 

Recent comics provide a convenient jumping-off point for this approach. As of 2019's lauded "House of X" and "Powers of X" miniseries, virtually every famous mutant — including the baddies — cohabitate on the living island of Krakoa. When it comes time to plan a mission, Cyclops can assemble a team with powers and experiences uniquely suited to the situation, selected from an entire nation of unofficial reserve X-Men. 

Every X-Men geek has a favorite obscure mutant, and if the show gives virtually all of them a moment or two in the spotlight ... Well, that sounds like the kind of fan pandering we can get excited about. Especially if it guarantees a guest star appearance from Jumbo Carnation.   

Mutant culture goes mainstream

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely left an indelible impression on Marvel's mutants with their early 2000s "New X-Men" series. In these comics, the sheer number of mutants across the globe has grown large enough to make Homo superior an influential identity group, complete with its own celebrities, fashion, and music.  

In theory, 2005's infamous "House of M" event undoes these additions to the lore, as it sees the Scarlet Witch depower the majority of the mutant population. In practice, however, the ideas and energy from Morrison and Quitely's run continue to reverberate through modern X-books. Even in 2005, hardly anyone believed Wanda's wish for "no more mutants" would stick.

If "X-Men '97" opts to lean into the original show's willingness to tackle real-world topics, it can certainly use newer source material to spin the old mutants-as-marginalized-groups allegory in new and interesting directions. Maybe the X-Men can take on the non-violent political fight for equal access to medical treatment for mutants. Maybe a celebrity Olympian comes out as a mutant, and controversy ensues. Maybe a sentinel disguised as an elected official tries to restrict mutants' movements. There are tons of possibilities here, if the show is willing to explore them.

The Krakoan alphabet

2019's "House of X" and "Powers of X" (aka "HoXPoX") brought the X-Men back into relevance after years of creative wallowing. This hotshot storyline sees mutants ascend to their allegedly rightful place as Earth's supreme species — and what's more, they do so by essentially peaceful means. Magneto and Professor X are both right, it seems. 

While mutantkind has relocated to the living island of Krakoa and overcome certain natural limitations that once plagued them, however, the future still looks grim. "X-Men '97" will probably need to remain accessible for youngsters — ergo, attempting to incorporate every concept introduced in "HoXPoX" would be a really terrible idea. But y'know what little kids love? Secret codes! Thanks to the creation of Krakoan, a mutant language, the "HoXPoX" era of X-books is positively plastered with an eye-catching alphabet that spells out titles and omens for upcoming issues. "X-Men '97" could turn Krakoan into the new Klingon. Just picture it: Nerds everywhere, sending each other secret messages in Wolverine's own language.


Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters crosses paths with the rest of the Marvel Universe here and there during "X-Men: The Animated Series," but by and large, cameos from the likes of the Punisher, Doctor Strange, and Deadpool are brief and inconsequential. It feels reasonably safe to presume that "X-Men '97" will incorporate more Marvel-related elements, thereby greasing the wheels for the X-Men's eventual MCU introduction. But instead of jumping right in with a storyline that includes the Avengers, Spider-Man, or some other heavy hitter, "X-Men '97" could begin blending into the boarder Marvel Universe via S.W.O.R.D. and its head officer, Abigail Brand.

S.W.O.R.D. has the unique distinction of first appearing in 2004's "Astonishing X-Men" and making its MCU premiere in 2021's "WandaVision" — way, way ahead of anything else from the X-Men sandbox so far. There'd be something fitting, then, about the X-Men arriving on Disney+ with a new mission that involves assisting a S.W.O.R.D. operation ... that isn't completely what it seems, of course.

Avengers vs. X-Men

Once the X-Men become a source of fresh Disney+ content, they'll likely rekindle a decades-old debate: Who wins in a fight between the Avengers and the X-Men? Of course, 2012's "Avengers vs. X-Men" event doesn't exactly answer this question, even if that's what its title and most of its promotional material promises. 

In "Avengers vs. X-Men," the Phoenix Force returns to Earth. The Avengers proceed to come to blows with their longtime allies over whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. "X-Men '97" would do well to get out in front of the inevitable Avengers vs. X-Men debate by putting them in conflict, somehow ... but maybe not exactly the same way "Avengers vs. X-Men" does it. Folks might want to see things like a knock-down, drag-out fight between Wolverine and Thor, or Iron Man facing off against Storm in a sky-high scrap, but the characters are going to need a better reason to fight than a magic space bird that may or may not be evil. We propose a compromise: "X-Men '97" should borrow the spirit of "Avengers vs. X-Men," though not its letter.

Logan gets animated

The X-Men didn't make the jump to feature-length live-action until a few years after "X-Men: The Animated Series" premiered. To call the results of the X-Men film franchise inconsistent would be an understatement, but for all its many problems, Fox's mutant movies produced one story that belongs in the halls of the all-time-great X-yarns. While it's technically an adaptation of 2008's "Wolverine: Old Man Logan" comic, 2017's "Logan," directed by James Mangold and starring Hugh Jackman in his ninth and final performance as the eponymous brawler, doesn't actually have a ton in common with Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's post-apocalyptic romp. Instead, "Logan" offers an earnest meditation on the superhero movie genre itself, wrapped in a semi-canonical epilogue for its franchise. Plus, it's also a sweet road trip action movie. 

Obviously, "X-Men '97" can't completely follow "Logan" into bloody, R-rated indulgence. But it could easily mimic the essence of the film, and conjure up a family-friendly iteration — maybe even with a different ending. If "X-Men: The Animated Series" can pull off the "Dark Phoenix Saga," surely "X-Men '97" can manage a "Logan" homage, right?

Legion cameos

"X-Men: The Animated Series" is the most influential X-Men television adaptation by a mile, but the best X-Men show isn't a cartoon. That distinction belongs to the criminally underappreciated FX drama "Legion," which chronicles the troubles and triumphs of David "Professor X Jr." Haller (Dan Stevens), along with his various quirky pals and mortal enemies (a few of which are played by Aubrey Plaza). Created by Noah Hawley — also the principal mastermind behind FX's "Fargo" — "Legion" eschews a whole heap of superhero story conventions and keeps the presence of re-appropriated IPs relatively light. David Haller, Charles Xavier, and the Shadow King are pretty much the only comics characters mixed up in its sprawling, surrealist narrative. 

Unfortunately, the series' originality and minimal references to pre-existing content might explain why there's not much of a visible push for a "Legion" revival. Nevertheless, like "Logan," "Legion" warrants the degree of reverence bestowed upon quintessential X-Men tales. Any attempt to adapt any part of "Legion" into another medium would be laughably futile, but perhaps "X-Men '97" could bring its main actors back for an extended cameo. This would be a delightful treat for devoted fans, and an intriguing opportunity: If only for one episode, "X-Men '97" could explore a headspace reminiscent of "Twin Peaks," that other classic '90s show that came back after 20+ years.