Do I Need To Watch X-Men Before X-Men ’97?

x-men the animated series

We’re three episodes into X-Men ’97 and things are only heating up. Whether you’re X-Men superfan LeBron James, or just, you know, a regular person, you’ve heard the buzz about Disney+‘s animated reboot. But as a sequel series to X-Men: The Animated Series, you’re probably wondering: do I need to watch X-Men before X-Men ’97?

The short answer, and this is my personal opinion, not something that is state-mandated or whatever so calm down is: no. You do not need to watch X-Men: The Animated Series before watching X-Men ’97. How do I know? Here’s where you click out of this piece in anger and distrust… I never watched X-Men: The Animated Series, and I am loving X-Men ’97.

As an X-Men fan from back in the day — my first love was Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men and New Mutants — it’s surprising I never checked out the Fox cartoon. But it’s just something I missed. Watching X-Men ’97 is the equivalent of picking up a random issue of a comic and reading from there. It may not make total sense, but it’s cool and fun and that’s sort of all that matters. Plus, the current series does a great job of simply setting up characters in the iconic title sequence, and dropping not-so-subtle hints about any storylines in the text of the episode itself.

I’ve watched X-Men ’97 so far with at least one hardcore X-Men nerd, one person who has seen three of the movies, and one person who has no knowledge of the franchise. They all love it. The action is great, the jokes ridiculous, and the animation rules. That’s all you need to enjoy the show.

That all said… Of course, you’re probably going to get even more out of it if you go back and watch five seasons of X-Men: The Animated Series, which is all on Disney+. You’re under no obligation to do so, but with returning characters like Mr. Sinister, and Cable definitely incoming — as well as the surprise appearance of Forge at the end of Episode 3 “Fire Made Flesh” — you’re going to have a richer experience if you know how it all connects.

With that in mind, rather than suggesting which episodes of the animated series to watch, I’m going to suggest something that popped up recently in Comic Book Club’s Patreon Slack… Some potential comics to read after you watch episodes. The plot doesn’t quite sync up, since the show is going its own way. But if you want more info and teases on the inspo behind the storylines, read on.

Why Is It Called X-Men ’97?

X-Men 97 cast

Let’s touch on this one quickly, even though it might seem obvious to many folks. X-Men ’97 is titled that because there are 97 X-Men in the show. Just kidding. The original series premiered on October 31, 1992, and ran until 1997. This series picks up about a year later, still in 1997. You can tell because Jean Grey wasn’t pregnant in X-Men: The Animated Series, and she gives birth to a baby in Episode 2 of X-Men ’97, “Mutant Liberation Begins.”

Spoilers for human gestation, but that takes about 9-10 months. So there you go! X-Men ’97 kicks off probably towards the end of 1997, which explains the title.

What To Read After Watching X-Men ’97 Episodes 1 And 2:

Just to reiterate here, I think the best way of embracing X-Men ’97 is to jump in feet first. And then if you’re curious about the storylines, read a bit more to find out where they came from.

The premiere episode, “To Me, My X-Men,” features a ton of different plot points, but I’m going to recommend you check out the first few issues of the Jim Lee X-Men from 1991. This is specifically inspired by the fact that the basketball scene in the episode is almost directly pulled from X-Men #4. But the so-called X-Men Blue team is pretty much the iconic lineup of the team that a lot of X-Men: TAS, and therefore X-Men ’97 is based on.

The comics are a little hard to find/expensive now, but if you have Kindle nab the X-Men By Chris Claremont & Jim Lee Omnibus, which collects the lead-up and kick-off titles to that era. To be clear, this is not the plot of the episode, but it will give you the feel of the thing.

As for Episode 2, “Mutant Liberation Begins,” that’s straight from Uncanny X-Men #200 from 1985, by Chris Claremont with art by John Romita. It features the trial of Magneto, and a lot of beats from the episode come straight from the comic.

What To Read After Watching X-Men ’97 Episode 3:

Goblin Queen aka Madelyne Pryor X-Men 97

I’ve got two recommendations if you’re confused about the wild swings in “Fire Made Flesh.” The first is to check out Inferno, the classic X-Men crossover that stretched through all the titles, as well as spilling over into any Marvel title set in New York City for about three months or so. It’s a HUGE crossover, and only briefly adapted in the episode.

To be 100% clear here, this is too much to read if you’re just like “Hey what’s up with that Goblin Queen lady?” But if you want to get into it, you can check out the X-Men Inferno: Prologue, which provides the lead-up to the event and is honestly one of my favorite parts of the whole thing because it shows just how badly every X-Men team screws up to help make this apocalyptic crossover happen. Then there’s X-Men: Inferno, which collects the main event.

If you’re really gung-ho, you can also check out X-Men: Inferno Crossovers, which shows what was happening to characters like The Avengers, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and Daredevil at the same time. FYI, the first two books are free to read with Kindle Unlimited. The third book is available in paperback.

One more recommendation after watching this episode and you are curious about the whole Mr. Sinister/Baby Nathan/Madelyne Pryor plot, though it involves potential future spoilers if you’re coming in clean. The Adventures of Cyclops & Phoenix by Scott Lobdell and Jeph Loeb, among others, details how the title characters had their consciousness transferred to the future to raise Nathan in secret. The trade collection, which doesn’t come cheap, fills in the gaps of how — spoilers — Nathan becomes Cable and includes two sequel series, one of which provides the origin of Mr. Sinister, and why he’s so focused on the Summers family.

Full disclosure: I do not remember whether this book is any good. But it provides a road map for how we got here in Episode 3, as well as some of what might happen next.

X-Men ’97 Season 1 Premiere Dates And Episode Guide:

X-Men ’97 doesn’t have a one-a-day schedule like What If…? Season 2, or all-at-once like Echo. Instead, the series is getting a more traditional release schedule of two on premiere day, then one a week thereafter.

The release time is also typical. Versus what has now become a run-of-the-mill primetime “early” release for big movies and TV shows, all episodes of X-Men ’97 will be released on Wednesdays at 3 am ET / Midnight PT.

Here’s the full list of episodes in Marvel’s X-Men ’97 Season 1, and when they premiere:

  • Wednesday, March 20, 2024: X-Men ’97 Season 1, Episode 1 – “To Me, My X-Men”
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2024: X-Men ’97 Season 1, Episode 2 – “Mutant Liberation Begins”
  • Wednesday, March 27, 2024: X-Men ’97 Season 1, Episode 3 – “Fire Made Flesh”
  • Wednesday, April 3, 2024: X-Men ’97 Season 1, Episode 4 – “Motendo / Lifedeath – Part 1”
  • Wednesday, April 10, 2024: X-Men ’97 Season 1, Episode 5 – “Remember It”
  • Wednesday, April 17, 2024: X-Men ’97 Season 1, Episode 6 – “Lifedeath – Part 2″
  • Wednesday, April 24, 2024: X-Men ’97 Season 1, Episode 7 – “Bright Eyes”
  • Wednesday, May 1, 2024: X-Men ’97 Season 1, Episode 8 – “Tolerance Is Extinction, Part 1”
  • Wednesday, May 8, 2024: X-Men ’97 Season 1, Episode 9 – “Tolerance Is Extinction, Part 2”
  • Wednesday, May 15, 2024: X-Men ’97 Season 1, Episode 10 – “Tolerance Is Extinction, Part 3” *Season Finale*

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