I grew up watching the 90s cartoon X-Men: The Animated Series, and I'd like to get into reading the comics. I'm faced with a massive backlog of comics if I want to catch up.

I figured where the cartoon either starts, ends, or somewhere in the middle would be a good place to start off, but I don't know which era, or story arcs the cartoon takes from, or how accurately it does so.

Which Marvel Comics eras and story arcs does the X-Men cartoon reflect?

2 Answers 2


The cartoon debuted in October 1992, a year after the X-Men comics underwent a major shakeup a year earlier. Therefore, the cartoon was heavily influenced and based upon the status quo from that 1991 shakeup.

The X-Men's roster was divided into two teams for the two X-Men comics being published. The Gold Team starred in the long-running Uncanny X-Men series and consisted of Storm, Jean Grey, Colossus, Iceman and Archangel (with Bishop joining shortly after their formation). The Blue Team starred in the new series, simply called X-Men, and consisted of Cyclops, Beast, Gambit, Wolverine, Rogue and Psylocke (with Jubilee as a supporting character).

The lineup for the cartoon consists of mostly what was the Blue Team at the time, with Storm and Jean Grey added in place of Psylocke. The cartoon's cast consisted of Cyclops, Beast, Gambit, Wolverine, Rogue, Jubilee, Storm and Jean Grey, with Professor X as well.

Unlike the comics, where the X-Men first went public in the first issue of Uncanny X-Men in 1963, the X-Men first went public in the first episode of the cartoon with the roster listed above. Many episodes do adapt stories from the comics, but changes were made usually to adjust cast differences and change the tone to one safe for Saturday morning.

Some episodes that were adapted from the comics, and the changes therein, were:

  • 03 Enter Magneto - Adapted from Uncanny X-Men #1 (1963). This paralleled the X-Men's first encounter with Magneto, but instead of the entire team fighting Magneto, it's only a trio of X-Men (Storm, Cyclops and Wolverine; Storm and Wolverine were not present for this fight in the comics).

  • 05 Captive Hearts - Adapted from Uncanny X-Men #169-170 (1983). The heart of the story is the same: the X-Men (Wolverine, Gambit, Rogue and Storm in the cartoon; Nightcrawler, Colossus, Kitty Pryde and Storm in the comics) track a missing teammate (Cyclops and Jean Grey in the cartoon; Angel in the comics) into the sewers after they are kidnapped by the Morlocks. There, Storm fights Morlock leader Callisto for the freedom of their kidnapped friends. In the comics Storm stabs Callisto in the heart, which was changed to Storm simply defeating Callisto in the cartoon.

  • 07 Slave Island - Loosely adapted from Uncanny X-Men #235-238 (1988). The X-Men become prisoners on Genosha, an island built on the backs of mutant slaves. This is a more loose adaptation from the source material, more using elements than strict plot.

  • 11-12 Days of Future Past - Adapted from Uncanny X-Men #141-142 (1981). An mutant from the future (Kate Pryde in the comics, Bishop in the cartoon) travels back in time with the help of another mutant (Rachel Summers in the comics, Forge in the cartoon) in an attempt to stop the assassination of Senator Robert Kelly at the hands of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Bishop's assertion that Gambit is a traitor is also lifted from X-Men #8 (1992).

  • 18 Repo Man - Adapted from Uncanny X-Men #109 (1978) and #120-121 (1979). Wolverine's original team, Alpha Flight, comes back to reclaim him.

  • 19 X-Ternally Yours - Loosely adapted from X-Men #8-9, Ghost Rider #26-27 (1992). This borrows elements from Gambit's background, including the Assassin and Thieves Guilds.

  • 22 A Rogue's Tale - Continuation of events from Avengers Annual #10 (1981). This episode shows Rogue's origin, her absorbing Ms. Marvel's powers, and shows it in the cartoon's universe and follows up on it.

  • 24 Mojovision 36 Longshot - Loosely adapted from X-Men #10-11 (1992). This episode introduces Longshot, and uses elements from those issues.

  • 29-33 Phoenix Saga - Adapted from Uncanny X-Men #100-108 (1976). The classic Phoenix Saga is adapted fairly straightforward, just with newer members like Jubilee, Rogue and Gambit in the place of the ones that were in the comic at the time (Banshee, Colossus, Nightcrawler).

  • 40-43 The Dark Phoenix Saga - Adapted from Uncanny X-Men #129-137 (1980). This was adapted similarly to The Phoenix Saga. Different characters, same basic plot, but the ending is completely different (made safe for TV).

  • 48-49 Sanctuary - Loosely adapted from X-Men #1-3 (1991) and the Fatal Attractions storyline (1993). Elements like Fabian Cortez deceiving Magneto and the destruction of Asteroid M are similar to these comics.

  • 50 Xavier Remembers - Loosely adapted from Uncanny X-Men #117 (1979). Xavier's battle with the Shadow King sounds reminiscent of the Shadow King's first appearance.

  • 54-55 One Man's Worth - Loosely adapted from the Age of Apocalypse storyline (1995). The jumping off point, plot-wise, is identical (what if Professor X was assassinated before he could form the X-Men), but everything else that happens seems completely different.

  • 56-57 Proteus - Adapted from Uncanny X-Men #125-128 (1979). Straight forward adaptation with cast changes made.

  • 59 Bloodlines - Adapted from X-Men Unlimited #4 (1994). Nightcrawler's origin is presented here.

  • 61 Weapon X, Lies & Videotape - Loosely adapted from Wolverine #48-50 (1991). Wolverine finds out more about his background and discovers his mental implants, as originally shown in this Wolverine storyline.

  • 67-68 The Phalanx Covenant - Loosely based on the Phalanx Covenant storyline (1994). The name and villains are similar, but this two-parter also incorporates Warlock into the mix and a different cast of characters.

  • 69-70 Storm Front - Adapted from X-Men Annual #3 (1979). Similar plot, different cast.

  • 72 Jubilee's Fairytale Theatre - Adapted from Uncanny X-Men #153 (1982). Based on a story where Kitty tells fairy tales starring the X-Men to Illyana; the cartoon subs Jubilee in and has her telling fairy tales to kids caught in a cave-in.

  • 73 Old Soldiers - Loosely adapted from Uncanny X-Men #268 (1990). The issue establishes that Wolverine fought alongside Captain America in World War II, which this episode also shows.

  • 75 Descent - Loosely adapted from The Further Adventures of Cyclops & Phoenix #1-4 (1996). This limited series establishes Mr. Sinister as former Victorian scientist Nathaniel Essex, which is also what this episode is about.

  • Thunder stealer! ;P Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 22:55
  • Incredible answer! Commented Jun 11, 2013 at 20:29
  • The cartoon was actually kind of contradictory about when they started. The episode where Iceman was introduced, identified him as one of the original members (though they did not do the same thing when introducing Angel/Archangel, the other comic founding member not on the cartoon team) and showed that team have some experience, even fighting Magneto (though in the episode where Magneto was introduced he did not know anyone except Xavier). Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 18:35

This isn't as clear cut as you might think.

The cartoon is indeed based off the then-current team of X-Men, but all the stroy arcs are from different time frames in the X-Men universe.

Many storylines and events from the comics are loosely adapted in the series, such as "The Dark Phoenix Saga" (1976-77), "Days of Future Past"(1981), the "Phalanx Covenant" (1994), and the "Legacy Virus" (1993-2001). Season 1 Ep 3, "Enter Magneto", features a fight at a missile base which is largely based on the X-Men's first battle with Magneto in Uncanny X-Men #1 (1963). The season three ep 48 & 49, "Sanctuary, Parts I & II", which involve Magneto creating an orbiting haven for mutants, were influenced by several storylines from the comics, chiefly the first three issues of X-Men (Volume 2) and the "Fatal Attractions" crossover.

So, basing your comics reading on the cartoon to try to skip ahead a bit in the X-Men Universe isn't as easy as you might think.

This answer to a similar question might help you get caught up from 2000-2010.

  • That's from wikipedia isn't it? What I didn't get from wikipedia was how closely the cartoon followed the comics, and whether they preserved the order of the comics in the cartoons? Perhaps that should be another question though, for another day.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 9:09
  • I haven't read all of the comics, but what I have read, most of the cartoon is 'loosely' based on the actual story arc, changing characters involved and some of the story to be more relevant to the overall story of the cartoon. Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 9:11

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