Everything old is new again. Long-lost television series from the 90s are being resurrected since 80s nostalgia disappeared back into the neon depths it crawled out of. Over the last few years, we’ve seen revivals of Twin Peaks and The X-Files, Full House and Gilmore Girls. There are more on the way, but now we’re delving into comic book territory. In a recent interview with SYFY Wire, Eric Lewald, the showrunner for the classic X-Men: The Animated Series, mentioned his desire to give the series another season. While the revivals of long-fallow series have been hit or miss, we fully support the idea of bringing this classic back again. In an era of sometimes excessive nostalgia, we'd be able to see nostalgia used properly, used to the right the creative course of characters who have, since just a few years after the show's demise, been misused. It’s time to steer the ship away from the rocks.
The X-Men comics and the movie universes are confused on what to do with the X-Men and are clearly throwing everything at the wall to make it stick. The film continuity has become as knotted and tangled as its comics source; in that way, the X-Men franchise has the dubious honor of being the most faithful comic book adaptation of all. The X-Men have a unique depth that other characters/teams don't necessarily have, since they're such a huge and interchangeable ensemble with an expansive lore and villain lineup to pick from, and yet after nearly twenty years of X-Men movies, we continually only see a handful of characters given the spotlight.
The comics, meanwhile, manage every year to surprise us with nonsensical developments and redundant shake-ups. Marvel has decimated the mutant population, brought it back, broken up and mixed the teams like they were martinis, and - most offensively - attempted to replace the X-Men with the Inhumans, since Marvel still has the film and TV rights to those characters, while the X-Men are still with Fox.
Eric Lewald's interest in reviving the X-Men animated series isn't casual - he's given it some real thought. Here's his pitch for how the show could start up again:
“Season 6 could open, months later, with the X-Men in disarray – a few gone, the ones remaining at each other’s throats. They miss their leader. Then somehow they are called to – and transported to – an existential crisis on Lilandra’s distant world. The team grudgingly reunites ‘for Charles,’ heads off to space, solves the crisis, and a somehow-healed Charles Xavier is either able to return to Earth with them or, if he can’t, his final heroic sacrifice heals the team’s wounds and they return to Earth as the proper X-Men again.”
It's a clear, simple arc from a writer that understood the X-Men so well that his cartoon is considered to be second only to Batman: The Animated Series. If given the opportunity, Lewald can return to tell a complicated but accessible X-Men - one that we haven’t seen since Joss Whedon’s Astonishing run more than a decade ago.
A revival would give fans a place to see the classic and beloved X-Men of a fan-favorite era. The risk, of course, would be tarnishing the legacy of the show if its return doesn’t live up to the hype. The series would also look very different in 2017 than it did in 1992, which would actually be to its benefit. As great as the show was, X-Men’s animation vacillated between passable and, well, pretty bad. The last season in particular saw a massive shift when the bankrupted Marvel had to switch to a cheaper production company. The writing too seemed to be more miss than hit, even though the finale most definitely delivered. A return would be a risk, yes, but would also allow for the series to go out on better terms. And there is no better place for it than Netflix.
The streaming service is bringing back the fan favorite Young Justice cartoon from DC Comics for an improbable but welcome third season - so there is a chance. Netflix, with its looser content restrictions, would allow for the show we love to turn the volume up a little bit; considering X-Men’s themes, the series would be the perfect example of how X-Men stories could be and should be written in 2017. To drive the point home, we have a very specific request: along with Lewald, bring in Margaret Ann Loesch to produce. She was the Fox Kids president during the series’ original run. She constantly fought for the show to stay true to the spirit of the stories as possible, and pushed for mature themes like racism and death, despite network concerns of what children would be exposed to. Together, Lewald and Loesch were the one-two punch of the series. On Netflix, the gloves could come off.
Netflix is taking a risk with Young Justice, which has a devoted, but undeniably smaller fandom than the X-Men. The streaming service may wait to see how the series performs before expressing any interest in another superhero cartoon revival. The time would allow Lewald to work on scripts and for producers to try to get the old cast back together. Everyone is still alive—strangely enough, Cedric Smith and Catherine Disher who voice Professor Xavier and Jean Grey in the series were married in real life—though not everyone is still acting.
While Lewald was speaking only in hypotheticals about the possibility of return, the fact that his interest has made big news across nerd sites on the Internet shows that there is still a hunger for more of the old series. There’s no better example of this than the X-Men ’92 limited comic series. It took place in the series’ old continuity and, true to the show, adapted elements of major X-Men stories while also telling original ones as well. Scott Koblish art slightly updated the show’s art style while preserving its distinctive look, which should be used as a measure if a revival were to be produced. The comic series had a short lifespan, as it was tangentially related to another of Marvel’s incomprehensible event series that was also publishing at the time. Despite being relegated to a digital-only platform, X-Men ’92 sold gangbusters, and, accidentally, may have sparked Lewald’s interest in a return to the X-mansion.