The early 1990s were a great time for animated series based on comic books. Some were good, some were bad; but FOX had three of the best, Hands down the best animated series was Batman: The Animated Series based on the DC comic, but there were a few Marvel based series that were almost as good Spider-Man and X-Men.
The X-Men animated series ran for 76 episodes on the FOX network from 1992 through 1997. Adapted from the popular Marvel comic book series, X-Men follows the exploits of Wolverine, Gambit, Storm, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Rogue, Morph, Professor Xavier, and newly joined Jubilee. The series took some of the best storylines like "The Phoenix/Dark Phoenix Saga" and "Days of Future Past" and adapted them for the 1990s.
Over the past year there have been four volumes released, coinciding with a Marvel movie either being released in the theater or its DVD release. With Iron Man 2 hitting the theaters this Friday, in addition to getting DVDs of various Iron Man animated series, we get X-Men: Volume 5, which brings the final 14 episodes of the series, comprised of episodes from the fourth and fifth season.
Highlights of this release include a World War II tale with Wolverine, (pre-adamantium claws) and Captain America, the origins of X-Men villain Mr. Sinister, as well as Nightcrawler meeting his long-lost mother, (who just happens to be an enemy of the team).
The series was originally supposed to end after 70 episodes, but then FOX asked for a few more episodes. Around this time Marvel was filing for bankruptcy and their animation department was shut down. The final episodes were then farmed out to Saban; this is why the final six episodes have a different look. While the style doesn’t match the previous episodes, it did give us “Old Soldiers” (the Captain America episode) and also allowed a proper series finale to be written.
Sadly the DVDs have the episodes in the order that they aired, rather than the order they were produced. This is why we are only now getting “No Mutant Is an Island” which was intended to air right after the final part of “The Phoenix Saga” as well as set up the “The Dark Phoenix Saga” which aired in Season Three. “Longshot” was also slated to air in Season Three, but production issues caused these two episodes to air years later than scheduled. It was the hope of many fans, myself included, the DVDs would have the correct viewing order, but that was not meant to be.
One other nitpick: there are no extras. Maybe I’ve been spoiled with the Wolverine & The X-Men DVDs but each of those episodes have commentary. It would be nice to have some of the cast talking about their time on the series, some commentaries, or interviews with the creators of the X-Men stories that were adapted for the show and their thoughts.
But at least we now have the entire series on DVD, which fans have been requesting for years now. So we can check that one off the list of Marvel Animated series, now we need to get the FOX Spider-Man Series, as well as the pre-'90s Fantastic Four, the various Hulk series, as well as Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, maybe even the Spider-Woman or Thing series. Now that Disney owns Marvel, maybe we’ll see some of the gems (and stinkers) finally released on DVD. Iron Man 2 will hit DVD probably in the Fall and maybe we’ll see some of these titles then!