On October 31st 1992, Fox Kids aired the first episode of X-Men: The Animated Series, and despite misgivings about the show’s seriousness and perpetual budget and animation issues, the series itself proved to be a smash hit. Alongside some of Fox’s other legendary cartoons, it helped catapult Fox Kids to the top of the heap among other Saturday morning cartoon blocks. For those who grew up watching it, it’s not really much of a surprise — the series captured the essence of Marvel’s mutant heroes perfectly. Slick Jim Lee art made the series’ appearance match the comics, while the serial nature of the stories being told were either adaptations direct from older stories, or felt like they would’ve fit right into the pages of Uncanny X-Men.
As popular as the series was though, did you catch all of the show’s guest stars? The show didn’t just stick to its usual cast, and introduced several characters from both inside and outside of the X-corner of Marvel in order to make the world feel like a living part of the Marvel Universe. And CBR’s collected 15 characters you probably forgot appeared in X-Men: The Animated Series, for everyone who wanted to reminisce about one of the greatest superhero cartoons of all time.
15. CAPTAIN AMERICA
During one of the later, more weirdly animated episodes that had dropped the popular Jim Lee art style, viewers were shown a flashback in the long, mysterious life of Wolverine. Going back to before the X-Men were ever even a thing in the season five episode “Old Soldiers”, Wolverine reminisces about his time as a part of the Allied armed forces when he teamed up with the most legendary soldier of all time: Captain America. Assigned to rescue a scientist from a Nazi base, the two heroes eventually wind up tangling with longtime Captain America foe, Red Skull.
Unfortunately this would be one of the only times viewers got to see Captain America as a cartoon in the ’90s, as attempts at a Captain America television series were ruined, while the Avengers television series was prohibited from using the big three in their main cast.
14. WAR MACHINE
This one’s something of a blink and you’ll miss it cameo. During the events of the first part of the two-part episode “Time Fugitives”, Bishop returns to the past in order to prevent the spread of the impossibly deadly Legacy Virus. While he’s there, the X-Men sit through a speech given by Grayson Creed, mutant-hating human that’s responsible for the creation of the Legacy Virus in this universe. While he’s giving the speech, several different characters are shown watching, including Nick Fury, G.W. Bridge, and long-time Tony Stark BFF, War Machine.
He doesn’t get any speaking lines, but it was nice to include him. Though people were often unaware, the Marvel cartoons were often hinted at taking place in the same universe, so showing characters in other series often worked as pretty neat continuity.
13. DOCTOR STRANGE
Doctor Strange was probably the Marvel superhero we saw the most during the era of ’90s Marvel cartoons that never got his own cartoon. He made several appearances across the connected Marvel Universe: he made a guest appearance in Incredible Hulk and aided Banner in his multiple personality issues, and he played a key role in the development of Mary Jane over in Spider-Man.
Ironically though, he tended to only do cameo roles in the X-Men, which is where he easily would have been the most useful. He briefly popped up in both the “Phoenix Saga” and the “Dark Phoenix Saga” storylines, where he’d notice the immense power being generated by Jean Grey…before proceeding to do absolutely nothing to help the X-Men out. Wow. What a jerk.
Havok is a bit of a weird story, as Alex Summers is technically supposed to be one of the earliest X-Men after the original five, joining alongside Lorna Dane before the “international” team that made the superhero team a household name in the first place. He learns he’s Cyclops’ brother, but eventually left the team after they get trapped on Krakoa, eventually going on to become a key member in the government-inspired X-Factor.
But the cartoon tosses Havok’s time in the X-Men and instead makes him a member of the X-Factor with an unknown background, and when he and Cyclops throw down in “Cold Comfort” while the team is rescuing Bobby, they don’t even recognize each other. The show does hint at their origins however, as both are unable to harm one another with their mutant abilities, something that only happens when two characters are related.
11. MS. MARVEL
Rogue’s power was always the ability to drain life force, memories, and powers of other people…but for years, she enjoyed the benefits of flight, super-strength, and light invulnerability. How? Well, after she ran away from home when her powers activated, she was taken in by Mystique and spent some time working for her Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. While there, she drained the powers of one Carol Danvers so heavily, she actually got her powers semi-permanently.
And in “A Rogue’s Tale”, Rogue is forced to deal with the consequences of that, as the memory of Carol slowly attacks Rogue’s mind, driving her insane. It’s a fairly intense episode of the X-Men with a somewhat disturbing ending, as they never actually help Ms. Marvel get back into her body, Jean just helps Rogue seal her away better. Shame, as Carol actually had fairly close ties to the X-Men in the comics.
Nightcrawler is a central part of the X-Men, and as a part of the super-popular “International” team of X-Men, he’s easily one of the oldest members of the mutant team. Still, by the time X-Men: TAS was launching he had found a home on the British team Excalibur, and so he was kept off the main team. Nonetheless, he managed to score not one, but two focus episodes in this series — both of them wind up being real tear-jerkers too.
In the season four episode “Nightcrawler”, he helps Wolverine re-discover his faith, while in the season five episode “Bloodlines” he finally meets up with his mother, Mystique. In both, his infinite capacity for forgiveness causes the people around him to change their lives for the better.
One of the original X-Men, Iceman appeared in the season three episode “Cold Comfort” that presented himself as more of a nuisance than his comic counterpart. The story presents him as a problem child who leaves the X-Men after feeling too restricted as a part of the team. He doesn’t pop back up until he’s stopped from infiltrating a government base for reasons he refuses to disclose, until a conversation with Hank McCoy enlightens both the team and the viewers: he’s looking for his girlfriend and fellow former X-Man, Lorna Dane.
After a second attack on the government installation, Lorna Dane reveals herself as a member of the government-sponsored mutant team X-Factor, and girlfriend to the team’s field commander, Havok. She staged her kidnapping to avoid talking with Bobby, who had been refusing to use his powers to help anyone. Yikes. What a…cold way to find out you got dumped.
8. EMMA FROST
In the comics, Emma Frost is one of the most delightfully complex characters there can be. She kicks things off as a member of the Hellfire Club, eventually becoming a professor of her own school for Gifted Youngsters as head of Generation X. And then finally she becomes the Headmistress at Xavier’s School itself, joining the X-Men and becoming a commander alongside Cyclops. She eventually proves that her love for her fellow mutants trumped any moral alignments.
Here in this show however, she’s reset to her earliest point: a member of the Hellfire Club, who abuses her powers to try and manipulate Jean Grey due to her being the person hosting the Phoenix. She attempts to corrupt Phoenix and get her on the Club’s side and…at least she was half successful.
As a character whose official standing in the X-Men is usually rather misty, Forge still manages to make several appearances in the X-Men toon. His first few appearances feature him as a much older man, often trapped in the different alternate timelines like “Days of the Future Past” or the Legacy Virus, and assigning Bishop to help him save the world by traveling back into the past.
Still, there is one particular time where Forge actually appears in the “past” and gets to meet up with the team. In the episode “Cold Comfort”, the X-Men wind up going head to head with the government hero team X-Factor, a team that Forge happens to lead. Though he’s well aware the X-Men’s good reputation, he still has his X-Factor go up against them as a “training exercise” before calming down and discussing it all with Xavier.
There was a point in X-Men history where the Guthries were about as likely to develop powers as the Summers family. Combine that with how integral Cannonball is to the history of Xavier’s school as a founding member of the New Mutants, and it’s no surprise that Sam Guthrie not only made an appearance, but got an entire focus episode just for him. In the episode “Hidden Agendas”, Sam starts out as a simple coal miner in a small Kentucky town that just happens to have superpowers.
Unlike the comics, he’s fairly content staying there forever, until some Army figures stoke the fans of mutant hatred in an attempt to get him to join their military program. Their tactics of aggression grow until finally Sam and his family are forced to move from their town, but unfortunately Sam doesn’t join the X-Men.
Despite being one of the earliest members of the X-Men as a member of the second team Xavier ever created, Banshee’s not really treated like one of the members of the team in this series. But he does make a few key appearances. Initially, he appears with Xavier’s former lover Moira MacTaggert, and plays a very important role in the first half of the five-part “Phoenix Saga” storyline of the second season, where he helps the Professor protect Shi’ar Empress Lilandra from Banshee’s cousin, Black Tom Cassidy.
Two seasons later, he appears again to lend his powers and aid to the X-Men when they deal with Moira’s son Proteus and his incredible reality warping abilities. I guess even if you aren’t quite an X-Man you can still be an X-Man.
Another member of the original X-Men team, Angel is barely recognized in his first focus appearance back in the first season episode “Come the Apocalypse”, but is shown in a flashback as one of the First Class in the third season episode “Xavier Remembers”. In spite of his status as a member of the team though, Angel tries to be cured of his mutant powers and winds up being experimented on by Apocalypse.
Instead of becoming human, he turns into Archangel instead, being granted a new set of metal wings and dark blue skin tone, and almost wound up in thrall to Apocalypse for good if not for the help of the X-Men. After that, he spends his future appearances obsessed with eliminating the conquering mutant once and for all.
Connected to Mojo’s weird, TV-obsessed world, Longshot is one part of the weirder sides of the X-Men history. Originally, he appears in the season two episode “Mojovision” as the star player of Mojo’s best-running television series. But once ratings start to drop, Mojo reaches outside his world to find some new stars in the X-Men. Of course, once the team escapes it isn’t long before he’s forced to ask Longshot for help once more.
The character appears once more several years later in a season five, self-titled episode. Here, he pops up on our Earth after having forgotten who he once was, and spends most of the episode being hunted down by Mojo. By this time, he’s gone from being a cheerful participant in Mojo’s television series to becoming a freedom fighter, and he returns to his world to continue leading a revolution.
During the second season of the X-Men, screen time was split between the adventures of the regular team and Professor Xavier and Magneto, who found themselves trapped in the Savage Land thanks to the machinations of Mister Sinister. And of course, why even bother with a trip to the Savage Land if you aren’t going to include Ka-Zar? Both the hero and his wife Shanna (and of course, his sabretooth tiger Zabu) work with Magneto and Xavier in order to free people Sinister had already imprisoned.
He also makes an appearance in the two part story “Savage Land, Strange Heart” after the mutant Sauron begins to terrorize the Savage Land. There, he teams up with the X-Men in order to save his home from outside invaders again.
Psylocke’s got the kind of origin that takes an entire Wikipedia article to fully understand, and even then you still might not get it. Once you ask “Who’s Kwannon?”, you’re basically going to wind up heading down a rabbit hole of comic book trivia you might not make it out of.
Fortunately the cartoon keeps things simple: she’s a thief working to help her brother (that we don’t even meet in this series) who’s fighting for the mutant cause, who gets kidnapped by Apocalypse because of her psychic powers so he can use the focused totality of all the psychics on Earth in order to erase time and create his own universe where he can be ruler forever. Uhhh….yeah. We just “simplified” into a completely different mess. Maybe Psylocke is just one of those characters that can’t ever be “simple”.
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