Welcome to a special edition of Adventure(s) Time, a look back on animated heroes of the past. This week, we have our inaugural entry into Marvel lore, with a look at the first truly successful Marvel animated adaptation. Debuting as a “special preview” on Halloween 1992, X-Men was a major player in the glory days of animated superheroes. And, as we’re learning now, a large influence on the series of live-action films. (It’s no coincidence Fox the movie studio purchased the rights after Fox the TV network found success with the series.)
As the show is over twenty-five years old now, it’s understandable many fans first discovered it in reruns or on DVD. What those fans might not realize, however, is that one element of the earlier episodes has been lost to time.
A Secret for ‘90s Kids
Accompanying the closing credits of X-Men during those initial airings was a CGI model featuring each cast member. The model provided a 360-degree look at their costumes, and a brief bio of the mutant heroes. As animator Will Meugniot explains in his interview with showrunner Eric Lewald in his book, Previously on X-Men, the crew was under pressure to introduce CGI into the series. Also, there was some concern (particularly from Stan Lee) that audiences would be confused without firm introductions to each X-Man. (Check out Previously on X-Men if you have any interest in the show. It's well worth your time.)
Killing two birds with one stone, the animators provided 3D CGI models and bios of the cast. Airing during the closing credits, the pace of the episodes wasn't halted and no awkward 3D elements were crammed into the actual show.
Why This Became an Issue
Will Meugniot recalls the models ran in the first eight episodes, but had to be pulled. Why? The Broadcast Standards people, he reports, were concerned the CGI models too closely resembled toys. Hoping to avoid any accusations that X-Men was conceived as a thirty-minute toy commercial (a sensitive topic in those days), the models were dropped.
When the CGI models were cut, a clip montage replaced them, with the same musical theme as the opening. Later episodes featured thirty-second scenes from previous episodes over the closing credits instead. Amazingly, none of the rereleases of X-Men have included the full closing credits. Yes, the CGI models (and original closing music) are on the Season One DVD. But did you know one of the X-Men models is totally missing?
For years, only the most diehard of fans with preserved VHS copies could appreciate the true closing. The model for Jubilee, the last X-Man featured in the montage, only appeared in the two 1992 “sneak preview” airings. When X-Men began as a weekly series, her model was covered by the Marvel and Saban ID cards. Those cards would fly over the screen right before the Jubilee model should’ve appeared! Every week, Jubilee was denied her spotlight.
If you're curious to see the full closing, with Jubilee in her proper place (unfortunately with VHS quality), it has been archived on Youtube. Maybe one day a release of the series will have a digital presentation of the full closing.
That’s all for now. If you have suggestions for future entries, just leave a note in the Comments. Or, you can contact me on Twitter.