Hard-Traveling Fanboys: Off the Page – Pryde of the X-Men

Mild-mannered reporters by day, Greg Phillips and Nick Duke share an intense love of comic books that has made them the Hard-Traveling Fanboys. But with that love of comics and the characters they feature comes an intense interest in the various adaptations that have been made of comic characters. Each month, in Off the Page, the Fanboys will take a look at a piece of comic-inspired media, whether that be a movie, television show, live performance or even a radio drama.

Nick:  Welcome, loyal readers. It’s the Hard-Traveling Fanboys back again after a brief holiday hiatus. Although at this point, I suppose you could say we’ve seen more delays than a book written by Kevin Smith and drawn by Jim Lee.

12.19.10JimLeeByLuigiNovi1

The kings of the comic book delay.
The kings of the comic book delay.

Greg: See what he did there?

Nick: Referential comic humor!

Anyway, welcome to the first edition of Off the Page, a new monthly column where we’ll pull some random bit of comic-related media out of our personal vaults and then review it for your reading enjoyment. The media we wind up reviewing may not always be of the highest quality, however, as is certainly the case with our debut column.

Greg: And with our Secret Origins behind us, this begins our newest feature, where we look at various comic book-related projects in media outside the written word. Some months it might be a television show, others it could be a movie or even a radio drama.

Nick: For the first column, we’re taking a look at “Pryde of the X-Men,” an animated pilot for a planned X-Men series that never got off the ground. Greg, care to tell us a bit more about the background of this project?

We're in for a treat.
We’re in for a treat.

Greg: No.

Nick: Fair enough! Well, I guess that does it for us this week. Check us out next week, when…

Greg: OK, fine. Pryde of the X-Men originally aired as a pilot on the Marvel Action Universe block on a Saturday morning in the wonderful year of 1989.

Nick: This pilot preceded the vastly superior X-Men animated series we would later get in the early 1990s.

Greg: The pilot was, naturally, expected to lead into a series based on the critically acclaimed and highly successful Chris Claremont stories of the 1980s. The plot is very basic, and has some similarities to the pilot for the excellent ’92 series Nick mentioned. It focuses on Kitty Pryde (in a role similar to the one Jubilee filled later) joining the Xavier Institute and helping the X-Men take down Magneto and the “Brotherhood of Mutant Terrorists” (Juggernaut, Blog, Pyro, Toad and, for some reason, White Queen).

Greg: If you’ve ever played the awesome X-Men arcade game, its plot and roster were based on “Pryde of the X-Men.”

Dibs on Dazzler.
Dibs on Dazzler.

Nick: Pretty much the only good thing to come out of this pilot.

Anyway, let’s jump into the meat of the story. As you said, it focuses on Kitty Pryde and the X-Men facing off against Magneto’s Brotherhood. But the first images we get of the show come in the form of the title sequence with a truly atrocious theme song. Thank God for the instrumental the later show had.

But the theme song isn’t the only element sounding the internal alarms when you watch it. Look, I love Stan Lee as much as the next fanboy, but pretty much anytime you have him doing narration for something, it tends to come off a bit cheesy. It isn’t dissimilar to the narration used in the 60s Adam West Batman TV series.

Even Batman is angered by Stan's narration.
Even Batman is angered by Stan’s narration.

Greg: Oh, that voiceover was ridiculous. Although I suppose it was informative. After all, your own classmates could be mutants! Which may or may not actually mean anything, because after all, some mutants are good and some are terrorists.

Nick: That’s right. Terrorists, who unlike pretty much all other terrorists, identify themselves as such, as Magneto does to an apparently high-ranking US general with a heavy Southern accent in the show’s opening scene.

Greg: Ah yes, the Southern General — the first in a series of hilariously bad accents used by the project’s voice actors. Only rarely does one encounter a Southern accent as hilariously bad as this general’s.

Nick: Somehow this imbecile of a military leader has managed to capture Magneto and is transporting him….somewhere? Wherever he’s going, he’s held in place by a forcefield, which doesn’t prevent our beloved military leader from taking a swing at the master of magnetism and subsequently smashing into said forcefield.

Greg:  How was he planning on hitting him? It’s never made clear. In any event, the Southern General declares Magneto to be “a stinkin’ mutant” who doesn’t deserve to live, hence the futile swing. I guess his plan was to kill Magneto with a devastating right hook.

Luckily, the White Queen attacks the Army people, but not before declaring her superiority over males everywhere.

Sadly, still a better White Queen than January Jones.
Sadly, still a better White Queen than January Jones.

Nick: LOL, this is certainly a very simplistic version of Emma Frost, but then again these are simplistic versions of all the X-Men characters.

Once Magneto has made his grand escape, we are introduced to Kitty Pryde, who has just arrived at the X-Mansion via cab. This version of the X-Mansion doesn’t appear to be a school, as there aren’t any people around, let alone students. From what we can see, this mansion is not only located in the middle of an open field with only two trees in the 10-mile vicinity, but is also the home to only seven mutants — Professor X, Cyclops, Wolverine, Dazzler, Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler.

Kitty hasn’t been at the mansion for more than a few minutes before Xavier is explaining to her what the X-Men do and how they carry out their “sworn duty” of battling Magneto.

Greg: And instead of greeting this young girl at the door like a normal person (mutant or otherwise), Xavier decided to scare the living hell out of poor Kitty by appearing as an apparition in her mind. For reasons that remain unclear, Kitty follows this creepy old bald ghost to a room where his physical body is. She seems OK with it by this point, though she asks a lot of questions about the lineup, giving Xavier a chance to show her (and the viewers) a rundown of each of the X-Men and their respective powers. We see Cyclops, Colossus (who, it must be noted, appears to not only be Russian but mentally underdeveloped, as his first words are “Ha ha, is good!”), Nightcrawler (the best voice work in the show), Storm, Dazzler (chosen because … I’m not really sure) and … Wolverine. Or, at least, the powers and costume of Wolverine.

In Soviet Russia, steel turns into you!
In Soviet Russia, steel turns into you!

Nick: Ah yes, this version of Wolverine. He not only seems to be the most unsufferable douche on the face of the planet, but for some reason is also portrayed as Australian.

Or Cockney, depending on what accent the voice actor is using in a given scene.

This isn't the Wolverine you're looking for.
This isn’t the Wolverine you’re looking for.

Greg: When told about Kitty, his response is the natural one: “Awwww, KEEDS?!”

According to the Internet, the Australian Wolverine arose from a misreading of the original script by the voice actor. Originally, Wolverine mocks the Australian character Pyro by calling him a “dingo.” The actor assumed that meant Wolverine was Australian. Making the whole thing more complicated, in the final version of the pilot, Wolverine calls Toad a dingo, which makes no sense on any level.

But as we’ve mentioned before, while Wolverine is the most egregious, it’s far from the only bizarre vocal choice. There’s a version of the Juggernaut who talks and acts like Stewie Griffin’s evil brother Bertram.

The Juggernaut to Stewie's Professor X.
The Juggernaut to Stewie’s Professor X.

Nick: And Blob, who like Colossus, is apparently mentally handicapped.

Greg: The Blob is heard uttering such witticisms as “Where he go?” and “Only take over world!”

Because in this universe, Russians and fat people have trouble talking, apparently.

Nick: After we’ve been introduced to Crocodile Dundee and the rest of the X-Men, the team is called away to deal with some Brotherhood-related threats, leaving Kitty and Xavier behind at the mansion, But, not to worry, Xavier clearly explains to Kitty that the mansion is protected by defense systems designed to stop even the most dangerous mutant.

Of course, Magneto and Juggernaut instantly attack and Kitty accidentally disables the defenses by phasing through the control panel she was leaning on.

Greg: Xavier planned for everything, except the one control panel that operated all the defense systems being damaged. After that, he was screwed.

Nick: Also, it should be noted that every time Nightcrawler gets near Kitty Pryde, she screams in terror, which I’m sure was meant to teach kids to fear everything different from them.

After all, isn’t that the true moral the X-Man seek to impart?

Greg: Stan already told us at the beginning to watch out for our classmates!

Any of them could be terrorists.
Any of them could be terrorists.

Nick: That he did! Anyway, the attack on the X-Mansion was intended to allow Magneto to steal something called the “Mutant power circuit,” which I’m still not sure of its actual purpose or power.

Naturally, despite this being an item of considerable importance, Xavier instantly puts it into the hands of the 14-year-old girl that he just met less than half an hour earlier.

Greg: All we need to know is it can destroy all mankind! Because that’s what this pilot decided to do with one of the most emotionally rich, morally complex characters in all of comics — make him the villain from a ’40s comic.

Nick: He was similar to a Roger Moore Bond villain. Just too over the top to be taken seriously.

Magneto better be careful which humans he crosses.
Magneto better be careful which humans he crosses.

Greg: So once Magneto gets control of the ill-defined device, he takes it to Asteroid M, leaving our heroes to attempt to infiltrate the Brotherhood’s base on the asteroid. From there, Dazzler battles Pyro, we get an admittedly cool showdown between Juggernaut and Colossus, and Wolverine … cuts some rocks onto Toad and just stands there afterward instead of helping his teammates.

Luckily, Nightcrawler has no problem getting past The Blob, whose only power is that…He’s Fat!

Nick: Calm down Scott. Anyway, we forgot to mention that Toad also is apparently voiced by the same guy who played Igor in the old Frankenstein movies and either he or Magneto seems to have a tiny pet dragon. No one finds this dragon weird, as the X-Men wind up instantly taking it with them at the end of the climactic battle.

I understand that it was supposed to be Kitty’s pet dragon from the comics, but did the Brotherhood just happen upon it while settling Asteroid M? Are asteroids the natural habitat of tiny dragons? The world may never know…

Lockheed the magic dragon lived on Asteroid M...
Lockheed the magic dragon lived on Asteroid M…

Greg: In the comics, Lockheed is Kitty’s pet (it’s a long story). Here, he doesn’t get called by name, nor does he even get mentioned by anyone except Magneto, Toad and Kitty. At first, he appears as (presumably) the pet of one of the members of the Brotherhood. Yet by the end of the episode, he bites Magneto’s ankle (saving the day, of course) and departs with the X-Men back to Earth. Indeed, no one seems at all taken aback, even the completely douchey Wolverine, who complains about everything else in the episode.

Logan is more disturbed by a “keed” being on the team than a dragon, apparently.

The show takes a weird turn on the asteroid, as Nightcrawler goes all Spock-in-Wrath-of-Khan on us and tries to take one for the team, shutting off the device through … come to think of it, I’m not entirely sure how that was supposed to work.

"MAGNETOOOOOO" just doesn't have the same ring to it.
“MAGNETOOOOOO” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Nick: Somehow his body was acting as a circuit for the electrical energy that was pulling the asteroid away from earth and back towards Asteroid M. Without electrocuting him to death, of course.

Greg: He apparently becomes a living electrical circuit and locks himself on the asteroid as the Beam of Doom returns to destroy the facility.

Poor Kurt goes from that to teleporting into Earth’s atmosphere, where he doesn’t burn to death but admits that “it’s getting a little warm.”

Nick: For some reason, he’s unable to teleport out, leaving Xavier no other choice than to deploy the Blackbird’s mighty “grappling claws.”

Greg: Ha! The grappling claws are so oddly drawn that they appear to just be flashes of light.

Nick: Which fail, leaving Nightcrawler to die a fiery death.

Greg: And there’s no doubt, since Xavier searches for him with his mind, only to declare: “He’s gone.”

Nick: But wait! Turns out he could teleport after all! And he did so, teleporting into one of the Blackbird’s dressing room lockers. Hilarious!

Greg: JK everyone! And why a simple locker hid Nightcrawler from Xavier’s telepathy is left unexplained, as are most aspects of this episode.

Nick: And our heroes, with newly acquired dragon in tow, live happily after. As does the audience, especially since we never had to sit through anymore of this crap ever again.

Greg: While the ’92 series took relatively few cues from this show, “Pryde of the X-Men” does introduce a long-standing animated tradition of Professor X collapsing while shouting “power!” when he tries to use his mutant ability.

Incredible Power!
Incredible Power!

Nick: That it does, though there’s no Jean Grey for Cyclops to scream “JEAAAAAAN” over.

Greg: Nor is there a coherent story, likable characters or good voice work.

Nick: Or anything else that the later animated series would be remembered fondly for.

Anyway, Greg, overall recommendation: Skip, watch or own?

Greg: Watch for the unintentional comedy. Steve Irwin Wolverine has to be heard to be believed.

Nick: For me, it’s a watch, mainly because it truly is so bad it has to be seen to be believed.

Well, that about does it for Off the Page. Come back next week when we Countdown our top 5 DC villains. Then, two weeks from now, we finally deliver the Gotham Central review we promised a month ago in the latest edition of The Longbook Hunters.

Greg: That’s right, and we’ll follow it with (finally) the debut of our news and notes roundup as well as a Giant-Size edition! Theoretically, anyway.

Nick: I wouldn’t advise holding your breath.

But you never know, maybe we’ll be somewhat competent this month!

Greg, tell the people where they can send their feedback, if they have any.

Greg: They can contact us at our PTB emails (GregP@placetobenation.com and NickD@placetobenation.com), on the PTB Facebook page or on Twitter: @gphillips8652 and @nickduke87.

Nick: Well, that does it for this week. Catch us next week!

Author: Greg Phillips and Nick Duke

Greg and Nick share two passions above all others, both of which involve people in spandex punching each other. Reporters by day, they also insist on being called "Two Dudes with Attitude" but can't decide who is Kevin Nash and who is Shawn Michaels.