In which Jay and Chris X-plain three cartoons and track a disagreement to its source; Gambit is definitely the worst person you know; Broadcasting Standards and Practices is tired of your death ceremonies; Storm doesn’t have an inside voice; and we finally get around to mentioning that one dude with the claws.
Is Gambit creepier in the cartoons, or in the comics? (Spoiler: in the comics.)
- The evolution (and Evolution) of X-Toons
- Why you hate Cyclops (and Rachel doesn’t)
- Adaptation overload
- Broadcast standards, practices, and laser rifles
- How to order pizza like a weather goddess
- A paramilitary after-school club
- G-Rated Wolverine
- Comics based on cartoons based on comics
- The Batman Standard
- The Wolverine and the X-Men trifecta of perfection
- Why the Mojoverse works better on TV
- Dazzler’s secret second job
- Basic jacketry
- When were the costume designs used in the show for the main team first introduced in the comics? Also, what's your opinion on the costumes? Which ones work the best, and which ones the worst?
- Why won't Beast put a shirt on in the 90s cartoon?
- What's the deal with Morph? Was he a good character or...what?
How To Follow Along:Edit
- X-Men (the 90s animated series) - streaming on Hulu (as of 10/17/2015)
- X-Men Evolution - streaming on Hulu and Netflix (as of 10/17/2015)
- Wolverine and the X-Men
[Editor’s Note: Rachel now goes by the name of Jay and uses male or neutral pronouns. This episode was recorded before Jay’s transition. At Jay’s request, we are using the name and pronouns they used at the time when this episode was recorded to keep the integrity of the transcript.]
Transcribed by: Armaan; Edited by: Rebekah
Chris: Hey Rachel. Serious question. Do you think Gambit is creepier in the comics or on the cartoon?
Rachel: Um, comics, Chris, obviously.
Chris: Yeah, but in the cartoon, there’s, uh, an episode where he tries to make out with Rogue while she’s asleep, and then later, he catches her when she’s falling, and saves her life, quote unquote – even though she’s invulnerable and can fly – and then calls her fat, and that episode was written by an actual pick-up artist.
Rachel: Point, but I’m still going to say comics because in X-Factor they actually just straight-up weaponized his creepiness.
Chris: Wait, i-is that the X-Factor where they were pretending to be mutant hunters?
Rachel: No, later on.
Chris: Okay, the one with Havok, where they all worked for the government?
Rachel: Later one.
Chris: Oh, the one with Jamie Madrox, where they were kind of noir-ish private eyes.
Rachel: No, the current one, where they’re, um, like in-house superheroes for a really thinly-veiled Google stand-in.
Rachel: Well, anyway, someone hacks into fake-Google’s super secure servers, and it turns out whoever it is is operating from the secret island headquarters of the Thieves Guild, or "T'ieves Guild", as we say, um, which, Gambit – who’s on the team – is now running.
Chris: Oh, wait, wait a second, I thought Gambit was exiled.
Rachel: Chris, do you really want to open that door? Because that’s an X-Ternals thing, and there’s no turning back from that. That’s gonna be the rest of the episode if we go there.
Chris: O-o-okay, fine, fine, no X-Ternals. So they go to the T’ieves’ Guild island?
Rachel: Right, and it turns out the hacker’s this dude named Nil who's somehow gotten a hold of Danger.
Chris: Oh, wait, Danger, the X-Mansion murder room?
Rachel: Yeah, well, she’s a robot now, but yeah, that Danger. Anyway, she goes berserk, and Gambit - who for the record has never exchanged so much as three words with Danger – decides the best course of action is gonna be some minor sexual assault. So he grabs the crazy killer robot – the one who’s already been, you know, like, kidnapped, and brainwashed repeatedly, and held against her will for years as a training tool – and attempts to kiss her sane.
Chris: Holy cats.
Rachel: Yeah, that’s not even the worst part.
Chris: Wait, what’s the worst part?
Rachel: It works.
[Intro: Excerpt of X-Men: The Animated Series theme song]
Rachel: I'm Rachel Edidin.
Chris: And I'm Chris Sims, filling in for Miles Stokes.
Rachel: And we are here to X-plain the X-Men.
Chris: Because it's about time someone did.
Rachel: Welcome to the third episode of "Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men", where we talk you through the ins, outs, and retcons of our favorite superhero soap opera. This week, Miles is off slinging comics at C2E2, so we are deploying an emergency backup host: comics writer and journalist Chris Sims, who’s here to help me explain some of the many and frequently dubious X-Men animated series. You might know Chris from his writing on Comics Alliance and Invincible Superblog, or from his own podcasts, “War Rocket Ajax” and “Movie Fighters.”
Chris: That's right, thank you, Rachel.
Rachel: And Chris, uh, really quickly before we start, is there a “Movie Fighters” Kickstarter going on, is that still happening?
Chris: There is indeed. It's got about another week left. We are super close to our goal. I actually haven't checked it today, so we might have passed it. We were about $500 away, last time I checked. The idea is to make the “Movie Fighters” podcast, which was our premium podcast, free, for a year, where Matt Wilson and I sit down and watch a movie and then.. explain.. why we are mad at it [laughs], for about an hour. It has been very well received, but, uh, we did wanna make it free, so that people could find it a little easier on iTunes.
Rachel: So I feel like a lot of people who know the two of us from social media are expecting that we're gonna spend the next hour just die-hard fighting about Cyclops.
Chris: Yeah, which is weird, because, to be fair, he is your favorite X-Man.
Chris: He is my least favorite X-Man.
Rachel: Because you're wrong.
Chris: [crosstalk] But..we have the exact same opinion of him [laughs]. Like, we arrived at those conclusions for the exact same reasons.
Rachel: Right, I mean, I like Cyclops because I identify with all of the ways he sucks. The other thing too is that we tend to like him for the same reasons, and in the same arcs. Like, I-I remember, we'd been arguing and arguing and we were talking on-on Twitter, and one of us put up a page from Whedon's run and we were like, "Yes, that's Cyclops at the- at his awesomest," and we were - and it turned out that we like the exact same versions of the character. And -
Chris: Yeah, I love - I always say that I love Jacket Cyclops.
Chris: Like, whenever Cyclops is wearing that cool jacket that he has, that he gets in the, uh, Morrison and Quitely on New X-Men. That Cyclops is great! When he puts it back on in Astonishing X-Men, I was excited.
Rachel: Where does Trenchcoat Cyclops fit on that spectrum?
Chris: Trenchcoat Cyclops is no good. Also, Bomber Jacket Cyclops is no good.
Rachel: So, I want to come back to Bomber Jacket Cyclops, because the two of us a while ago sat down, and sort of looked at all of this, and we figured out - so we're about the same age. We've read a lot of the same comics. We have really similar tastes in media, like, our-our taste overlaps a lot, and so we're trying to figure out what-what the difference is, and the difference we finally came up with is that you grew up watching the 90s animated series, and I didn't.
Chris: And, specifically, the..the pilot episode, "Night of the Sentinels," which I had on VHS, so I watched that tape a hundred times.
Rachel: Can you do the dialog from memory?
Chris: I can do a lot of it from memory. I can do most of Wolverine's lines, 'cause they're so great. The, [as Animated Series Wolverine] "tell Cyclops.. I made him a convertible."
Chris: [as Animated Series Jubilee] "Does a mall baby like chilli fries?" That-that's my Jubilee. My sassy Jubilee. But, Cyclops on that show, is the worst. He is the absolute pits. I've written a series of X-Men episode guides for Comics Alliance that I am - I've just started Season 4, and I have consistently referred to Cyclops as the X-Men's dad. Because he's always trying to keep everyone else from having fun.
Rachel: He is, he is totally the worst in the animated series, and I had no idea until I-I binged watched it on Netflix about two years ago, and, yeah, if I had grown up watching that, I would have totally hated him too, but I would have also totally hated most of the rest of the X-Men.
Chris: Yeah, and I-I think that's fair. I think the only one who really comes away good is Wolverine. Who is my favorite X-Man. Like, legitimately, I love Wolverine. I think he's a cool character, and I will acknowledge that he is over-saturated. I will acknowledge that there are, percentage-wise, probably more bad Wolverine stories than any other character, but he's really cool on the cartoon, as Matt Wilson is fond of pointing out - he only gets to be the cool guy because he's playing off of Cyclops. Uh, Matt has this theory about Wolverine where solo Wolverine stories just don't work because Wolverine is by his nature an anti-authoritarian hero. Like, he needs Cyclops to push back against. The problem is that you'd never sympathize with Cyclops on that show, 'cause Wolverine is like, [as Animated Series Wolverine] "We should go kill these robots," and Cyclops is like, [as Animated Series Cyclops] "Well, hold on, the Professor says..."
Rachel: Well, he can't actually say "kill" though, because this is a 90s cartoon, so it's all going through Broadcasting Standards and Practices and they're really adamant about never, ever, ever using the word "kill." Ever.
Chris: [crosstalk] They..always have to say that they are going to "destroy" someone, or in my favorite, uh, moment of the series, when Wolverine has a flashback to the Weapon X program, where he is running through a, a, uh, training simulator, where he is literally shooting things with guns, and throwing grenades at them, he comes back and he's like, "I remember this. This is where they trained me. To take people out."
Rachel: That actually - I think that specific line gets-gets cited in the BS & P notes. Um, a bunch of them are online. There's this website called Toonzone that's basically an unbelievably good archive of-of the histories of animated series and they've got a bunch of X-Men stuff up there. They are amazing. I actually, I printed out a bunch of these. Um, some of them are, are sort of what you would expect in terms of really prudish cartoon notes so like, there's-there's one point where, um, Amelia Voght, maybe, is, is leaving, leaving the Professor's house and she's, she's leaving him, and they're really adamant that she can't be carrying a suitcase, because then it looks like they've been living together.
Chris: That is such a weird note. Especially when the Professor, like-
Rachel: [crosstalk] And it comes up-
Chris: -lives with, like, all those characters live in that house, together.
Rachel: Yeah, but they're not romantically attached, and I think she and he are in that, in that episode, but-
Chris: [crosstalk] Well, two of them are. Two of them got fake married.
Rachel: Yeah, but you know, then it turned out it was, you - by, by a shapeshifter who wasn't real, and, you know, it's still better than the fake married that they got in the comics, so I'm, I'm gonna let that one slide. So let's see, they've got stuff like that, they've got, they really hate the word "butt" too. Like about half of the BS & P notes are, "You need to substitute a different word in the phrase..." whatever.
Chris: Like, with two Ts? Like, your rear?
Rachel: Yeah, no, with two Ts.
Chris: So you can't say, you can't say you're gonna kill someone, you can't say you're gonna kick someone's butt...
Rachel: Right. Um, yeah, you can, you can say, you know, you can say, "destroy," you can say "take out." My very, very favorite note is, even if they didn't have the proprietary names, you would know what show it was for? Which is from the episode "Sanctuary: Part 2" which is “another funeral for another person who isn't really dead? Please could you just show the X-Men talking informally about Magneto over coffee or something, not having another 'death ceremony' in the garden?"
Chris: [laughs] Look, they knew what they were getting into when they made a cartoon out of the X-Men. They knew there were gonna be a lot of funerals for people who weren't really dead.
Rachel: Well, they knew exactly what they were getting into because the - one of the interesting about the 90s series is that it hews really closely to the comics of that era.
Chris: That is both it's...in a lot of ways it's greatest strength and it's greatest weakness, is that it is jumping full on into 90s X-Men continuity. If you're 10 years old in 1992, and you're the kinda kid who is like you, or like me, where you have this insatiable desire to find out more about stuff-
Chris: -then it's great. You're like, "wait, who is that guy? How does this work? What did he do with Professor X in the Korean War? Why did Professor X show Magneto memories of the Holocaust to make him stop being evil?" Then, you wanna go find stuff out, so it's a great little cross-promotional tool. At the same time, it makes for a show that is ridiculous and confusing, and convoluted as heck.
Rachel: And that's another interesting thing is the first season of X-Men: The Animated Series and this in 1992, when this just really wasn't done, is basically one long story arc.
Chris: It was very important that the first couple arcs of the- or the first couple seasons of that show, did attempt to tell one continuing story. Unfortunately, in Season 3 that really falls apart, because they do, uh, The Dark Phoenix Saga, and The Phoenix Saga. They do that as basically one ten-part story. But, for some reason, episodes were delayed, or they wanted to fill stuff out in a different way, so the episode orders got mixed up for everything that wasn't those two stories. So, you have stuff that's coming from Season 4, you have episodes that are shown out of order, in between The Phoenix Saga and The Dark Phoenix Saga that makes things feel really complicated and weird.
Rachel: That's, that's the season that bought in Sinister, isn't it? Or was that Season 2?
Chris: Season 2 is the Mister Sinister stuff, which is unfortunately a, a season long plot. Which is also weird, 'cause Season 1 holds together really well. Season 1 is all about the Sentinels. It starts with, uh, "Night of the Sentinels," where Jubilee gets attacked at the mall, and the X-Men kinda come together, then it goes to Magneto being mad about the Sentinels. It focuses on that really tightly. Uh, the end of the season, they go to Genosha, they go fight Master Mold, they do all that stuff in the first season. And like you and Miles said, uh, I think last week, that makes a great enemy for the first season and a first arc. The thing that I really love about the X-Men is that they have this big metaphor at the core of it, but they go blow up giant robots and that's how racism ends. Season 2 has this ongoing plot about Mister Sinister and the Savage Land.
Rachel: For those of you unfamiliar with, with Mister Sinister, he is basically the warm throbbing heart of everything that is horrible about X-Men continuity. Um, he is a guy who's been around since the Victorian Era, and basically has manipulated everything forever. Again we're gonna, we're gonna get into him in more depth later, but basically, what you need to know for our purposes is that bringing him into a kids' cartoon, even when it's pretty continuity heavy is completely fucking insane.
Chris: I have no idea what Mister Sinister's powers are.
Rachel: [crosstalk] Um-
Chris: I've been reading X-Men comics for literally 20 years. I have no idea what that dude's deal is.
Rachel: There is not a clean answer to that question and there's never going to be.
Chris: So Professor X and Magneto go to the Savage Land, right?
Chris: They're stuck there. And every episode will have like, five minutes, uh, interspersed in where they're dealing with whatever they're dealing with in the Savage Land.
Chris: The problem is that the rest of the team, you know, time passes normally. Like, there's essentially a year happening, and nobody is concerned is about Professor X being missing, presumed dead.
Rachel: And to be fair, this is a guy who basically fakes his own death on a regular basis just to be a dick.
Chris: If you lived with those guys, you'd fake your death too.
Chris: They're the 90s X-Men. They look like the 90s X-Men, so it's, you know, Cyclops, Wolverine, Jean Grey with no code name, which I've always hated..
Chris: ...Rogue, Gambit, Jubilee, Storm. The-the team that you would find in the comic called X-Men, adjectiveless X-Men. The stories that they take on, especially in Season 3 are Claremont/Byrne stories, so you get these weird episodes where Gambit is playing Nightcrawler, and Rogue is playing Colossus? It leads to a lot of questions about, well, why didn't they just do this? Because those characters have vastly different powers. And personalities.
Rachel: I think the tie-in to the comics is, is the answer to that. That they were, they were looking for something that would be recognizable to kids who'd seen the comics and then that kids would recognize in the comics. What's weird about that though is that there was actually also a direct comics adaptation of that series called X-Men Adventures.
Chris: Which was based on the success of the Batman Adventures comic, which was not an adaptation, it was just set in the animated-style universe by Kelley Puckett and Mike Parobeck. The-
Rachel: [crosstalk] Well, and the Batman cartoon is a much, much more substantial-
Chris: [crosstalk] Better?
Rachel: Well, yeah, it is, it is much better-
Rachel: - and it's - this is wild, I didn't realize this until Chris and I started talking, but the Batman animated series, the, the Bruce Timm one was airing at exactly the same time as this X-Men series, and if you look at this X-Men series in context of like, previous superhero cartoons, it looks great. If you look at it in context of the fact that it's airing at the same time as that, it is just like, there's, there's no comparison.
Chris: Especially when you get to the ideas of BS & P. Bruce Timm and Paul Dini really pushed back against that stuff. There's a really, kind of famous drawing that Bruce Timm did, where it's everything they said they couldn't do. So, you know, they had this list of regulations from BS & P, where it was like, no guns, no gunshot wounds, no strangulation, no sex, oh, and no broken glass, that was a weird thing. So it's Batman crashing through a window while Catwoman is strangling him, and she's in, like a negligee, and he's getting shot with a gun and has a big hole in his chest. But they didn't, they never went to that extreme on the show, but obviously, there are guns in the opening-
Rachel: [crosstalk] Yeah.
Chris: -of Batman: The Animated Series.
Rachel: And the, the no realistic weapons. "Weapons have to be futuristic" is something you see CONTINUALLY in the BS & P notes on X-Men too, that you must be-
Chris: [crosstalk] Oh, that is-
Rachel: -must be futuristic. "Must not be replicable" is another big one, so you can't see - if Gambit picks a lock, he has to be off panel or using his powers , for instance?
Chris: That is my favorite thing about the Nightcrawler episode. Because when they introduced Nightcrawler, they used the Eastern-European peasantry.
Chris: The-the mob of stereotypical Eastern-European peasants who are dressed like they're in a Dracula movie?
Rachel: I assume that is actually Latveria's pri-primary export.
Chris: Probably so!
Rachel: That Doctor Doom just rents out groups of peasants with pitchforks.
Chris: Yeah, so there's dudes in like, the lederhosen and the hats with the feathers in it and a guy who looks like a, a continental soldier, and they have laser guns. They have giant laser pistols.
Rachel: [laughs] I had completely forgotten that, WOW.
Chris: I think Batman got around it in a lot of ways with the art deco stuff.
Rachel: [crosstalk] Yeah.
Chris: Like, the guns, the guns are very recognizably guns, but they do have that kind of rounded art deco. Like, they're very pretty guns.
Rachel: Batman's a lot more stylized in general. The X-Men cartoon, the first one, is trying really hard to basically be animated Jim Lee art, and it succeeds to varying extents, but you're not gonna really see a, a distinct stylized take with its own voice until the next animated series, which is X-Men: Evolution.
Chris: You can say that X-Men: The Animated Series looks like garbage. Like, you can say that, it's fine, Rachel.
Rachel: There is - yeah, the thing is, I'm trying not to say that because there are, there are a few episodes where it gets so much worse that the rest of the series looks a lot better by comparison. Um, you're not at "Jubilee's Fairy Tale" yet. It is literally the worst animation that I have ever seen in a cartoon that actually aired. Miles has a theory, actually, that you can tell how rushed the animation is by whether or not Wolverine has arm hair?
Chris: There's an episode where they color in his arms, so it's like he's wearing a long-sleeved version of his costume. So they color in his arms, but they leave the arm hair.
Rachel: I-I'm gonna 'cide, just decide that in my headcanon that just means that he's wearing angora.
Rachel: So, I wanna go back to how closely the series stuck to the comic, because they pulled in a lot of really complicated, weird stuff, and sometimes it, it flopped dreadfully, but sometimes it really worked. One of my favorite episodes involves the Mojoverse, which is this, this alternate universe that comes from a series tangentially connected to X-Men, um, the Longshot series. It's basically this, this weird, screwed up universe, entirely obsessed with and themed around and organized around entertainment and television. And in the comic it's a, it's a cool concept, and it's fun and it's a little weird, it's um, Ann Nocenti's, uh, Art Adams' series. When you take that concept and you pull it into an actual TV show, it suddenly becomes a whole, whole lot darker. And a whole whole lot more interesting.
Chris: Yeah, we were talking about this the other day, where, in a comic you get it, but it's always gonna have that weird cross-media problem of being a comic that's trying to replicate the feeling of a TV show. Um--
Rachel: And in the cartoon you kinda feel complicit to it.
Chris: Yeah, 'cause you are actually watching the TV show where all this is happening. It's doing, it's a parody of TV that is existing as a TV show, which is actually really fun. Plus that episode has the Punisher in it, so I'm a pretty big fan.
Rachel: Alright, so I wanna move on to X-Men: Evolution. Now I mentioned this before as the first X-Men animated series that really had its own distinct look and feel. It's also the one that first broke really hard from comics continuity. It's-it's basically high school X-Men, all of, all of the X-Men live, or a bunch of them live at the Xavier school, they're all teenagers, well, they're mostly teenagers. They all go to the local public high school whose principal is Mystique in disguise and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants are like, rival students. It's a really silly premise. It literally, it reads like they got it off fanfiction.net.
Chris: No, do you not like that premise?
Rachel: [uncertainly] I don't know. Um, I like the show more than I like the premise. I think-
Chris: See, that's funny, 'cause I like the premise more than I like the show.
Rachel: I feel like X-Men is such a teen drama already a lot of the time? That setting it in an actual high school becomes so literal that it stops being as fun. Um, it's als- it also creates a lot of really strange logic and continuity conflicts. So, like, like they all-
Chris: [crosstalk] See-
Rachel: -they all go to the Xavier Institute but they also all go to public high school, so how do you - how do they explain that...
Chris: See, that makes way more sense for me. Because my problem with the X-Xavier School is..who is teaching them, like, the subjects they need to be alive? Who is teaching them math? Making the X-Mansion of the Xavier Institute 100% focused on dealing with their mutant powers and training them to be superheroes, and then letting them also go to school, so that they basically have this paramilitary after-school club, I think really works, I think it really makes sense. The other thing is that you talk about how the X-Men are already kind of a teen drama, which is true, but Evolution allows them to really underscore that in a literal way. The prob- we talked about one of the problems with, uh, X-Men: The Animated Series being that it is this weird, literal translation, uh, as opposed to Batman or even Spider-Man, where it was trying, kind of trying to boil things down, and present them in a way that would make sense for people who were new to the franchise. Evolution, I think, does that, and it does that by literalizing the metaphors, and making them a little bit more relatable. So you have, you know, goth teen Rogue, who I think is, again, a fantastic idea.
Rachel: Yeah. I would say-
Chris: [crosstalk] That said, I have only seen like, three episodes of X-Men: Evolution and did not enjoy it [laughs].
Rachel: If I recall, the ones you've mostly seen are Season 1 and it gets radically better over the course of the show. But I think, I mean I think you're right about paring things down, and about changing, changing the circumstances. One of the things that it does really well and one of the things that does by making them all teenagers who go to the same school is make the Brotherhood a lot more sympathetic, and a lot more...it does a lot more with the concept of-of mutants as a collective class, rather than as just like, there are superhero teams and supervillain teams who happen to be mutants, that it's, it's sort of an "everyone sinks or swims" scenario. And like the original animated series, it does some pretty direct takes on a lot of original concepts from the comics, but I think X-Men: Evolution is a lot more successful in adapting them, and changing them, and making them work in a new medium and a new context. Some of that has to be, I think, because they broke so far from the original plot, but for example, I love their version of Apocalypse, who is one of those characters who..really bores me, most of the time. Um, so monomaniacal, and so insanely overpowered that he just, he just stops being interesting. They managed to take that character, and to take that character's M.O. and actually create a really , really original and really different, really surprisingly accessible spin on it. It was supposed to go on for - it ran for four seasons, 52 episodes, and there was supposed to be another season, and they were apparently planning to tackle the Phoenix Sagas in the next season 'cause that last episode ends with basically a montage of, "Here's all the animation we started and we're never gonna get to finish, you bastards!"
Chris: I think the Phoenix Saga probably makes a lot more sense, if you're looking at these kids as high schoolers, than as these weird adults who look like they're 40, like they do in, uh, X-Men: The Animated Series. Like, there's no way Cyclops is under, like, 35.. [laughs] in that comic.
Rachel: You know, that's actually a place Evolution really falls short, too, because I- it's a trope in live-action television having, having high-schoolers who look like, like they're 30, and there's just no excuse for it in animation, and Evolution does it. Like, Jean Grey is the worst as far as that, but it's a pretty persistent problem. The other thing that Evolution brought in, um, Evolution has, we-we talked about Batman: The Animated Series and one of the things Batman Animat- The Animated Series brought back to the comics was Harley Quinn. X-Men: Evolution has...I love this analogy because it's the least appropriate one ever, that the Harley Quinn of-of X-Men: Evolution is X-23.
Chris: Oh, I thought you were gonna go with Spike.
Rachel: No. Fuck no, Spike is, Spike is weird gender-swapped Marrow.
Chris: I think it's because the costume, and maybe - look, maybe I'm just being super-racist. I always thought Spike was kinda brought to comics as, uh, Tike from the, uh, X-Statix.
Rachel: Maybe with should talk about Spike, because there are, there are two black characters on this series, and they're related, and..
Rachel: ...and one of them - like, Spike's description literally could have come from that satirical Dwayne McDuffie pitch about-
Chris: [crosstalk] Yes.
Rachel: -black teenagers with skateboards that he wrote literally ten years before this series was on the air, and it's just - Evolution gets a lot of shit right, Spike is not one of the things it gets right.
Chris: It's been a while since I saw him. He looks like Simon Phoenix from Demolition Man.
Rachel: And he fights crime on a skateboard.
Chris: Like, I am pro-skateboard crimefighting in all its forms. I think you know that.
Rachel: I'm gonna digress from X-Men for a moment, actually, because that brings me to something I keep on forgetting to ask you, which is whether Lin-Z in Jem is actually Dazzler
Chris: Uh, I think you, I think you might have something there. That she's the, she's the Dazzler of the, of the Jem universe. Now keep in mind, Jem, uh, was animated by Marvel Studios, and Sunbow. Jem, The Inhumanoids, Transformers and G.I. Joe are all set in the same universe, which has never been exploited in comics, un-until I get hired to do it.
Rachel: Alright, so, that's X-Men: Evolution. There's a third animated series that lasted for one season, and it's called Wolverine and the X-Men. It's the most recent one. Um, it was, i-it aired, um, in 2008 and 9, in Canada. 2009 in the US. It was 26 episodes, and the fact that it was not more should actually be a crime with legal repercussions, because it was so damn good. It might be set-set in, like, the same continuity as Evolution. It can be. There's no direct conflict saying it can't and it's got a lot of the same creative team. Um, and definitely a lot of the same writers, I think, uh, Chris Yost, who's one of the writers on-on Evolution was either showrunner or lead writer on it. It's fantastic. It is.. really well animated, it takes basically the best of the previous two series. So it's got a lot of the nods to the comics. It's got mostly adult cast. It takes the key concepts and the key aspects of the characters and sets them in a different enough context that they can really run in different directions and come up with stories that work well in a cartoon and work well, you know, in 2008 and 9 instead of in, in the late 70s. It's a really cool show. It also has a STUNNINGLY good voice cast. Um, I started watching it because it has, because, um, Nolan North plays Cyclops and it's like, my favorite voice actor, as my favorite character in a cartoon about my favorite superheroes, so… Stephen Blum, who plays Wolverine is also just superlative. Um, he is the best on-air Wolverine. You mentioned before, Wolverine's your favorite character in the original animated series, and he's been done - he's really good in all three of those, but the one character who I think actually beats him as far as really faring well in adaptations is Beast.
Chris: Yeah, which was frustrating, when I went back to watch, uh, the first season, 'cause Beast spends the entire first season in jail. Uh, he very rarely shows up. It's not 'till Season 2 that he gets to actually be a part of the cast. Which is when he is, uh, trying to have sex with computers, and also is in love with a blind girl who only shows up once.
Rachel: There's - there's never been a bad Beast adaptation. He's-he's great in the live-action movies. In… just two radically different versions. He's really good in all of the cartoons.
Chris: I… don't know if he's that good in X-Men 3 [laughs].
Rachel: He's.. by the standards of X-Men 3 he's good.
Chris: Well, yeah.
Rachel: Which, yeah-
Chris: Like if we're, if we're gonna agree on that curve, yes. But I actually really do like him in First Class, a lot.
Rachel: Likewise. And he's, so in that way he's kind of the opposite of Storm, who has yet to actually not be terrible in an adaptation. She's like, one of the best characters in the comics. And she's, there has just never been a good on-screen Storm. She's.. awful in all of the animated series. In the movies, she's… yeah, I have opinions about Halle Barry's Storm that I'm-
Chris: Where - if you could meet Storm, somewhere, where would you like to meet her?
Rachel: A gay bar?
Chris: You wouldn't want to meet her.. [as Animated Series Storm] at the monorail?!
Rachel: Have you been… just waiting this entire time for-for something you could, you could tag that onto?
Rachel: Okay. Now, if you haven't seen the X-Men animated series, what you should know is that Chris does a really good impression of Storm from that. Like, that-that is literally what she sounds like, and she does not speak in anything that's not dramatically declared in-in the original cartoon. It's-
Chris: [crosstalk] Yeah.
Rachel: -it's stunning. Like, she can order pizza and be like, [as Animated Series Storm] "I would like… mushrooms!"
Chris: [crosstalk] She-
Rachel: [as Animated Series Storm] "And double cheese!"
Chris: She only speaks in pronouncements.
Rachel: [laughs] Which is kind of great. Like, it's… the thing about watching the cartoon for the first time as an adult, like, I have no nostalgia attached to this. And it's hilarious. The ways it's bad are generally pretty funny.
Chris: I like it, because it's the only acknowledgement that Storm is… Storm is a goddess. Like, she was worshiped as a goddess. So she speaks, like Thor, basically [laughing] on that cartoon. She is a very, like, everything she says is spoken ex-cathedra.
Rachel: We've got a bunch of questions, so I think we should dive into those. Uh, ellemariecollins on Tumblr asks, has one for actually both of us - "Rachel - which episode of X-Men: Evolution should I watch to appreciate what's good about the show and see if it's for me?" and "Chris - which one episode of 90s X-Men should I rewatch to best enjoy the nostalgia and ridiculousness?"
Chris: Ooh. That's, uh, that is a tough one. Do you have one for Evolution?
Rachel: I do. I actually, I know Elle, so some of the-th-wha-I-I have two recommendations. One of them's a personal rec-recommendation because I know that Elle shares my deep, deep seated love for girl gang movies? And there's an episode of X-Men: Evolution that's actually a really direct homage to that entire genre. Um, Season 2, Episode 10 called, "Walk on the Wild Side." For a more general introduction to the show, I would actually start with Season 3, Episode 2. It's called "The Stuff of Heroes," a lot of continuity's gone down before it, but you can pretty much dive in, and it gives you a really good sense of the dynamic between the characters, the feel of the show, and what makes it worth watching. And you can go back to Season 1 and be sorely, sorely disappointed.
Chris: Uh, the two that I would recommend...the-the one that we talked about earlier in the show is Episode, uh, 11 of Season- er, Episode 11 of Season 3, it's called "Obsession." It's the one written by an actual pick-up artist. Uh, a dude who we looked up, and he has written a book in order to tell 40-year-old guys how to hook up with 20-year-old girls. So it's written by a complete creep. Uh, it's got Apocalypse in it, it's got, uh, Beast trying to have sex with a computer, it's got Gambit, like, lurking around corners when Rogue isn't paying enough attention to him. It's, it's a hoot. It's, it's bad, but it is the kind of bad where you're like, "Okay, yeah, this is exactly what this show is." Uh, the other one I would suggest is, uh, uh, ha- "Have Yourself a Morlock Little Christmas," is always a good one, because--
Rachel: [crosstalk] Oh, god, really?
Chris: But the X-Men are complete assholes in it, and it's hilarious. Like, they realize that the Morlocks don't have Christmas, so they just like, hang out in the sewer. They don't invite them to their nice house. Uh, the other episode that I would genuinely recommend, though, is from, uh, Season 2. It's the Mojo episode, which, again, we talked about that. I think it works really well as a, uh, as a TV show. Cyclo- or, uh, Psylocke makes an an appearance. The Super-Adaptoid is in it. Punisher shows up. There's a Miami Vice parody that happened in 1994, for all the kids who not alive when Miami Vice was on.
Rachel: Yeah, it - that's probably the most sort of subtle and grown-up and written on two levels episode of the series.
Chris: It really is. It's-it's the one where you can tell where like, the 40-year-old writing staff was having a little fun with it.
Rachel: Yeah, it's-it's really clever.
Chris: I think that our next question is from...sanveerbindra? On - is that on Tumblr?
Rachel: It is, yeah.
Chris: Uh, who says, "When were the costume designs used in the show for the main team first introduced in the comics? And what's your opinion on the costumes? Which ones work best, and which ones the worst?"
Rachel: Okay, the majority of the costumes in the show come from the 1991 Jim Lee relaunch, um, where he redesigned the team. So these are the ones with the pouches, and everyone's got leather jackets. There are two ma-major exceptions to that. Those are Gambit, who pretty much keeps his original Mike Collins designed costume, which he did in the Jim Lee relaunch as well, and Wolverine, who basically sports the blue and gold costume from Dave Cockrum and Gil Kane for Giant Size X-Men #1 in 1975, which he's really been wearing variations on pretty much forever.
Chris: Yeah, there's the Byrne suit that's the, the brown and orange one that he wears for a little bit.
Rachel: [crosstalk] Does that show up in the cartoon?
Chris: No, it doesn't. Uh, the only other costumes that come up in the cartoon are his crazy Weapon X gear, where it's the black, uh, head-to-toe suit with the gold pouches and stuff, which I had the action figure of, and I really liked, and uh, then his, his Age of Apocalypse costume that he gets in Season 4.
Rachel: [crosstalk] Which is amazing.
Chris: Which one would you say is the best of that crop, Rachel?
Rachel: Oh, god. Um...I mean, I kinda like Rogue's? I feel like Rogue is one of the only characters who the jacket really works for?
Chris: Rogue, by her nature as a character, kind of has to have that head-to-toe covering. But if she's just there in a crazy, you know, skin-tight bodysuit, it looks weird. Like, when you see her drawn without the jacket, she looks weird.
Chris: So the jacket is a nice little accessory for her, I think.
Rachel: Yeah, the jacket actually feels like part of her costume rather than, "I'm in my costume and it's kind of chilly out, so let's see what I can grab outta the coat closet," which is what everyone else's kind of looks like?
Chris: [laughing] Right, especially Cyclops
Rachel: As-as far as the worst, I mean, I feel like Gambit's kind of cheating, because Gambit's costume is the worst costume FOREVER.
Chris: Gambit's costume is so bad, that I have kind of come back around to loving it. Once you realize he's peacocking, it makes so much sense.
Rachel: [laughs] Something that I appreciate about the original cartoon, that gets, just, completely ruined in Evolution is, um, when-when they do the, the requisite going back to New Orleans to seeing - to see the T'ieves Guild, um --
Chris: [in a Cajun accent] "Tithe, Remy!"
Rachel: Right. Ah, that's the other thing, is that they all do the accents exactly how they're written out phonetically in the comics [laughs].
Chris: Oh, they do, they go, they go full Claremont on those accents, and it's beautiful.
Rachel: But, um, they go back, and in the comic, they're seeing the Thieves and the Assassins guilds, these two guilds that-that operate clandestinely, and there is more combined neon in those two guilds than in the entire rest of like the 1990s put together. They are amazing. They look like they are the rave guilds. I really love that, I think for many of the same reasons that you love Gambit's costume in that it's so stupid that it becomes awesome, and they tone it way down in Evolution and it was so disappointing! That's the whole point of going back to New Orleans, is that everyone has ridiculous hair and like, three pairs of neon sleeves.
Chris: My.. thing about Gambit, is that Gambit is a thief. That is his origin. That is his function.
Chris: So, what does a thief wear? Well, he wears a bright pink body-armor suit. Uh, he wears literal metal boots for sneaking around, and he wears fingerless gloves, so that he doesn't leave prints. Thief! Uh, I don't think his is the worst costume, though. It's Jean.
Rachel: Oohh. Yeah.
Chris: Jean's 90s costume is like, literally the worst superhero costume of all time. Okay, I'll be honest with you, Rachel.
Chris: I don't like the original X-Men. The original five. The-the only one I like at all is Beast. The other ones, I actively hate. Well, Warren I just don't care about. Bobby, I.. just don't care about. But, Jean is like-
Rachel: [crosstalk] So what you're saying is that you actively hate Cyclops.
Chris: I hate, I hate Cyclops and Jean. I think Cyclops and Jean are boring as hell. And I know that, [laughing] I know that that is a, for people listening to an X-Men podcast, that is a travesty.
Chris: But I, again I think it it's because I encountered them on the cartoon. For two seasons, all Jean does is attempt to use her powers and then go, [as Animated Series Jean] "Scott!" and fall down. And she does it in the worst possible costume. I hate that she doesn't have a code name. Which sucks, because Marvel Girl is a great code name, and so is Phoenix. Uh, those are both-
Rachel: [crosstalk] Phoenix is good, I disagree with you about Marvel Girl. I think Marvel Girl is one of those code names that's really good when your, when your character is 17.
Chris: I-I don't think Marvel Girl is a great code name for Jean, but I think it's, uh, I think it's better than Jean Grey. I don't, like, why did she not have code name? In the 90s?
Rachel: I don't know, that's something that-
Chris: [crosstalk] Is it just because, like, she comes back from being Phoenix, and she's like, "Well, I'm not Phoenix anymore." Which, why doesn't she go back to Marvel Girl, or Marvel Woman? I just don't understand why there's a team that has [exaggerated voice] Cyclops. Wolverine. Gambit. Storm. [normal voice] And Jean Grey. And also that costume SUCKS.
Rachel: That costume - I'm trying to remember what it looks like, and I can't get a clear picture of it in my head, which actually sums up my biggest argument with it, is that it's really, really generic. It's so boring-
Chris: [crosstalk] It is a...
Rachel: -it has absolutely nothing to do with her powers, it has absolutely nothing to do with… anything.
Chris: It is a nude colored bodysuit, with a big black 'V' from the shoulders to the crotch, a giant X-belt, and then a head sock. Uh, uh, which sucks, because the Phoenix costume? Is my favourite-
Rachel: [crosstalk] The Phoenix costume is great.
Chris: Yeah, the-the-the Dave Cockrum Phoenix costume, which I always accidentally attribute to John Byrne, because it looks so much like a John Byrne costume-
Chris: -uh, is one of the best. I love the colors, I love the big Phoenix logo, I love the sash, and the boots, like, it is such a great costume. And then she goes from that to the 90s suit, which is garbage.
Rachel: Well, I think it's an extension of the Jean Grey problem. Miles and I talked about this in the first episode, but where she never really got much identity or much central metaphor aside from being the girl, and so people have no idea what to do with her on a symbolic level. Like..
Rachel: ...you have other characters, and you can, you can sort of dress them up based on personality or based on powers, and she is just… she's been created such that her only identifying feature is something you absolutely can't build a costume around.
Rachel: Speaking of costumes, we have a costume from an anonymous querent on Tumblr who asks, "Why won't Beast put a shirt on in the 90s cartoon?"
Chris: He does! Now, he does, he never puts on a shirt when it would be appropriate to do so.
Rachel: Yeah, he testifies topless in front of Congress.
Chris: He testifies in front of Congress in briefs. Which is amazing. Which is a life goal for me. He does science, in a lab, while wearing a jacket, and just presumably shedding everywhere, but there's an episode in, uh, I think it's Season 3, I think it's during the Phoenix Saga, where they go to... uh, the hospital, to attend to Jean, and he is fully clothed. He's wearing jeans, he's wearing a jacket, he's wearing shoes, which is hilarious, for Beast to wear-
Rachel: [crosstalk] 'Cause he never - yeah, he never even wears shoes in the comics, it's a thing in the Silver Age, like, a group of beatniks start a cult around the fact that he never wears shoes.
Chris: But he's wearing a t-shirt, and the t-shirt is a Howard the Duck t-shirt.
Rachel: That raises some really interesting questions.
Chris: Oh, it raises a lot of questions [laughs]. Of all the Marvel universe cameos in, uh, X-Men: The Animated Series - and there are a LOT- uh, Captain America makes a cameo, Doctor Strange makes a cameo, um...
Rachel: Captain America makes a cameo in everything that involves a Wolverine flashback. That's-that's, like, that's a rule, except for the movies, because they don't have the rights to him. But, but literally, like, there's something contractual, where, when you do a Wolverine flashback episode it has to have Captain America in it.
Chris: But Howard the Duck being on Beast's t-shirt is weird. Although it does make perfect sense that if Beast was gonna read a comic, he'd be really into Steve Gerber.
Rachel: Which also raises some questions.
Chris: Uh, Greg Thelen asks, "What's the deal with Morph? Was he a good character or...what?"
Rachel: Oh, man, so we managed to go through all of this, and talking about the original series, and where it differed from the comics without mentioning Morph. Morph is the "other guy." He's based on, he's-he's an original to the-the animated series character, but he's based on Kevin Sidney, who was the Changeling in the Silver Age. Um, he was a Roy Thomas character, he showed up really briefly, and he's most famous for his role in one of the many times that Xavier faked his own death. Which.. happens a lot. Um... now, they're not actually the same character, and the, the running explanation is that Morph is an alternate universe version of the same dude, and the reason for that is that when he finally showed up in the comics, it was in the reality hopping series Exiles, um, and their Morph is from Earth-1081. This is for those of you playing along at home with your-your-your Multiverse Bingo Cards, which should be a thing that exists. And the main continuity differences between that universe and the main 616 universe are basically, Morph exists, so a whole bunch is subtly different. Um, and the Phoenix gets killed.
Chris: Right, and that.. civilian name is a retcon, because it is never mentioned on the show.
Rachel: No, he doesn't, he doesn't actually get that name applied until, um, until Exiles, I think.
Chris: That's something else we didn't talk about, which was, I-I don't know if this was a, uh, Standards and Practices note, or just something they wanted to do to make things easier for the kids. No one gets a civilian name. Except Jean. Um.
Rachel: And Scott.
Chris: Not until the second season. Like, the first season ends with Cyclops proposing marriage, and she goes, "I love you, Cyclops!"
Chris: Which is hilarious! So… Morph on the show was created because, they, uh, needed someone to die, in the first episode. And-
Rachel: And I assume that BS & P had explained to them that they could not use the only Native American character in X-Men for decades for this, which is-is what happens in, in the actual series.
Chris: So they just make up a new guy, and it's Morph, who has the power to turn into… he's a, he's a shapeshifter. And then the-
Rachel: [crosstalk] He's a cartoon.
Chris: Yeah, he's a cartoon. And then the Changeling connection is retconned much later.
Rachel: What's interesting about Morph, too, in the first episode, is that he is Wolverine's BFF. Like, they are super tight. And it's really strange, because Wolverine is - I mean, he's Wolverine. He's this super serious growly anti-authoritarian dude, and the only person he gets along with is this guy who's basically intensely silly.
Chris: He does impressions.
Rachel: Yeah, he does impressions. Please-
Chris: Well, what would - do you think Morph is a good character?
Rachel: Um… in the cartoon, no. I think he's a good character in Exiles.
Chris: I think he is poorly subtle X-Man to be sacrificed in their first mission, and to leave Wolverine to say things like, [as Animated Series Wolverine], "You left him behind, soldier boy!"
Rachel: You know, I sort of disagree with that, because… I don't think you-you actually get to care about him enough for that to make a difference in the first episode.
Chris: No, but Wolverine does, and that's all that matters. They-they-they do, in that first episode, they do a really good job of making Wolverine super pissed off that they had to leave Morph behind. It co- it comes through really well. It's one of the highlights of that pilot.
Rachel: So I'm gonna, I'm gonna go through some more BS & P notes before we wrap up, because I've got, I've got a few more and they're wonderful. Uh, “please do not show Wolverine and Sabretooth, quote, trading blows, unquote; socking each other with their fists.”
Chris: [laughs] They can't - you can't… look, I was thinking maybe they thought "trading blows," um, meant something else? That I would agree you probably should not show on a cartoon for children?
Rachel: Me too, but then they've got that parenthetical.
Chris: Yeah, like, you can't show them punching each other?
Rachel: Nope. Sabretooth can't say he wants to kill Wolverine, they can't actually be shown hitting each other, uh, Sabretooth's capture needs to look non-violent, um, in one of those episodes. This is-
Chris: Oh, that's the episode where they leave Jubilee alone with Sabretooth. They're like, "Jubilee, you stay here with Sabretooth, we're gonna go check this out. It's too dangerous for you to go with us. But you can definitely.. uh, stay here. With Sabretooth. Alone."
Rachel: "Please do not show hospitalized patients being grabbed by tentacles.”
Chris: Okay. Haven't gotten there yet.
Rachel: Let's see, uh, "Please do not have the townspeople," quote, "splatter," unquote, "when Sinister blasts them. They may melt, or somesuch."
Chris: Wait, is, is melting [laughs], is melting really less violent and horrifying than splattering?
Rachel: I think… maybe the idea is that if they melt they're, they're more reconstitutable? Splattering seems more permanent. And then, from the same epi-episode, this is, this is one of those… someone at BS & P kind of hated their job notes? "As noted at outline stage, a fight will not be acceptable in the teaser. Sabretooth may not slam into Wolverine, who may not be hurled into a brick wall and knocked unconscious. Rogue may not be," quote, "smashed," unquote, "Beast may not slam into Sabretooth, and so on."
Chris: Guys, it is an action cartoon.
Rachel: Well, they'll-the-they can do what they do every time Wolverine pop his claws, which is just have him flail around and cut people's clothing in non-suggestive ways.
Chris: And again, like, you talked about this with the, the Sentinels, in the last episode. That's the one thing they can do. The one thing they can do is go sick-house on the Sentinels.
Rachel: Yeah, and Wolverine is always so strange in cartoons to me, because the thing he does is have big knives that come out of his hands, and last a really long time in brutal fights. Like-
Chris: Yeah, his power is that you can beat him up, and then he can still stab you. That's his entire deal.
Rachel: [crosstalk] So the challenge of taking him and putting him into a context where he can't stab anyone, he can't punch anyone super hard, and he can't get really beaten up. It's always a really interesting challenge, and it's interesting to see how differently the different shows go about that. I think Evolution, again, handles that best by making him a teacher at the school. Um, he and Storm are the two, the two of the X-Men who are actually adults, and they're, they're teachers at the, at the institute, and putting him in that more mentoring, paternal role gets around a lot of, a lot of those issues.
Chris: The thing that really sets up Wolverine on X-Men: Evolution for me, like, I said, I've seen very few episodes, but this is something that, uh, Chad Bowers, who's my co-writer on a lot of my comics, uh, and I will talk about, is that the first time you see Wolverine in that pilot, he goes into a bar, and goes, [as Animated Series Wolverine], "Water. Cold." It's like, "Oh man. This guy drinks cold water. What a badass."
Rachel: There's, there's a moment much, much later on. Um, the first season. no, like the first two and a half seasons are the, pull out the Silver Age miserable Cyclops-Marvel Girl sexual tension, neither of them will actually talk to each other, thing, and there's a scene in, in Season Three, in the episode, I remember the episode title, but not right at - it's called "Blind Alley," where Scott's talking to Wolverine, he's trying to figure out how to ask Jean out, and he's, he’s, he's putting it in really oblique terms, he's like, "Have you ever, you ever just really… really felt strongly about something? Like you just needed to do it?" And Wolverine goes on this great soliloquy. Where it sounds like he's talking about a girl, and it turns out he's talking about a motorcycle. The other thing about that, about creating that, making the character that old is it really, really changes the Wolverine-Cyclops dynamic, and it makes it a lot less… like, making them direct rivals never made a lot of sense to me? Because they're characters who are so different in concept that their, their, their rivalry almost becomes boring.
Chris: And I have always, I've always really hated the, the Wolverine-Jean-Cyclops love triangle. Probably because I hate two-thirds of that triangle. And also because, like, it's, it's like it's, does Wolverine really think [laughs], like, he's the guy for Jean? Like, no dude. Come on. Sh-she's not going to Madripoor and wearing an eye patch with you.
Rachel: Wou-would you go to Madripoor and wear an eye patch for Wolverine?
Chris: Uh. Obviously. Only high town, though, not low town.
Rachel: Um, we will be back, next week. Uh, we are figuring out our schedule for the next few weeks. There are some potential guests that we're kind of shifting things around with. But of the next three episodes, one will be a, an overview of alternate takes on the Silver Age, where we look at Children of the Atom, um, X-Men: Season One, X-Men: First Class. Another is gonna be a walk-up to the Days of Future Past movie where we go through the weird, weird dark futures of the Marvel multiverse, make a lot of Darkest Timeline Community jokes, and talk about our favorite and least favorite parts of the movies, and the third will lead into, really, the rest of “Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men” and in that we're gonna jump into Giant Size X-Men #1, which introduce the modern era of X-Men. As usual, we'll have clips and links up on the blog. Chris, thank you again so much for joining us. And thanks-
Chris: [crosstalk] Well, thank for having me, Rachel.
Rachel: -thank you everyone for listening.
[Outro: Excerpt of X-Men: The Animated Series theme song]
In this episode, Rachel mentions that Morph’s first comics appearance is in Exiles. It’s not: he’s in Age of Apocalypse.