Tag Archives: storm

Marvel Legends X-Men Animated Series Storm

Storm is here to summon the full power of…a gentle breeze?

Despite featuring a gap of about 4 months between their solicitation dates, my figures for Mr. Sinister and Storm arrived the same day from Hasbro Pulse. Storm, from the new figure line based on X-Men the Animated Series, went up for sale in February and arrived at my door just recently. A five month turn-around from pre-order to delivery is something I haven’t really experienced since the pandemic broke out in 2020 so that is at least a step in the right direction. Hopefully, that’s indicative of the figure itself as this line has been all over the place through its first 3 figures. After looking at a figure in Mr. Sinister that was essentially just a straight repaint with nothing new added (unless you count his silky, smooth, neck), we have a figure in Storm that is a bit more like the first two figures in the line and more of what I expected out of the line. That’s both a good and a bad thing, and while Jubilee is still secure in her position as worst in the line, I don’t think Wolverine is feeling threatened by Storm for his crown of best, but we should probably just get into it.

The tallest shall lead.

Storm comes in at close to 6″ to the top of her forehead making her the tallest of the hero characters released thus far. If you factor in her voluminous hair then she’s closer to 6.5″. Like the other figures, there’s a lot of reuse here as a retro-carded Storm was clogging pegs at Target not that long ago. I’m fine with reuse when it makes sense, and for the most part, it makes sense here. Her costume is pretty show accurate as it’s sculpted mostly in white plastic with the yellow belt and stripe down the figure’s right side. The shoulder pads and excess material around the biceps is present along with the yellow stripes on said shoulder pads and the cuffs of her sleeves. The cape is done in a light gray with yellow trim and she even has her very fashionable lightning bolt earrings. Really, the only obvious miss here with the costume are the boots which are basically standard, soled, boots. That’s certainly the functional way to go, but the Storm of the cartoon series wore heels so that’s a disappointing omission (I doubt it’s an oversight) since there must be some heeled feet they could have swapped in, but Hasbro opted not to.

I appreciate the new tooling, but I wish she looked more like the box art as this just doesn’t look like Storm from the show.

Where this figure differs from the prior Storm is with the hair and the paint. Hasbro re-sculpted the hair to give Storm that lovely, 80s, look she had in the show. Storm, and many of the women, often had some big hair and this sculpt reflects that. When removed from the show, it does look absurd, but the shape is fairly accurate to a lot of scenes. I would have preferred they just go with the interpretation of her hair on her box art, which is still voluminous, but not to this degree. What would have made it work better is if it fit the head better. It looks a bit off and that might have to do with the sculpt itself or with Hasbro trying to just to fit it on the prior Storm head. There’s also no paint on the most visible portion of the hair, it’s just sculpted, white, plastic when a wash would have helped out a lot here and been consistent with the cel-shading Hasbro is going for. It may have also worked better with a new headsculpt, which is my biggest issue with the figure as this face just does not look like Storm from the show. Marvel Legends tends to take a character from the comics and add some realism to it, which doesn’t work well for this line in many cases. Storm’s complexion looks off as do the shape of her eyebrows and lips. I suspect this will be a complaint going forward with other figures. The more inhuman look of Sinister didn’t suffer, but unmasked characters are just going to look off because the show took Jim Lee’s already fairly simple face structure (especially for women who all seemed to look the same) and simplified it further for animation. And Hasbro wants these figures to look like Marvel Legends first, animated characters second, and that’s a philosophy I’m just going to disagree with them on for every release.

Note that in order to make the shading on the right leg line-up her toes need to point in. Also, I do really wish her costume looked more like that box art.

That said, Hasbro’s attempt at cel-shading with this figure looks okay. It’s not on par with Sinister, but the shading here at least looks logical. It’s even pretty easy to just image search Storm from the show and see how Hasbro came up with the shape for the shading for this figure. The issue here is it just doesn’t go far enough. Storm, whose costume has a bit of a shiny quality to it in the show, really demands a third color for the shading but Hasbro just went with black on white. A gray or gray-blue added to places would have really helped this figure pop. As it stands, the shading makes her look passable on a shelf, but in-hand and up close it’s far less impressive and feels half-assed. And even on the shelf, white just dominates for this figure. And it’s true that many sequences in the show featured Storm with a white costume that even matches her hair, but there was also a lot of shading on both the hair and the costume to lessen the impact. What really should have happened here is Hasbro should have sculpted the costume in a very light gray and then shading with black and white. Hasbro obviously doesn’t want to spend that much money on paint despite asking for a higher price on this figure and it’s a bummer. Hasbro did shade the portion of her hair behind her head a light blue, which is an odd choice for the color and it almost stands out more than it should. Again, a wash or just gray would have worked better and it should be applied to all of her hair. The end result is that, yes, the costume is sculpted accurate enough and the black linework looks good, but this just doesn’t look like Storm from the show.

Well, it’s the thought that counts.

Which brings us to Storm’s accessories. Maybe the paint isn’t impressive, but there’s still another way to justify the cost in the accessories. And with Storm, the accessories are just okay on their own, but bad in another sense. Hasbro included open hands on the figure and an extra set of lightning hands. They’re more spread open and the fingertips end in lightning bolts which are cast in translucent, yellow, plastic. The issue here though is that the whole piece had to be cast in that translucent plastic so the hand portions are painted brown. They look super shiny and the paint on the fingers is awful so some of the lightning is painted over making her fingers look like melting, Snickers, bars. The other problem is that whenever Storm uses her lightning power in the show her eyes always change to an all-white look, but our Storm features standard eyes with no alternate head to pair with it. Plus her expression is very generic to the point of looking bored. It basically renders the extra hands useless if that’s something you care about, and I’m guessing most collectors do. I suppose some might repaint her eyes, but that won’t make her look any less bored. I guess there was just no budget for an extra head with this one.

“Face me, evil doer!”

Which brings us back, once again, to the concept of value. Here we have a reused figure with the only new addition being the hair, accessories, and some black paint. On top of that, this figure tacked on an extra buck to the price moving from $27 to $28 before taxes and shipping. Where’s the extra money going? The VHS packaging is nice, but if that’s preventing us from getting a better face or heeled boots then I don’t want it. Again, this line is one I am happy to have, but I’m continually disappointed by the shortcuts these figures are taking and by the overall direction it seems to be taking. It’s not what I want, but I’m buying it because it’s the only product of its kind and I’m paying a tacked on premium at that when compared with a standard Marvel Legends release. It’s not a great feeling.

Ahh, damn.

All right, with that out of the way we do have to talk about the articulation. Storm has the usual ball-hinge head, but her giant hair locks her head down more than Sinister’s. She cannot look up at all and barely rotate, but she can look down a little. Her shoulders are ball-hinged and work fine, but the shoulder pads will get in the way for certain poses. Plus Hasbro designed them to peg into the front of the shoulder and they’re prone to popping out as a result when just moving that peg to the rear of the figure would have prevented this. The elbows are single joints with swivels in place of a true biceps swivel, but it works okay as she can get a little better than 90 degrees on a curl. The hands swivel and feature horizontal hinges. In the torso, she has a ball-joint just below her bust. She can bend back a little there, but it’s mostly for rotation and tilt and she gets really no “crunch” forward at that spot. The waist twists and she has standard joints at the hips that give her a decent spread. There’s a thigh swivel, but the shading goes over it so it looks ridiculous when not aligned. The knees are double-jointed and the range is good, but the quality is terrible as she feels really gummy. The lower right leg even appears warped so if I want to line up the shading I need to point her toe in, though it matters little since this figure stands like crap because of the hair. The ankles feature the usual hinge and rocker combo and work okay, but again, super gummy feeling.

A flight stand is probably the way to go with this one, though I need to find one that fits Storm better than this MAFEX one.

This figure is just not fun. The hair is too outlandish and the facial likeness is terrible. Combine that with the gummy legs and this one is a pain to stand. I suspect most will go with a flight stand of some kind, or just toss it somewhere. This is the first figure in the line where I’m tempted to just buy the retro card release and take a marker to it for the shading. It’s just such a bummer that Hasbro re-sculpted the hair, but not the face, to make this look more like Storm. If they at least nailed the likeness I could be more forgiving of the other stuff. Instead, the only thing they got right is the basic look of the costume (excepting the feet) and the black lines for the shading. Otherwise, the accessories suck, the cape feels cheap, and the quality of the figure feels suspect despite being the most expensive in the line so far. I still dislike Jubilee more than this one, because her likeness is just so bad, but it’s hardly a compliment to say this Storm is less bad than that one.

Well, at least I like half of the figures in this shot.

If you read all of that and still want to add this to your collection, then your only option right now is via Hasbro Pulse. This figure will likely show up at Shop Disney’s website eventually, but it could be awhile. Both Jubilee and Sinister showed up on that site first, while Wolverine lagged pretty far behind the Pulse release. Maybe Storm will be the same? I don’t know. Up next for this line is Jean Grey and I’m more dreading that than excited for it because the promotional shots are not good, but I’ll withhold judgement until then. Maybe she can at least do better than Storm? Here’s hoping.


Previously on X-Men: The Making of an Animated Series

previously

by Eric Lewald, published by Jacobs Brown Media Group LLC

A lot of cartoons made an impact on me as a child. My first love was The Real Ghostbusters. Its goofy cast of characters and excitement were plenty of fun and there were interesting toys to supplement the series with, which was pretty much the goal of all cartoons in the 80s. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would come along and supplant Ghostbusters for me. For several years I was all about the Turtles, with a flirtation with Bucky O’Hare mixed in, though sadly the funky fresh rabbit never made it past 13 episodes.

In 1992 things changed, in more ways than one. My family had just been uprooted moving from the cozy confines of New Hampshire to what felt like a different world down in Virginia. For the first time ever, I was a fish out of water. As I was gearing up to start 3rd grade in a new state, a new town, a new school, I would be tasked with forming all new friendships either at school or in my new neighborhood. It’s not a task I’ve ever been particularly good at. Shy and a tad awkward, I wasn’t outgoing, nor was I particularly talented in anything so I had few ways of attracting people. As a result, my television was sort of my best friend for a time and thankfully I had a new friend in Batman who had just debuted on week day afternoons on Fox Kids, a network I really only knew of thanks to The Simpsons. Batman was all fine and good, and I consumed every episode as it aired (and have since gone on to write about, if you hadn’t noticed), but it never hooked me like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, even though that was a program I found myself outgrowing. What did resonate with me almost immediately though was the cartoon that premiered not long after Batman, I’m talking about X-Men.

The X-Men were known to me in basic terms before the animated series premiered on Fox. About a year prior to the show debuting Marvel had launched a toyline complete with TV spots, even though there was no companion television series to pair it with. I suppose the toys could have been developed in conjunction with the Pryde of the X-Men pilot that had premiered and failed in 1989. The roster was pretty similar, though then relative newcomer Archangel replaced Dazzler in that initial run of toys. Aside from that though, I don’t think I had ever picked up an X-Men comic book and I may or may not have played the side-scrolling beat-’em-up arcade game that was also based on Pryde of the X-Men. And I didn’t even actually catch the sneak peek preview, which aired on Halloween of 1992. I had seen all of the television spots leading up to it and was very interested in the show, but I had tricks or treats to get and wasn’t good at working a VCR.

X-men_pryde_of_the_x-men_cover

The first attempt at bringing the X-Men to television did not go very well.

At school, I would hear about it though. They had cool powers, but people hated them. Why? It seemed like such a foreign concept. One character got arrested and another died! Wow! Perhaps morbidly, I really wanted to see that character death, whom I’d come to know as Morph. Frustratingly, it would be awhile before I finally saw it. Somehow, whenever “Night of the Sentinels:  Part 2” was aired on television I would miss it. I wasn’t allowed to stay home alone, since I was only 8, so if my family had plans on Saturday morning I had little say. My mom even enrolled me in CCD, or church school, which convened at 11 on Saturdays, much to my horror. I think I only went to two of those classes before my mom got sick of the revolt each Saturday, finally freeing me to enjoy my new favorite program in relative peace.

In no time I was obsessed, and X-Men was my favorite show for basically as long as it aired. I still have the many toys I amassed during that period in my life, and though I no longer read the comics, I still enjoy revisiting this cartoon. It’s why when I heard that showrunner Eric Lewald was releasing a book all about his experience in making the show and bringing it to television that I had to get a copy. I received a copy last November, and I’m a bit disappointed in myself since it took me this long to finally finish it and get to writing this post, but life is hectic.

Previously on X-Men is an account of how this unlikely hit came to be. When Fox premiered X-Men and Batman it was still a fledgling network. The Tracey Ullman Show and Married… With Children got the network its initial audience, and The Simpsons would then establish it as a viable alternative to the big 3:  ABC, CBS, and NBC. It was still struggling during the other parts of the day with programming often ending before 11 PM. Recognizing that there was a place for children’s programming, Fox brought together a web of studios and producers in a mostly haphazard manner that somehow led to network dominance. Shows like Bobby’s World and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes were filling out the kids portion of the programming early on, and while it sounds like they did okay numbers, they weren’t going to raise the network’s profile much. It would fall to the superheroes to do that.

lewaldscelebrating_orig

Julia and Eric Lewald

Lewald’s book does a great job in capturing those early days while also contrasting X-Men with its daily counterpart Batman. Batman was a show with tremendous financial muscle behind it in the form of Warner Bros. and DC. It was coming off two successful Tim Burton movies and featured a character recognized around the globe. As a result, it was largely an internal production at Warner and Fox got to enjoy the benefits. And then there was X-Men, the troubled property that seemingly no one believed in. Thanks to so many television failures by Marvel in the past, there was almost zero enthusiasm for a show based on the property. Margaret Loesch, who formerly headed-up television at Marvel and was hired away to run Fox Kids, was one of the few who believed in it. Having failed to get the show going while at Marvel, she knew a producer who she had hired and fired on more than one occasion that could handle the task. That man was Sidney Iwanter, and he produced the show along with many others for Fox Kids. Citing a belief that kids were smarter than network executives gave them credit for, he demanded excellence from the writing staff of X-Men, who were overseen by Lewald. These three probably deserve the most credit in getting X-Men to television and for it being the number one kid’s show when it finally did get there.

haim-saban

Haim Saban, who is both a hero and a villain in this story.

The first 200 pages of the 400 page book are devoted to the development process and it’s a fascinating read. Lewald, who had no experience with the X-Men before getting hired to run the show, was entrusted with those initial 13 episodes. He had people at Marvel he could go to with questions, but in a pre-internet world that meant a phone call, fax, or worse. It wasn’t like there was a Google equivalent in 1992. Artist Larry Houston is credited with the look of the series, as he was one of the few onboard who was a fan of the comic. Also the Edens brothers, Michael and Mark, were Lewald’s main contributors in the writing department. Lewald’s wife Julia was also a part in the initial season and contributed to the book as well. It’s very interesting to read as Lewald takes the reader through that initial writing process, and it’s easily the most captivating section of the book. Their approach to character showed in the episodes, so a lot of what is said here was previously assumed. Such as the belief that killing off poor Morph in the second episode would create stakes and pull the viewer in.

fox kids

The early days of Fox Kids.

If there is an MVP character for the book though it just might be Haim Saban. Saban was a newcomer to television when Fox Kids partnered with him to bring the X-Men to air. Saban collected a fee for those first 13 episodes, but then it was on him to pay the writers and editors. Graz handled the art, while AKOM was contracted to do the animation. Saban is a notoriously cheap man, and reading about all of the accounts of his cheapness is both hilarious and frustrating. It’s well known now, but bares repeating to emphasize how cheap he was that Saban docked the pay for all of the returning writers for season 2. His reasoning? The show was a success, so now more people would want to write for it and therefore he could pay them less. The man is now a billionaire, so obviously he’s pretty good at making money, though he’s also a reminder of a lot of what’s wrong with modern capitalism. The second half of the book is comprised of interviews with the cast, writers, producers, and other executives and almost all of them have a comment about how cheap Saban was, and likely still is.

Many battles took place to bring X-Men to Saturday morning. Some I knew about before reading this book, and others I did not. It’s probably common knowledge that the first episode from AKOM was utter garbage in terms of animation quality. It’s a big reason why the show had to premiere as a sneak preview because the studio couldn’t get the episodes ready to premiere in the normal Fall window due to all of the animation fixes that needed to take place. A lot of money was spent getting it right, and it almost blew everything up. The original voice cast also had to re-do the initial episodes because the first takes were so bad. Saban, in order to save money, hired Canadian actors to voice the show because they were famously non-union, so casting, supervising, and ultimately editing the audio for the show was cumbersome. Having to send individuals up to Canada in order to re-dub the initial episodes was obviously time consuming as well.

X-Men (FOX) [1992-1997]Shown from left: Wolverine, Morph, Beast

Oh Morph, I still mourn for thee.

And then there was Stan Lee. Stan Lee is a pretty famous guy. I’m not sure if he’s today more known for all of the comic characters he had a hand in creating or if he’s more famous for being that old guy who cameos in every Marvel film. Stan Lee created the X–Men alongside Jack Kirby in the 60s, but after that initial unsuccessful run, he turned it over to other writers and artists so he could focus on other things. As a result, come 1992 he basically knew nothing about the modern X-Men and yet he insisted he knew what was right for the show. Lewald and Iwanter had to fight with Stan on everything in those developmental days. He insisted on narrating the episodes, as he had done with previous Marvel television shows, and his approach was entirely wrong for the show they were trying to create. Supposedly, he even proposed the premise of the show should be a few members of the team driving around and solving mysteries. Imagine Wolverine in the role of Scooby Doo? Who would Shaggy be – Gambit?! They somehow managed to placate him, without really giving him a voice in the show, and eventually he went away as the show moved along through its first season and became a smash hit. The frustration in having to deal with Lee, and the many other challenges, is felt in reading this and I ached for Lewald even though he’s more than 25 years removed from this aggravation.

spiderman 94

The success of X-Men helped pave the way for more Marvel cartoons like Spider-Man.

That first season was only 13 episodes, a far cry from the 65 episode order Batman received. Fox was so unsure about the property that it wouldn’t commit beyond that, forcing basically everyone involved to move onto other shows. Lewald went on to helm Exosquad with the Edens, and thankfully that too only received a 13 episode order so he was available to return to X-Men when it finally received the full episode order. Others did not, because that’s how television works. If a show isn’t in production, you’re not getting paid. That first season’s decision to present itself in a serialized fashion also presented problems for the network, as production delays on one episode messed up the order of everything. As a result, the network demanded that season 2 be more episodic, but Lewald and his talented team of writers still managed to give it a serialized feel with The Savage Land segments and reoccurring villains like Mr. Sinister and The Friends of Humanity. A wise move, since the serialized nature of that first season is a big reason why it’s so special.

Nightcrawler (1)

“Nightcrawler” is frequently cited as a favorite episode of many of the creators involved with the show. The book also contains a deep dive into its creation.

Like the show itself, which I think produced its best work in those first two seasons, the book somewhat suffers from a strong first half that isn’t matched by the second. The many interviews that span roughly 200 pages are informative, but some more than others. The voice cast mostly repeats itself with remarks about how it was fun to work on something that felt different and how they came to understand their roles. The actual writers and producers offer the more interesting nuggets. There’s a lot of praise thrown around which might get tiresome for readers, though they all have reason to praise each other since it’s easy to forget how successful this show was. Especially when taken alongside the production and development hurdles. Of the interviews, I think I actually enjoyed the executive ones the most. Loesch and Iwanter were candid and did a great job of transporting me back to the early 90s and the hurdles they faced in backing this show. It’s fun to read about how close these people were with these characters that meant so much to me as a child. They cared about them, which is ultimately why the show ended up being as successful as it was.

X-Men-92

Marvel has resurrected the 92 X-Men for its comics line, but the results weren’t enjoyed by this blogger.

It should come as no surprise that, as a longtime fan of the show, I fully recommend Previously on X-Men to other fans of the show. Even if you were only a casual fan, but tuned into the animated scene at the time, you might enjoy reading this one. It’s fun to read the comparisons of how this show came to be with the experiences these people had with other shows. X-Men was a production mess, a wonderful, beautiful, mess. It was still garnering good numbers when it was cancelled, and one has to assume it was due to costs. By then, Saban had Power Rangers and was able to bring more stuff in house. X-Men had all kinds of hands on it so a lot of people had to get paid, and as we already covered, Saban wasn’t a fan of paying people. Even so, it’s hard to argue that the show was cut-down in its prime or anything, but reading this book and revisiting the show really made me realize how much I’d love to come back to this world. Marvel did launch an X-Men ’92 comic, but it did not satisfy me nor did it read like an episode of the beloved cartoon, rather it felt more like a parody. Marvel is now under the gigantic Disney umbrella and its films basically print money. With the Fox acquisition though, suddenly the X-Men are back in play. Marvel hasn’t bothered with animated films in awhile, though it’s sort of bringing that back with Into the Spider-Verse. Maybe a direct to video follow-up for the 92 X-Men could one day be in play. Pretty please? At the very least, how about a Blu Ray collection with episode commentaries, Disney? The people who created this wonderful show obviously wish to talk about it and they still have a lot to say.


Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge

Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade's Revenge (1992)

Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge (1992)

Expectations influence just about everything we come in contact with.  Expectations can help lead to a more fulfilling experience when those expectations are met.  Other times, they can help make the bad seem worse when something fails to meet though expectations.  When I was a kid and I heard there was going to be a video game featuring a team-up between Spider-Man, possibly the most popular character ever created by Marvel Comics, and the X-Men, easily the hottest comic at the time, I was giddy with anticipation.  This seemed like a no lose situation and Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge vaulted to the top of my list of must own Super Nintendo games along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV:  Turtles in Time.  One of those games would turn out well and provide me with hours of entertainment, that game was not Spider-Man and the X-Men.

What went wrong?  Well, let’s backtrack a bit first and see how this all came together and if my expectations were even justified.  At the time of the game’s release, Spider-Man had already been enjoying a run on the Sega Genesis and Game Boy as a platform star.  Perhaps star is a bit strong as his games weren’t really great, but they also weren’t particularly awful.  The best was definitely The Amazing Spider-Man vs The Kingpin for the Genesis.  The game was pretty difficult, at times frustratingly so, but it did a great job of making use of the Spider-Man license.  It was also quite popular and one of the best-selling titles at the time.  The X-Men, on the other hand, really only had the one NES game titled The Uncanny X-Men.  It was horrible and it tricked many uninformed gamers into renting or buying it with it’s X-Men branding.  Arguably, the best games for both franchises were the arcade beat-em-ups Spider-Man:  The Video Game and X-Men.  The Spider-Man game came first in 1991 and for some reason it isn’t as well loved and remembered as the X-Men game that followed in ’92.  It was a typical brawler allowing up to four players to join in and included playable characters Spider-Man, Black Cat, Hawkeye, and Sub-Mariner.  It’s selling feature was a more platform inspired design where the camera would zoom out allowing the players to take on gigantic enemies including a super-sized Venom at the end of the first stage.  The X-Men game was similar, but it’s defining characteristic (aside from the comical mistranslations) was the double-monitor cabinet allowing up to six players at once.  Both games were hard as they were designed to suck quarters out of its audience but they were a lot of fun, especially with a group of friends.

I hate these stupid clowns and their stupid stage.

I hate these stupid clowns and their stupid stage.

It would seem to me that a track record was in place that at least suggested a console game featuring these two franchises could be great.  If I had been a little wiser as a kid and more aware I would have taken note of the LJN logo on the box and realized right away the game was going to be a giant turd, but sadly I just wasn’t.  Before I get into what the game did wrong I suppose I should point out what it did right.  First of, Spider-Man is represented fairly well given that he is able to stick to walls, shoot webs, and even make use of his spider-sense in the game.  The roster for the X-Men side is pretty solid as well as it features the obvious choice of Wolverine along with Cyclops, Storm, and Gambit.  Wolverine has an interesting dynamic to him as he retains his mutant healing power but it only works when his claws are retracted.  The game is packed with villains too like Apocalypse, Shocker, Juggernaut, and Carnage.  Arcade is kind of a weird choice for the main villain, but at least his Murderworld offers a lot of possibilities for level-design.

That’s basically it as far as what Spider-Man and the X-Men gets right, and unfortunately it’s a pretty small list.  So what makes this game suck so hard?  Well, lets first start with the presentation.  I’m usually not one to have much of an opinion on the audio within a game.  I expect it to do its job and often times I have to make it a point to touch upon it when doing these reviews because I tend to overlook it.  Here it’s easy to not overlook because the sound is so bad.  The score is okay at times, though certain levels (Wolverine’s) feature an annoying soundtrack.  It’s the FX that really bug me though as they just sound like, for lack of a better word, shit.  A lot of the characters, good and bad, let out a scream when they die that sounds fuzzy and distorted.  The machine sounds are just as bad and Spidey’s web blasts sound like they could be grenades.  The graphics are also piss-poor.  The characters are really small, except Storm but I’ll get to her later, and lacking in any sort of detail.  Wolverine even looks like he only has two claws on each hand while Gambit doesn’t have a face.  Some of the villains are almost unrecognizable, especially Apocalypse who looks like a blue bug or something.

Hey Gambit, where's your face?

Hey Gambit, where’s your face?

Perhaps what bugged me more than anything as a kid was just how un-super these super heroes felt.  Spider-Man and the X-Men is a pretty hard game made so mostly because these characters can’t seem to take a punch.  They die so easily and it’s a frustrating experience.  I get that it’s hard to make a super hero game because on one hand the super heroes need to be super powerful, but the game also needs some challenge.  That’s why we have super villains though, and Wolverine shouldn’t be getting annihilated by a jack-in-the-box with a tommy gun.  The X-Men games that would follow on the Genesis were hard, but at least those X-Men felt like powerful super heroes (well, for the most part), these ones are push-overs.  The level designs are also fairly lacking.  Spider-Man’s are just weird looking and kind of confusing as they’re intended to be maze-like.  The player is supposed to use his spider-sense to navigate but it just gets tiresome.  Cyclops’ stages feature an annoying mine cart premise where touching the tracks means death.  Gambit has to outrun a giant deathball and might be the best levels, which isn’t saying much.  Wolverine is in a circus and there’s nothing noteworthy about the first stage while the second stage he has to outrun the Juggernaut.  It’s basically the same concept as the Gambit stages, though at least LJN incorporated something from the comics to make it feel relevant.  Storm’s stages are quite different and probably everyone’s most hated as she has to navigate a flooded laboratory.  They’re swimming levels, but unfortunately Storm’s mutant powers over the weather don’t let her breath underwater.  Just about everyone hates the underwater Sonic the Hedgehog levels for the same reason, this is worse times ten.

The red guy is Carnage. That gray blob?  He's Rhino.  I think.

The red guy is Carnage. That gray blob? He’s Rhino. I think.

If the player manages to actually beat all of the levels then they get to take on Arcade as Spider-Man.  You kind of have to be a glutton for punishment to even make it that far as the game is both really hard and really bad.  That’s the worst combination.  As a kid, I never had much success and never made it past any character’s second stage so making it all the way to Arcade wasn’t in the cards.  Playing this game was a depressing endeavor as a game featuring a team-up between these two should have been awesome.  I remember a few years after I got it Toys R Us started their first trade-in program where people could trade in games they no longer wanted for store credit.  I grabbed my copy of Spider-Man and the X-Men and, thinking I’d get maybe 15 or 20 bucks, was offered only four.  I elected not to trade it in but in hindsight I should have taken the four Jeffry Dollars.  I could have used it for some Fruit Stripe gum or something.


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