3 – Cartoons, Lies, and Video Tape

Featuring Emergency Backup Co-Host Chris Sims!

In which Rachel and Chris X-plain three cartoons and track a disagreement to its source; Gambit is definitely the worst person you know; Broadcasting Standards and Practices is tired of your death ceremonies; Storm doesn’t have an inside voice; and we finally get around to mentioning that one dude with the claws.

X-Plained:

  • Weaponized creepiness
  • The evolution (and Evolution) of X-Toons
  • Why you hate Cyclops (and Rachel doesn’t)
  • Adaptation overload
  • Broadcast standards, practices, and laser rifles
  • How to order pizza like a weather goddess
  • A paramilitary after-school club
  • G-Rated Wolverine
  • Comics based on cartoons based on comics
  • Morph
  • The Batman Standard
  • The Wolverine and the X-Men trifecta of perfection
  • Why the Mojoverse works better on TV
  • Dazzler’s secret second job
  • Basic jacketry

CORRECTION: In this episode, Rachel mentions that Morph’s first comics appearance is in Exiles. It’s not: he’s in Age of Apocalypse. Mea culpa.


You can find a visual companion to the episode – and links to recommended reading – on our blog.

Find us on iTunes or Stitcher!

28 comments

  1. All right, you brought me out of lurkerdom by covering X-Men Evolution.

    To be fair, I discovered the series last year, fell in love with its renditions of The Brotherhood characters (especially Toad and Blob–I have a special spot in my heart for Evo’s Toad and Blob) and Apocalypse, then became Facebook friends with the character designer and plied him with all my questions about them all.

    The same character designer, Steve Gordon, also did the designs on Wolverine and the X-Men. It _was_ intended as a continuation of Evolution. However, it bombed for a couple of reasons. I think one of them was that the series required a certain amount of X-Men knowledge to appreciate it, but it was also created to do what Evolution did: bring a young new audience into the franchise. And it failed because there are no happy places in this show. There’s no break in the action long enough to catch your breath. Everyone’s always running to or away from something. It’s like a non-stop action movie with no intermissions to catch your breath. Even Batman had some happy places!

    A lot of characters and their relationships are only shown in flashback (like Wolverine and Rogue’s relationship–played up to emotional heights in Evolution felt stiff and meaningless without that backstory). Even the music from opening to background score is oppressive: BAMMM BAMM BAMMM. BAAM BAMMMM. It’s like the creators are screaming at the audience, “Are you taking this seriously? I don’t think you are. Let’s turn the soundtrack up even more so you know to take this shit seriously!” BAAM BUUM BUM.

    In an era of things like Teen Titans, this show was trying to be a Batman the Animated Series–without that series’s self-containment. You don’t need to have watched previous series or read comics about Batman to appreciate Bruce Timm’s genius. Dark and serious can help differentiate a cartoon in a sea of pop and bubbles, but that doesn’t give it license to jump into the middle of a continuity and try to get people to care about characters they’ve never met before.

    So it failed at what it’s commissioner’s paid for it to do: engage a NEW audience that would buy comics, watch movies, go to Burger King. If you fiendishly follow the Evolution fandom, you’ll see a lot of folks did take that step from cartoon to comic franchise. Less so with Wolverine and the X-Men: the barrier to entry was too high.

    MY bones with the show (which I confess, I could not bear to watch past the first 7 episodes):

    1) The Marvel Universe tie-ins. The creators of Evolution fought hard against bringing Thor/Fantastic Four/Hulk into continuity. They were muscled into make Captain America into a feature episode or two on Evo, and they got by by making him a former team mate of Wolverine’s. Well done, given that this breaks the No Double Mumbo Jumbo rule of screen writing: you can’t mix paranormal and science fiction, genetic mutants and gods/radioactive mutants/etc. I know comics likes to repeatedly break this rule, but I can say as a kid watching cartoons, I didn’t buy that shit. And as an adult, I still don’t. As soon as you start mixing you Freak Origins, I shrug and accept that this is some really crappy fan fiction.

    In Wolverine and the X-Men, there are so many more tie-ins. So. Many. More. It’s bad. Hulk? WTF HULK??? Stop plugging your comics in my X-Men, Marvel! This was something the creative team never liked and fought and lost against. Classic product placement/tie-in move from the IP owners, and I appreciate that Evolution tried to exist in a Single Mumbo Jumbo world. Made it way more palatable to their target audience of tweens–and to me!

    2) Wolverine and the X-Men’s animation creeped me out. Especially of young girls. They looked like small women. I mean, this is not a little girl I know: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdAXMotErUk#t=535

    3) Storm living as a goddess in Africa. There is so much wrong with the episode where they get Storm from “Africa” (because I guess it’s a country in this continuity). (To be fair, I didn’t stop watching Evolution after “Walk on the Wild Side” where the girls formed a gang because the boys were… not really portraying any pervasive sexist behavior? It was how I imagine MRA men imagine the feminist agenda: “We’re angry because we’re hormonal and men are suffocating us! We demand freedom to be capricious and wear shiny leather! Boys, gross!”)

    ***

    Because I’ve read way too much about those two series, it’s time for some fun trivia you may already know but people reading these comments may not! 😀

    1) There was a series of (badly drawn except for the very last one which was done by J.J. Kirby) comics that went along with Evolution. Right before it was cancelled, they were building up to bringing in Mr. Sinister! See bottom of this page: http://xmenetv.com/XDComics.html

    2) The creators secretly were secretly writing/animating Mystique to have a subverted romantic love for Rogue, her adoptive daughter. Yes, squicky. Their justification for it: “Mystique was really messed up in the head.” All those Risty/Rogue shippers were dead on.

    3) Toad’s eyes change from green/grey to red when he changes into his Brotherhood gear. I have asked Steve Gordon why this is, and he says there was a hard reason for that, but no one can remember why, and the only producer who would remember is deceased. The world will never know, but we can only guess! http://crowchick.tumblr.com/post/47109743741/i-had-a-hand-in-this-crystallizedtwilight-on

    4) Boom Boom’s interactions with her dad were written to indicate an abusive relationship. Being raised around many abused young women, watching the episode where her dad comes to town to manipulate her freaks me out every time because it’s so dead on.

    • Rachel says:

      Thank you for the wealth of info and analysis! We covered a lot of ground, and didn’t get into most of this as deeply as I’d eventually like to; what you’ve posted is a great supplement.

      Oh, man, Steven Gordon is a bundle of weirdness and contradictions when it comes to the ladies. There’s a blog post of his I actually meant to mention in the episode where he talks at length about working to make the female characters in Evolution really visually distinct instead of falling into the one-face-one-body-different-hair trap that’s so common in comics and animation–which would be awesome if he didn’t spend a lot of it rhapsodizing at length about the breasts of teenage girls.

      Regarding WatXM:

      1) Wolverine started out as a Hulk character, and including him in WatXM fits the larger themes and arc of the show. It’s not the best episode, but it’s interesting and well handled. There are nods back the other way, as well, incidentally: WatXM is set in the same continuity as Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, in which you hear mention of the MRD &c.
      2) Disagree re: the young girl, but WatXM’s character designs have an insane degree of sexual dimorphism–which is probably my biggest issue with the show. The women are TINY, and the men are HUGE, and it’s ridiculous.
      3)Agreed. That’s symptomatic of much bigger problems with the portrayal of Africa in Marvel properties, and, while not a deal-breaker for me, worth calling out.

    • ray says:

      While I agree with your comment about mixing X-Men and other marvel comics (which is why I think the movies have some strong point in this issue), I think the main reason Wolvie & the X-Men was canceled is not because it’s inherent problems (which weren’t so many) but because of political “outside” reasons: mainly the fume that Marvel has with Fox. They felt that in this series they supporting and promoting their sworn enemy’s movies, which is, of course, nonsense. That’s the reason there wasn’t any other X-Men animated TV series since 2006, in spite of the comics success. Marvel only promots the titles it’s has movie rights about, like the Avengers, (the most recent) Guardians of the Galaxy and so on – You can even see it by looking on their facebook page – and we, X-fans, are the one to suffer.

      It’s seems to me Marvel would rather just kill the X-Men by removing the flashlight from them intentionally then have anyone else do somethng with them. Fox will never sell the X-Men back, and so It’s like the Judgment of Solomon, without Solomon or the good, loving mother…

    • EvolutionCyclopsIstheBestCyclops says:

      W&tXM can’t be a continuation of Evolution. The Cyclops flashbacks in Episode 20 (Breakdown) show that the “First Class” of the comics was the actual first class in the continuity of the show. This is not the case in Evolution, as Angel was never a regular part of the cast and Iceman was a New Mutant.

  2. Damn I write too much! And I left out the best bit:

    Where the two series (and the fandom) diverge is pretty straightforward. Evolution sought to introduce audiences to much loved characters and the franchise in the same spirit as the original X-Men series’s first issues. It’s a story about young people finding themselves and fighting Magneto. A lot of effort went into walking that parallel.

    Wolverine and the X-Men was more akin to the current franchise with all it’s built up plot baggage and cast of thousands. This will satisfy longtime fans but confuse newcomers.

    Where Evolution is people vs. people, Wolverine and Co. is people vs. establishments. Depending on your stage in life, exposure to the first animated series and familiarity with the series, you will love or hate one or the other of them.

    And that’s ok!

  3. I have never seen any X-Men cartoons. I’d say I was too old, but I watched plenty of Batman:TAS.

    But I did want to comment on the whole Jean Grey lack of codename thing, b/c I don’t think she is the only one that suffers from this, but I also don’t see it as a problem – it is just a weirdness of the title. Anyway, Kitty Pryde (was she not on any of the cartoons?) is hardly ever referred to by codename. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone refer to her as Shadowcat, except when she decided it was her name. And she definitely, never really called Ariel or Sprite.

    Another example is Rachel Summers (I guess they call her Rachel Grey now for some reason?), who was sometimes called Phoenix, but mostly is just called Rachel.

    I also think that at least in the Claremont era (which I am most familiar with) Storm is called Ororo have the time. In fact, there are a bunch of X-men that even when they have codenames hardly ever use them.

  4. Jean Grey’s 90s costume = the original 60s class uniform, REVERSED. And orange-ified.

    Very much like the Douglock costume.

  5. Rikki says:

    Listening to this episode was really interesting because like Rachel, I love Cyclops but I also watched X-men as a kid. I still loved Cyclops and came away with a loathing for Wolverine that has only grown with age. I hate anti-authoritarian characters. They always seem like such giant as Sholes

    • Rikki says:

      Stupid phone cut me posted halfway through. Anyway, I am an African-American bisexual female so a lot o of Wolverine reads to me as male power fantasy and it just turns me off.

      I did like Evolution but I think Spike is pretty much the worst thing about it. I never watched Wolverine and the X-men (which seems I am not alone). Just that amount of potential Wolverine turned me off.

      I also kinda hate Morrison’s run. None of the rounds that stuck are things that I liked. From Scott/Emma to Quentin Quire. And I won’t talk about Xorn.

  6. James says:

    Like Rachel, I’ve always been a Cyclops guy, from back when I first discovered the X-Men in the early 90’s. I think the key reason is, perhaps depressingly, I could identify far more easily with the uncool, uptight, authority-pleasing Cyclops than I could with badass takes-no-shit does-what-he-wants Wolverine. Similarly, in romantic comedies I instinctively side with the boyfriend who seems decent at first but is proved to be a jerk sometime in the third act to facilitate the female lead dumping him in favor of the film’s hero. Basically, my imagination thinks I’m a loser. Go Cyclops!

    It’s worth noting that the last few years of X-Men stories have really seen Cyclops and Wolverine reverse their roles to a large degree. I think it’s a credit to the writing on the recent X-books that although the world’s perceptions of the two characters have basically swapped (Wolverine on the side of law and order, Cyclops defying the authorities) the characters’ personalities remain consistent despite the change of context.

    Thanks for the podcast! One minor technical complaint–some of the audio editing can be a bit distracting. I understand there may be digressions you want to cut out or places where someone stumbled or something, but I find audible edit points very distracting, especially when the edit is happening within the same topic. Obviously it’s up to you guys, and perhaps other listeners prefer it the way it is, but I would prefer to hear the occasional stumble or trailing off over the artificial jumps between sentences. Either way, I’ll keep listening!

  7. Brian says:

    Hi Rachel and Chris (and everyone else)!

    I am really enjoying the podcasts. Please keep making them. In reference to your most recent episode about X-Men cartoons, have you seen the 2011 Anime x-men series? It was subtitled in Japanese. I watched it and really enjoyed it. The action scenes are very well animated. I was wondering if you’ve seen it and if so, how much of the storyline was taken from the original comics.

    Here’s a link: http://marvel.wikia.com/X-Men_Anime_(2011

    Thanks,

    – Brian

    • Rachel says:

      We have–given the volume of material we had to get through last week, we decided to save that for another episode, along with Miles’s favorite, Pryde of the X-men.

      • Brian says:

        Understandable. I’m surprised you’re able to fit in as much as you do in the time you allow. Thanks for getting back to me. And thanks for letting the listeners know where to begin (X-Men Season 1, The New X-Men). I’ve been wanting to get into it but it’s hard to know where to begin. I read Astonishing Xmen last year and I agree, it’s fantastic. Take care!

        – Brian

  8. Coby says:

    highly entertaining! i love that i can hear the excitement in your voices throughout!

    Scumbag Gambit is so entertaining in his debauchery that I gave him his own tag on my Gambit blog: http://marvelgambit.wordpress.com/tag/scumbag-gambit/

    I also have that image of him kissing Danger up there on the right as my main image. Hilarious!

  9. James says:

    Enjoying the podcast! I’m catching up. I really want to hear your thoughts on Halle Berry as Storm(Storm is my favorite character). Because I have a whole bunch of thoughts on that. Mainly, it needed to be a more commanding actress. Also, costume department needs to step it up with a good wig and quit with the soccer mom hair.

    So, you’ll probably address this when you get to the movies. Keep up the good work:)

  10. Scott says:

    Just found the podcast, binge-listened to them over a week. I wanna start of by saying I like it. Good job, keep it up.

    Rachel, I have to ask you about your love for Cyclops though. I’m posting here because you and Chris get into it a bit in this episode. I’m on the Anti-Cyclops side of the fence, but not for the same reasons as Chris. I just cannot get past how mean Cyclops is to his girlfriends. He dates Colleen, gets a key to her place, and rides off to see Jean. Jean dies, and Cyke doesn’t take long to fall in with Lee. He goes to score with Lee just before he meets Maddie in the plane, and it’s not long before he marries Maddie. Then… X-Factor happens.

    I also say this as a fan of Maddie Pryor, but man, how can you like a guy who’s such a jerk?

    -S

  11. Craggy says:

    just started watching this. I can’t believe hating on Jean’s 90s costume! the gold and blue is so nice! (agree about the name though!)

  12. Dailychronic says:

    You would be hard pressed to find any kids in the early 90s that like Batman TAS more than Xmen. Xmen was an event on saturday morning unlike any other cartoon. I was in 3rd grade when the first episode came out and even the weeks leading up to the premier every kid in the school was talking about it and excited. It was the combination of kids wanting to do what teenagers did (read comics) and the rise of the Marvel trading card which everyone had. Xmen had higher rating than Batman and is one of the highest rated saturday morning cartoons of alltime. They werent selling copys of Batman VHS at Pizza Hut. Xmen is the best cartoon of alltime, batman is a close second, I think you are in the minority believing otherwise and an even more minority enjoying evolution more than the original. Xmen was a more adult show and had more adult themes, with villain who werent just trying to commit random crimes or just generic take over the world villains, there villains on this show had political and moral motives. The long arcs were something no other cartoon had pulled off as well to this point. “Beyond Good and Evil” was so ahead of its time, that alone beats anything Batman ever did. The only thing better about Batman is the animation and the fact that you can watch one random episode anytime because none of them connect or if they did no one ever realized.

  13. Mythiqa says:

    Thank you Amy Dallen for recommending this podcast! In regards to Jean’s costume – I remember thinking as a kid that it was really bland and didn’t represent her at all.

    The costume that I ended up loving the most is the stylized Dark Phoenix costume she wore after Cyclops ‘died’. I thought it looked great and it was at a point when Jean was becoming truly interesting. And then she died. Jean really does get the short end of the stick.

  14. John MusiM says:

    Just had a friend introduce me to your podcast so this overtime evening will be filled with your voices! Really enjoying it so far.

    I have a bit of difference of opinion on the cartoons though. I love X-Men Evolution. There is no defending that first season but man seasons 2-4 were great. And the Jean/Wolverine romance was always kind of BS to me. Wolverine has had much more interesting and deep romances it always seemed unnecessary, corny, and shallow. So making Jean a high school girl takes away the possibility for that.

    Nightcrawler was his most fun in this cartoon too. The Rogue reinvention went a long way in my book too along with a show final treating Cyclops like a character instead of a one dimensional Wolverine foil (“stay away from my girl!”). The final episode of Evolution left me wanting more especially with those fan service future flashes.

    I unfortunately did not like Wolverine and the X-Men. I’m also surprised you like Cyclops at all in that series. While Wolverine was against character in that he was right about everything including what he was wrong about, Cyclops was cast in Wolverine’s typical role but fails at everything and is wrong about everything. The Emma twist was unexpected, probably because I’m so used to the Phoenix is always Jean bit.

    For me, I’m not a Wolverine fan outside of how he was typically written in the 80’s. Wolverine and the X-Men wasn’t that character.

  15. J says:

    Can’t stand WatXM.

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