What’s the deal with Magneto’s new costume in X-Men ‘97? It actually reveals everything you need to know about the show’s plot.
When you are the Master of Magnetism, the Prince of Polarity, the Mangler of Metal, and the Ayatollah of rock and rollah, you can make anything a fashion statement. Maybe mere mortals could not rock a giant M down the front of our sleeveless shirt with matching cape, spandex, gloves, and boots, but Magneto is a style god walking among humans… and mutants.
For those out of the loop, I refer to Magneto’s makeover for the animated X-Men ‘97, and it has set the internet on fire. Fashion sense aside, there’s a larger meaning behind the change of clothes.
A Marvel-ous SDCC
During Marvel Studios’ full takeover of San Diego Comic-Con, they held back no punches. Before Saturday’s earth-shaking panel with all the MCU reveals, the studio was turning heads with its animated lineup. Charlie Cox will voice Daredevil for Spider-Man: Freshman Year, the next season of What If…? is officially on the schedule, and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is ready to impress on Disney Plus. But nothing got the fandom on their feet as quickly as the X-Men ‘97 footage.
What surprised so many people was the first look at Magneto’s redesigned costume. Instead of the intimidating crimson and purple helmet, cloak, and bodysuit, he is wearing a much more heroic costume. That, my friends, is exactly the point, because Magneto will not be the villain, but the hero of X-Men ‘97.
Magneto’s new threads
To understand the implications of Magneto’s new costume, you have to understand where the show left off. In the finale of X-Men’s fifth season, Charles Xavier had been attacked on national television, and he was dying from the psychic assault. His only chance at survival was for Lilandra to get him treatment by her people within the Shi’Ar Empire. The catch was that Xavier would live, but only if he remained with the Shi’Ar.
The ending left the X-Men without their namesake and leader. In the episode’s closing scene, we see the team standing alongside Magneto, who had come to see his old friend. It left fans with no closure, until now.
Marvel announced that X-Men ‘97 was already getting a second season, which is meant to feel like seasons six and seven of the 1992 original. It will pick up where X-Men: TAS left off, with Magneto standing with the X-Men, and that is why he has a new costume.
With Xavier clinging to life in space and the X-Men turning to Magneto, this is the perfect costume for Erik Lehnsherr. Created by the legendary artist John Romita, Jr., Magneto first wore this suit in 1985’s Uncanny X-Men #200. At this time, Claremont took the villain on a new route by having him join the X-Men and soon thereafter assuming the role of headmaster at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. To commemorate the occasion, he sported a new look that showed off his ripped arms and an excessively large letter M on the chest. The ensemble is complete with evening gloves that were fashionable for the time.
It wasn’t the happiest of occasions. At the same time that he rocked a new look, he was captured by Freedom Force. The government-sponsored villains had apprehended Magneto, and thus began “The Trial of Magneto.” This was all foretold in Marvel Comics last year, when the editorial staff dusted off the concept for another round of “The Trial of Magneto,” who was accused of murdering Scarlet Witch in a forgettable story.
As the ‘85 story goes, Magneto’s heroic ascent began with Secret Wars. When the Beyonder abducted the heroes and villains of Earth-616, the all-powerful cosmic god sorted his living action figures into two piles: heroes and villains, naturally. It was a revelatory moment for Magneto, as he was placed with the heroes because the Beyonder saw that M’s goals were selfless, since he wanted to protect mutantkind. When they all returned to Earth, it made Magneto rethink his choices. In the end, he joined the X-Men and became the school’s headmaster. That’s when he got a new suit to mark the change in character.
With his X-Men ‘97 garb coming straight from the comics, we can expect that Magneto has truly become a hero and leader of the X-Men. Likely, the show will adapt “The Trial of Magneto” in some way as well. Sooner or later, just like he did in the comics, Magneto and Xavier will once again be at odds, but the ride should be engaging along the way.
Why all the hype for ‘X-Men ‘97?’
Since last year, we have known that the beloved X-Men: the Animated Series was being dusted off for new adventures. Younger audiences may not fully grasp Gen-Xers’ enthusiasm for that announcement. Before there was Blade, and almost a decade before Fox and director Bryan Singer brought the X-Men into the mainstream consciousness, all Marvel fans had were a handful of low-budget movies, the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno Hulk show and made-for-tv movies, and cartoons. In the 1970s and ‘80s, those cartoons mostly veered away from the comics. Then came the 1990s, and it proved to be a renaissance for Marvel animation.
All week long, kids could get their fill of Marvel cartoons. The Hulk, Avengers, Iron Man, Silver Surfer, and Fantastic Four found their audiences, but a Marvel Comics character finally got the royal Saturday morning network treatment when Spider-Man: the Animated Series hit the market. Sure, he had silly rules to follow, like no punching or scaring pigeons, but it was a better Spider-Man adaptation than we had seen before.
The trouble was that while all those FF and Avengers types of characters found their ways onto the small screen, X-Men fans were left out. In the comics, the mutants had become the face of the company. Yet, the only cartoon we had was a one-and-done pilot for 1989’s Pryde of the X-Men, which gave the Canadian Wolverine an Australian accent for some reason. When we feasted our eyes on the first episode of X-Men: the Animated Series in 1992, X-fans everywhere rejoiced.
Not only did Wolverine lose the Australian accent, but it actually teased Sabretooth in the first episode. What really blew everyone away was the art direction; the characters, costumes, and style felt straight from Jim Lee’s pencils. A year prior, Lee helped create a new look for the X-Men that was gorgeous. Seeing that on the small screen quickly made X-Men: the Animated Series must-watch Saturday morning television.
Not only did we have a Lee-inspired look, but the plots and overall tone walked out of the Claremont era of X-Men. One of the show’s trademarks, besides not shying away from themes that were mature for a ‘90s kids’ show, were the impressive cameos. Practically every episode featured a new character, oftentimes someone never seen before on television. Apocalypse, Sabretooth, Cable, Forge, Archangel, Mystique, and so many more had longtime X-Men fans completely hooked. We even got to see the first Dark Phoenix adaptation.
Of course, the centerpiece of the show remained the conflicting ideals of Professor X and Magneto. We have seen great versions of Magneto on the silver screen, with both Sir Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender giving wonderful performances, but the Magneto from X-Men: the Animated Series remains iconic for ‘90s kids.
Then the sad day came when it was all taken away from us. In 1997, Fox canceled the beloved series. Worst of all, it left on a major cliffhanger, and fans felt robbed of a proper ending.
When Marvel Studios announced that not only would the show be a continuation of the 1992 series but it would pick up from that 25-year cliffhanger, the people did rejoice.
Maybe all of us kids who were there when it originally aired are middle aged now, but that’s beside the point. We finally get the X-Men cartoon we’ve wanted for going on three decades. That, young padawan, is why Gen-Xers are so amped for X-Men ‘97.