With the release of X-Men: Apocalypse, one of Marvel’s most classic villains will finally get his chance to shine on the big screen. He briefly appeared in the post-credits scene of X-Men: Days of Future Past, but this will be his first time featuring as a major character in a film. While it’s going to be exciting to see how actor Oscar Isaac portrays Apocalypse, he is not the first to bring the character to life beyond the pages of comic books over the years. Apocalypse has also appeared in video games and, perhaps most memorably, in the animated X-Men TV series.
Apocalypse has shown up in X-Men: The Animated Series, X-Men: Evolution and Wolverine and the X-Men. The role he plays and the number of episodes he is in varies for each series, and his character is more interesting in certain appearances than others. With Apocalypse now prominently in the spotlight thanks to the new movie, what better time than now to revisit these past parts on the small screen? I decided to look back at these cartoon versions of Apocalypse and see how they hold up these days. Here’s my ranking from worst to best of Apocalypse’s appearances on TV.
Wolverine and the X-Men: “Shades of Grey” Season 1, Episode 23 and “Foresight Part 3” Season 1, Episode 26
I decided to group the two times Apocalypse showed up on Wolverine and the X-Men into one ranking because, honestly, they’re both basically nothing roles. It’s clear with these two appearances they were trying to set up Apocalypse as a future major player but since the show was cancelled after just one season, the character was never given the chance to shine.
“Shades of Grey” marks the first time viewers glimpsed the villain. It happened at the very end of an episode that saw Archangel kidnap Cyclops and a Jean Grey with amnesia. He takes them to Mister Sinister, who is after their genetic material. Once Sinister gets it, he orders the couple’s death but ultimately Cyclops and Jean are rescued. In the end, Sinister is seen reporting to someone he calls master, who is revealed to be Apocalypse standing in the shadows. He smiles for a moment and then the episode moves on. It’s not much of an entrance and it doesn’t get much better in “Foresight: Part 3.” In the series finale, the X-Men change the future by stopping the Sentinels and the Phoenix. However, Professor X states their “fight has only begun” and we’re treated to a scene showing crowds chanting Apocalypse’s name as he steps out to face them. He, again, doesn’t say a word and even though it’s supposed to be quite ominous, it doesn’t really get that across. Unfortunately in this series, Apocalypse just isn’t very impressive.
X-Men: Evolution: “Ascension Part 2” Season 4, Episode 9
In the second half of this two-parter, the X-Men split up to try and stop Apocalypse’s plan by destroying the pyramids being guarded by his four horsemen. Apocalypse, however, sets his plan in motion by sending the tops of the pyramids into the atmosphere. He basically just watches the action in his base until he appears to Magneto as a giant glowing head before returning to the place in which he was found. However, this makes it relatively easy for Rogue to defeat him when she arrives. Having taken the power of Leech to disrupt Apocalypse’s abilities, she and Wolverine are able to once again trap him before he then disappears. To me, this is Apocalypse’s worst appearance on X-Men: Evolution, even though he shows up throughout the episode. He just doesn’t do much as his grand plan is about to come to fruition and it feels like he’s way too easily defeated after seeing how powerful he was in previous episodes. It’s all a bit underwhelming.
X-Men: Evolution: “Impact” Season 4, Episode 1
This season premiere sees the X-Men trying to deal with the aftermath of Season 3’s finale. As the X-Men try to figure out where Apocalypse went, they see a report of a dome of energy encasing a Mayan pyramid. The dome cannot be breached and no one has any idea of what’s happening inside it. The X-Men decide to investigate and try to find out what’s going on inside, with little luck. Finally, Magneto arrives and takes a more violent approach at trying to break the dome and starts bombarding it with various objects from tanks to satellites. It’s at this point that Apocalypse shows up for the first time in this episode. He emerges from the dome and seems to effortlessly destroy Magneto before returning inside. Apocalypse is only there for a few moments and still looks quite different from his other classic appearances, but it’s more notable than his Wolverine and the X-Men scenes at least in that he manages to impact the characters greatly in a few minutes by apparently killing Magneto.
X-Men: Evolution: “Dark Horizon Part 2” Season 3, Episode 13
After Rogue stole the powers of numerous mutants while under Mesmero’s control, the X-Men partner with the Brotherhood and the Acolytes in an attempt to keep her from finding the final key and bringing forth Apocalypse. As they do this, they discover the backstory of the villain, which we see in a series of flashbacks. Meanwhile, Mesmero, Rogue, and Mystique open Apocalypse’s tomb and Rogue awakens him. He looks much more human here as the powers he absorbs from Rogue seem to rejuvenate him. As he floats in the air, he’s able to easily deal with all the mutants trying to stop him. While I’m not a fan of floating, glowing Apocalypse all that much, it’s not a bad entrance for the character, and it’s longer than his appearance in “Impact,” at least. I like that we learn about his history, and how it’s right away clear that he’s powerful and going to prove a challenge based on how he readily incapacitates all the mutants. It would be better if it wasn’t quite so dramatic, but at least it gets the point across!
X-Men: The Animated Series: “Time Fugitives Part 2” Season 2, Episode 8
It might just be the nostalgia that makes me rank most of Apocalypse’s X-Men: The Animated Series appearances high on this list compared to his more recent ones, but I do think there are some exceptions, including this one. Here, Cable goes back in time in an attempt to save his present from changing due to Bishop’s actions. This episode basically follows the same path as "Time Fugitives Part 1," with some added Cable bits here and there as he thinks he needs to let the plague loose to save his time. Apocalypse reveals himself in the same fashion as in “Part 1,” as the X-Men and Cable arrive at his secret lab. The difference is this time Cable is there and has realized Wolverine is the key to saving his future without having to release Apocalypse’s plague. Apocalypse’s appearance towards the end is just as good here as in “Part 1,” but since it basically reuses most of those scenes, I think it’s his least impressive episode in X-Men: The Animated Series.
X-Men: The Animated Series: “Sanctuary Part 2” Season 4, Episode 7
This episode sees the conclusion of Episode 6, which ended with Cortez supposedly killing Magneto on Asteroid M and blaming the X-Men for it. Magneto lived, however, and in the end, he and the X-Men are able to stop Cortez before he can attack Earth. Apocalypse doesn’t arrive until the very end, here. Cortez wakes up and, when he asks where he is, an ominous voice answers “with your true savior.” Apocalypse remains in shadow as he talks, before stepping out to reveal himself and laughing manically. Sure, it’s short, but it’s still better than the reused portions seen in “Time Fugitives Part 2,” that’s for sure! I like how this scene makes Apocalypse feel more dangerous as a villain than some of his longer appearances in the other series, but it's length is what keeps it from earning any higher spot on this list.
X-Men: The Animated Series: “The Fifth Horseman” Season 5, Episode 10
Cortez makes his next appearance after the “Sanctuary” two-parter in this episode, where we see him speaking to the ghostly form of Apocalypse. It turns out the villain has been drifting in the void and is clearly sick of it. The plan to bring him back relies on there being a vessel for his return during a celestial alignment, because there’s always a celestial alignment needed for these things! Unfortunately, Beast and Jubilee are on an archaeology trip nearby and Jubilee is captured to act as the vessel. Before Apocalypse can return, however, Caliban, a Morlock who was helping Cortez at first, helps Jubilee escape. As the room collapses around Cortez, who is trapped by rubble, Apocalypse appears. In true villain fashion, when Cortez apologizes for not having a vessel for his return, Apocalypse says he has, and uses Cortez's body to come back. In this episode, Apocalypse manages to still clearly be pretty dangerous, even from where he is in the void, which is quite impressive. By this final fifth season, Apocalypse and much of the show was loosing its edge a bit, but seeing his return and manipulation of Cortez is still impressive and continues to show that he is a major villain to be taken seriously no matter where he is!
X-Men: Evolution: “Ascension Part 1” Season 4, Episode 8
I think Apocalypse is much better in this episode than in the following, “Ascension Part 2.” He shows up at the start and creates a third dome in Egypt. He becomes the cybernetic character viewers are probably more familiar with, as well. Storm accompanies Professor X, who wants to speak with Apocalypse, but obviously that’s not the best idea. When Xavier is in danger, Storm intervenes and they both disappear. When the Sentinels are sent after Apocalypse, it’s not too hard for him to deal with them. In the end, he releases his four horsemen, who include Xavier, Storm, Magneto, and Mystique, all with enhanced powers, and sends them to defend the pyramids he’s put inside domes around the world. Everyone is in shock when they see their friends, who they thought were dead, and realize they have to face them to stop Apocalypse’s plan. Apocalypse gets to be a lot more active in this episode and his character is better for it. It’s nice to see him finally gain his classic form and his talk with the professor makes him much more interesting.
X-Men: The Animated Series: “The Cure” Season 1, Episode 9
This is the first appearance of Apocalypse in The Animated Series and it’s a great introduction for the character! Cable encounters Warren Worthington III while on the hunt for Dr. Adler, who is supposedly developing a type of “cure” that mutants can use to rid themselves of their powers. Professor X goes to visit the doctor and see his work on Muir Island with Moira MacTaggert. When Dr. Adler denies them entry, Professor X uses his powers and suddenly has a vision of Apocalypse, who intervenes. When Professor X tells the X-Men about the cure, Rogue is the only one who is eager to use it to rid herself of her powers. She goes to Muir Island and speaks with Dr. Adler, who tells her to return after an hour, when he’ll decide if he will give her the cure. When she leaves, Apocalypse appears and Dr. Adler transforms into Mystique. He tells Mystique to use the machine to make Rogue a slave, but after an incident that includes Cable trying to kill Dr. Adler, Rogue realizes she can do more good by keeping her powers. Rogue helps repair Adler’s machine and, after she leaves, Worthington appears asking for the cure. Mystique tells Apocalypse, who reveals he is going to destroy the world.
From the very start, here, Apocalypse is imposing and threatening. He’s a mysterious figure that is clearly up to no good and is already spouting his classic villain dialogue. It’s a better introduction than in any of the other series and remains a classic appearance!
X-Men: The Animated Series: “Time Fugitives Part 1” Season 2, Episode 7
Apocalypse first shows up in this episode in the future, fighting Cable and his friends. He and his forces clearly have the upper hand until a temporal storm with Bishop arrives and starts changing the current time. While Bishop thinks his mission was successful, it turns out his world is still a mess, so he returns to the past to stop the plague that causes it. It turns out Apocalypse is behind the plague and reveals himself when the X-Men enter his secret lab. Here, the scenes play out almost exactly like “Time Fugitives Part 2,” only without Cable’s interference. Apocalypse returns to his recognizable form, grows, and fights the X-Men. Despite destroying the plague and escaping, Apocalypse increases his size, smashing through the mansion and attacking the X-Men. In the end, Cable learns he must help Apocalypse release the plague for his time to remain the same. It’s fun to see Apocalypse in different forms, here: First, still causing chaos in the future, then in disguise and hatching such a deadly scheme before finally returning to his true form to fight the X-Men! It really gives you a sense of how dangerous Apocalypse is and that he might be, as he likes to often state, eternal and impossible to vanquish!
X-Men: The Animated Series: “Beyond Good and Evil Part 2” Season 4, Episode 9
This episode begins with an attack on the Shi’ar royal palace that is revealed to be a way for Apocalypse to kidnap one of the Empress’ psychics, named Oracle. As Lilandra informs Xavier of what happened, Apocalypse, in typical villain fashion, offers some explanation to the captured Jean Grey, telling her that they are in the axis of time where all times cross. He ended up there during his first attempt at time travel and spent centuries out of time learning about its powers. He won’t say why he needs the psychics, yet, but since he’s spent centuries at the axis, it’s obviously for nothing good! Apocalypse does some typical bad guy stuff here, like betraying a supposed ally, offering some backstory to a captured hero, and getting in an evil laugh here and there. However, it’s entertaining to see how he’s manipulated his allies, including Magneto, into working with him when you know he won’t hold up his end of any deals, and the hints offered about his larger plan are quite intriguing, adding to his atmosphere as an extremely powerful enemy that even the X-Men are going to have a hard time stopping!
X-Men: The Animated Series: “Beyond Good and Evil Part 3” Season 4, Episode 10
As Cable tries to go back in time to destroy the Lazarus chamber of Apocalypse at the very beginning, his time travel is thrown off course by Apocalypse, who we see watching from the axis. Cable arrives in the present with the X-Men and tells them about the Lazarus chamber, the secret to Apocalypse's longevity, that he discovered. Meanwhile, Apocalypse is watching all of this and tells Mystique, “the end game has begun.” At the pyramid, it’s revealed Mystique and not Apocalypse is in the chamber at the moment and a trap is sprung to kidnap the professor, which Apocalypse calls the most important move in his plan. The super villain is mostly on the sidelines here, but it’s interesting to see him enacting his plans from a distance, knowing he is in control of things from the axis, and basically succeeding in the end by capturing the professor!
X-Men: The Animated Series: “Obsession” Season 3, Episode 10
Here, Worthington is rightly still pissed off about being turned into Archangel, one of Apocalypse’s four horsemen. Archangel is obsessed with destroying Apocalypse, now, and is collecting artifacts to try to find a way. When Apocalypse is sighted, Archangel goes to attack him, but Apocalypse increases his size and is more than able to hold his former henchman off. Apocalypse taunts Archangel as the X-Men arrive, and eventually flies off. The team tracks Apocalypse’s ship and, as some attack Apocalypse, others arrive on the ship to come up with a way to trap him. He continues to mock Worthington during these fights, saying one of his best classic cheesy villain lines yet with, “I am the rocks of the eternal shore. Crash against me and be broken!” In the end, they’re able to seemingly trap Apocalypse and send him away as he continues to yell at them and claim he’ll return. Even though many of Apocalypse’s lines are pretty cheesy in this episode, I can’t help but love how he’s in true archetypal villain form here as he mocks his enemies while fighting them and doing a pretty good job of keeping them at bay. It’s a really enjoyable episode for Apocalypse that shows why he's such a great cartoon villain!
X-Men: The Animated Series: “Beyond Good and Evil Part 1” Season 4, Episode 8
This episode starts in the future, as Cable and his team try to put an end to Apocalypse for good by destroying the Lazarus chamber. Apocalypse arrives as Cable is cut off from the group, leading to an epic confrontation in which he reveals he knew about the attack and let them get there so that he could steal the technology from Cable needed to travel through time! This is one of the best scenes with Apocalypse, because what Cable says actually makes him pause for a second and start to think about his actions. He begins to wonder if Cable is right and he is doomed to struggle and never truly win, which sets off the entire story arc. Seeing Apocalypse being contemplative before he disappears and just leaves Cable behind is fascinating. He doesn’t appear again until the very end, when it’s shown that he was behind the kidnapping of Jean and the attempted kidnapping of Xavier. His appearance at the end is short, with the villain walking out from the shadows to state he was behind Jean’s kidnapping, but it’s really all about that scene at the beginning that makes this a great episode for Apocalypse!
X-Men: The Animated Series: “Come the Apocalypse” Season 1, Episode 10
Apocalypse’s second episode in the series begins with Worthington undergoing what he thinks is the cure, but what is actually a machine that makes him Apocalypse’s slave as the horseman of death. If there was any doubt about Apocalypse’s evil nature, him asking Mystique to increase the power as he witnesses Worthington’s transformation puts that to rest quickly! Mystique, disguised, as Worthington, then goes to the restaurant where the X-Men are relaxing to encourage others to accept the cure, stating it works. As a result, the rest of Apocalypse’s horsemen are born. Apocalypse informs them of how they will purify the world and create a new one. Apocalypse and his new horsemen attack a peace conference and, upon seeing the villain, Professor X says that he has been driven mad by his powers. Rogue returns to Muir Island and discovers Mystique is Dr. Adler. Mystique tells Rogue where Apocalypse’s secret command center is, and Rogue goes to find it. She faces Apocalypse on her own until his horsemen and the other X-Men arrive. Apocalypse escapes in a ship at the end, stating the X-Men are only delaying the inevitable.
While he monologues a lot in this second appearance, it also shows the villain in his full Apocalypse glory! We see his power, learn about what he wants to do to the world, watch as he holds off all the X-Men, and get lots of memorable lines like “from the ashes of this world I will build a better one!” It’s such a classic line in fact, that you can find a version of it in the trailer for the new film being proclaimed by actor Oscar Isaac.
X-Men: The Animated Series: “Beyond Good and Evil Part 4” Season 4, Episode 11
The finale to the “Beyond Good and Evil” story arc is, to me, the best time we see Apocalypse. Continuing from Part One, Apocalypse states that, now that he’s at the axis of time, he no longer needs the Lazarus chamber, and he begins to implement his plan with the psychics. He lets Wolverine live so he can witness the end of everything and, on Magneto’s insistence, finally explains his plan and how it will break the balance of good and evil so he can finally win, per his conversation with Cable in “Part 1” that sparked all of this! He will destroy all the psychics to stop time and end existence, except what is in the axis, so he can recreate the universe. Not a fan of this plan, Magneto attacks with Mystique, but Mister Sinister and the horsemen arrive to help Apocalypse. Magneto frees Wolverine and asks for his help while Bishop sees what’s going on and interferes. Apocalypse watches as his plan crumbles and faces Cable in the axis. As the axis breaks apart, the now-free psychics use their power to bring Apocalypse out of the axis so he will cease to exist. While it’s something we know isn’t for good, it’s still an epic ending!
This really is Apocalypse’s crowning episode. We get to see him in action a lot, since he’s in the majority of the episode, and in each scene, he really is at his best as he comes close to defeating our heroes. Everything you could want from the villain is here, and that’s why it tops my list!
Which of Apocalypse’s appearances is your favorite? Tell us in the comments!