When X-Men: The Animated Series Borrowed from... Everywhere

In spite of its ominous name and design, it only made a brief appearance in 1977's Uncanny X-Men #107. There, the demonic evil appeared in the midst of the X-Men's efforts to stop the mad D'Ken from destroying all reality. Looking back, it got lost in the shuffle, to be honest. (It was a pretty busy sequence of issues. And Marvel's titles were only seventeen pages an issue then.)

Here, the monster is a mystery threat. And it's up to Professor Xavier and the team's reinforcements to prevent the beast from reaching the surface. There's some effort to play up Wolverine's fatherly love of Jubilee after her spirit is consumed by the monster. But, for the most part, it's an action-heavy episode. And all of the material about Deathstrike, her father, and her claims Wolverine murdered him...well, they're essentially dropped. A teaser at the end, however, announces “The Phoenix Saga” is coming soon.



Fans of the era will likely never forget the look of these episodes. Akom, the budget animation studio normally assigned the series, didn't touch this two-parter. Instead, Philippine Animation Studio, Inc. used these episodes as their audition to take over the series. A shame that didn't happen. The animation is far more fluid here, the faces have real personality, and the color scheme is darn impressive. When the episode flashes back to an old Akom clip, the difference in quality is undeniable.


The producers have merged Lady Deathstrike with Wolverine's traditional Japanese love, Mariko Yashida. This creates a massive coincidence not present in the comics. Wolverine's girlfriend just happened to be the daughter of the scientist responsible for his adamantium skeleton? Also, the episode has Wolverine abducted and forced into the Weapon X project after getting set up on a Team X mission. In the original Weapon X serial, he was kidnapped in a parking lot by plainclothes agents.


The show's still allowed to say "kill" at this point. Later episodes will censor any use of the word. The alien monster's name changes from "Soul Drinker" to "Spirit Drinker" to appease the censors, however. Producer Larry Houston also has this to share, regarding Lady Deathstrike's outfit:

In trying to remain as costume accurate as I could, I kept Lady Deathstrike's plunging neckline but gave her minimal cleavage. This was 90s Saturday Morning, y'know. PASI  had terrific Marvel Comics fan-professionals working there and they made several excellent, highly detailed episodes for us, including this two-parter, but gave the Lady a lot more volume and follow through chest bouncing in the animation than expected. Needless to say, two things were immediately noticed by the network and, to quell the panic it caused, I had to add a white blouse to all of her chest scenes.


So, we have the Reavers, heavily influenced by Mad Max and other 1980s sci-fi. Lady Deathstrike, a famous villain from the late '80s. Wolverine's history with Team X, and the story of his adamantium. About as early '90s as it gets.

Yet, the Phoenix storyline's roots are the 1970s. Not only in terms of the larger culture, but specifically, where the X-Men were in this era. It's the first time Cyclops' love for Jean became a major focus of the series. And the first instance of her character evolving past that as simply "the girl." The aliens and outer space designs are often viewed as an homage to Star Wars, although the comics' origins predate the movie. Really it's a coincidence, a case of creators from the same generation drawing upon similar influences.

Does this harm the adaption? Actually, no. It's a trip for anyone familiar with the lore to see the timeline so thoroughly scattered, yeah. But in terms of the show's continuity, it's actually doing something smart. We're not jumping into Lilandra, the Shi’ar, or the Phoenix Force. The story's instead taking the fairly grounded world of the show and easing into the science fiction realm. And, yes, having Wolverine be the focal point also makes a certain amount of sense. To get to the dreamlike world of 1970s Marvel, you've got to travel backwards, through the '80s  cyborg and '90s paramilitary phases. It's a quirky path to take, but ultimately, this works out in the long run.

So that’s all for now. If you have any suggestions for the future, just leave a comment or contact me on Twitter. You can also check out some of my fiction writing for free over at Smashwords.

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