One of the hottest moments of SDCC this weekend had to be the Marvel Studios Animation panel featuring reveals from projects like I Am Groot, What If…? Season 2, Spider-Man: Freshman Year, Marvel Zombies and the project that received the most energy: X-Men ’97. Showrunner Beau DeMayo started off by stating the MCU wouldn’t have likely existed without the original X-Men: The Animated Series in the ’90s. He was speaking directly at the chief architects of the series – Eric and Julia Lewald, and Larry Houston – who where in the audience, and encouraged them to stand in recognition to which they received thunderous applause. Also spotted in the audience was Lenore Zann, voice actress of Rogue, who played her in the original series and will return to X-Men ’97.
DeMayo continued to remark how “the X-Men are timeless, and the world has a lot to learn from their lessons.”
Without further ado, here are the top 5 takeaways we learned during the panel.
1) Sinister is back in a big way
DeMayo saved Mister Sinister as the last character reveal for a reason. We last saw of Mister Sinister was in X-Men: The Animated Series Season 5, Episode 9 “Descent”. It was an origin story for Sinister to give the full breadth of Nathaniel Essex. It seemed strange to give an entire episode to a villain from Season 2 at the penultimate finale before the beloved series ended, but it’s clear that the Lewalds and Houston had a plan for Mister Sinister should the series continue. X-Men ’97 picks up where the ’92 series left off, so it seems worthwhile to give Season 5 a rewatch as we prepare the new animated series to arrive in the Fall of 2023.
It was also confirmed that the original ’92 voice actor, Chris Britton, will return to reprise his role as Mister Sinister.
2) Morph is non-binary
Morph is already confirmed to return to the series. Their character was created specifically for the show by Lewald and Houston to kill off in the first infamous episode “Night of the Sentinels”. Originally the role was meant for Thunderbird, but it was decided in the last hour to create a new unfamiliar character to kill off at the start to prove the stakes were high and the emotional impact the team faced at the loss of a teammate. Due to his popularity in focus groups, the writers decided to bring them back as a surprise villain in Season 2, later redeeming himself and departing the show for a few seasons only returning for a few cameos.
DeMayo specifically changed the pronouns for Morph to they/them in his presentation and expressed that Morph is taking on a new persona with their Changeling look. Morph is loosely modeled after the character Changeling from the Silver Age of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s X-Men comics. We last saw Morph in the final episode of the original series during Xavier’s “death” scene where he says “Morph, it’s nice to see you home. In facing your fears, you have proven yourself truly an X-Man.”
3) Magento will take over as headmaster
Reflecting the comics, Magneto will take over as leader and headmaster of the X-Men. In the comics as well in the animated series, Xavier left Earth to be with Lilandra in the Shi’ar Empire, leaving Magneto in charge – granted, in the comics, the X-Men were AWOL and Magneto mentored The New Mutants primarily. His new look, created by character designer Amelia Vidal, is modeled after his attire seen here in Uncanny X-Men #200. The reception of this new attire has been met with polarizing opinions online.
4) Val Cooper will bring the drama
Seeing Val Cooper as a featured villain character in the lineup is a telling choice. As a government official in Mutant Affairs, Val would lead mutant teams like the Freedom Force and X-Factor, allowing all sorts of cameos to open up such as Mystique, Blob, Destiny, Pyro, Spiral, and even Spider-Woman, not to mention Havok, Polaris, Strong Guy, Multiple Man, Wolfsbane, and more. But what this character reveal tells me is that we are going to be in Washington DC a lot, and the human/mutant political climate is going to be a major focus. That dynamic was one of the strongest elements of the original series. It was never just about one super-powered being versus the next; the series was always about the human reaction to the X-Men and how they defended and protected those that hated and feared them. Val Cooper’s reveal makes it very, vey promising that the new series will stick to that storytelling.
5) There will be a season 2!
Mentioned almost as an aside, we learned that the series has been renewed and a Season 2 has been ordered. So the X-Men will live on!
As an X-Men fanatic and podcaster of X-Reads: An X-Men Experience, I can tell you I am totally on board for this relaunch and cannot wait to see what they do next. What are you most excited about with X-Men ’97?
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