TOP 10: Characters We Want in “X-Men ’97”

March 7, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

We here at the Great Pop Culture Debate could not be more excited about Marvel Animation’s “X-Men ’97” project, debuting March 20 on Disney+. Picking up right where the classic “X-Men” animated series from the 1990s left off, it’s time to return to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and see what Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Wolverine, Jubilee, and the rest got up to for the remainder of the 20th Century. Here’s the trailer:

In anticipation of the show’s return, we just completed a full rewatch of the original “X-Men” animated series, also available on Disney+. While binge watching those five seasons, we made a list of characters who were left out the first time — or barely included — who we would love to see in this continuation.

Note that we kept our picks ONLY to characters that EXISTED in Marvel Comics in the 1990s, and who are mutants or X-Men antagonists, and therefore could theoretically be included in “X-Men ’97.” There are a great many mutants who have appeared since then that we would LOVE to see, but we’re playing by this series’ rules.


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Honorable Mention: Dazzler

The X-Men’s resident pop star, Alison Blaire technically appeared twice in the original “X-Men” animated series, in a dialogue-free cameo in the initial Mojo episode, and as a guest star in an episode during the “Dark Phoenix Saga” (fitting, as that’s the storyline in which Dazzler first appeared in the Marvel Comics). But neither of those appearances felt authentically Dazzler. She was indeed a mutant pop star in the “Dark Phoenix” episode, but her characterization was off, she sounded like she smoked three packs a day, and most criminal of all, she was — gasp! — a brunette. Alison Blaire would literally NEVER. While she was absent from comics for most of the 1990s, Dazzler was a main X-Man for several years in the 1980s (in the Outback squad), and prior to that was one of the most prominent Marvel mutants, with her own ongoing solo series. We need to see Dazz back in all her glory, singing bops and slinging lazer beams, alternating between a brat and a badass.

10. Arcade

We were surprised to find literally zero mention of longtime X-Men adversary Arcade in the original “X-Men” animated series. We suspect it may have something to do with censor rules around violence, and also using the term “Murderworld” in Saturday morning cartoons. Amateurs! Arcade has never been a major threat to the X-Men, but he has been a recurring thorn in the side of the team — and its many spinoffs — for more than 40 years. He has no powers, he’s just a rich psychopath who builds elaborate death traps in which to torture his prey for entertainment and, sometimes, a bounty. In the 21st Century, what is more relatable than the mega-rich punching down on anyone who threatens the status quo? Arcade was “Squid Game” in the 1980s! I would argue that Arcade is more relevant than ever, and we’d love to see what the new series could do with censorship rules removed.

9. Namor

Namor the Sub-Mariner was not part of the X-Men line-up during the 1990s. But he absolutely existed in Marvel Comics at the time — he’s one of the very first Marvel Comics super-heroes, dating back to the 1940s — and he is canonically a mutant. In fact, he is often referred to as Marvel’s first mutant. He would go on to join the X-Men during the team’s Utopia era in the 2000s, but logically he should be fair game for the “X-Men ’97” team. His film and TV rights were apparently a nightmare for decades, but given his live-action appearance in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, we would hope that he’s available for animation, as well. Even if it’s just for a guest spot, we’d love to see the Avenging Son of Atlantis interact with the 90’s X-Men.

8. Rachel Summers/Phoenix II

It’s completely understandable why Rachel was left out of the original “X-Men” cartoon. At that point she had been shunted over to the Excalibur team, and her origin is unbelievably confusing, especially for a general audience. Also, she dressed like a dominatrix. But Rachel is one of the very few members of the main X-Men team — at least by the 1990s — to not have made an appearance in the original animated series. Briefly, Rachel is the daughter of Cyclops and Jean from an alternate reality, and is first introduced in the comics as one of the Hounds, mutants who have been forced into servitude by the villain Ahab. She eventually ends up in present-day (well, the 1980’s) in an effort to prevent that future from happening, and has access to the Phoenix Force while Jean is presumed dead, following the original Dark Phoenix saga. Confusing! The Hounds DID briefly appear in the original “X-Men” animated series, but working for Apocalypse/Fabian Cortez, not Ahab. The “X-Men ’97” trailer show Scott and Jean expecting a baby. That could either be Cable — introduced in the original animated series, but never explicitly revealed to be Jean and Scott’s son in that continuity — or possibly Rachel. Since animated Jean no longer has access to the Phoenix Force, and Cable exists during this timeline, we’d love to see Rachel make an appearance.

7. Stryfe

A genuinely surprising omission from the original animated series, Stryfe was a significant X-Men villain throughout the 90s. He was a repeated antagonist for Cable’s newly launched X-Force team, and the mastermind behind the big “X-Cutioner’s Song” crossover, in which it was revealed that Stryfe was the clone of Cable, and therefore, Scott and Jean’s genetic son. Stryfe did appear briefly toward the end of the original animated series, as one of the psychics that Apocalypse gathered to destroy time (don’t think about it too much, it makes absolutely no sense). Possessing all of Cable’s psi-talents, without the damper of his techno-organic virus infection, Stryfe is an incredibly powerful psionic, and more than that, he looks like an absolute unit in that armor. We’d love to see Stryfe and the Mutant Liberation Front show up, especially now that Magneto — spoiler — appears to be working WITH the X-Men in “X-Men ’97.”

6. Magik

Illyana Rasputin made at least one appearance in the original animated series, but only in her innocent child state. By the 90s, in the comics, Illyana had been kidnapped by the demon Belasco, aged to her mid-teens, trained as a sorceress, and eventually named ruler of the hell dimension Limbo. She returned to Earth and joined the New Mutants team — also largely absent from the “X-Men” animated series — as Magik, a powerful magic user and an Omega-level teleporter, her actual mutant gift. Magik was an important Marvel mutant for most of the 1980s, until the “Inferno” arc (more on that in a second) left her de-aged and de-powered, and the 90s Legacy Virus storyline literally killed her off. (They killed a child. What the fuck, Marvel?) Magik returned through a series of complicated events in the 2000s, and went on to become a main X-Man for much of the 2010s and 2020s. Given her magical abilities, and her mutant gift to step through time and space, it would be fairly easy to have Magik appear in “X-Men ’97” even as a guest spot. If nothing else, we would love to see the New Mutants at least referenced. Cannonball and Warlock had featured episodes of the original series, and Karma was shown in a cameo. But no love for Sunspot, Mirage, Wolfsbane, Magma, Cypher, or Magik? They deserve a moment to shine — especially Magik, who is now an A-Tier X-Man.

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5. Krakoa 

Krakoa, The Island That Walks Like a Man — not to be confused with Chunky, the soup that eats like a meal — has become an absolutely critical part of the X-Men books for the past 5+ years. If you haven’t read the X-books lately, definitely check it out — it’s been a wild ride, which is coming to an end as I type this. But even prior to that, Krakoa was an important X-Men figure dating back to the 1970s. The mutant island — yes, an actual island that is sentient and feeds on mutant energy, making it a mutant itself — was responsible for the All-New, All-Different X-Men squad featuring Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Banshee, Nightcrawler, etc. even coming into existence. Years later, it would be revealed that it was ALSO responsible for a whole OTHER squad of X-Men to be introduced and immediately forgotten (in the brutal “Deadly Genesis” miniseries). Even setting aside the X-Men’s Krakoan Era, Krakoa deserves a feature in “X-Men ’97,” even if he’s acting as a mindless antagonist. But for a real hoot, check out the “X-Men ’92: House of XCII” mini-series, which shows what would happen if the Krakoan Era took place in the continuity of the original “X-Men” animated series.

4. Bastion 

Bastion is an obvious “new” antagonist for “X-Men ’97.” He appeared as a major antagonist in the comics right as the original “X-Men” animated series was ending, and terrorized the team for several years as the shadowy figure behind the government-sponsored mutant crackdown “Operation: Zero Tolerance,” and then resurfaced in the 2000s as a main baddie behind the “Second Coming” crossover. Bastion is ultimately revealed to be a highly sophisticated hybrid technological being, merging Sentinel creator Master Mold with the hunter-killer Nimrod. As such, Bastion is quite powerful, incredibly resilient, and ruthless. One of the things the X-books have done very well during the Krakoan Era is to switch the X-Men paradigm from human vs. mutant to human vs. mutant vs. machine. So much compelling work has been done with Sentinels and other robot lifeforms. We’d love to see that dynamic brought into “X-Men ’97,” and Bastion is the perfect way to do it. The Sentinels, Master Mold, and Nimrod have already appeared. Next stop Bastion?

3. Madelyne Pryor/Goblin Queen

Madelyne was a critical part of 1980’s X-Men comics. First she was brought in as Cyclops’ love interest — who looked uncannily like Jean Grey — after Jean “died” in the “Dark Phoenix Saga.” Scott and Maddy married, and had a son — the boy who would grow up to be Cable. Eventually Scott discovered Jean was still alive and literally abandoned his wife and son to go be with his former flame and dick around with his old buddies as part of X-Factor. (Casual reminder that Scott is a certified louse when it comes to women.) At that point, Madelyne and her kid are attacked by Mister Sinister’s goons, the kid gets stolen (later recovered by Scott and Jean, who at that point think Madelyne is dead), Madelyne hooks up with the X-Men, LITERALLY hooks up with Scott’s brother, Havok (cue the memes), and eventually discovers that she herself is a clone of Jean Grey, created by Mr. Sinister for the sole purpose of seducing Scott Summers and breeding with him. If that wasn’t wild enough, she somehow attracts the attention of some of the nastiest demons in Limbo, who grant her magical powers on top of her own burgeoning pisonic skills, and she assumes the mantle of the Goblin Queen, engaging in one of the most unhinged revenge plots in comics history via the “Inferno” crossover. TL;DR: Madelyne Pryor is a crazy bitch, and we absolutely love her. Madelyne would logically exist in the “X-Men ’97” time period, and Jean had been prisoner of Mr. Sinister on enough occasions in the original series that he could have easily created a clone of her. We would love to see Madelyne bring her visible underboob and potent chaos to “X-Men ’97.” Especially if some of the X-Men end up in some of those hot “Inferno” demonic costumes. (We still get the sweats thinking of Havok’s Goblin Prince get-up.)

2. Shadowcat

Undoubtedly the biggest omission from the 90’s “X-Men” cartoon, Kitty Pryde AKA Shadowcat HAS to make an appearance in “X-Men ’97.” Along with Rachel, Kitty was the sole existing X-Man at that point in history to not appear — even as a cameo — in the original animated series. There are two very likely reasons for that. First, Kitty was the central character in the aborted animation project from the late 80s, which was subsequently released as the standalone Pryde of the X-Men. Secondly, Jubilee filled the role of the new, young member of the team, and the entry point for viewers into the world of the X-Men — which is exactly what Kitty did in the comics about 15 years earlier (and which Armor would succeed Jubilee in doing during the Whedon run). At that point in the comics, Kitty was also — again like Rachel — pushed into the Excalibur book, but the original animated series still managed to squeeze in Nightcrawler more than once, and even had a cameo and an oblique mention of Captain Britain. So the complete and total lack of Kitty was noticeable. We hope the “X-Men ’97” writers can find a way of bringing Kitty in, even if it’s just a guest spot. Plenty of former X-Men popped up in the show throughout the original series — Iceman, Polaris, Angel/Archangel are all mentioned as being former members of the team. Kitty is such a critically important X-Man that she has to be included in the future.

1. Destiny

The other fascinating omission in the original “X-Men” animated series was Destiny, the precognitive and longtime member of Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. It’s true that Destiny was dead at that point in the comics, having been killed by Legion just prior to the launch of the Blue/Gold teams that were the starting point for the cartoon. But so many earlier characters were used on the show — Sauron, Erik the Red, Master Mold, Zaladane and Garrok, freaking Arkon in a TWO-PARTER — that they certainly could have used Destiny had they wanted to. I wonder if the issue was either Destiny’s then-advanced age (she was an elderly woman at that point in the comics), or the fact that she and Mystique were canonically in a lesbian relationship for decades. Regardless, we would love to see Destiny in “X-Men ’97.” Even after her death in the comics, Destiny caused all manner of drama with her diaries filled with secrets and predictions — which provided the spine for several of Claremont’s later X-Men stories — and then she absolutely blew up the Krakoan Era after Mystique engineered her forbidden resurrection. She’s a great character with a dramatic visual design, and the blind future-seer is a plotline engine. Manifest Destiny, “X-Men ’97” showrunners!

Disagree with our list? Are there other characters you’d like to see in “X-Men ’97”? Share them in the comments below!

And make sure to check out our Recaps page for our thoughts on “X-Men ’97” once it starts airing!

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