X-Men ’97’s Best Change Fixes the Original Show’s Major Flaw

X-Men '97's best change to The Animated Series formula finally addresses one of the original show's major flaws.

Nightcrawler and Rogue in X-Men 97
Photo: Marvel Studios

This X-Men ’97 article contains spoilers.

As a revival of X-Men: The Animated Series from the ’90s, X-Men ’97 has really killed it with its first season. Not only does it capture the magic of the original show but it’s also successfully broken away from the original show’s limitations. For example, animators in the ’90s had to be strategic about how they portrayed violence on a kids show — Wolverine couldn’t use his claws on human or mutant enemies, so he spent a lot of his time unloading on Sentinels instead. But in 2024, we have Jubilee graphically splitting a monster’s head open with her firework powers and Gambit impaled by the Mother Mold. It probably helps that this revival of the series is as much for nostalgic adults who want a more grown-up take on these stories as it is for kids.

But it isn’t just the modern approach to violence that separates X-Men ’97 from the original, or even the fact that Wolverine can get away with saying “crap” and “pissed off” on Disney+. No, one of the best changes is seen right in the opening title sequence. In this updated version of the original show’s intro, after we see Cyclops, Jean, Storm, and Wolverine do their thing, we suddenly see Morph dodge laser fire and punch towards the camera, all in front of a character logo. Moments later, we see Bishop get his own spot, revealing he too is on the show’s roster.

Following the first episode’s cliffhanger where Magneto claims to be the new leader of the X-Men, the second episode reflects that twist by adding Magneto in big letters to the title credits. Storm temporarily leaves the team by the end of the second episode, so her bit is gone in the third episode’s intro.

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This is a major change from the way the original animated series approached the makeup of the team. Unlike the comics, where the X-Men rosters were fluid, the animated series largely followed same team line-up across its five seasons. Sure, Beast spent a season behind bars and Xavier spent a season off in the Savage Land, but nobody could truly leave and, more disappointingly, nobody new could ever join.

Let’s take a look at how the original show introduced but then dismissed a few potential new members of the ’90s X-Men.


The two-parter pilot “Night of the Sentinels” established the huge stakes of this X-Men cartoon by having things go so sideways on their first big mission that one member was arrested and another was killed off. Wouldn’t you know it, they killed off the X-Men member who was completely absent from the show’s intro. Not so surprising in retrospect.

Morph did come back over time. He was resurrected in the second season as a mind-controlled pawn used by Mr. Sinister to haunt the X-Men, while the season finale showed his ultimate redemption. He briefly returned in season 4’s “Courage,” only to come to the conclusion that he was suffering from PTSD that he needed to work through before officially rejoining the team. He finally did make a comeback in “Graduation Day,” but that was the series finale. At least he got to be there for Xavier’s final words. Well, final words with an asterisk, of course.

X-Men ’97 picks up where The Animated Series left off, meaning Morph is back on the team and roasting all the other mutants every chance he gets, such as when Gambit is jealous about Magneto and Rogue’s flirtations.

The Morlocks

We were introduced to the Morlocks in the season 1 episode “Captive Hearts,” which culminated with Storm defeating Callisto and becoming the new group’s new leader. Storm offered the group a haven in the mansion, but the Morlocks turned it down because they’re just too freaky for the surface world. You’re really just going to jump on that option immediately, huh? No group meeting? Just going to choose the sewer over a high-tech mansion. Okay.

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Hell, a lot of the Morlocks weren’t even all that physically freaky. They were just outsiders because they dressed like they were going to a Sex Pistols concert. If not for the status quo, we could have had an action logo saying, “COVERED IN SCORPIONS GRANDMA!” during the sixth episode intro.

The Morlocks still aren’t a part of the X-Men in ’97, of course, but they are integrated into the new (and very short-lived) mutant society on Genosha. That’s a start.


Colossus only showed up in a couple episodes, but he was instantly memorable and likable. Considering he’s such a mainstay to the comics and the kickass Konami arcade game (“RRRAaaaAAAAaaaaAAAHH!!”), it was so frustrating to see him constantly coming up with excuses for why he couldn’t stick around. After helping fight the Juggernaut in “The Unstoppable Juggernaut,” Colossus thanked Wolverine for the offer, but said he wanted to go find his sister and then maybe tour the US.

They all met again in season 2’s “Red Dawn,” where he aided in the defeat of Omega Red. This time, he turned down membership for the sake of helping rebuild and fix the damage that Omega Red had caused. He was never seen on the show again. Interestingly enough, he never crossed paths with Xavier at any point, as the Professor was always missing during those episodes.

We haven’t gotten any big Colossus moments on X-Men ’97 so far, but Morph does briefly transform into him in episode 2 and more memorably his sister Illyana Rasputin (aka Magik) during the show’s adaptation of Inferno in episode 3.


Appearing in “Cold Comfort,” one of the season 3 episodes that aired out of order, Iceman was introduced as an original member of the X-Men who left due to being a hellraiser who refused to listen to Xavier or Cyclops’ orders. After helping the X-Men fight X-Factor, Iceman was offered a chance to return to the mansion and try again, only for Iceman to turn Xavier down because he would probably just drive them crazy within a couple hours.

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Iceman’s still not accounted for on X-Men ’97, although he does appear in a portrait of Xavier’s original blue-and-yellow-jumpsuit-wearing team.

Speaking of original members…


Angel/Archangel is one of the better recurring characters in the original show. He goes from a recluse who is ashamed of having to hide his mutant gift, to desperate victim of Apocalypse, to being driven insane by his need for vengeance, to returning to a life as a broken recluse. In the season 4 four-parter “Beyond Good and Evil,” he finally realizes that defeating Apocalypse means more than just revenge, not to mention his budding interest in the scantily clad ninja girl Psylocke, who tried to rob him.

While he is never offered membership at any point through the show, it is eventually revealed that he was one of the founding members of the X-Men. It doesn’t quite jibe with his backstory on the show, but nobody ever brings up that history again.


Much like the X-Men Cinematic Universe, the moment Cannonball shows up, it’s time to get your stuff together, because it’s closing time. Showing up in “Hidden Agendas,” the third-to-last episode of the series, Cannonball was introduced as a potential recruit for the X-Men. The important dynamic introduced was his supportive family, which made Rogue feel jealous and a bit paranoid. Once the adventure was over with, Cannonball was offered a spot, but – big surprise – turned them down so he could help out his family.

Bishop and Cable

Coming from different eras, Bishop and Cable never truly teased being members of the X-Men. They were both incredibly important recurring characters, but they always tended to end up back in their own times. It was Bishop’s prominence, plus the need to set up Cable’s origins, that led to him being a full-blown, if temporary, member of the team in X-Men ’97.

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What’s funny with Cable is that while he was never considered a member of the team, Japan thought otherwise. The famous “CRY FOR THE MOON!!” the Japanese intro of the original cartoon often threw Cable into the mix, acting like he might as well be a part of the team. At least somebody out there was trying to shake things up.

Nightcrawler and the All-New X-Men

It took four seasons for Nightcrawler to finally appear on the original X-Men, which is nuts. A staple from the comics and a fan-favorite, if anyone should have been added to the team in a late-stage attempt to shake things up, it’s this guy. Nightcrawler appeared for two episodes, “Nightcrawler” and “Bloodlines,” but they never even suggested he hang out at the mansion in the aftermath. We would have to wait nearly 30 years for that invitation.

Kurt Wagner finally returns in X-Men ’97‘s devastating Genosha episode “Remember It,” in which the Sentinels not only destroy the mutant nation but also kill Magneto and Gambit in the process. Episode 6, “Lifedeath Part II,” makes clear that Nightcrawler’s re-introduction is no accident, as he’s now been added to the opening credits, suggesting he’s taking over for Gambit on the team. That episode also sets up the return of Professor X as the leader of the mutant superhero team.

In other words, X-Men ’97 has now set an all-new lineup going forward: Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Morph, Beast, and Nightcrawler, led once again by Charles Xavier. It’s a change that establishes once and for all that the new animated X-Men will be as fluid as the comics that inspired them. It’s definitely a refreshing change of pace that will allow Marvel Studios to really experiment with the team’s dynamic going forward. Not to mention that Xavier’s absence while his children suffered back on Earth, as well as Nightcrawler’s experiences during the destruction of Genosha, will likely add quite a bit of drama to their new/old roles on the team.

In the years following X-Men: The Animated Series going off the air, superhero cartoons were able to change things up a bit more. Justice League went two seasons with seven members while flirting with the idea of Aquaman joining. Then the show turned into Justice League Unlimited and dozens upon dozens of heroes joined the fray. Then there’s Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, which changed the group pose at the end of the show’s intro from episode to episode. Now X-Men ’97 is following that idea. No more contrived reasons why characters can’t leave or join the team. No more X-cuses.

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