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Animated Nostalgia –
Revisiting the X-Men’s Cartoon Adventures of the 1990s

There are some cartoons from my youth that will likely forever hold a special place in my heart.  Voltron, Thundercats, G.I. Joe, He-Man—man, those were the days.  I remember just sitting down in front of the television with a great big bowl of sugar-infused cereal for hours at a time, trying my hardest to rot my brain and my teeth simultaneously because, hey, multitasking, right?

I was just about in my teens when Fox Kids debuted X-Men: The Animated Series, but don’t think that stopped me from carrying on like a six year old.  Quite the contrary, I remember almost being late to all important track meets in high school because I was trying to catch the latest episode, and I bought the comic book based on the show just so I could see it from a slightly different perspective.

None of this should really surprise my regular readers, given my…let’s be charitable and call it an “affinity” towards those men and women of X on display both here in Danger Rooms and elsewhere in American History X(-Men).

Oh, Brain, you never stood a chance, you poor, hapless bastard…

So imagine my delight when I was scrolling through the offerings on Netflix and found they had all of the episodes.  As much a fan of the show as I was, I never did get around to seeing every episode when they aired, and not having things like streaming Internet or DVR in those olden days, what with all the busyness of walking uphill to school in the snow both ways, I was anxious to make up for a missing piece of my childhood.

I popped an episode on just as my daughter came home from church with my wife, and she was immediately transfixed.  And, thus, began a two week odyssey through every episode, my daughter by my side, the kid in me excited to share the series with her and answer all of her questions.

And, great shades of Elvis, were there a lot of questions from this little three year old.

Seriously.  It was like watching television with the frikkin’ Riddler.

Watching the entire series, I was struck by just how serious a lot of episodes were, and how many big storylines from Days of Future Past to Phalanx Covenant to Age of Apocalypse were played out to varying degrees.  Some things in the series I completely forgot, but I’m pretty sure that was by choice, or perhaps my brain setting up a natural defense to block parts out.

Like Storm.

Or, more specifically, the voice(s) of Storm.

Just shoot the lightning; we don’t need a whole speech about it, lady.

I thought it started with Halle Berry and her on again/off again accent from no country ever established on Earth, let alone one in Africa, but apparently, it began much earlier with Iona Morris (and then, in later seasons, Alison Sealy-Smith) voicing Storm.

Now, for the record, I love me some Ororo Munroe.  Always have.  At one point, she had a Mohawk and no powers, and still led the X-Men.  Even Wolverine was like, “Look, I may be a nutty Canadian with an unbreakable skeleton and claws that go through steel like Oprah goes through ham, but I’m not stepping to O-Mun even if you paid me in maple syrup and six packs of Molson.”

But the voice acting for the cartoon was so over the top, like the worst of Claremont’s verbosity given life and a really bad accent, that every time she commanded the arctic winds to chill the bones or whatever she was going on about, I wanted to cry a bit.

After this, he made her a sandwich and grabbed her a beer.

Most of the other voices were decent enough, except when Cedric Smith (Professor X) and Lenore Zann (Rogue) had to scream and sounded like cows mating with farm equipment, and to this day, I have no idea why Gambit spoke in the third person so much and sounded drunker than Kathie Lee and Hoda.

Still, all kidding and voice atrocities aside, it was an awesome cartoon.  Even after they changed the theme song in season five to add some really bad pitch-modulating guitars, it stayed faithful to the 90s era of the comics, while incorporating a lot of the themes of the earlier stories, notably those by Claremont.

And my favorite part?  That Anastasia got so into it, far beyond just the superficiality of the bright animation and action sequences.  She learned some lessons from it, even at this early age.

One day, I picked her up from daycare and was informed that she stuck up for a kid that some of the boys were bullying, a kid with really thick glasses in a class where no one else has any at all.  She pushed one kid away and said, “We don’t be mean to different people; that’s what my dad says me [sic.] when we watch X-Men.”

I’m counting this one as a parenting win.

Now if only she’d stop calling him A-popsicle-lips…

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