The X-Men are finally coming to live action television. Sort of. Clearly set in the same universe and with franchise visionary Bryan Singer signed on as Executive Producer, Fox’s The Gifted is about as close as you’re going to get to a live action series called X-Men right now. Though not the first foray into a live action adaptation of Marvel’s Merry Mutants (that honor goes to 1996’s Generation X television movie) it is the first time one has been attempted since the X-Men franchise blew up in 2000.
The Gifted does have a problem in that it will, undoubtedly, be stacked up against a number of existing X-Men adaptations across various forms of media. And with good cause! Since 1963, the X-Men have been one of Marvel’s premiere titles, and have appeared in animated series, manga, video games, movies and more. And while Singer’s The Gifted has a lot of promise, it just doesn’t look like it’s going to stack up to what has already proven to be amazing! Here are 15 non-comic X-Men adaptations that The Gifted will never stack up to.
15. MARVEL SUPER HEROES
Released in arcades in 1995, Marvel Super Heroes is an odd choice for this list. After all, it’s the sequel to 1994’s X-Men: Children of the Atom, an X-Men exclusive fighting game. Though Marvel Super Heroes has fewer X-Men in it, it’s the presence of the Marvel Universe as a whole, something that has been desperately missing from Fox’s X-Men franchise, that cements this game as a classic.
Loosely based on the classic Infinity Gauntlet story, Marvel Super Heroes brings Wolverine, Magneto, Psylocke and Juggernaut into the game from X-Men: Children of the Atom, and pits them up against Marvel mainstays like Spider-Man, Captain America, Doctor Doom and, of course, Thanos. The action is fast, frenetic and instantly beloved. The game was very well received and was followed up by the now classic Marvel vs. Capcom franchise.
14. THE WOLVERINE
Fans were pretty appalled with the state of the X-Men films in the late 2000s. Following the critical and commercial failure of 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it looked like the franchise was dead in the water. Fortunately, a second change emerged, and director James Mangold was given the chance to make the first actually entertaining Wolverine solo film.
The Wolverine launched in 2013, outgrossing both franchise flops X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: The Last Stand. Critical reception was mixed, and with good cause. The story starts off with a classic Wolverine tale but then devolves into a weird Wolverine vs. Giant Mecha sequence at the end. Still, The Wolverine is credited with restoring credibility to the franchise’s top draw and led up to two more Hugh Jackman outings as the character.
13. PRYDE OF THE X-MEN
Marvel had a bit of an animated universe going on in the late ‘70s to early ‘80s, starting with Fantastic Four and running through Spider-Woman, Spider-Man, Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends and The Incredible Hulk. There was another series slated to join the ranks, though. The X-Men were overdue for an animated series, and after numerous appearances on other programs were finally given the green light.
Airing during the Marvel Action Universe block, the show featured a classic roster, consisting of Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Dazzler and new student Kitty Pryde. Created by Toei Animation, Pryde of the X-Men has an incredible level of quality for the time but marked the end of Marvel’s animated universe due to financial woes. Thankfully, it lived on into the ‘90s, re-released on VHS to cash in on the success of 1992’s X-Men cartoon.
12. WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN
Though in no way connected, Wolverine & The X-Men grabbed a lot of fans who felt it was the spiritual successor to fan favorite X-Men: Evolution. The two were clearly distinguished, with producers stating beforehand they weren’t related. Still, the similar art styles and storytelling constructs drew comparisons, and not necessarily in a bad way.
Though received incredibly well by fans, Wolverine & The X-Men only ran for one season of 26 episodes, with Disney’s purchase of Marvel creating complications for a second season. Producers had made plans for more episodes, including the introduction of X-Force and fan favorite characters such as Jubilee and Havok, but it was never meant to be. The series legacy does continue today, however, with much of the voice cast reprising roles for various Marvel Universe animated series.
11. LEGO MARVEL SUPER HEROES
DC made a pretty penny with their Lego Batman games, but Marvel upped the ante with Lego Marvel Super Heroes. Featuring a roster consisting of pretty much the entire Marvel Universe, the game notably features a large portion of X-Men characters. This is a feat you don’t normally see, thanks to the sheer size of the X-Men’s potential rosters.
The game itself was well received, thanks to its frenetic gameplay and crisp art style. Seeing the classic X-men characters rendered as Lego characters was a real treat, especially seeing them in their classic ‘90s costumes. The game did well enough to eventually warrant a sequel which was recently announced, as well as an MCU slanted sequel in Lego Marvel’s The Avengers.
10. X2: X-MEN UNITED
X-Men set what seemed at the time to be an impossible standard to follow, but the bizarrely titled X2: X-Men United managed to surpass expectations. Based loosely on the classic graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills, Singer’s sophomore film expanded on the backstory and motivations of nearly every character from the original film (poor Cyclops is kidnapped early on and barely in the film).
Uniting the X-Men with the villains they had previously fought and introducing Nightcrawler to the franchise, X2 set the standard for X-Men films, if not comic book films in general until Spider-Man 2 changed the game a year later. Sadly, the follow-up saw franchise helm Bryan Singer leave to make Superman Returns, and on-coming director Brett Ratner’s follow-up X-Men: The Last Stand was regarded as a flop.
9. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
Following the flop of 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the critical failure of 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, a planned Magneto prequel was shelved due to a Writer’s Guild strike. It looked like the X-Men films were done, but then the unexpected happened: the Magneto script was reworked into a soft reboot for the franchise, and fans got arguably one of the most true-to-form X-Men movies to date.
Directed by Matthew Vaughn, X-Men: First Class released in 2011 and featured James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr, setting about forming what would eventually become The X-Men. Ditching black leather for bright colors and a more vibrantly varied cast of mutants, X-Men: First Class is regarded by many as the best of the franchise to date.
8. X-MEN: EVOLUTION
X-Men: Evolution came at an odd time for comic book fans. Less than a year earlier, The New Batman/Superman Adventures had ended its storied run and was still widely regarded as the standard of comic book television. With a line-up now hanging on the shoulders of Batman Beyond and Static Shock!, X-Men: Evolution was weirdly placed as an all-ages, kid-friendly take on the characters.
If it seems like an odd choice following the Fox animated series, it’s because it was. After the comics-accurate, story-heavy drama of the original X-Men cartoon, X-Men: Evolution skewed much younger and played fast and loose with the mythos. Still, though, it worked. The stories were fresh and engaging, and in later seasons the series showed it wasn’t afraid to move darker. X-Men: Evolution lasted a solid 4 seasons before ending in 2003.
7. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
When Matthew Vaughn revitalizing the X-Men franchise with First Class and James Mangold restoring credibility with The Wolverine, Fox got even more ambitious with Days of Future Past. Co-written by Vaughn, featuring the casts of both First Class and returning actors from the original X-Men trilogy, the film sealed the deal with fans by bringing back franchise helmer Bryan Singer.
The film plays like a breath of fresh air, a loving tribute to characters created 14 years earlier while still putting the focus on the First Class iterations. Notable is Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, present as a primary focus in the marketing but in some way incapacitated so that major events can focus on newer characters. Days of Future Past was long regarded as a high point of the franchise, though Singer’s follow-up, X-Men: Apocalypse, was sadly less well received.
6. X-MEN LEGENDS
There have been a lot of X-Men games released over the years, from LJN’s unplayable The Uncanny X-Men on the NES to Activision’s awkward (yet entertaining) X-Men: Mutant Academy. But 2004’s X-Men Legends takes the cake. Riding high on brand recognition following X2, X-Men Evolution and high profile comics runs, Raven Software crafted a masterpiece that captured the X-Men experience.
Part top-down dungeon crawler, part RPG, X-Men Legends puts a single player in control of a 4-man squad or allows up to four players simultaneously. Players learn skills and traverse classic X-Men locations, from the Xavier Mansion to the Morlock sewers. The game’s reception was stunning, leading to a sequel, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse as well as the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series. Sadly, both franchises seem all but dead following Ultimate Alliance 2‘s lukewarm reception.
5. X-MEN (2000)
For all the luster that may have worn off with age, X-Men is still a gem. Following the unexpected success of Blade and before Sam Raimi charmed audiences with Spider-Man, Bryan Singer’s X-Men was the standard bearer. Mixing a cast of established actors like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan with up-and-coming talent like Hugh Jackman and Anna Paquin, the film opened the door for the glut of comic book movies we see today.
The film is not flawless by any means. Released in 2000, it has all the hallmarks of a film released in an era defined by the success of The Matrix and an industry trying to reconcile the colorful world of comic books with modern film sensibilities. With sardonic wit and black leather everywhere, the film definitely shows its age but stands the test of time nonetheless.
Logan might just go down in history as the crown jewel of X-Men films. Billed as the final outing for Hugh Jackman and based on Mark Millar’s classic miniseries Old Man Logan, this post-apocalyptic nightmare sees Logan and Professor Xavier on the run in a world where mutants have long since died out. Notoriously R-rated thanks to the success of Deadpool, Logan cleaned up the box office soundly.
There’s an interesting tone to Logan, both bleak and desperate while still having its uplifting moments. With a rich narrative, a well-rounded cast (including the long awaited debut of X-23) and one of the best endings in the franchise, Logan has set a bar that any X-Men film that follows it will have a hard time reaching.
3. X-MEN: THE ARCADE GAME
If you were lucky enough to stumble upon the mythic six-man X-Men: The Arcade Game cabinet, you had an amazing childhood. Sprawling out among the flashing arcade scene of the early ‘90s, this Konami produced arcade game was a classic among fans of arcade beat ‘em ups. Based on the Pryde of the X-Men pilot, players took control of Wolverine, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm or Dazzler and fought their way through the streets of New York.
X-Men: The Arcade Game was a hit when it released in 1992, but faded away with the American arcade scene. In 2010, Konami cashed in on the success of XBox Live Arcade and Playstation Network’s downloadable content with an HD upgraded re-release. With drop-in, online multiplayer the game received a warm reception but was sadly delisted by Konami in 2013.
When it was announced that FX was going to be running a series based on Legion, fans were understandably surprised. The son of Charles Xavier, Legion has a storied career as both hero and villain in the Marvel Universe, and all sorts of questions were raised. How close would the series tie to the movies? Would Xavier be referenced, or even appear?
The series made no direct reference to Xavier or the X-Men universe as a whole but was all the better for it. With a timeless feel and astonishing performances by Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller and Aubrey Plaza, Legion instantly endeared itself to fans and became the television show everybody was talking about the next day. FX agreed, giving the series a pick-up for a second season, though it will likely be early 2018 before fans can get back into David Haller’s head.
1. X-MEN (1992)
As if there was any doubt that this would be the ultimate representation of the X-Men outside of comics. Debuting in 1992, X-Men held it’s own against the likes of Batman: The Animated Series with stunning animation that looked like it leapt off the comic page and stories adapted straight from the comics. This loyalty to the comics won over fans in droves, leading to a five-year run on Fox.
The series wasn’t without its speed bumps. Plots were occasionally convoluted and the animation took a severe dip in quality in the final season. But those early years, including adaptations of popular stories such as The Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past, are revered by fans still today. The Gifted has potential but stacked up against the already classic 1992 animated series, it’s got a long way to go to win over fans.
Do you think The Gifted can surpass the love of these franchises? Let us know in the comments!