Tagged: X-Men cartoon

Marc Alan Fishman: “Previously on X-Men…”

While comic books will always hold an important spot in my pop-culture heart… I admit freely that cartoons hold higher rank. Long before I was inundated to the secret society of pulp and paper, animation dictated my fandom. Voltron, He-Man, and The Real Ghostbusters held sway over my early childhood something fierce. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles followed shortly thereafter. And on the precipice of my eleventh birthday, X-Men arrived.

Unlike the aforementioned Turtles, Ghostbusters, or legendary paladins of mighty lions, the ­X-Men came served with a heaping helping of unknown (to me) backstory. And while all those previous toons had their moments of melodrama… X-Men was a dramatic cartoon show that merely carried lighter moments to offset the continual load of cell-shaded gravitas. It ushered in a new era of what animated kids shows could be – considering that this isn’t being compared to The Simpsons, as that’s an apples-to-oranges if ever there were.

No, X-Men represented action-adventure stories that were built to decidedly not talk down to their intended audience. To deal with prejudice, hatred, and violence (but not outright gore or sex) and not shy away from inter-character conflict. And it did so in media res, assembling a team of heroes, and dropping them immediately into confrontations with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Senator Kelly and his army of Sentinels, Mr. Sinister, and more villains cribbed from the pages of X-lore. That this was done without a single wink or nod to we kids – to let us know that yes this was a cartoon, and we should just be having fun – is what communicated to me (and many of my compatriots at school) a way for us to come of age by way of a cartoon. No winks. No nods. Just adamantium claws, force blasts, and conflict.

Truth be told… Batman: The Animated Series had debuted not long prior to X-Men, and much of my praise above could very easily be copied and pasted. But Batman was given a five-day-a-week run, versus the X-toon’s Saturday morning slot. In terms of playground pastiche, one must always regard that needing to wait a week for another installment brings with it a certain prestige. Batman was always awaiting us when we got home from school. Professor X and his band of mighty mutants were appointment TV for burgeoning Generation X (or whatever the hell my generation is technically classified as).

Clout aside, X-Men dealt its series in more of a serial nature. Batman was long built in two-part acts or one-offs. Because of this X-Men more often felt meatier; taking classic stories from the pages of the comics and adapting them to 22 minute installments was a feat I would later be in awe of. Consider perhaps the apex of the show – the Phoenix Saga.  Here, ten months worth of story were tightly adapted into five episodes, an otherwise unheard of berth of shows for a kid to mull through. And while X-Men’s sister series Spider-Man was also heavily serialized (my friends and I would often joke about “the Neogenic Nightmare, part 314”), show-runner Eric Lewald and his team found the right balance between long arcs and one-offs. Case-in-point, the lone episode dedicated to Colossus would be the spark that spawned my actual first comic book purchase. Natch.

(I was gifted an opportunity to sit down with the aforementioned Mr. Lewald and his lovely wife (slash writer) Julia to kibitz over the series itself, as well as their forthcoming coffee-table-worthy tome titled Previously on X-Men. Keep your eyes peeled later this coming week for that conversation.)

X-Men represented to me a high point of story, animation, and gravitas. It was a bridge to a world not yet explored, and it was the perfect tool for a kid who previously giggled over Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends seeking the true potency of Marvel’s back catalog. X-Men begat The Sensational Spider-Man, and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – both amazing  Marvel ‘toons worthy of praise alongside the best of the DC offerings (all of the Timm-verse, Young Justice, etc.). Suffice it to say: without Lewald and his team’s contributions? We may not have the age of comics we’re presently living through. Stay tuned kiddos. Leave me your favorite X-men moment below, and we’ll see ya’ll back here next week for the multi-part interview! (Seriously, it’s like The Phoenix Saga of interviews!)

Marc Alan Fishman: Comics Are Dead. Thank you, DC!

So, spoiler alert. The comic industry as we know it is going to die. Well, according to Dan DiDio and Jim Lee it is. At the San Diego Comic Con – which I clearly didn’t attend because I already knew comics were dying – the DC honchos all but shook their rain sticks at the assembled retailers to eulogize the industry before revealing how they would save it.

Forgive me. You no doubt heard the thundering cacophony of my right eyebrow arching high on my face at a speed worthy of Barry Allen. The speed at which it jutted there clearly broke the sound barrier in a reflex akin only to those meta-humans with the ability to transcend space and time.

There’s literally too much to unpack from all they blabbed on about for me to fit in a single column. And rather than present evidence how the comic industry isn’t dying at all, I’d like to specifically snark back on one particular point DiLeeDoo made.

“Comic books have become the second or third way to meet characters like Batman and Superman, and we want to change that.”

Uhh… Why?!

The statement itself is a bland platitude at best. It’s big-wigs trying fluff up their retailers – as well as comic fans – into believing their medium is purer than the first or second ways fans meet their heroes. That somehow, DC’s publishing arm will find a way to get kids into the comic shop before they see any licensed character on TV, movies, or frankly… the Internet. Of all the laughable things said at this panel – forgetting the whole part where they confirmed Dr. Manhattan made Rebirth happen – trying to pit comics against their motion picture counterparts takes the cake and crams in a pie to boot.

I am 35 years old. The first time I ever saw Batman? It was Adam West on the campy syndicated re-runs, in between episodes of Happy Days. Superman? Learned about him second-hand on any number of references dropped during episodes of Muppet Babies, or an errant episode of Challenge of the Superfriends. And while I would eventually seek the printed page for more mature and significant adventures of those (and all other) characters, the tent-pole flagship Trinity of DC Comics was met in motion long before the pulp.

Furthermore, as a Gen-X/Gen-Y/Millennial/Whatever I’m classified as these days, my generation learned and loved superheroes first via these extraneous ways, because the comics themselves were mired in the muck of massive continuities. As I’ve long detailed in this space previously, when comics peaked my interest it was because of an adaptation of an X-Men cartoon I’d seen the week prior. Investigating at the local Fiction House stressed me out when I saw an actual X-Men comic was on issue 568 (or whatever), and the shop keep made no qualms telling me he wouldn’t even know where to start me out if I was wanting to collect the book.

Times have since changed aplenty, but that doesn’t mean the same issues still exist if we are to take to heart Dan and Jim’s sentiment.

A 9-year old girl goes and sees Wonder Woman with her mom. She falls in love with Diana of Themyscira and begs her mom to learn more. They venture into the local comic shop, and what then? If the cashier is worth her salt? She’ll have a great big display of the now Eisner-Award Winning Wonder Woman: The True Amazon ready and waiting. But peer over to the rack, and where does our 9-year old go? Is the current issue of Wonder Woman ready and waiting? And where is Batgirl, and any other female-driven comics all set and ready for their newly minted fan?

And beyond that, how on Gaea’s green Earth would you ever suppose you’d find a way to get this 9-year old girl into the shop before she’d been enticed by the multi-million dollar blockbuster action film. Simply put, that’s proudly brandishing a knife in a nuclear bomb fight. It’s dumb to even think it, let alone declare it like a campaign promise.

To this point, credit where it’s due: Dan DiDio denoted the need for more evergreen books – titles that live outside any common continuity to tell great one-off stories – to specifically meet the needs of fans who come in (or come back) to comic books. The truth of the matter is no book will ever compete with a big release movie or a weekly television show. Video killed the radio star for a reason. And the Internet murdered the video star and put the snuff film on YouTube. To cling to printed fiction as some form of hipper-than-thou solution that could wage war with more ubiquitous platforms all in the name of changing the way the public meets their heroes is a dish I’ll never order, even if I’m starving.

To declare this was all in part to save the industry … well Dan: is it fair to have cultivated the problem only to turn around and say now you’ll save us from the very issues you created? That is some Luthor-level vertical integration if I ever did hear it.

Save me, Dan DiDio. You’re my only hope. Well, barring Image, Boom!, Lion Forge, Valiant, Aw Yeah, Oni Press, IDW, Dark Horse, Action Lab, and Unshaven Comics.