Friends, many comic book fans can remember tuning in on the morning of October 31st of 1992 to catch the premiere of the X-Men animated series on Fox Kids – for the first half of the two-part pilot entitled Night of the Sentinels. I was most definitely one of those fans, as by the time that the series debuted I had been collecting X-Men comics for about five years – thanks to picking up The Uncanny X-Men #213 – but my first introduction to the team of Mutants was courtesy of an 1982 episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends series entitled A Fire-Star Is Born. The second season episode not only provided an origin story to the character of Firestar – but allowed us to see animated versions of Professor X, Cyclops, Storm, and a curiously now Australian version of Wolverine – to say nothing of the power of the Juggernaut.
At the time I caught that episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, I had no clue that in the comics the character of Wolverine hailed from Canada. But it would not be the last time that he was presented as being Australian – case in point – seven years later when the Pryde of the X-Men debuted. A television pilot that was first showcased as part of the syndicated Marvel Action Universe show – initially featuring Dino-Riders, RoboCop, and reruns of both the 1981 Spider-Man series as well as Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.
Doing a little research online, supposedly Marvel Productions decided to use the funding for the 13th episode of the RoboCop series to produce the Pryde of the X-Men pilot. And while it appears that some fans of the X-Men comic took umbrage at Wolverine being Australian instead of Canadian, most at least were impressed by the quality of the animation provided by Toei Animation. As a matter of fact, thanks to the Wikipedia entry for Pryde of the X-Men, we have this quote from Rick Hoberg (The Mighty Orbots) – who acted as producer, a storyboard director, and story editor:
“I ended up being the voice director on the show, and I was forced to use the Australian version of Wolverine (which coincidentally, foreshadowed the casting of Australian actor Hugh Jackman in the live-action X-Men film), because all of this Australian stuff was popular at the time – the Mad Max films, “Crocodile” Dundee, and so on – it was going to turn out (in the comics) that Wolverine was an expatriated Australian. The direction of the character however never got beyond the plotting stages and Wolverine remained Canadian in the comics.”
Interestingly enough the Internet Movie Database lists Stu Rosen as the voice director for the TV pilot – perhaps Hoberg had to step in for Rosen at some point? Speaking of voices, the pilot featured a pretty impressive cast of voice artists – including the likes of Michael Bell (G.I. Joe), Earl Boen (The Terminator), Alan Oppenheimer (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe), and Frank Welker (The Transformers) to name a few. To say nothing of featuring the late and great Stan Lee in the role of narrator and an extremely awesome theme song by Robert J. Walsh (Muppet Babies, The Inhumanoids).
The story for 1989’s Pryde of the X-Men revolves around Kitty Pryde being inducted into the X-men – not only introducing the members of the team but also setting the stage for their conflict with Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants.
I find the 1989 X-Men television pilot quite entertaining and one can’t help but wonder what the series would have been like if it had been picked up – what other characters and storylines from the comics would have been featured? At the very least we can be thankful that Pryde of the X-Men managed to be the basis for 1992’s exceptional X-Men arcade game by Konami!