Remembering 1989’s “Pryde of the X-Men”

“Pryde of the X-Men” (also known as “X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men”) is an animated pilot I mostly remember thanks to its VHS release in 1989 that my brother and I must have borrowed from my cousin a thousand times over. Despite its obscurity, however, this relic of the early Marvel Entertainment days is one of the many abandoned projects from Marvel that’d inadvertently become a classic. Before 1992’s “X-Men: The Animated Series,” there was 1989’s “X-Men,” a series that begun development after constant guest spots from the team during “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.” Watching it years later, it’s surprising just how much of the early episodes of the 1992 series were based on the “Pryde of the X-Men” pilot.

While the 90’s series focused more on Jubilee as the primary protagonist rather than Kitty Pryde, both focused on racial tensions, political corruption, and an impending mutant war. Also, Magneto became the primary antagonist against Professor Xavier’s peaceful movement for mutants. Hell, there’s even a very early peek at the Danger Room. Its age notwithstanding, “Pryde of the X-Men” is still brutally excellent, hitting the ground running from its fantastic opening credits that expound on the premise of a badass team of diverse super-powered mutants at war in a human world.

Narrated by co-creator, the late Stan Lee, “Pryde of the X-Men” has a ton of information to relay in only twenty-two minutes, and writer Larry Parr does a damn good job of laying out the story for new viewers.

Set in the near future, the military has somehow managed to capture Magneto, who is being transferred to a prison through a military convoy. Thanks to his resourceful Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Magneto is able to escape and wreak havoc on mankind. Meanwhile, new mutant Kitty Pryde has arrived at the Xavier School for Gifted Mutants and is shown a whole world unbeknownst to the outside. It’s filled with super-powered mutants that Professor Charles Xavier is training to benefit mankind, and is teaching them to use their god like abilities responsibly.

Introduced in the pilot are a who’s who of X-Men including leader Cyclops, the humongous Colossus, standing in for Jean Grey is Dazzler, there’s the iconic Nightcrawler, and of course, Storm, all helping Xavier to spread the word to other mutants. However, Magneto has other plans when he turns the attention of the X-Men to another mission, and unleashes the unstoppable mutant Juggernaut to demolish the mansion and attempt to murder Xavier. He is Juggernaut’s half brother who Juggernaut despises with a murderous passion.

The X-Men have more than their hands full, though, when the Brotherhood (consisting of Pyro, The Blob, Toad, and White Queen) plan to divert a large comet to Earth to destroy mankind. In spite of its short run time, “Pryde of the X-Men” gets its story told with a spotlight on a lot of the great characters this universe had to offer. Colossus has a great battle of strength with Juggernaut, Dazzler has a shoot out with Pyro, and the seeds are planted for a friendship with Nightcrawler and Kitty.

Unfortunately, this is the period where Marvel began to run in to financial troubles, thus the budget for this pilot was taken from the remaining budget from the “RoboCop” animated series and Marvel ended production on all properties except for “Muppet Babies.” This closed the second era of Marvel television animation until 1992, when Marvel would bounce back with the very successful Animated Series from Saban. Though Marvel Comics and Marvel Entertainment rebounded shortly during the nineties, their financial troubles would resurface thanks to the crash of the comic book industry in the late nineties, as well as Marvel’s massive debt.

While reaction to “Pryde of the X-Men” is mixed I, the pilot showed immense potential. Granted, Kitty is kind of whiny, and there’s not much use for Dazzler, but there was a lot of room for character development and retooling down the road. The designs for the characters, mainly based on the eighties X-Men, is a great bit of nostalgia for comic book lovers. Fans used to Wolverine from the 90’s animated series might also be surprised to see Wolverine depicted with an Australian accent in the pilot, rather than the Canadian one that became signature in the 1992 animated series.

Though the pilot animation was rich and exciting, and a perfect platform for an animated series, it never materialized in to an actual weekly series and began and ended with the pilot. After Marvel scrapped the show altogether, the pilot was quickly transferred to a VHS release that ironically managed to build a loyal fan base on the single episode alone.  Though, 1989’s “Pryde of the X-Men” only produced one episode, it managed to obtain immortality as a relic with great possibility, and a wonderful peek at a dynamic comic book property. “Pryde of the X-Men” was fun, simple, and gave the group their long overdue television debut.