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X-Men: Evolution is a two-time Emmy Award winning American animated television series about the Marvel Comics superhero team the X-Men. In this incarnation several of the characters are teenagers rather than adults. The series ran for a total of four seasons (52 episodes) from November 2000 until October 2003 on Kids' WB, which has made it the third longest running Marvel Animated series, behind only the Spider-Man animated series and the original X-Men animated series.
The first season introduces the core characters and lays the foundations for future storylines. Professor X, Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm and Jean Grey make up the original X-Men. As the season developes, the ranks of the X-Men are bolstered by the appearance of Nightcrawler in the first episode, Shadowcat in the second, Spyke in the fifth and Rogue (who joined the Brotherhood in the third episode) in the seventh. In the later episodes of this season, Nightcrawler discovers the identity of his birth mother, Wolverine finds answers to his past, Rogue switches sides to join the X-Men, and Xavier's half-brother, Juggernaut, is released from his prison.
Confrontations are typically with the Brotherhood, who vie for new recruits with the X-Men over the course of the season. Toad is the first to be introduced, followed by Avalanche, Blob and Quicksilver. The Brotherhood, apparently led by Mystique, are in fact being directed by a higher power, the identity of whom was "revealed" in the two-part season finale as being Magneto. After Cyclops discovers that his brother, Alex, survived the plane crash that killed their parents, they are both taken by Magneto into his "sanctuary" on Asteroid M. Magneto captures several X-Men and Brotherhood members in an attempt to amplify their mutant abilities and remove their emotions. Asteroid M is destroyed by Scott and Alex Summers, but not before two unidentified metal objects fly from the exploding rock.
The second season sees the addition of several new mutants, including Beast, who becomes a teacher at the Xavier Institute and an X-Man. During the course of the season, it is revealed that the villains who supposedly perished on Asteroid M are in fact alive. Sabretooth continues his pursuit of Wolverine, while Magneto continues to work his own agenda. Mystique poses as Risty Wilde, a high school student at Bayville High who befriends Rogue and breaks into the mansion to steal Xavier's Cerebro files. Using the files, she recovers Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, Magneto's daughter and Quicksilver's sister. The mentally unstable mutant joins the Brotherhood upon Mystique's return, allowing them to defeat the X-Men in a battle at the Bayville mall. Before the finale, a pivotal episode aired featuring the telepath Mesmero opening one of three doors that would unleash a mutant known as Apocalypse.
In the season finale, Xavier rigorously trains his X-Men to face Magneto, pairing them with the Brotherhood. Cyclops, furious with having to work with his former adversaries, leaves the team. The mansion is later set to self-destruct with Cyclops and several students still inside. Magneto, meanwhile, recruits Sabretooth, Gambit, Pyro, and Colossus as his Acolytes to fight the X-Men/Brotherhood team. At the same time, Wolverine is captured by Bolivar Trask to use as a test subject for the anti-mutant weapon, the Sentinel. The Sentinel is unleashed onto the city, forcing the X-Men to use their powers in public. Wanda tracks down Magneto and attacks him while he is trying to deal with the Sentinel that is targeting him. The Sentinel is damaged and apparently crushes Magneto as it falls. When the mutants who have not been captured by the Sentinel return to the remains of the mansion, Cyclops and the students emerge from the explosion unharmed. Scott throws Xavier from his wheelchair and blames him for blowing up the mansion. Xavier calmly stands up, transforming into Mystique.
In seasons three and four, the show notably begins to take a much more serious tone. After the battle with the Sentinel, the mutants are no longer a secret. The public reaction is one of hostility. The show is brought into more traditional X-Men lore, dealing with themes of prejudice, public misconception, and larger threats. As the season progressed, the real Xavier is found, Mystique is defeated, the mansion rebuilt, and the X-Men allowed back into Bayville High. Wanda continues to search for Magneto (who was saved by his son, Quicksilver, at the last minute) until Magneto uses the telepathic mutant Mastermind to change her childhood memories. Scott and Jean forge a deeper relationship, while the romance between Shadowcat and the Brotherhood member Avalanche ends. Spyke leaves the X-Men when his power becomes uncontrollable, deciding to live with the sewer-dwelling mutants, the Morlocks.
As part of the series arc, Rogue loses control of her powers, leading to her hospitalization. During this time, she learns she was the adoptive daughter of Mystique. Mystique, through the visions of the mutant Destiny, foresaw that the fate of Rogue and herself lay in the hands of an ancient mutant that would be resurrected. Apocalypse emerges in the season's final episodes. Mesmero manipulates Magneto into opening the second door, and uses Mystique and Rogue to open the last, turning Mystique to stone in the process. Now released, Apocalypse easily defeats the combined strength of the X-Men, Magneto, the Acolytes, and the Brotherhood before escaping.
The final season contained only nine episodes. In the season premiere, Apocalypse apparently kills Magneto while Rogue murders Mystique by pushing her petrified figure off a cliff, leaving Nightcrawler without closure. The Brotherhood become temporary do-gooders, Wolverine's teenage girl clone X-23 returns, Spyke and the Morlocks rise to the surface, Shadowcat discovers a mutant ghost, Rogue is kidnapped by Gambit and taken to Louisiana to help free his father, and Xavier travels to Scotland in order to defeat his son Legion. The character Leech is also introduced as a young boy.
In the finale, Apocalypse defeats Xavier and Storm, transforming them, along with Magneto and Mystique, into his Four Horsemen. Apocalypse instructs his Horsemen to protect his three domes and his 'base of operations', which will turn the entire world population into mutants. In the final battle, the Horsemen are returned to normal and Apocalypse is sent through time. Rogue and Nightcrawler refuse the excuses of their mother, Shadowcat and Avalanche find love once again, Magneto is reunited with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, Storm and Spyke are also reunited, and Xavier sees his students reunited as the X-Men.
The series ends with a speech by Charles Xavier, who had caught a glimpse of the future while being controlled by Apocalypse. The following future scenarios were foreseen:
- Continued anti-mutant sentiment.
- A reformed Magneto teaching the New Mutants, who now include a returned Jubilee and Wolfsbane.
- Jean Grey's possession by the Phoenix Force and her transformation into the Dark Phoenix.
- The future X-Men team consists of adult versions of Cyclops, Nightcrawler, X-23, Iceman, Beast, Shadowcat, Rogue (able to fly and not wearing gloves), Storm, and Colossus. The uniforms these future X-Men wear look very much like the dark uniforms seen in the Ultimate X-Men comic.
- Adult versions of the Brotherhood and Pyro join SHIELD
- A fleet of Sentinels led by a Sentinel that resembles Nimrod.
- The last scene (see top picture) shows the entire cast, which includes the X-Men, the New Mutants, Gambit and Colossus (former Acolytes), Boom Boom (who rejoins in the third season), the previously unaligned Havok, Angel and X-23; along with the returned Jubilee, Spyke, and Wolfsbane.
All 4 seasons are available for download on iTunes, being released in 2009 by Marvel. However, it is still unclear as to whether box-sets of seasons 1, 2 or 4 would be released on DVD formats. All 4 seasons immediately broke into the Top 10 Animation charts on iTunes, with season 4 peaking at #3.
Comic book spin-offs
In January 2002, Marvel Comics began publishing an X-Men: Evolution comic book, partially based on the show. Written by Devin K. Grayson with art by Studio XD, it was abruptly canceled after the ninth issue due to low sales.
The comic introduced the Evolution version of the Morlocks before they appeared on the show, and their appearances and motivations were radically different in both versions. #6 featured an appearance from Mimic who never appeared on the show.
An ongoing plot line would have introduced the Evolution version of Mister Sinister, but the comic was canceled before it could be resolved. However, the cover of the unreleased issue 10 does reveal his intended character design.
Evolution characters in the comics and films
X-23, an original character introduced in later seasons, made her comic book debut in the miniseries NYX, where her appearance was slightly altered to more closely resemble Wolverine. She received a self-titled comic miniseries in 2005. Much like Harley Quinn of Batman: The Animated Series or Marvel's own Firestar of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, she was a character originally created for an animated series that was incorporated into comic book canon.
The comic book X-Statix featured an African-American mutant with the same codename and abilities as Spyke; however, this version of Spike was not related to Storm, had a very different personality (modeled after popular gangsta rappers), and is a completely separate character. Another similar character appeared in X-Men: The Last Stand, but as an Asian-American member of the Brotherhood of Mutants. He is listed as Spike in the credits, but is not mentioned by name in the film, and has no dialogue. When Wolverine invades the forest base of the Brotherhood, Spike is one of the characters that attacks him, demonstrating abilities identical to those shown by the Spyke character before he lost control of his mutation.
Awards and nominations
X-Men: Evolution won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Live Action and Animation at the 30th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, on May 16 2003. It also won the Cover of the Year Award in 2004 for best animated figure for Beast. It was nominated for several Golden Reel Awards, as well as other Emmys. Steven E. Gordon, the director of this show, was nominated in the Production Design in an Animated Television Production category for X-Men: Evolution at the 2001 Annie Awards.
Comparison with original comics
The X-Men: Evolution series was targeted at a younger audience and as such portrays the majority of characters as teenagers rather than adults like in the previous animated series. In the series, like many animated series based on comics, completely new characters were introduced including X-23 and Spyke. In the case of X-23, she was a teenaged female clone of Wolverine. As much of the cast were teenagers, they are shown regularly attending high school in addition to the Xavier's Institute. At the latter, Professor X, Storm, Wolverine and later Beast also acted as their teachers at the institute. Beast also served as a teacher to the cast at high school prior to his transformation.
X-Men: Evolution is set in Bayville (patterned after the small town on Long Island) rather than Salem Center (though both exist in New York State and a school bus shown in one episode is from the "Westchester School District"). Furthermore, in the early part of the series (until the end of season 2) most people are unaware of the existence of mutants. Also, the "Brotherhood" team is not known as the "Brotherhood of Evil Mutants" within the context of this series. They are not a team of terrorists or mutant supremacists. Instead, the Brotherhood is made up of misfit mutants who often oppose the X-Men (in physical, social and philosophical realms).
The series was created as a stark contrast to the Fox series of the 1990s. The Series Bible was written by Robert N. Skir and Marty Isenberg (albeit uncredited), who meant to take The X-Men back to their roots as high school students learning to control their superpowers, as when the comics termed them "The Strangest Teens Of All". Whereas the Fox series reflected the then-current role of X-Men as freedom fighters battling persecution and bigotry against mutantkind, X-Men: Evolution used the theme of mutant powers as a metaphor for the struggles of adolescence.
The look of the series was designed by Producer Boyd Kirkland and artist Frank Paur who created new costumes for the X-Men, replacing the comics-faithful designs of the Fox series with anime-influenced costumes which were much more animation friendly.
The first season mainly concerned the characters' conflict with Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutants as well as served as an introductory to many of the characters to allow people to get used to these new teenage versions. Later seasons predominantly featured Apocalypse as an adversary, introduced versions of the New Mutants, Morlocks and Magneto's Acolytes as well as posed the U.S. Government as an adversary to all parties.
The series revealed a detailed knowledge of canon history in a number of small ways. Examples include the evolution of Cerebro from a console device, Shadowcat's initial uneasiness around Nightcrawler and Forge's scientific arrogance along with his devices causing unintended consequences. Rogue is shown to absorb Cyclops' powers in the correct manner. But in the older show, she also absorbed his lack of control over his beams (which was a result of a brain injury, not inherent in his powers). In X-Men Evolution, she has full control over them, just as Scott would if he had not sustained a brain injury. In "Survival of the Fittest", Xavier says that Juggernaut acquired his powers through mysticism (but unlike the comic, says that it unlocked a latent mutant power), and in "The Cauldron" Magneto develops his mutant-enhancing technology from that same Jewel of Cytorrak (but says that he has found it to be scientific rather than mystical). In "Day of Recovery", Toad is seen to be quite comfortable with technology and in "Operation Rebirth", the POW camp Magneto is held in as a child is visually similar (in the opening shot) to Auschwitz though it is not identified as such.
In addition Beast's origin is almost identical to that of the comic, despite the change in profession and setting. Mesmero is shown as part of a circus troupe, much like his appearance in the "Phoenix Saga". Aside from this, supporting characters like Bolivar Trask, Nick Fury, Captain America, Destiny, Agatha Harkness, and Amanda Sefton were all taken from the X-Men comic, usually serving to homage to originals without necessarily staying completely faithful to their form.
X-Men: Evolution featured several songs that were produced exclusively for the show:
- "Only a Girl (The Bayville Sirens' Theme)" in "Walk on the Wild Side".
- "T-O-A-D (Toad's Theme)" in "The Toad, the Witch and the Wardrobe".
- "Who Am I Now? (Rogue's Theme)" in "Rogue Recruit".
- "Wolverine (Wolverines' Theme)" in a promotional video.
- "Evolution Theme (Theme Song)" in the start of the show.
One of the main points of the new X-Men: Evolution concept was the design of the new costumes. Early concept art sketches show the X-Men in classic gold-and-black garb. In these drafts, Spyke wears cornrows, Rogue's outfit exposes her midriff, and Jean Grey's costume is the female version of Cyclops' costume. Both Jean Grey and Shadowcat wear face masks, and Kitty is also wearing an orange miniskirt and Doc Martens over spandex. Early Storm drawings shows her wearing white rather than black.
A point of controversy was the design of the blue-skinned villain Mystique. Steven E. Gordon, the character designer and director of various episodes, was never impressed with the Mystique designs for the first season. Mystique was originally to be presented as nude (as in the films), but Warner Brothers didn't want this included in a Kids' WB! production. However, a short scene of Mystique drawn to resemble her film counterpart (albeit clothed) appears in the Season 1 finale. Gordon stopped directing after two seasons, but continued to design characters for the show. He is most satisfied with the designs of Rogue and Wanda.
The show also contained some references to other mediums: the Rogue/Kitty dance in "Spykecam" was modeled after a similar dance in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Bad Girls".The play used in the first season episode "Spykecam", Dracula: The Musical, is a real play. The song used, however, is an original song made for the episode. The writers of the show have also admitted that they were fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Using Shadowcat as the catalyst, the two shows appear similar: a teenage girl with superpowers fights powerful villains in order to save her high school. Buffy creator Joss Whedon has openly credited his inspiration for Buffy as Kitty Pryde.
Starting with the first episode of Season 4, "Impact", the episode title was no longer aired on-screen at the beginning of the show, and X-Men: Evolution became the third longest-running Marvel cartoon, behind Spider-Man: The Animated Series (5 seasons, 65 episodes) and X-Men: The Animated Series (5 seasons, 76 episodes). Boyd Kirkland, the show's producer, says his favorite X-Men: Evolution season is Season 3. The monthly budget for X-Men: Evolution was $350,000.
The show has given birth to a new series Wolverine and the X-Men, which began airing in 2008. It is not a continuation of X-Men: Evolution, though the same creative team behind the show have returned to work on the new cartoon. Craig Kyle, Chris Yost, Steven E Gordon, Greg Johnson, Steven Blum, and Boyd Kirkland have all returned to work on this new series.
Marvel references and cameos
X-Men: Evolution weaves many references and cameos into its show. One of the masks worn by the vandals in the Season 3 episode "Mainstream", bears a suitable resemblance to the classic Marvel Comics monster, Fin Fang Foom. In the Season 3 episode "Under Lock and Key", circumstances gather a mix of X-Men, junior members, and nonmembers into a mission team that matches the original X-Men team (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Iceman, and Angel) — Iceman mentions that this is "definitely the cool team."*X-Men: Evolution "Under Lock and Key" Talkback (Spoilers) - Toon Zone Forum* In the Season 3 episode "Dark Horizons Part 1" when Rogue enters Kitty's room, Kitty is seen sleeping with a stuffed purple dragon, a reference to Lockheed, her purple dragon companion. Also in "Dark Horizons Part 2", Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Shadowcat are grouped together when the X-Men and the Acolytes are separated, a reference to the Europe-based superhero team Excalibur which included all three mutants in its roster.
Captain America and Nick Fury are the only non-mutant Marvel superheroes to appear on Evolution. There is also, however, a small Iron Man reference in the episode "On Angel's Wings", when a sign reading "Stark Enterprises" is seen during an exterior shot of New York City and a small Spider-Man reference when Angel was reading the Daily Bugle, the newspaper that Peter Parker/Spider-Man normally takes pictures for. In addition, Omega Red mentions Maverick and Kestrel in the episode "Target X", referring to the latter as "Wraith". In "Dark Horizons Part 2" the hieroglyphics translated by Beast refer to the Pharaoh Rama-Tut, one identity of Kang the Conqueror.
At the beginning of the final scene at the swimming pool and as the Professor speaks just before the credits in the Season 1 episode "Speed and Spyke", the first few notes of the theme from the older Fox X-Men animated series play as background music.
Toy Biz created a line of action figures, which included Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Cyclops, Storm, Sabretooth, Toad, Spyke, Magneto, Juggernaut, and Blob. Hard Hero also released maquettes of Storm, Professor X, Juggernaut, Magneto, Wolverine, Colossus, Cyclops, and the X-Men: Evolution design of Captain America.
Taco Bell ran the first X-Men: Evolution themed promotion with its Kid's Meals. Burger King also ran a Kid's Meal promotion which included X-Men: Evolution toys. Each toy included a mini-disc with games, screen-savers, and a mini-comic related to the character. The lineup included Rogue, Mystique, Cyclops, Wolverine, Magneto, Quicksilver, Nightcrawler, and Toad.
See our store for X-men Evolution Releases on sale.
- X-Men Evolution Collection collects the following four DVDs:
- UnXpected Changes (“Strategy X”, “The X-Impulse”, “Rogue Recruit”)
- Xplosive Days (“Mutant Crush”, “Speed and Spyke”, “Middleverse”)
- X Marks The Spot (“Turn of the Rogue”, “SpykeCam”, “Survival of the Fittest”)
- Xposing The Truth (“Shadowed Past”, “Grim Reminder”, “The Cauldron Parts 1 & 2”)
- Mutants Rising (“Growing Pains”, “Power Surge”, “Bada-Bing Bada-Boom!”, “Fun and Games”)
- Powers Revealed (“Beast of Bayville”, “Adrift”, “On Angel's Wings”, “African Storm”)
- Enemies Unveiled (“Joyride”, “Walk on the Wild Side”, “Operation: Rebirth”, “Mindbender”)
- Mystique's Revenge (“Shadow Dance”, “Retreat”, “The Hex Factor”, “Day of Reckoning Parts 1 & 2”)
- Full-season two-disc DVD set (“Day of Recovery”, “The Stuff of Heroes”, “Mainstream”, “The Stuff of Villains”, “Blind Alley”, “X-Treme Measures”, “The Toad, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, “Self Possessed”, “Under Lock and Key”, “Cruise Control”, “X23”, “Dark Horizon Parts 1 & 2”)
The two-disc DVD set entered and peaked Amazon best seller animation DVDs at #4. It is the only X-Men Evolution release to enter in Amazon best seller. It currently holds the #1 spot in Amazon's bestselling animated X-Men DVDs, #6 in the history of X-Men DVDs and #43 in the history of animated superheroes DVDs.
The DVD release has been officially cancelled by Warner Home Video for the time being, though it is onsale on iTunes for $14.99.