In 1989, hot off of the success on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Marvel Productions put together a pilot for the X-Men. Later called Pryde of the X-Men, it was ultimately released as a TV movie instead of a failed pilot for a TV series. It told the story of Kitty Pryde joining the X-Men. Though it did not work out at the time, one of the higher-ups at Marvel Productions was then named the head of Fox’s children’s programming in the early 1990s and she remembered how much she wanted to make the X-Men into an animated series. So, she approved a new X-Men show as one of her first major decisions, knowing that if it flopped, she would likely lose her job. She turned out to be on the right side of history, however, as the X-Men: Animated Series was a blockbuster success and ended up influencing an entire generation of comic book fans. This was how many people first encountered the X-Men.
When you have a piece of popular culture that is shared by so many people, it makes the series ripe for internet memes, because everyone is so familiar with the series that you can easily make references to the show and many people will know what you’re talking about. With that in mind, here are 20 hilarious X-Men: The Animated Series memes.
20. THAT’S KIND OF CREEPY, WOLVERINE
By far the most famous meme that X-Men ever had was a meme that played off Wolverine’s obsession with Jean Grey, despite the fact that Jean was in love with Cyclops. Wolverine comes off as a serious stalker type on the show. While Jean Grey is out on a date with Cyclops in an early episode, Wolverine pulls out a photo that he has of Jean and just strokes the picture. It is one step shy of “it puts on the lotion or else gets the hose again.” Okay, maybe it’s a few steps away from that, but it’s definitely off on the right (or wrong) foot.
Hilariously enough, it appears that this is not even the only framed photograph of Jean that Wolverine has stashed away on the series! In any event, someone enterprising took a screen shot of the moment where Wolverine is stroking the photograph and then the moment where we cut to see what the photograph is to then crop out the photo itself and allow people to put in whatever photo they wanted into the frame. Some of the most popular examples were Cyclops, James Marsden as Cyclops and Hugh Jackman. Jackman was particularly popular after he made his final Wolverine film, Logan.
19. DON’T MESS WITH PERFECTION
In the world of superhero films, the success of Avengers: Infinity War is fresh on everyone’s mind, which translated the classic Marvel crossover event, Infinity Gauntlet, about as well as you possibly could, considering that two of the most prominent characters in the story, Adam Warlock and Silver Surfer, were unavailable. Warlock has not been officially introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet and Surfer’s movie rights belong to Fox. So nowadays, superhero movie fans are used to the idea of seeing their favorite comic books faithfully adapted to the big screen.
For X-Men fans, however, that is still an unlikely scenario, with most of the X-Men films featuring stories that are, at best, relative approximations of famous X-Men stories, and at worst, exercises that bear little resemblance to the comics. Thus, for those fans who long for seeing a faithful adaptation of the comic books, the X-Men animated series really does hold a special place in their hearts. It was one of the most faithful adaptations of the comics that you could imagine. Heck, for a while there, the comic book series seemed like it was sort of a preview of whatever plots and characters that you were about to see on the show!
18. OWNER OF A LONELY HEART
The relationship, or lack thereof, between Wolverine and Jean Grey, is a fascinating one within the comic books. Early on, Wolverine was obsessed with Jean in the comics, but it was decidedly a one-way street. Wolverine was all about her and she did not even seem to notice that he had feelings for her. A notable example was in an early issue where Jean goes into the hospital. Wolverine gets some flowers and thinks that he will surprise her while she is convalescing, and is shocked to learn that all of his teammates have long been there already!
Over the years, writers have retroactively revealed that Jean was actually interested in Wolverine this whole time, and instead of it being a case of Wolverine obsessing over her, it was rather a mutual attraction that she was simply afraid of and kept pulling away from, for fear that their passion would be too much for her. The animated series stuck with the original version of their relationship, however, so we got a whole lot of mopey Wolverine on the series, like this hilarious meme noting that his healing factor can’t heal his broken heart as he watches Cyclops and Jean together.
17. THE SPIRIT OF THE ’90S
One of the all-time memorable instances of great timing is the fact that the the X-Men cartoon began to be developed right at the same time that Jim Lee re-designed all of the costumes of the X-Men for the release of X-Men #1, the highest-selling single comic book in the history of comics. If the series had begun just a little bit earlier, the characters would have looked completely different. Instead, they all had the current look that most of the characters in the comics kept with them for years to come, making the cartoon and the comic book match for years, which is certainly a helpful thing for corporate synergy purposes.
At the same time, Lee’s costumes were also quite form-fitting on a number of the characters. Those looks also translated to the series, leading to a famous sequence where Apocalypse fights Rogue, which keeps popping up in a number of different memes, including at least one instance of the classic “Wolverine looking at a photo” meme. At the same time, it is fair to note that Apocalypse also really does have a really cool design that translated beautifully to the animated series, hence the character showing up on the show repeatedly.
16. BEASTLY MANNERS
When the Beast was introduced in the original X-Men series, he really did not have that much of a personality. Stan Lee literally had to apologize for the Beast’s personality in an early Bullpen Bulletins, where Stan promised fans that he would soon give Beast a unique personality and make him less of a knockoff of the Thing, which is what Beast seemed to be in the first couple of issues of X-Men. Stan added the idea that the Beast was the team’s resident genius and had him routinely quote famous sayings. Later writers really played up the fact that the Beast could hang from objects and a common sight was to show Beast reading while upside down. This was especially common once he was mutated into a more bestial appearance.
Thus, this meme plays up on the Beast’s reading habits. Here, the image shows the reaction that Beast has when his fellow X-Men teammates come across him while he is reading while in prison. He was captured early in the series and spent a good long time behind bars. This compares that to the look that people have sometimes when they are looking at things on their phones, which they would rather not want their friends and/or family to see them looking at. Luckily, Beast is just reading “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau, and not something more salacious!
15. XAVIER IN CONTROL
In the early years of the X-Men, it is hilarious how many fights would simply be resolved by Professor X using his vast telepathic powers to stop the conflict at the end of the issue. Like, the whole issue would be the X-Men trying to stop the bad guy and it looks like they are about to fail, and then Xavier would step in and say, “Oh, yeah, I just zapped his mind with my telepathy. He won’t bother us anymore.” In the Silver Age, also, the ethics of telepathy were very uneasy, as it was not considered sketchy at all for Xavier to mind-wipe people left and right whenever they were a threat to the X-Men. You could almost imagine the Professor trying to wipe people’s minds any time he makes a faux pas, like what Rick does to Morty in Rick and Morty‘s “Morty’s Mind Blowers.”
Thus, this meme plays off of the concept that Xavier could theoretically just make everyone else do whatever he wants by having a gif where Xavier is using his powers for something as simple as forcing Wolverine to go get him a pizza. It’s funny because it is shockingly close to being something Xavier would actually do in the comics.
14. LOOSE CANNON
As you might imagine, likely due to Wolverine’s obsession over Cyclops’ girlfriend, Jean Grey, Wolverine and Cyclops did not particularly get along in the early days of the X-Men comics. This was exacerbated by the fact that Cyclops was the leader of the team and Wolverine was the resident lone wolf, the guy who wouldn’t play by the rules. This is partially why Thunderbird was killed off so early in the X-Men series, as it was way too confusing for the team to have two guys who each wouldn’t play by the rules, so one of them had to go.
The hilarious sight of Wolverine just walking up and punching Cyclops in the stomach, which this meme combines with the caressing image we discussed earlier, is reminiscent of some of the brawls that Wolverine and Cyclops would get into in the early days. One famous brawl in the comic occurred when the X-Men had just faced off against Proteus and the team was rattled, even Wolverine. So Cyclops provoked a fight and got the team to take him on, thus getting them out of their own heads and back to thinking of how they could take Proteus down.
13. DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER
When you just start reading comic books, there are typically a number of things that you have to figure out simply by context clues, and if you don’t get enough of them, you will be lost. For instance, if you just picked up a seemingly random issue of the X-Men in the early 1990s, there would be a number of characters that you would be hard-pressed to understand what their powers are. For instance, Rogue rarely absorbed people’s powers in a lot of comics, choosing to stick with the abilities she absorbed from Ms. Marvel. So you might think that is literally what Rogue’s powers are — that she can fly and that she is super-strong. Forge is another character who is next to impossible to understand. For the record, his mutant power is to “be able to invent things.”
Similarly, this funny meme shows how people’s lack of knowledge of the back story of characters can impact what they think about the characters themselves in unusual ways. In this case, this meme reflects the thoughts of many fans who thought that Juggernaut’s helmet gave an accurate approximation of what the shape of Juggernaut’s head looks like underneath the helmet. No matter how absurd that sort of thinking would be in practice, people sure thought it!
12. SEEING RED
One of the most unusual concepts in the history of the X-Men is how Cyclops’ vision works. An important facet of Cyclops’ power is the fact that he does not shoot lasers out of his eyes. They are actually force beams. Think about that — he is shooting pure force out of his eyes and yet for some reason, the force of his blasts are diffused by the ruby quartz of his glasses. How does that make even the remotest sense? It is interesting to note, also, that early on, the comics did not even put that much thought into explaining how his powers worked. It was just “his special glasses” instead of anything specifying ruby quartz.
However, since Cyclops has to constantly wear either his visor or special ruby quartz sunglasses, the fact is that he constantly sees the world around him as just red. Everything is red. Thus, this meme uses that fact to make a funny point about the popular meme going around the internet a few years back about how different people saw a dress as being different colors. In Cyclops’ case, though, the dress is always just going to look red. We wonder what the X-Men distribution is on whether they hear “laurel or yanny?”
11. JUBILEE DON’T PLAY
A popular series of memes about the X-Men animated series revolves around Jubilee, and specifically the attitude that she is depicted as having in regards to the world. The amusing aspect of these memes is how they give Jubilee an attitude that she really did not have in the show itself and actually make that her defining attribute. Jubilee was a fine enough character on the series, but she was noted (and celebrated) as being the “point of view” character that audiences would get behind, so she was constantly doubting herself and her place among the X-Men.
In these memes, though, she is instead not only not doubting herself, but she is so confident that the rest of the world is seemingly beneath her notice. She has zero cares in the world, although many memes replace “care” with a different four letter world. This particular meme picks a scene from the series where Jubilee is trying to bluff her way through life, only they take it as a legitimate care free take on the world. She is confronted, drops her sunglasses and zings the guy, David Caruso/CSI: Miami style. That does happen in the episode, but it is clear that she is simply covering up her fear in the scene instead of it being a pure moment of “cool.”
10. GIVE IT A REST, GAMBIT
Perhaps the most recurring plot line on the X-Men series, even more so than Wolverine pining after Jean Grey, is Gambit being a bit of a creep towards Rogue. He constantly hits on her throughout the series, despite the fact that not only does it make her uncomfortable but her superpower involves her draining people of their very being when she touched them. Thus, Gambit’s continued pursuit of a kiss is not just disrespectful to Rogue, but it is downright dangerous to him, as well! And yet, he continues to be like the mutant version of Pepe Le Pew, with Rogue as his Penelope the Cat.
The most infamous scene along these lines was also turned into a popular meme that is used whenever you want to show someone hitting on someone else. Rogue and Gambit are playing pool and Gambit is once again hitting on Rogue. She rightly makes a comment about draining his energy and Gambit — with his neon pink eight-pack — notes that she can do so any time that she wants. Gambit really seems like the kind of guy who would try to turn any phrase into a come on, no? “Can you pass the newspaper?” “I don’t know, can I?” You’re the worst, Gambit.
9. SLICING AND DICING
Something that has changed a lot over the years is that Wolverine’s berserker rages have mostly begun to come under his control. In the early days of the X-Men, Wolverine would swipe at people with his claws at shocking moments. For instance, in an early Danger Room training session, Wolverine got frustrated and really tried to stab at one of his teammates. As time went by, that impulse went by the wayside, but Marvel Editor-in-Chief, Jim Shooter, insisted that Wolverine become more of a wild threat in the comics again. Thus, Chris Claremont and John Byrne added a scene in the 1980 Christmas issue where Nightcrawler kissed Wolverine’s girlfriend under the mistletoe and Wolverine tries to stab him!
These sort of impulses are reflected in this meme from the show where Wolverine responds to his frustrations with Cyclops by slicing up Cyclops’ car, giving him a convertible in the process. It is not healthy behavior by Wolverine, but it sure beats trying to stab a guy for kissing your girlfriend under the mistletoe! Of course, the cartoon was also limited by how much they were able to show Wolverine actually using his claws. An inanimate object like a car was definitely a lot more acceptable than anything else.
8. HAIR PROBLEMS
By the end of the 1990s, the X-Men animated series was finally off the air. Reruns continued to run across the country, but new episodes finished before the decade came to a close. That was a problem, however, when the X-Men finally got their own major motion picture in 2000. They decided that they wanted to do a brand-new cartoon series to tie in with the film but did not want to simply do a sequel to the original series, especially since the original sure seemed to wring every last bit of plot out of the characters that it could.
Instead, a new series called X-Men: Evolution was launched, which re-envisioned the X-Men as high school students together, with the older X-Men and the new X-Men all the same age now, and only Storm and Wolverine serving as adults. Seeing as how she was a major player in the film, Rogue naturally became a big part of the new series. She rocked a new re-design as a sort of goth/emo character. Thus, a lot of memes play up the differences between Rogue on X-Men: Evolution versus her look on the 1990s series. It looks like someone definitely went through quite a phase!
7. MON DEIU!
One of the interesting things about screen shots is how they can be sort of manipulated so that they do not necessarily provide the correct context for the moment that is being depicted. That is the very essence of out of context humor, after all. This is like a Superman comic book cover that makes it look like Superman is being a jerk, while in reality the cover just captured him at a moment where he seemed like a jerk but was actually doing something nice for his friends.
Somewhat similarly, this screen cap shows Gambit dealing with the sad situation that was the Dark Phoenix Saga, one of the most impressive translations from the comics that the cartoon series ever did, where they successfully translated both the Phoenix Saga and the Dark Phoenix Saga to the series. Gambit is meant to be sad and that is why his hand is on his face, but the meme makes it look like Gambit is just exasperated and putting his hand over his face in a sort of resigned, “Oh man, this again?” look. That “facepalm reaction” is of course what this meme is used for on the internet. There are a lot of online conversations that call for people using an image of Gambit being just over it.
6. TIME TO GET BODIED
On the X-Men series, the character that got the most over-the-top depictions of her mutant abilities was definitely Storm. Storm would not just use her weather abilities, she would flat out make a whole scene where she would step out and call out to the weather and bring it to her. She did not just blast people, she made a whole production out of it all. A number of fans have noticed just how intense Storm gets in these scenes and they have adapted these sequences into amusing memes.
In this popular one, Storm getting ready to use her powers is compared to when someone is about to start jamming out to the hit Beyonce song, “Get Bodied.” As we all know, a lot of the same reactions that you have when you prepare to call down a thunderstorm are also the ones that you have when you prepare to start rocking out to a song with a solid beat. What really sells this particular sequence is not just the view of Storm getting ready to rock, but that it perfectly captured Cyclops giving her this weird look, which translated perfectly into the meme as the friend who knows that his friend is about to start getting totally into a tune.
5. FEELING BLUE
After the original X-Men film trilogy ended, Fox successfully transitioned to a new X-Men film franchise by having the story now set in the past, as a prequel to the original films. Jennifer Lawrence signed on to play the young version of Mystique and X-Men: First Class was a major hit. Lawrence was contracted to do three films in the series, but has agreed to return for at least one more film, 2019’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
There’s the problem with Lawrence’s role in the series, however. You see, Lawrence had to wear a lot of blue makeup as Mystique in the first film and it ended up giving her a lot of skin problems. As she is now a lot more famous than she was when she started in the film series, she has been able to get the film makers to let her do more scenes with Mystique in her human “disguise” and less scenes in the full blue makeup. At the same time, Lawrence’s career was so hot early on that there was no place to go but down; thus, this meme suggests that Lawrence’s career was hurt when she started making demands like not wanting to wear blue makeup as much.
4. EXIT STAGE LEFT
As annoying as Gambit is on the X-Men cartoon series, it is interesting to note that the show also noted that Rogue had a strange reaction to Gambit’s flirting. She ostensibly hated him doing it all the time but at the same time, she also hated it when he didn’t flirt with her. They had a complicated relationship that was probably a bit too complex for what a kids cartoon series could really translate, but the unique relationship clearly had an effect on young fans, who were seeing a relationship that they would never normally see in a cartoon.
One sequence that translated hilariously well to a gif, though, is a moment where Gambit surprises Rogue while she is driving in her car by basically jumping into it without her permission. She doesn’t want him there and after he says something slimy, she literally just chucks him from the car. This ended up in this amusing gif that is a great meme to drop into a conversation after someone has very succinctly told someone else to get out of their face. They are figuratively doing what Rogue literally does to Gambit in this gif.
3. PASSING ALONG THE X-GENE
With the cartoon series doing such a great job of translating the comic books, there are a number of things that worked fine when they were depicted in two dimensions. Suddenly, though, look more than a little bit strange when depicted in seemingly three dimensions; i.e., on the big screen. One of these instances is Wolverine’s strange haircut. It is so floppy and long that it looks pretty goofy in the cartoon at times. Although, to be fair, it looks pretty goofy sometimes in the comic books, as well. One Wolverine comic book even established that Wolverine’s hair will always grow back to just this length and style.
In any event, Wolverine’s bizarre haircut sometimes actually shows up in the real world, like this hilarious meme that shows a picture of a young child with a very particular haircut, and Wolverine defensively pointing out that he has no connection to that child. Interestingly, in the comics, Wolverine actually did end up having a lot of kids over the years, who were then trained into becoming a team of assassins to attack him. We fully expect this little kid to grow up to become a dangerous assassin in the future, as well. Watch out, Wolverine, they’re going to be coming for you some day!
2. CROSSOVER APPEAL
One of the fascinating things that has happened in recent years is that normal, everyday fans have now become experts in intellectual property rights because it has become clear just how important these rights are when it comes to the TV shows and films that we watch. Fans who want to see the Avengers team up with the Fantastic Four in the Marvel Cinematic Universe know that that cannot happen because the Fantastic Four’s film rights are owned by Fox and not Disney, who owns Marvel Studios.
An area where we have always been used to seeing superheroes cross over was in cartoons. This was mostly because there were less people interested in making superhero cartoons, so less characters were optioned to different studios. Therefore, the X-Men cartoon producers had free rein initially, in terms of which characters they had access to do during the early years of the show. If you wanted to show Wolverine and Captain America team up in World War II, you were free to do so. If you wanted to show how Rogue gained her powers from Ms. Marvel, go right ahead. Amusingly, though, the success of the X-Men cartoon put an end to that freedom, as more and more characters were optioned by different companies.
1. IS VOGUING STILL A THING?
A time-honored tradition in cartoons is the art of the screen cap. We already paid some homage to this classic source of online humor, but this sequence perfectly encapsulates both the art of the screen cap and also one specific pop culture reference that pops up in memes all the time. In the film Titanic, there is a scene where Kate Winslet’s Rose and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack steal a moment together where she lounges seductively without her top and asks Jack to draw her like one of the French girls that he has drawn in the past.
Well, as it turns out, very often in cartoons, characters fall on the ground and end up in positions that look a whole lot like how Rose was laying when she asked Jack to draw her, so a whole lot of memes pounce on these out-of-context moments to go with that gag. Spider-Man, for one, seems to always end up in that position in his cartoons. Here, though, it is Cyclops who ends up in the classic position, cuing up the go-to reference. It is sort of like a rite of passage when you make your first “draw me like one of your French girls” meme.
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