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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

X-amining X-Men Animation Special

"The Pryde of the X-Men"
1990

In a Nutshell 
Kitty Pryde joins the X-Men and helps defeat Magneto's plan to use a comet to wipe mankind off the planet.

Writer: Danny Fingeroth adapting the television screenplay by Larry Parr
Art: Marvel Productions
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Editor: Bob Budiansky
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
The morning after the White Queen breaks Magneto out of a military convoy, Kitty Pryde arrives at the mysterious Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. She is greeted by a mental projection of Professor X, who leads her deeper into the school, confirming that she is in fact a mutant, and introducing her to the X-Men as they train in the Danger Room. Just then, a Stage Two Mutant Alert signals, and the X-Men rush off to investigate, despite Cyclops' reservations about leaving Professor X and Kitty behind alone. As they leave, Magneto orders Juggernaut into the mansion. The X-Men arrive at the Deep Space Observatory, where Blob and Pyro are holding a family hostage. They manage to free the family but the mutant terrorists escape, while back at the X-Mansion, Magneto and Juggernaut make short work of the mansion's defenses.Telepathically sensing that Magneto is after Cerebro's mutant power circuit, Professor X gives it to Kitty and tells her to protect it while he holds off the evil mutants. But Magneto overpowers Kitty and makes off with the circuit.


After the X-Men return home, Professor X telepathically locates Magneto aboard Asteroid M, where he uses the power circuit to complete the Magnatron, a device which augments his power, enabling him to pull a passing comet off course and towards Earth, where it will wipe out the human race. The X-Men race into space aboard the Blackbird, along with stowaway Kitty, who wants to make amends for losing the circuit. The X-Men breach the station and confront Magneto's allies one by one, until Nightcrawler is left to face Magneto alone. Just as Magneto is about to blast him, Kitty phases into the room, disrupting his shot and damaging the Magnatron. Nightcrawler is able to complete the circuit using his own body as a conduit, and Kitty manages to position Magneto so that he accidentally blasts the comet away from Earth and towards the base. Magneto then retreats, declaring that while they've saved the Earth, Nightcrawler will be lost, as he must remain completing the circuit or else the comet will turn back towards Earth. The X-Men flee the station, and at the last second, Nigthcrawler manages to teleport onto the Blackbird. The X-Men return home, confident that whatever Magneto is planning next, the X-Men will be ready.

Firsts and Other Notables
This is a graphic novel adaptation (square-bound, prestige format) of the animated "Pryde of the X-Men", a pilot episode produced by Marvel Productions (which also produced Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and Muppet Babies, amongst others), with the intent of launching an X-Men animated series. This comic is produced fumetti-style, using stills from the actual cartoon, with dialogue and captions overlaid, instead of original art, all laid out in a (mostly) five or six panel-per-page grid.

"Pryde of the X-Men" (the animated episode) was produced using part of the budget from the Robocop animated series (also produced by Marvel Productions); in lieu of creating a 13th episode of that series, "Pryde of the X-Men" was made. However, Marvel as a whole was sold shortly after the pilot was produced, leading to Marvel Productions pretty much ceasing production on everything save Muppet Babies, and no X-Men series was ever put into production. "Pryde" also effectively marks the end of the Marvel Productions animated universe, consisting of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, as well as other series, in the late 70s and 80s. The Marvel cartoons of the 90s would be a whole new ball game.

The TV episode shares a lot of the voice cast with G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, notably Michael Bell, who voices both GI Joe's Duke and Cyclops, thus cementing both characters as iconic leaders of men in my childhood brain. Notably, Wolverine has an Australian accent in the cartoon - a carryover from his previous appearances in S&HAF, though the voice director of the episode claims this was done as part of an effort to tie-in to the then-current Aussie fad, with plans to reveal Wolverine as an ex-Australian in the comics as well (though I've never heard that idea recounted anywhere else).

The core cast of X-Men is basically the post-Banshee "All New, All Different" team, with Dazzler (who was a current member of the X-Men in 1989) substituting for Phoenix, and Kitty introduced as a POV character who would have presumably joined the team in later episodes. The X-Men battle a version of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, led by straightforwardly-evil Magneto, comprised of bits from the original group (Magneto and Toad) as well as Mystique's group (Blob and Pyro), along with the White Queen and Juggernaut thrown in for good measure. It actually works really well as a villain team.


This team roster and the general character designs would later be used in the 1992 X-Men arcade game, though a lot of Jim Lee art would be used on the cabinet. 

A Work in Progress
Presumably in an effort to give her a more offensive, visual power, the White Queen has the ability to create "energy lances" (presumably telepathic in nature) in addition to her telepathic powers.

As in her initial comic book appearances, Kitty is at first put-off by Nightcrawler's appearance.


Cerebro has some kind of power circuit, which serves as the MacGuffin Magneto needs to finish his power-amplifying device to redirect the comet.

Lockheed is introduced as some kind of pest aboard Asteroid M, without any explanation, and is befriended by Kitty (and taken off the station) by the end.


Storm uses her power to contain the atmosphere within Asteroid M after the X-Men breach it from the outside, which is actually a pretty clever use of her power we don't see all that often, despite all the times the X-Men end up in space.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Dazzler wears a leather jacket over her uniform, a look that very soon becomes quite popular amongst the rest of the team.


The Best There is at What He Does
Wolverine says he's going to sharpen his claws, but we all know they're made from unbreakable, razor-keen adamantium, and thus don't need sharpening. 


Teebore's Take
"Pryde of the X-Men" (the animated TV episode, not this comic book) actually served as my initial introduction to the X-Men and the concept of mutants (as a kid, I long wondered what Wolverine's mutant power was, since even as a kid, I knew you couldn't just be born with metal claws). A fervent watcher on Saturday mornings of the Marvel Action Hour featuring (as I remember it best) Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Dino-Riders, and Robocop: The Animated Series, I first met the X-Men when this aired in place of a Spider-Man episode (technically, I'd probably seen the X-Men before in previous episodes of that series - they guest starred a few times - but "Pryde" is really when they made a memorable impression on me) and between the GI Joe-esque animation (and shared voice cast in some cases) and colorful characters, I was captivated.

It helps that the story does work really well as an introduction to the team, a roster featuring pretty much a note-perfect classic lineup (plus Dazzler), with Kitty serving as an audience surrogate character, and a nice assortment of classic villains for the heroes to fight (the old "the team is winnowed down as each hero pairs off to fight one villain" technique is pretty lazy, but it also works to give each member of both teams a brief spotlight, the better to sear their individual powers and personality into young viewers' minds). It suffers from 80s cartoon plotting in places (Nightcrawler has to hang around to risk sacrificing himself nobly mainly because Magneto says so) and aside from some lip service at the beginning, the episode doesn't really do much with central theme of the X-Men (Magneto hates humans, but we're never given much reason why, specifically), but as a 22 minute introduction to the basic concepts of the X-Men and some of their more notable members and foes, especially one intended to setup an ongoing series where, presumably, a lot more of this stuff would eventually get fleshed out, this works really well.

This specific comic book adaptation of that episode, well, I'm not quite sure what the point of it even is. "Adaptation" isn't even the right word for it, as it's simply a printed reproduction of the animated series. It's hard to think of who this was targeted at: cartoon watchers would be frustrated that it adds nothing to the story, while comic book readers would likely be irritated by it not being, you know, an actual comic book adaptation. It's also not clear what Marvel hoped to gain from publishing this - a year out from the initial airing of the episode, it had to be known the show wasn't going to be made, so it's not like this works as any kind of promotional aide. Maybe Marvel intended it to be a sort of graphic novel introduction to the X-Men for new readers, but again, there's a vast difference between the way the story is graphically told here and in a comic book (plus, the $10.95 price tag doesn't seem terribly new-reader friendly). Whatever the purpose, while the animated episode still holds up as a pretty solid introduction to the X-Men and nice piece of 80s-era TV animation, this specificgraphic novel "adaptation" of the same is a historical curiosity, at best.

Next Issue
Next week, we return with X-Factor guest starring in Ghost Rider #9, the first official post-Claremont issue of Excalibur, #35, and the finale to the Spanish Civil War time travel story in Wolverine #37.

13 comments:

  1. Obviously, this was aimed at completists ;)

    "This team roster and the general character designs would later be used in the 1992 X-Men arcade game"

    As were the villains. They were the end-of-level boss you had to fight.

    "Dazzler wears a leather jacket over her uniform, a look that very soon becomes quite popular amongst the rest of the team"

    Plus, she did wear one (though in black) towards the end of the Outback era. And funny enough, she is wearing the brown version in her Marvel Universe series 1 trading card.

    I still have this on VHS. It's a good fun pilot issue, and the animation is much better than your average GI Joe episode. I wonder if the rest of the series would have had the same production values had it led to a full series?

    It's also interesting to see how different it is from what was going on in the comic at the time. Even though the episode itself came out a year before this adaptation, the comic would have been so far off from this. Given how much synergy Marvel these days tries to have between all the different versions of it's media properties, I can't imagine what people who read this or the original episode must have thought if they began picking up any of that era's comic books.

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    1. As were the villains. They were the end-of-level boss you had to fight.

      Yeah, though with some understandable extras thrown in, like Wendigo, Mystique, and a not-to-scale Master Mold.

      I wonder if the rest of the series would have had the same production values had it led to a full series?

      Doubtful - I'm sure the money wouldn't have been there for quality this good every week. Still, most of the Marvel Production stuff at that time was reasonably solid.

      I can't imagine what people who read this or the original episode must have thought if they began picking up any of that era's comic books.

      They'd probably have had an easier time of it then people who picked up a comic after seeing the first X-Men movie. :)

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  2. $10.95?? That's absurd.

    I really like this episode and I kind of wish it had gone to series over the nineties Fox show. Michael Bell was perfect as Cyclops, and I love that they went with the Dave Cockrum designs over what the characters looked like at the time in the comics.

    While the eighties cartoon formula was clearly in place, I feel like they could've done something interesting with an order of 65 episodes for syndication. Plus the character designs and animation style are way better than what we got on Fox. (I'm sure the quality of animation would've dropped off if this had gone to series, but heck, most G.I. JOE episodes looked decent even when they weren't up to snuff.)

    I just would've preferred Phoenix over Dazzler to round out the classic seventies line-up.

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    1. That is an absurd price.

      I can understand not wanting to go down the Jean Grey/Phoenix well initially, but I wonder if they'd have gone there eventually, like the '92 series did? It's such an iconic story it'd be hard to imagine an adaptation that doesn't go there eventually.

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  3. I used to watch Muppet Babies and seeing Spider-Man crouch down in the closing production company logo animation was a surprising but welcome joy. Other than that, I got nothing.

    Outside the comic book pages, Marvel Comics had zero presence in any other format whatsoever for us. Which I kind of loved, because if a person knew them he knew then the proper and right way. The terrible price of it of course was that if you wanted to play with them, you just had to use Defenders of the Earth action figures and pretend. Ming the Merciless made a mean Super-Skrull if you scraped off the black on his beard, though, and Garax the Ultimate Evil Robot was a passable Ultron.

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  4. This was one of my earliest intros to the X-Men as well, and like you, this is the thing that made me fascinated with them.

    As for the point of publishing this, well ... at the time, if there was a way to get the pilot on VHS, I didn't know about it. This was a way to "own" the pilot. (Personally, I would buy this on DVD today in a heartbeat.)

    When I sought out the comics in a shop after watching this in 1988, I immediately gravitated to Classic X-Men, because the Uncanny covers were weird and didn't match. (In fact I think they said "Inferno" instead of Uncanny.) Classic X-Men *just* about matched, so I bought that instead. :)

    Funny about the Australian Wolverine. Imagine if they had cast an Australian to play Wolverine in the movies!

    Speaking of the movies, was this pilot the first X-Men adaptation to do the technique of just bundling random X-villains from all different eras and just bundling them together under Magneto's leadership? The first movie did much the same thing, and it seems like other adaptations have as well. No one ever just seems to say, "Okay, let's do the 1980 Brotherhood" or "We'll do the Silver Age brotherhood." They always create a patchwork version that never existed as such in the comics. And it all started here!!

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    1. Good point about this being a way to "own" the episode, pre-VHS. I know they did release it on video, but I think that was a few years, at least, after it aired.

      As for the hodge-podge villain teams, yeah, that probably started here (this is one of the first outside-comics adaptations). Though Mystique's Brotherhood in the '92 series was pretty close to the DoFP one (just with Rogue retroactively added and no Destiny).

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  5. Speaking of the movies, was this pilot the first X-Men adaptation to do the technique of just bundling random X-villains from all different eras and just bundling them together under Magneto's leadership? The first movie did much the same thing, and it seems like other adaptations have as well. --clip-- They always create a patchwork version that never existed as such in the comics.

    My top 1 reason for hating pretty much any adaptation, followed close by the importance of a character depending of how big a star they have managed to get into the role.

    The villains are pre-existing characters with a history of their own and every one work from their own particular motivations. Pooling them up and having them do it just for the evulz (or worse, for totally character-inappropriate motivations) leaves the character a posing husk.

    Imagine if they had cast an Australian to play Wolverine in the movies!

    "That ain't a bloid. -SNIKT- These are bloids."

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    1. Eh, the villain mashing doesn't bother me much. In general, I've gotten a lot more laid back about changes made in the process of adapting a pre-existing work. Changes are going to happen, but that's half the fun of adaptations, seeing a different spin on pre-existing characters/concepts.

      *My* big pet peeve when it comes to film adaptations of comic book stories is how masked heroes played by marquee movie stars always have to find a reason to have their mask off as much as possible, because Hollywood's not paying those to NOT show their handsome faces...

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  6. My intro to the 'All New, all Different' X-Men was the Cyberiad episode in SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS in 1984 (any comments on those episodes?). I asked for the comics, and I got UXM#192 with Storm and Colossus departing wildly from my Dave Cockrum impressions on them. I ended up getting the back issues and CLASSIC X-MEN, and I preferred that era, although I've opened up to the rest of Claremont's run.
    As for this special, I remember one Saturday Morning spotting the end of this special (it aired before 8 am). I was so rocked that I couldn't wait for next Saturday, hoping I will be awake for it. And nothing happened.
    When my family went to Florida in 1993, our hotel had a downstairs arcade. The Dragon's Lair Time Warp game (which I thought was a trailer for a movie), and the X-Men game based on this special were the highlights. My siblings all got together to play and win this game, and we succeeded.
    When I finally saw this special that time, I actually preferred this to TAS (I even thought Wolverine's Aussie accent was in-character!). The Adjectiveless grouping (minus Psylocke with Storm and Jean) wasn't my X-Men. My X-Men was the Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Kitty with the Dave Cockrum threads (although I now prefer the Brown-Orange Wolverine suit).
    Lemme see about substituting action figures:
    Secret Wars Kang became Zatanna
    Secret Wars Wolverine (with Green Goblin glider) became Hawkwoman
    Secret Wars Baron Zemo became Firestorm
    Storm or Secret Wars Spider-Man Black costume became Black Canary
    Flash Gordon Dr. Zarkov (with She-Ra Bow's cape and yellow ribbon sash) became Dr. Strange.
    Weapon X Wolverine became Namor
    Super Powers Green Arrow became Hawkeye
    Super Powers Wonder Woman became Wasp (she has a W)
    Batman '89 became Black Panther
    Marvel Super Heroes Silver Surfer became Iceman
    Super Powers Mantis became Ultron
    In terms of the Justice Society, I could pass off Superman (add white to his temples), Flash, Wonder Woman, and Hawkman to their Earth 2 selves. I thought a Super Powers Mister Miracle could make a good Starman (also a good Vision too).
    Visionairies Cryotek (the Bear guy) became Colossus.
    The Fantastic Four- Bob the Goon (Mr. Fantastic), Secret Wars Daredevil (Human Torch), Storm (Invisible Girl), Masters of the Universe Beast Man (Thing).

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  7. I just noticed: fun panel that where they got Juggernaut and Blob standing next to each other. It is only a question of time when their constant "I can't be stopped!" "I can't be moved!" "I can't be stopped!" "I can't be moved!" ends up into tragic consequences.

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    1. I had that thought too. Like, are they going to cause reality to fold in on itself if they stand next to each other too long?

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  8. This was my first exposure to the X-Men too! I tuned in for Dino Riders and when this popped up I was entranced. I lost track of them for years until a new kid at school brought Marvel Universe Cards-- I ravaged thru them looking for the X-Men Team and was so confused when I saw no Cyclops, Storm's short haircut, different team members... of course I came to love that era the most.

    This site is great, keeping me up past my bedtime for a week now! Thank you!

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