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For an entire generation of X-Men fans, their first brush with iconic stories like "The Dark Phoenix Saga" and "Days of Future Past" came not through the original comic books, but through X-Men: The Animated Series.
From 1992 to 1997, the hit half-hour adventure show on FOX Saturday Mornings delivered dozens of episodes that loosely adapted many of the team's previous comics adventures and, in the process, brought in new fans with every single installment. Now, the original spirit of the animated classic lives on.
Disney announced on Friday that it will launch in a new follow-up series in 2023, dubbed X-Men '97. The much-anticipated show will give fans a chance to see even more classic Marvel comic book stories get the animated series treatment. But which stories the best candidates? There are, of course, dozens of unadapted X-Men tales to choose from, and while every fan has their picks, these are three of our particular favorites.
"The Brood Saga" (Uncanny X-Men, #161-167)
What if the X-Men fought the Xenomorph from Alien, but the story was somehow also The Thing? That's the basic hook behind this often terrifying story from the early 1980s, in which writer Chris Claremont and artist Dave Cockrum introduced a new race of aliens to the Marvel Universe and nearly destroyed the X-Men in the process.
It begins in the middle of an X-Men space adventure (Claremont was rather fond of those) when Deathbird, the rival and sister of Shi'ar Empress Lilandra, captures the X-Men and decides to turn them over to her allies. Her allies just happen to be the Brood, a race of insectoid aliens, whose principal goal is reproduction through implanting their eggs in host bodies. Once you've got a Brood embryo inside of you, it's a race against the clock before you completely transform into one of the creatures. (And no Ripley is here to save you.)
Though it arrived before X-Men: The Animated Series premiere, "The Brood Saga" did get somewhat of a truncated adaptation on the original show — quite possibly because the storyline was too scary for children on Saturday mornings. Still, animated programming has matured since then in terms of content, and X-Men stories are nothing if they aren't a little horrific now and then. The Brood run is scary, it's thrilling, and it's got Wolverine pushing his healing factor to the limit while Storm fights for her life. What's not to like?
So, this isn't technically a story arc; it's an entire new mutant-focused series that debuted in 1988 under the leadership of writer Chris Claremont and artist Alan Davis. And, yes, it's admittedly a weird fit for the framework of the original X-Men animated series. But hear us out! Excalibur kicks off in the aftermath of a cataclysm which has led Nightcrawler and Kitty Pryde to believe that they're the only original X-Men left, and all their friends are dead. So, what do they do in this period of apparent loneliness? They hang out in the UK and form a new super team with Captain Britain, of course.
Because of the original team make-up, Excalibur's adventures are often just as much about Captain Britain lore as they are about mutants, which means mutant characters often get to do cool things like head over to Otherworld and pass between dimensions on a train powered by a dragon (yes, really), in addition to their usual X-Men style shenanigans. It might be a little tricky to figure out the proper entry point, but adding these elements into a cartoon would allow the creators to really explore the wild ambition that made those early Excalibur stories so popular.
Plus, it could lead to a whole Otherworld-focused spinoff down the line.
"Murder at the Mansion" (New X-Men, #139-141)
The 2000s meant that the X-Men were finally making the leap from the small screen to the big screen, and it also meant that Marvel Comics was looking for a new approach for its classic team. So, writer Grant Morrison stepped in to reinvent the X-Men, and everything old became new again.
Morrison's New X-Men run, produced alongside artists like Frank Quitely, Phil Jimenez, and Marc Silvestri, was a thrilling mash-up of the elements that made the X-Men work in the first place and new ideas that pushed the team into bold new spaces. There could be a whole new series just adapting this run and the big stories within. If we're talking about X-Men '97 in particular, though, one story stands out.
In "Murder at the Mansion," by Morrison and Jimenez, what begins as the fallout of an apparent psychic affair between Emma Frost and Cyclops soon escalates when Emma turns up dead. With a crime scene on their hands, the X-Men call in future mutant Bishop to investigate, and everyone is a suspect. (Tonally, think Clue or Knives Out in the X-Mansion).
While the psychosexual aspects of the story might have to be trimmed away for animation purposes, and Emma Frost might not end up the chosen victim, an adaptation of "Murder at the Mansion" feels like it would still be glorious fun for the new animated series to tackle. It's the X-Men meets Agatha Christie, and it's exactly the kind of story that could push X-Men '97 beyond the bounds of its original 1990s hook, and keep it going with new energy.