Good goddamn, I love the X-Men. Like many people of my era, I especially love the X-Men cartoon from the 1990s. It might come off as an animated soap opera at times, but screw it, I loved that show so much and still do to this day. Little did we know that just a few years before the X-Men cartoon we all know and love first aired, there was another attempt to bring Marvel’s team of misfit mutants to the small screen. Only one episode was made, titled Pryde of the X-Men (get it? Kitty Pryde?), the series never materialized due to Marvel hitting financial troubles. Hard to imagine since Marvel essential owns money as a concept and as a whole at this point. Oddly enough, it still had a small impact, as the beloved Konami X-Men arcade game was based on Pryde.
I remember seeing this released as a VHS tape along with a slew of other Marvel cartoons, many of which I owned as a kid. I guess it also infrequently aired in syndication, but I never saw it up until this last week. How does it stack up against the X-Men cartoon that did come out (which we’ll refer to as the Fox series)? Let’s take a look.
First, I just want to mention the PSAs that were put on the beginning of these VHS tapes, as most versions of Pryde of the X-Men that you find online will include it. Spider-Man is telling you to register to vote. Where? At your local participating video store. I’m perplexed as to who the audience was for this. Alright, on to Pryde of the X-Men for real this time.
First up the theme song. Man, where to start with this thing. I think the first thing that stands out is that it sounds like it’s sung by the guy from Disturbed. Wait for the verse after the first chorus, you’ll hear it. If it were him, it’d clearly be his best work, but by 80s cartoon standards, this song is terrible (see that, sick burn on the dude from Disturbed). I wonder if it would have been catchy back then with its call back chorus: “X-Men, X-Men, this is the day, this is the day.” Pretty sure those are the words. There’s some part that talks about Magneto’s hordes, but it sounds like he says “whores,” but it is established that the X-Men strike like thunder.
So how about the X-roster? You’ve got Professor X, Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Dazzler, Colossus, Wolverine, and in case the title didn’t give it away, Kitty Pryde. That’s a pretty solid lineup made even better by the fact that they’re in their 80s costumes. Brown and orange Wolverine is my favorite Wolverine. Cyclops had yet to be struck by the plague of belts and pouches that ravaged the comics world of the 90s. And while we’re talking about looks, I really like the exaggerated amount of shading applied to every character’s physique. It’s corny, but it looks like a comic book. While my 8 year old self misses Gambit, current me loves seeing Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler. I’m going to have to give the edge to Pryde.
I guess this is as good a point as any to discuss what the cartoon might be most infamous for: Wolverine has an Australian accent. From what I can tell, this was requested from up high as Australian accents were popular at the time partly due to the success of Crocodile Dundee. It’s a hard to overlook now, as the Fox series defined for many years to come how Wolvie’s voice sounds. The rest of the voice acting is okay. Professor X doesn’t sound like you’d expect him to and Frank Welker’s Lockheed is Slimer.
Look at them, striking like thunder.
The plot of the episode is actually quite a bit like the plot of Night of the Sentinels, the two parter that kicked off the Fox series. Swap newcomer Jubilee for newcomer Kitty Pryde and replace the Sentinels with Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and they pretty much serve the same purpose, to introduce the X-Men through the perspective of a young, new recruit that kids could relate to…I guess. Kitty Pryde pretty much fucks up everything she comes into contact with. She causes trouble by phasing through a computer not once but twice, and when Magneto shows up steal Cerebro’s power core (your guess is a good as mine on that), she she’s like, “Yeah, sure, we’re not using it,” and tosses it to him without any protest. Pryde does get pretty weird when the X-Men head into space to fight Magneto at Asteroid M. Gaps in logic are expected in cartoons of its era, and even the Fox series has them, but when Cyclops fires an optic blast through his space helmet to break into Asteroid M, you know they didn’t think about this for too long. There’s also a tremendous lack of allegory, especially when compared to the Fox series which came out just three years later. The X-Men have always been a vehicle for illustrating the complete absurdity of bigotry, and there’s a tiny bit of that in the beginning of Pryde but quickly says, “Yeah, that’s cool and all, but we’re going to go fight Magneto.”
Pryde of the X-Men VHS tape in full. Watch it, I guess? Or don’t?
Needless to say, Pryde of the X-Men is pretty weak. I suppose it could have grown if it had been given a chance, but I’m glad it didn’t since what we did get is still so good. The characterization of the X-Men is like that in Transformers, which is to say just about non-existent. After the silly theme song and the thrill of seeing the 80s X-Men in motion, it’s boring. I wish it were at least a case of it being so bad it’s good, but it isn’t. It’s just a curiosity.
Sorry to end on such down note. I’ll attempt to salvage the situation with this commercial for Toy Biz’s X-Men action figures, thirty seconds that entertains me to no end. “Cyclops turns on laser power.” Amazing. And seriously, THOSE. FUCKING. BONGOS.
I’m feeling better already.