When Jack Kirby and Stan Lee first created The X-Men in 1963, they originally had no grand scheme for crafting the mutants of the Marvel Universe into the perfect parable for addressing real-world prejudices – they just wanted a group of superheroes whose powers required no lengthy explanation involving radioactive spiders or cosmic rays!
Regardless of their creators’ intentions, time and circumstance developed the X-Men into a proxy for every oppressed minority group in the world. Over the past 55 years, discrimination based on race, gender, religion and orientation have all been explored through the X-Men comics, giving them a more mature and thoughtful perspective than many superhero series.
That mature perspective was also applied to most of the animated series based on the classic X-Men comics, with highly mixed results. There are certain subjects and language that are outright forbidden in children’s entertainment, for fear of warping fragile minds. This required the X-Men cartoon creators to get creative in order to see the core message of the comics delivered without running afoul of Standards and Practices. It also caused more than one rebellious animator or writer to see what they could sneak into the show, in order to pull one over on the censors.
With that in mind, here are 16 Inappropriate Things You Completely Missed In X-Men Cartoons.
16. The White and Black Queen’s Costumes
The name of The Hellfire Club has been appropriated by several real-world groups since the foundation of the original London Hellfire Club in 1718. Legend has it the club gave Enlightenment-era intellectuals a place to indulge in hedonistic behavior and plot world domination. The Hellfire Club of the Marvel Comics universe is built around this idea, regardless of the club’s goals in our reality.
Despite the name of The Hellfire Club itself being changed to “The Inner Circle” for the 1990’s X-Men cartoon, The White and Black Queens of The Hellfire Club were allowed to keep their racy costumes! Even with The Black Queen sporting blue tights (she was bare-legged in the original comics), it’s still surprising to see women in lingerie in a kids’ cartoon! The White Queen also sported her classic corset in the 1989 Pryde Of The X-Men special.
15. Let Sleeping Rogues Lie
The X-Men episode “Till Death Do Us Part, Part One” saw the former X-Man Morph using his shape-shifting powers to sow chaos among his former comrades. His first step in doing this was to disguise himself as Rogue and to approach Gambit, who Morph knew had a crush on Rogue.
Flirting with the Cajun hero, Morph convinced Gambit that Rogue had been lying about her inability to control her energy-draining powers and invited him to meet her later in the rec-room. It was there Gambit found the real Rogue napping and kissed her, causing her powers to drain his energy and knock him unconscious.
Granting that Gambit isn’t the brightest tool in the shed and should have thought better of doing anything unexpected to a woman who can break brick-walls with her fists and/or drain his life-force with a touch, Gambit’s kissing a sleeping Rogue is still all kinds of creepy.
14. Nightcrawler The Creeper
The X-Men: Evolution episode “Middleverse” saw Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner accidentally teleport into the titular dimension. It was here that Kurt met Forge – a mutant inventor who had become trapped in The Middleverse over 20 years earlier. Similar to The Phantom Zone from the Superman comics, people in The Middleverse were able to see the physical world around them but unable to interact with it in anyway.
After spying two cute girls walking towards the girl’s locker room in the high-school gym where Forge was working on a device that would allow them to escape The Middleverse, Nightcrawler slyly asked Forge just how far the boundaries of The Middleverse extended. Forge noted sadly that it stopped just shy of the entrance to the girl’s locker room and showers.
13. No-context Concentration Camps
The X-Men animated series of the 1990s did not shy away from depicting the horrors of racial cleansing. The two-part episode “Days Of Future Past” (based on the classic X-Men story of the same name) depicted future mutants being marched into concentration camps past the tombstones of the original X-Men team, as a reminder of the price of resistance. The show also made reference to the background of Magneto, whose experiences as a Holocaust survivor informed his position of militant resistance.
Despite presenting some truly horrifying images, including a young Magneto being dragged away by soldiers, the series was not allowed to mention the Holocaust or Nazis. Instead, Professor X made reference to meeting Magneto “after a war” and to Magneto’s hatred of “the army that occupied his small nation.”
12. Jean Grey’s Moans of “Pain”
Fans of the X-Men comics generally believe that the character of Jean Grey was not very well-served by her appearances in the 1990s X-Men series. Despite being one of the most powerful mutants on the planet, Jean was frequently reduced to a damsel in distress for the sake of the story. Jean was probably also the least-developed character on the show, leaving many viewers unclear just what was so great about her that Wolverine and Cyclops were ready to fight over her.
One of the X-Fans most frequent complaints about Jean’s portrayal is that whenever she used her powers, she would inevitably gasp and scream in pain before passing out, usually crying out for “Scott!” before she fell unconscious. It has also been pointed out that voice actress Catherine Disher’s attempts at pained moans make it sound like Jean is… rather enjoying what is happening to her.
11. X-Men Evolution: SpykeCam
The X-Men: Evolution episode “SpykeCam” sees Evan “Spyke” Daniels filming his best friends in their down-time as part of an extra-credit school project. Unfortunately, Spyke fails to follow the first rule of candid film-making – always get permission before filming someone!
While Evan might be forgiven for filming Rogue and Shadowcat arguing in the school hallway (which prompts Rogue to warn Evan that if she sees herself in his movie, they’ll be calling him “Spikeless”), his decision to film Jean Grey as she’s in the middle of getting dressed for school in the morning is indefensible.
The episode also features a sequence – reportedly inspired by an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer – where Rogue and Kitty show off some dance moves for Evan’s camera that are incredibly suggestive for a pair of 15-year-old girls.
10. Rogue Giving Cyclops CPR
The fourth episode of X-Men‘s first season, “Deadly Reunions” saw Rogue having to single-handedly save the rest of her squad after an attack on a chemical factory by Magneto left Storm pinned-in by collapsed debris (which triggered an anxiety attack in the claustrophobic Storm) and Cyclops overpowered by the toxic fumes. After freeing Storm from the rubble, Rogue performed CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the unconscious Cyclops.
For some reason, Rogue seemed to treat the whole experience with Cyclops like a romantic encounter. Whispering “C’mon, pretty boy – make a girl feel welcome!” before she pressed her lips to his is bad enough. It gets even worse when Cyclops starts breathing unaided and Rogue whispers quietly that she won’t tell Cyclops’s girlfriend, Jean, about what happened… as if he had come on to her or Rogue had done something wrong!
9. The Way Jean Was Drawn In “Mindbender”
The animators on X-Men: Evolution had an unfortunate habit of viewing the characters from a “male-gaze” perspective, with the point-of-view of several shots frequently focusing upon the female characters’ hips and chests. This would be disturbing enough even without most of the show’s cast being teenagers!
Jean Grey seemed to suffer the worst in this regard, particularly in the episode “Mindbender”, which opens with a nightmare sequence in which a rain-soaked, nighty-clad Jean Grey is tormented by monstrous clowns in a carnival setting. Later scenes of a mind-controlled Jean Grey feature her wiggling her hips in a suggestive manner as she walks, with the camera focused firmly on her behind.
8. Sabertooth gone wild
Viewers saw quite a lot of Sabertooth – the arch-enemy of Wolverine – during all five seasons of the 1990s X-Men animated series. In fact, thanks to a coloration error regarding Sabertooth’s skin tight costume, viewers seemed to see quite a bit more of Sabertooth than they likely ever wanted to.
The originals comic made it clear that the side-panels and back of Sabertooth’s costume were a deep tan or light brown. The animated series frequently rendered these portions of Sabertooth’s costume in the same color as his face, however, making it appear that the savage mutant was running around four cheeks to the wind, so to speak. Presumably this was due to the animators having a limited color palette.
7. Everything about Risty Wilde In X-Men: Evolution
Introduced in “Growing Pains” – the second season premiere of X-Men: Evolution, Risty Wilde was a new student at Bayville High. The purple-haired Brit quickly became best friends with fellow goth girl, Rogue, whom Risty seemed to be unusually obsessed with when the two were apart.
The episode “Fun And Games” revealed the reason for Risty’s apparent interest in Rogue – Risty was really the shape-shifter Mystique in disguise and Mystique had been Rogue’s foster mother!
The fact that Mystique pretended to be a teenage girl as part of a misguided effort to get to know the daughter she’d lost is pretty messed up in itself. What makes it worse is that the show’s writers purposely added romantic subtext into the Rogue/Risty relationship, with Risty discouraging Rogue’s crush on Scott Summers and asking her out to a dance after Rogue tried and failed to ask Scott out.
6. Gambit’s Offer To Let Rogue “Drain His Energy”
While his mutant super-power to change the potential energy in any object into kinetic energy is Gambit’s most famous ability, it’s not the only power the former thief possesses. Gambit also possess a hypnotic charm power that allows him to exert a degree of influence over people, making them more suggestible. This may explain why Gambit did so well with the ladies, despite being painfully overt in his flirting in the 1990s X-Men animated series.
Perhaps the most painful example of this came when Gambit was playing pool with Rogue and suggested the winner get a kiss from the loser. When a disgusted Rogue reminded Gambit that her touch could kill him, Gambit smugly replied, “You can drain my energy any time, Chèr. Gambit has plenty.” He followed this up by charging the tip of his pool cue, in an incredibly unsubtle bit of symbolism.
5. Avalanche’s Face When He Uses His Powers
Lance “Avalanche” Alvers was one of the more interesting characters in X-Men: Evolution. Despite nominally being part of the evil-inclined Brotherhood, Lance did try joining the X-Men at one point, maintained a romantic relationship with Kitty “Shadowcat” Pryde, and was depicted as trying to help people and be a hero independent of his more anti-social allies. This proved ironic given that Lance’s power to generate localized earthquakes was inherently destructive.
The series generated a lot of unintentional humor whenever Lance used his powers. Before he gained fine control of his mutant abilities, using his powers caused Lance to roll his eyes into the back of his head and groan in a manner that many found suggestive, even ignoring that Lance’s powers operated through “focused vibration.” Talk about making the Earth move!
4. Rogue Got Drawn In A LOT of Suggestive Poses
For some reason, Rogue has always topped the list of X-Men that comic readers would most like to date. Maybe it’s the the allure of the forbidden? The thrill of romance with someone from whom a kiss could prove deadly? Her sassy attitude coupled with her deep inner-strength? Or maybe it’s just because she’s a voluptuous redhead who’s clothes are drawn to emphasize her figure?
While there are a lot of fans who like Rogue for reasons beyond her physicality, it can’t be denied that more than a few people probably fell for her because of how the animators on X-Men depicted her. More than any other woman on the show, Rogue seemed to wind up in a lot of suggestive poses that emphasized her spandex-clad body.
3. The Bayville Sirens
The X-Men: Evolution episode “Walk On The Wild Side” saw Rogue, Shadowcat, Jean Grey, Boom-Boom. and Magma forming an all-girl vigilante group after growing sick of the sexist attitudes of their male compatriots. Taking fashion cues from Sandy at the end of Grease, the girls don black leather pants and belly-baring tops along with chokers and sunglasses at night – all in the name of Girl Power!
There’s a lot that’s just plain wrong with this episode, even ignoring the sudden personality changes of most of the characters in it. The middle part of the episode is filled with a truly tasteless music video of the girls dancing in a way that involves a lot of booty-shaking and grinding.
2. Gambit’s Favorite Card Game
Gambit’s overly flirtatious nature was made apparent from the very beginning of the 1990s X-Men animated series. The first episode, “Night of The Sentinels, Part One”, introduced us to Gambit via a scene where we seem him testing the playing cards in a shopping-mall store. The pretty blonde clerk was clearly enraptured by the Cajun, literally leaning over the counter while being totally oblivious to the three-story Sentinel stomping past the window.
“You must like to play cards,” says the clerk in a breathy voice.
“I like Solitaire, okay,” Gambit replies before smiling. “Unless I got someone… to play with.”
This innuendo would set the precedent for every sleazy remark that Gambit would make over the next five years of X-Men. It’s also proof-positive of his mutant charm powers, as it seems unlikely most women would find the thought of him “shuffling his deck” at all appealing.
1. Mystique’s “outfit”
While she was transformed into a reluctant anti-hero at worst by the most recent crop of X-Men films, Mystique was originally portrayed as an unapologetic villain in the classic comics as well as the X-Men animated series. While certain story lines did inspire sympathy for the red-haired, blue-skinned terrorist, the fact remained that Mystique was not a good person.
She was also totally bare every moment she was on-screen!
This was made more apparent in the live-action movies, which gave Mystique a “natural form” that revealed a shapely figure without visible naughty bits. Presumably this was done because it was believed film audiences would demand proof that a shapeshifter could form whatever clothes they want out of their own skin. Either way, one can’t help but marvel at the effort Mystique put into maintaining that detailed of an outfit in the cartoons.
Is there some inappropriate X-Men thing that we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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