If you grew up watching cartoons on Saturday morning in the 1990s, you definitely watched X-Men: The Animated Series. It was a rite of passage to tune into Fox Kids in the morning. Easily the most important series to come out of that block of TV was X-Men: The Animated Series. The show borrowed heavily from the comics of the time, including Jim Lee’s run. It wasn’t just a children’s retelling and reskin of those famous comics though. This series gave a more accessible version of events across the X-Men’s history. It also gave us storylines that would transcend the series.

With the arrival of X-Men ’97 on March 20th, there are going to be plenty of new fans to the series. If you haven’t checked out the original Animated Series, it’s the perfect time to do so. The X-Men have always been about inclusion, fighting for what’s right, and listening to those who are different than you. It drew upon thematic elements of the civil rights movement in the ’50s and ’60s among other things in our own political climate. The comics did that and made it digestible for audiences. Making those comics even easier to digest for younger audiences gave a new audience a love of comic books.

In a climate where people whine and complain at the simple thought of tolerance and inclusion, the animated series gave the idea that everyone was welcome here. Adding to that, the comic book movie boom (also kicked off by X-Men and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man), there was a new generation of comic book fans that were indoctrinated into the medium by X-Men: The Animated Series.

Age Of Apocalypse And More

Age Of Apocalypse is one of the most impressive and intricate comic book storylines in history. But did you know that it originated on X-Men: The Animated Series? Because it did. The two-episode arc “One Man’s Worth” from Season 4 inspired the 1995 massive comic-book event. The two episodes created a new hellish timeline where villains Trevor Fitzroy and Bantam travel back in time to kill Charles Xavier as a child. This sets off a chain of events that leads the world down a path to a massive war between humans and mutants. Bishop, the time-traveling mutant is tasked with setting things right and restoring the timeline to the current day.

It is one of the finest examples of how the series drew direct comparisons to the things marginalized people face in our own lives today. This was one of the finest examples of the Animated Series guiding the comic books and not the other way around. These sorts of event series are commonplace today, but in 1995, this was an absolutely massive piece of media.

Outside of that, there are some other obvious reasons. To this day, the show is still the best adaptation of the Dark Phoenix saga out there. Between the two tries that X-Men movies went for, they didn’t go great. The Animated Series however, knocked it out of the park with their adaptation, hitting all the necessary beats in the story, and giving fans a true 1:1 adaptation. If the people at Marvel Studios are listening, there’s your blueprint.

Characters That Weren’t Household Names Became Them

For many kids, they knew OF the X-Men, sure. But they didn’t know the nuances of the characters. They didn’t know exactly what made Wolverine tick, or the man behind Gambit. People could root for Rogue to make that full turn from reluctant supervillain to hero. Characters like Jubilee and Morph weren’t even on the cusp of non-comic readers minds, but after this show, you see people cosplaying as a variety of characters from X-Men: The Animated Series.

The idea that the X-Men could co-mingle with the stars of the MCU sometime soon is tantalizing to fans. They’ve seen the animated version meet up with various heroes, but now we want to see our favorites from the live-action MCU meet their live-action versions. There’s a reason why people were so crushed by the live-action portrayals in Fox’s universe because they drastically changed who they were from THIS version of them. More so than the comic books, X-Men: The Animated Series set up what audiences could and should expect from these characters.

From the costumes to the characterization, X-Men: The Animated Series is easily the most important piece of comic book medium to this day. It set up expectations for quality, characters, costumes, acting, and plenty more that are with us to this day. X-Men ’97 has huge shoes to fill, but it looks like its up to the task.

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