This post contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Ms. Marvel.
At first glance, X-Men ’97 seems like something that only ’90s kids will understand. The upcoming Disney+ show continues the classic cartoon series X-Men, which originally aired on Fox from 1992-1997. But despite featuring costumes and a lineup that debuted in the pages of early ’90s X-Men comics, the series owes its greatest debt to the comics Chris Claremont and Louise Simonson wrote in the ’70s and ’80s. Over five seasons, the X-Men animated series adapted some of the most beloved stories of those decades, including “Days of Future Past” and “The Dark Phoenix Saga.“
Yet, as much as the animators covered great tales from those eras, they left out some great stories involving team founder Professor Charles Xavier’s departure from the team, after which he appoints former arch-enemy Magneto as team leader and headmaster of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. But a first look at the return of X-Men ’97 suggests that the cartoon is finally ready to adapt some of those classic tales, too.
During the Marvel animation panel at SDCC, series writer Beau DeMayo revealed the main team for X-Men ’97. On board were seven of the expected team members, including Gambit, Wolverine, Jubillee (chili fries conspicuously absent), Cyclops, Storm (hair shorter, but not mohawk short), Jean Grey, and Beast. Missing from these images was Professor X, but present is Magneto, now the leader of the team. Even better, Magneto is shown not in the helmeted costume he wore in the original series, but instead in magenta duds, complete with a sleeveless tunic and long purple gloves.
Longtime readers of X-Men comics will best remember that look from the cover of Uncanny X-Men #200 (1985). A pivotal point in Magneto’s development, the issue sees the one-time villain tried for his super-crimes, be exonerated thanks to super-law (he had been reverted to infant state years ago, and thus has a blank slate in the eyes of Marvel Universe courts), and committed to working for peace between humans and mutants. The story kicked off several years of great arcs for the character, as the X-Men struggled to work with the man they once treated as an enemy.
The X-Men ’97 reveal comes just as the characters are poised to enter the MCU. Just this year, Patrick Stewart appeared again as Professor X in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (with a look more from the animated Xavier than from his outfits in the 2000s movies) and Ms. Marvel ended with the revelation that Kamala Khan had a “mutation,” a few notes from the classic X-Men animated series playing in the background. Ever since Disney purchased 20th Century Fox in 2019, fans have been waiting to see the beloved mutants make their MCU debut. These hints suggest that the time may be drawing near.
With this new team lineup, X-Men ’97 promises not to be a mere retread of the cartoon series from decades ago. Rather, it is committed to continue adapting some of the best superhero stories of all time, bringing the merry mutant soap opera to a new audience.
X-Men ’97 will hit Disney+ in Fall 2023, with a second season already in development.