When it comes to comic books, my first love was the Uncanny X-Men. The 90s X-Men cartoon was in fact my introduction to superheroes. I think my parents got me some comics after that and this obsession was born. That cartoon, though, was pretty great. It translated some of the great X-Men stories fairly faithfully into an all ages show. The cast of characters was a pretty diverse mix and they each had distinct personalities. But, while this was the first successful X-Men cartoon, it wasn’t the first attempt.
In 1989 a pilot was made called Pryde Of The X-Men and it can be seen here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiEVYvrCxuk). It aired a couple of times on TV, but I guess it wasn’t the resounding success they were hoping for. There are some interesting similarities and differences between it and the X-Men series that eventually followed it. (For the sake of clarity, I’ll call the pilot Pryde and the series X-Men.)
First off, they share memorable theme songs. But, where the X-Men had a rocking instrumental piece that instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever watched the show, Pryde had a campy piece of pop with lyrics like, “Magneto’s hoards are on their way to pillage, burn and plunder/But there’s one team that will not yield/ the team that strikes like thunder!” And while based on those lyrics you might think they mean the Thunderbolts, I believe their talking about the X-Men…
One that strikes me as truly odd about the show is the roster that they chose. Well, one addition in particular – Dazzler. She had a decent run in the 80s, but by this time interest in her was starting to wane. In the context of the show, she doesn’t really bring anything to the table. Her powers, shooting “hard” light, are pretty much covered by Cyclops. And personality wise, she’s just like the rest of the team – generically nice (except for Wolverine.) If she’s just there to add another woman to the team, why not go with someone who’s even a little interesting like Jean Grey, or Rachel Summers, or Psylocke, or Rogue, or Polaris. They also have powers that would bring a bit more diversity to the table.
Speaking of weird character choices, let’s talk about accents. For some reason, the voice actors decided to go nuts with these. Wolverine, who had long since been established as Canadian, has a thick Australian accent. Toad is from Britain, and yet he spends the whole thing doing a Peter Lorre impression. And the Blob just sounds like he took a few too many blows to the head (when asked what he wants he says, “Nothing! Just take over Earth.”)
Now let’s move on to some of the stranger plot elements. The show begins with Magneto being broken out of confinement by his team of bad guys. That team is not the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, but the much more subtle Brotherhood of Mutant Terrorists. Their sinister plan is to redirect a comet so that it hits the Earth and plunges it into an ice age. For some reason, Magneto believes that this will kill all the humans and let the mutants take over. He never really explains how his magnetic powers are going to help him survive perpetual winter but he does have a pretty sweet asteroid. An asteroid that, for some reason, has a tiny purple dragon flying around it. (Yes, yes, it’s Lockheed, but in the comics Kitty discovers him on a distant alien planet, not on Asteroid M. Harumph.) And, of course the X-men get aboard the asteroid to stop the villains. They do this by flying into space on a ship, and then floating over in space suits. Then, Cyclops uses his power to blow a hole through the airlock without blowing a similar hole in his helmet.
I could keep going, but I think I’m descending into overly nerdy nitpicking territory so I’ll stop there. As flawed as the show is, it does have a certain charm to it and it might have been interesting to see how it turned out in a weekly format. Of course, if that had happened they probably wouldn’t have made the excellent X-Men and that would have been a real shame. Although, there is one area where Pryde is superior: It has Stan Lee narration! ‘Nuff said, true believers.