They say that every generation has its own X-Men, the ones they consider to be the “true” versions. When something runs for fifty years or so, that’s going to happen. There’s been myriads of comics, cartoons, reboots and so on over the decades. Of course, we’re living in the 21st century now, so naturally there’s been more iterations and rehashes of the X-Men in the last ten years than there has been in the forty years before. I can’t really say much about them, as I got the “X” tattoo lasered off my butt-cheek soon after the movies came out. It was just never the same after that.
For me, my love affair with the X-Men started with the Saban cartoon in the early nineties. It brought out the best in the X-Men, I think. The stories were full of action and danger, yet still managed to flesh out the characters and let their histories and motivations be known. It dealt with all sorts of themes and social issues such as prejudice and racism, religion and the desire to belong. It never got too heavy, though – there was always humour, wit and wisdom to be found.
It was very down-to-earth; the X-Men felt like real people. Even the plots, often adapted from the comics, never seemed so far-fetched. Sure, there was time-travel and robots and things, but to my young mind it seemed like stuff that could actually happen.
Anyway, you probably already know how great the cartoon was, and if not there’s a million reviews of it already on the interwebs. I’d like to talk about the X-Men themselves, the dream team from my childhood. They still remain my favourite superheroes – for me, they define the word. So let’s familiarise ourselves with them, find out what they mean to me, and then rate them on the patented TMW nonsense scale.
Professor Charles Xavier founded the School for Gifted Youngsters as a front to recruit for his paramilitary organisation who would crush those who disagreed with his philosophy. Children were taken from their parents and indoctrinated into the tight-knit secret society of like minds, and the weaker ones were killed in a fun-house of horrors called “the danger room”.
Of course, we jest. Xavier is a noble man who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of peace, all the while forgetting how to pronounce his own name. He very rarely uses his powers, only occasionally probing his apostles’ minds to find out what they want for Christmas. A bit like Scatman Crothers in The Shining. It seems a shame, as from what I understand he could sit at his mahogany desk, with an airtight alibi, while two hundred miles away Magneto’s head explodes like a cherry bomb. He instead chooses to throw young children at his enemies in a long, protracted war, hoping that they’ll run out of enthusiasm before he runs out of children.
He has a really cool hover-wheelchair, though! Great for scooting about the labyrinthine halls of the mansion, and for bashing Wolverine in the knees. Kabosh!
X-Rating – 2/5: Charles is wise, compassionate and patient. He is one of the most powerful mutants in the world, yet never actually uses his powers for anything. Maybe he’s not even a mutant, and the chair and the school is just a benefits scam gone too far.
Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, is the poster-boy for the X-men. Pluck a random person off the street and ask them to name an X-man, and they’ll say “Cyclops”. Unless they’re a crack dealer or something, in which case they’ll say “Cyclops. Can I interest you in some crack?”
He’s pretty cool – brave, calm and quick. A born leader. He’s also totally shredded; Professor X must sprinkle protein powder on his cereal every morning. Who needs mutant powers when you can bench 300 pounds? Anyway, as every boy knows, Cyclops’ mutant power is the ability to shoot lasers from his eyes. These optic blasts are so powerful that they’d terraform the moon on a clear night, so the good Prof built Scott a special visor to rein them in. In the movies, he had to reach up and push a button everytime he wanted to blast something, like a maniacally destructive shutterbug. In the cartoon, however, it was mind-controlled or something, and just worked whenever Cyclops wanted it to. As a child, I pondered frequently about how the visor worked. Then I realised how much fun it would be to smite my enemies with eyebeams, and started pondering that instead.
X-Rating – 4/5: You would, wouldn’t you? You know what I mean. You just would. Cyclops is awesome. The end.
I don’t know Jubilee’s real name, or what she does exactly. Some people consider her to be the most useless of the X-men. Maybe they’re right. But I always thought she was cool. Maybe it was the trench coat, or the pink glasses, or maybe even her Marigolds. She was just cool.
To the best of my recollection, Jubilee could shoot ‘pyrotechnic electrical blasts’ from her hands. It disrupted electrical equipment, gave baddies a mild fright, and made a sound like fireworks. Not the worst power in the world, not particularly useful perhaps, but not bad.
Jubilee, being young and relatively weak, was an easy target for the baddies, so lucky for her Wolverine was usually around to back her up. It would go like this –
– Bad Man comes.
– Jubilee says something like “Take this, creep!”, and blasts him in the face.
– Unaffected by the display, Bad Man flashes her a demented grin, then advances, arms outstretched.
– Wolverine comes up from a manhole or out of an air vent and chops Bad Man’s dangly bits off.
X-Rating – 4/5: I always thought she was great. Young and spunky with a give ’em hell attitude. She dressed the part, and could shoot laser beams or whatever from her hands. Most of the X-Men could single-handedly start or end a world war, but Jubilee had neither the desire or capability to be dangerous. She just wanted to be part of the team. You go, girl.
Alias Remy LeBeau, Gambit was apparently from the deep south, and so had a thick Cajun accent. He also had the hots for Rogue, and her approach would result in him giving her a longing stare with his Dr. Robotnik eyes, and then further distancing himself from her affections by loudly and publicly voicing some creepy double entendre.
Gambit was your typical rogue (yes). He was carefree, a little obnoxious and dressed like a tramp. Not fully trusted by the other X-Men, he was constantly fighting against their prejudices – he was a thief once, you see. A maverick who didn’t play by the rules! His dark and murky past was a frequent source of tension.
Gambit’s power was creating “kinetic energy”. He would pick up an object and charge it up, turning it into a ticking time bomb. He often carried around a deck of cards, essentially using them as ammunition. He was also pretty handy with a staff, and could fire off a non sequitur with the best of them.
X-Rating – 3.5/5: Gambit’s power, in summary, is the ability to blow stuff up. That’s worth three points on its own. He gets extra credit for his combat skills and sense of humor. He would’ve scored higher, but I’ve penalised him for not being a gentleman. That’s no way to speak to a lady, Mr. LeBeau. Especially when that lady could turn you inside-out like a glove puppet.
Storm is a little different from the rest of the X-Men. I like her, I’d go as far to say that she’s one of my favourites – the team just isn’t complete without her. But I’ve never been able to reconcile her mutant ability with common sense. Controlling the weather isn’t anything to do with genetics, it’s not something you can be born with. No matter how flimsy, all the other X-Men have some sort of scientific explanation for their abilities. But making tornadoes, conjuring up monsoons and dropping icebergs on people isn’t ‘ability’, it’s just magic.
Let’s just suspend our disbelief for a moment and focus on Storm as a character. She’s really neat – Born Ororo Munroe to her African mother and American father, her parents were later killed in the Suez Crisis, leaving her orphaned in Cairo and, eventually, wandering the Serengeti where she wound up being worshipped as a god because of her powers. Found by Charles Xavier, she came back to the States to join the X-Men. Charles used his psychic ability to figure out how the hell a child gets from Egypt to Tanzania on foot.
X-Rating – 4/5: She’s seen some shit, and is a natural leader and mother figure to the younger X-Men. A great character, spoiled by Halle Berry’s portrayal in the movies, if you ask me. I love the costume, love the character, I just have to accept that magic is a thing now.
Rouge is my favourite X-man, if not my favourite superhero of all time. She’s powerful beyond belief, beautiful, and like all of us, has some demons lurking way down deep inside. Her mutant power is the ability to temporarily absorb other people’s powers. That’s it. It’s not really very useful, and if she touches a non-mutant, a muggle or whatever, they pretty much die. Terrified of this, Rogue wraps herself up from head to cameltoe in green spandex – her skin never to touch any living thing. Of all the X-Men, I think that Rogue pays the highest price for her abilities.
Although technically she only has the one latent power, Rogue long ago absorbed a whole set of abilities from another mutant. For some reason they stuck, and ever since she’s been indestructible, super strong and able to fly.
X-Rating – 5/5: With that kind of strength comes a gentleness that I’m jealous of. We’ve all dreamed of being a superhero, whether Spiderman or Batman or whatever. But sometimes I think that these characters are having their cake and eating it too. Nothing in this world comes for free, and Rogue’s incredible powers come with an incredible price. Truth be told, it’s a price I’d pay along with a couple other body parts if it meant I could be Rogue. For realsies.
That’s all for today, folks. I haven’t covered all of the X-men, not by a long way, so maybe I’ll return to talk about the others. Why not sound off in the comments and let me know your favourites?
“Great for scooting”