Here are four clips from the released-today DVDs featuring the X-Men cartoon that many of us grew up with:
I’d somehow missed this during my freshman and sophomore years of college1 and for years, a certain subsect of comic fans have been telling me that the X-Men cartoon stood up to the Warner Brothers-produced Batman animated series that also aired on the FOX network, and I’d always quietly suspected that the haze of nerd nostalgia had prevented them from being objective about the matter. I’m sad to inform them after sampling a dozen episodes from the confusingly named “Marvel DVD Comic Book Collection” of the 90s X-Men cartoon, it’s all as bad as these clips would indicate and the series surely can’t hold a candle to its contemporary from another studio.
Where Batman was sleek and sharply written, effectively using decades of continuity and minimal, easily animated designs to get the most from a tight budget, the X-Men cartoon is a bloated mess that seems to revel in its fiscal and storytelling shortcomings. There’s overblown dialogue forced into the mouths of voice actors who seem more desperate than talented, animation that seems to be missing every other frame, and an intensely dispiriting take on the X-Men mythos that lacks any sort of joy, stripping away the themes of tolerance and education in exchange for hamfisted plotting and poorly done fight sequences. In a lot of ways, it’s emblematic of much of the comics being printed at the time, all cheap gloss with no substance and an ugly veneer that seems designed to attract teenage boys with more money than charisma.
There’s a reason that this cartoon has been buried in the past until Disney secured the rights to release it on DVD: if the Batman cartoon was frequently a night of passion with a fantastic partner, something you’d want to revisit again and again, X-Men is closer to ten minutes with a tube sock that you’d then bury in the laundry, hamfisted groping that is embarrassing after a certain age..
1You can speculate why in the comments. I’ll tell you that it rhymed with “girls, music, and some more girls, almost like a Jeffrey Brown book.”