ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.04 - JULY 2000

Super Mutants Everyone Can Relate To: The X-Men

by Rick DeMott

The X-Men's mutant drama is leaping from the comic book page to big the screen.

There was Superman. There was Batman. There even was Judge Dredd. Now the X-Men are leaping from the colorful comic book page to the big screen. To the avid reader, the names Professor X, Magneto and Wolverine are commonplace. However, the characters in the best selling comic title of all time are as strange as their very own mutant powers to the general public. When researching this article I asked various people, 'What do you want to know about The X-Menmovie?' and I received questions like, 'Will the Shi'ar technology transform Jean Grey into the Phoenix entity?' to 'The X-Men? Aren't they a video game?' Therefore the question that arises is, with such varying levels of awareness, how will this superhero tale transcend what has come before it? Moreover, what makes The X-Menso popular to comic book fans and can their story bring a general audience to the multiplexes around the globe?

Yes, that man in the silly hood is Sir Ian McKellan. He and other top talent have signed on to be the next generation of big screen superheroes. 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

Twentieth Century Fox must feel so, for it has invested US$75 million into what will be their biggest release of the summer. The film is being helmed by The Usual Suspectsand Apt Pupildirector Bryan Singer and the hefty sized cast includes Emmy Award-nominated Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Oscar Award-nominated Sir Ian McKellan (Gods and Monsters), Oscar winner Anna Paquin (The Piano)and Golden Globe winner Halle Berry (Introducing Dorothy Dandridge). Three production companies, The Donners' Company, Marvel Media and Bad Hat Harry Productions, handled the creation of the film. The list of producers and executive producers from the various companies reads like a list of who's who. Representing the Donners' Company is Richard Donner, the man behind the Lethal Weaponseries and Supermanmovies. Lauren Shuler Donner (Any Given Sunday)served as producer on the flick, along with Mighty Joe Youngproducer Ralph Winter. Singer's Bad Hat Harry Productions added Apt Pupilproducer Tom DeSanto to the ranks of the film's executive producing team. Whereas, Marvel Media, a division of Marvel Entertainment who produces The X-Men comic series, brought to the project Marvel Studios' CEO Avi Arad, and The X-Mencreator Stan Lee.

Many members of the X-Men team have graced the comic book page since 1963.

The X-Mencomic book series began in September 1963. The story centered on Professor Charles Xavier and his school for gifted children. However, these kids were more gifted than your average chess playing tweens. They had superpowers. Prof. X, as he is called, searche the world to find adolescents who possessed extraordinary skills like his own telepathic powers. Xavier's school was a haven for these mutant children, a place where they were not ridiculed for being different. This idea of ridicule was what creator Stan Lee had in mind from the start. When searching his mind for new heroes, Lee wanted them to deal with the issues of bigotry, man's inhumanity to man and racial hatred. Thus, Lee wrote stories about those who were feared and hated by the rest of humanity. For instance, before joining the original X-Men team, Cyclops had to flee from an angry mob bent on killing him. Cyclops possesses the ability to shoot a powerful laser beam from his eyes. At this young age, the X-man had not yet learned to control his powers and had accidentally blasted a crane that sent a heavy object falling toward a crowd of people. The soon-to-be hero disintegrated the object with another optic shot, but was then pursued by the crowd because they believed he was trying to kill them.

All the various X-Men have similar tales. This basic theme has carried over into every issue of The X-Menseries, which sells over 13 million copies per year, making it Marvel's most popular title. For a parable of racial unity "that speaks well of the taste of mankind in general," jibes Stan Lee. When asked why The X-Menare so popular, Lee says, "It's the characterization. It's like an adventure soap opera. Here are characters that have their own thoughts and goals."

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