Welcome to another X-centric edition of Adventure(s) Time, where we examine beloved animated series of the past. This week, we’re addressing a question that many have asked over the years. While X-Men: The Animated Series featured no shortage of cameos and spotlight episodes for various mutant characters, one X-Man never made the cut.
Introducing the concept through the eyes of a female neophyte mutant has become a standard trope of X-Men adaptations. The producers of the ‘90s animated series selected Jubilee as the point-of-view character early in the show’s development. Earlier drafts for the first X-Men film toyed with various teenage females. Eventually, as we know, Bryan Singer settled on Rogue for the first film. (One early draft even had Jubilee as the daughter of scientists working on the Weapon X project!)
When X-Men was first developed as a film in the 1980s, it was a no-brainer to make Kitty Pryde the tyro X-Man. Introduced in the comics in 1980 during the seminal Chris Claremont/John Byrne run, Kitty developed an intense following. It’s hard for fans today to realize just how invested readers at the time were in Kitty’s life. When Claremont penned a story that had Colossus breaking young Kitty’s heart, fans literally wanted to murder the fictional character. It’s hard to argue that Kitty wasn’t the reader identification figure of the 1980s. Joss Whedon even cites Kitty as a major influence on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
So, it’s the 1990s and a hit X-Men cartoon is giving life to Marvel’s most popular characters. And, thanks to its success, the series enjoys a healthy five-year run. Yet, throughout the seventy-six episodes, Kitty never even ranks a cameo. Why?
This question is asked with greater regularity now, but in the early ‘90s, many fans were barely aware of Kitty’s existence. Kitty had been written out of the series in 1987, sent overseas to star in the spinoff comic Excalibur. And Excalibur, following a strong start from creators Chris Claremont and Alan Davis…kind of languished in subsequent years.
For many X-fans, it was not essential reading, rarely participating in the ongoing continuity. Even a return from co-creator Alan Davis wasn’t enough to draw some readers back. (Those fans missed out, however. Alan Davis’ Excalibur comics are ridiculously good.)
Marvel would later put a greater emphasis on making Excalibur “count,” certainly. And eventually the main Excalibur cast was folded back into the X-Men titles, with great fanfare. But years earlier, during the era of the animated X-Men’s development, Kitty’s predominance within the franchise had faded.