Friends, my first exposure to the Marvel Comics X-Men characters was thanks to episodes of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, three episodes in fact. And while as I mentioned in that ultimate ’80s cartoon heroes tribute from a few days ago that sometimes the animation doesn’t hold up to what we expect from a series these days – the stories were frequently memorable and managed to shine through. Thanks to episodes like The Origin of Iceman, A Firestar Is Born, and The X-Men Adventure I was introduced to Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Angel, Sprite (Kitty Pryde), Thunderbird, Professor X, Beast, Marvel Girl, and the Juggernaut. While some have attacked the quality of the animation on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and other Saturday morning fare – I would counter it is hard to deny that the Spider-Man episodes themselves weren’t at least action-packed!
I am pretty sure that the reason the Juggernaut is one of my favorite characters has to do with that very episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends – granted it doesn’t hurt that William Marshall (Blacula, Pee-wee’s Playhouse) was the voice of Cain Marko either. So a couple of years later when I began to pick up a few comics on a regular basis, after getting to know the animated versions of the X-Men I kept my eyes peeled when visiting the local gas station to see if I could find an issue on the spinner rack. My very first issue of The Uncanny X-Men was # 198 – written by Chris Claremont and beautifully illustrated by Barry Windsor-Smith. I am not sure I could have chosen a worst first issue, not for the quality of the comic book itself, but because it focuses on Storm who is suffering hallucinations due to an injury… it is the equivalent of reading someone’s fever dream.
I wouldn’t pick up another X-Men comic until three years later at the beginning of The Fall of the Mutants comic book crossover event. I stuck with the various comic series featuring Mutant characters for seven years – until I realized that the books that were being produced were no longer for me. During that time the wildly popular animated X-Men series had aired on Fox Kids – legions of toys and collectibles had been produced and Capcom had released the X-Men: Children of the Atom arcade game.
So very many evenings after work were spent with my friends playing that fighting game, not in an arcade but in the foyer of the local Walmart – being young and working full-time meant I had excess money to pump into the machine itself. That just marked the beginning of the X-Men fighting game franchise but I look back on those days quite fondly – which is why when I read back in 2016 that a fan-made animated tribute to both the game and the early ’90s animated series had been released I was quite excited to share the news on the Retroist.
Produced solely by Joel Furtado, an animator and video game art director, the artist took a year off to develop the Danger Room Protocols, an intended collection of 18 animated shorts that would feature various X-Men characters training within said Danger Room. The first episode lasted a couple of weeks on Furtado’s YouTube page before Marvel asked for it to be removed – which was a total shame as there was a lot to enjoy about the proposed series. The first episode collection featured both Wolverine and Jean Grey in battle against the mutant hunting robotic nightmares known as Sentinels as well as the even more advanced and dangerous Nimrod.
Fun stuff in my personal opinion and I wish that somehow this fan-made series could have been allowed to continue – as I understand it Furtado shared some rough animation for the second episode in the Danger Room Protocols series on his Instagram account. With Cyclops and Storm finding themselves pitted against Mr. Sinister and the half-man and half-Pteranadon known as Sauron deep underground in the sewers.