November 12th saw Disney announce 16 new forthcoming Marvel series that will be debuting on the Disney+ streaming service in the next few years.
Perhaps the biggest shock to this announcement was that they would be reviving the beloved 1990s X-Men animated series, which, if you are of a certain age, was a staple of your Saturday morning viewing and has remained memorable (thanks largely to its awesome theme tune).
For many fans of the Marvel heroes this show remains the defining version of the X-Men as it really managed to tap into the key themes that the comics had presented before it. No, these themes aren’t about the X-Men’s many battles with Magneto, Wolverine’s claws or whatever type of weather Storm could whip up with her powers but bigger and more important topics like: racism, xenophobia, alienation and oppression.
Unlike other superheroes, the X-Men are mutants, which mean that they are born with their powers and haven’t inherited them from scientific mishaps or pieces of advanced technology.
Jack Kirby, who co-created the X-Men along with Stan Lee in 1963, was quoted as saying in 1987: “The X-Men, I did the natural thing there. What would you do with mutants who were just plain boys and girls and certainly not dangerous? You school them. You develop their skills. So I gave them a teacher, Professor X. Of course it was the natural thing to do, instead of disorienting or alienating people who were different from us, I made the X-Men part of the human race, which they were. Possibly, radiation, if it is beneficial, may create mutants that’ll save us instead of doing us harm. I felt that if we train the mutants our way, they’ll help us – and not only help us, but achieve a measure of growth in their own sense. And so, we could all live together.”
Throughout their many decades on comic book pages and the screen, the X-Men have faced outright bigotry, racism and even a genocide just because of the way they were born, mostly from mutant-hating humans who have attempted to belittle the work of the X-Men.
The parallels between the civil rights movement are also more than apparent with Professor X and his brother Magneto (who is also a Holocaust survivor) being compared to Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X due to their opposing views on how mutants should attempt to achieve equality. The LGBT+ community is also broadly represented in X-Men with multiple characters identifying as LGBT+. Readers have also interpreted the Legacy Virus, a deadly incurable disease, as a take on the AIDS pandemic.
Of course, this was all done through the veil of a superhero lens but it didn’t take a genius to figure out what the show or the comics were trying to say.
It’s worth mentioning all this before the show (named X-Men ‘97) returns to our screens in 2023 as for some reason trolls, who obviously missed a lot of the key themes from the show, are already claiming that the new X-Men series will be “woke” because of Marvel’s association with Disney.
You only have to search “X-Men woke” on Twitter to see numerous accounts either complaining that the new series will be “woke” or others mocking them for clearly misunderstanding what the X-Men has been about for this entire time.
X-Men '97 will be an animated series on Disney+, continuing the rape and self-destruction of Marvel comics' catalog… https://t.co/ehFK7iLBRd
Racist white dudes calling out X-Men for succumbing to “woke” culture as if it wasn’t woke all along is the funnies… https://t.co/09xS32hQsH
— The Volatile Mermaid (@The Volatile Mermaid)
Like, folks, the show even called out “unhappy, misguided people have created scapegoats who have blamed those that are different for the problems in their own lives.”
Whether the new, updated take on the series will lay the messaging on a bit thicker for those who didn’t quite pick it up before remains to be seen but early indication shows that the production team selected by Marvel were all fans of the original series. Also, much of the original voice cast will be returning to continue its authenticity.
To date, the MCU’s attempts to cover important social issues has had a rocky record with some topics feeling a little shoehorned in but judging by recent efforts such as The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and The Eternals there are signs of improvement, albeit incremental.
The course material of X-Men and the overall messaging that it has always tried to convey allows these types of discussion and topics to flourish more naturally and the willingness to ignore it will only see those wearing the blinkers fail to appreciate a piece of entertainment beyond face value.