The X-Men: Movies VS Comics (Pt. 1)
A long, long time ago we ran a break down of the Batman villains appearing in movies and how they compared to their comic book originals.
Well, having spent the past year or two working through the entire history of X-Men comics we’re coming back to the concept looking at the X-Men movies. So sit back and enjoy some needless geekery. We’ll be going in order of appearance for the most part.
Jean Grey (Marvel Girl)
Played by Famke Janssen
The Comic: Jean is the last of the original five (along with Cyclops, Beast, Angel and Iceman) to join the team in their debut issue with the ability of telekinesis. It was later revealed that Professor X, having detected her immense power, had been working with her for years prior, but for the the purpose of the comic she only met the team in that first issue. Initially she had the power to move smallish items with her mind, but like the rest of the X-Men her power would quickly tire her out.
Marvel Girl was not blessed with an abundance of personality in those early stories. She was the girl. Whilst her four male team-mates each had a three-part back story dedicated to them Marvel Girl got a single puny half-issue where she doesn’t explain her story but how her powers can be used to do the dishes and serve dinner (seriously). Although she left the team to go to college and after the second generation of characters she always wound up returning. For the most part her role was as a love interest to Cyclops with Angel being a dedicated rival for her heart (also later Wolverine).
Her only character development came when Xavier gave her a portion of telepathic powers before one of his many fake deaths. She becomes a much more significant character when she become the Phoenix but we’re going to hold off on that until we get to the third film.
The Movie: The most glaring change to the character from the outset is her new qualification as a doctor. Jean is introduced into the movies lecturing congress on the emergence of mutants, and later is seen treating Wolverine in the medical bay. Although Jean did attend college during her early years with the team she has never held any qualification or career outside of X-Men related business. Her personality, such as it is, is essentially the same.
Her powers remain the same in the movie – strong telekinesis and limited telepathy. The only variation is that telepathy is seen as a natural power rather than something she acquired. In the second film we see the strength of her power, including a flame motif to go with extreme bouts of telekinetic power. Jean and Cyclops’ relationship is intact with Wolverine’s role more prominent.
In the film, Jean is never given a codename and this is never addressed by anyone else. She initially went by Marvel Girl in the comics but its usage fizzled as time went on.
Played by Patrick Stewart
The Comic: Professor Charles Xavier is one of the earliest of the modern mutant emergence, the most powerful telepath in the world and the founder of the X-Men. Whilst never a field member of the team his primary role was to seek out mutants and train them in the use of the powers and often recruiting them into his paramilitary X-Men unit with the goal of bringing in mutants who disrupt the peace.
Professor X has the ability to read and manipulate people’s minds to the degree that he can completely erase and rewrite a persons memory and personality, something he has on occasion deemed it necessary to do to people such as Magneto. Xavier is highly respected by his students, who look to him with almost unwavering loyalty and benevolence. In spite of this, he’s known to act in a dubious manner to meet his goals, including faking his death on a number of occasions, destroying people’s minds, abandoning the children in his care to travel the galaxy with his girlfriend (leaving Magneto in charge for years – seriously) and sending the X-Men to their death.
The Movie: Right of the bat Professor Xavier is substantially more likeable because he’s played by Patrick Stewart and there’s no way you can dislike that man. It’s against the laws of nature. His personality and powers are accurate to the comics but he has a different attitude. Comic Xavier is quite severe and abrupt, whilst the movie version is gentler and more understanding of the needs of others. This is possibly one of the few instances of the movie adaptation of the character not only be entirely accurate but preferable to the source material. Patrick Stewart is the Xavier we wish we had. Although he isn’t as ripped as his comic counterpart. Ah well.
James McAvoy’s take on the character will be addressed in a future instalment.
Played by James Marsten
The Comic: Scott Summer’s was the first field leader of the X-Men team, and the first member to be officially recruited by Xavier. Cyclops has always been a strong and unflinching leader and puts his duties to the team before almost everything else, including his marriage to Madelyne Pryor (which we are NOT getting into here).
Much of Scott’s loyalty to the team comes from the fact that his life is one ridiculous tragedy after another. The guy can seriously not catch a break. He had an awesome couple of parents but, during an airplane disaster he was thrown out of the plane with his brother Alex and the single parachute (his parents would be collected by a spaceship and their dad would become a space pirate – another story). Alex would be adopted by a nice family, but Scott would be left in the orphanage where he suffered psychological abuse. He escaped and fell in with a gang of criminals who would force him to participate in their robberies. After joining the X-Men he’d see one of his team-mates killed under his command, the love of his life killing herself to save the universe, his wife turning out to be a clone of his past love, his infant son having to be sent to the future…it goes on and on.
So he often seems quite rigid in his command and emotions, like he has a stick up his arse. But you can’t blame him for having his guard up, because his life sucks. He has found some reprise in Jean Grey, a long running partnership that became a marriage. Oh, then she died again.
Cyclops’ eyes project a concussive blast with the strength to punch through steel at close quarters. Since suffering a head injury during the ill-fated parachute jump, Scott cannot prevent this blast from emitting from his eyes while they are open, with only ruby quartz being able to nullify its effect.
The Movie: Well, Cyclops has got the right attitude and personality in his role as field commander of the X-Men in the movies. What lets the character down is the lack of backstory. Aside from his relationship with Jean we learn very little about Scott in the movies. Without knowing the turmoil he faced in his youth (and entire adult life) it becomes extremely difficult to sympathise with him. In short, movie Cyclops is just a butt head. As the series progresses he gets less and less screen time to make room for more popular characters, so we seen little progression from this initial set up.
On the outset his powers look the same, but it’s clear that his optic blasts generate some degree of heat. This is a common misconception in adapting the X-Men, as it’s seen in games, TV shows and pretty much everywhere.
Played by Anna Paquin
The Comic: As you are about to find out, Rogue deviates from her comic incarnation more than the other main characters. Rogue enters the world of the X-Men as a villain, working with her adopted mother Mystique. Shortly after her introduction she ambushes Carol Danvers (Ms Marvel) and used her vampiric mutant powers to drain so much of her life force that she permanently took on Ms Marvel’s intense strength, invulnerability and flight. She also took on much of her personality, with the conscious minds of Rogue and Carol Danvers fighting for dominance within her mind. Rogue defected to the X-Men in the hopes they would be able to help her bring her warring personalities into check.
It took a long time for all the X-Men to warm up to Rogue, being distrustful of her criminal past. Wolverine stood by her, however, as he feels Professor X once took the same risk on him. Over time, as Rogue continued to fight alongside the X-Men and she became a trusted ally and friend. After travelling through the Siege Perilous, Ms Marvel’s personality took on her own form and the two fought in the Savage Land whilst Rogue began a romance with Magneto. And no, I’m not going to explain what any of that means because it’s bonkers. Upon the reformation of the X-Men, Rogue began a long running relationship with Gambit, although consistently hampered by her mutant power.
The Movie: We get introduced to Marion (yeah, this is the first time she’s been given a name beyond ‘Rogue’) as a young teen discovering her powers when she kisses her boyfriend. This discovery is very similar to her backstory in the comics, with the only difference being what we assume to be birth parents as a family unit rather than an adoptive lesbian couple of super villains. You may notice that her comic family would be considered progressive today, let alone 40 years ago. She goes on the run and eventually meets Logan and then the X-Men. As a child she joins in with the classes (meeting Ice-Man, Shadowcat, Jubilee and…Pyro?) rather than receive combat training.
She is later manipulated by Mystique into running away from the school, where she was abducted my Magneto. She is used as part of his plan to mutate world leaders and is rescued by the X-Men, with the trauma giving her the distinct white stripe her comic counterpart sports. Absolutely none of this fits any Rogue story arc in the comics, and the original Rogue would have no problem getting herself out of the situation more effectively than movie X-Men. Her personality half-made it into the movie, with the tragic and morose side of her character being present. The tough talking, no-nonsense Rogue fails to appear though.
Played by Hugh Jackman
The Comic: The answer most people give to the question “name an X-Men character”. Wolverine or Logan or James or Laura (things have changed lately) is the most iconic, most popular and longest continuously running character in the series even though he was part of the second generation reboot. The amnesiac, long-lived Canadian former soldier who’s prone to berserker rages intrigued readers and practically leaps off the page. He toes the line between superhero and savage killer, and shows depth by taking on young protégées including Shadowcat and Jubilee. The more we learned about him the more mysterious his became. His story arc took a long time to explain the details of his mutant powers, which include claws, a healing factor and heightened senses in addition to adamantium bonded to his skeleton.
The Movie: I believe that changes can be made in any adaptation so long as the spirit remains intact, and this is the perfect way to surmise the film’s version of Wolverine. Many nit-picky differences but the right feel. The most notable difference is in stature. Wolverine is short, Hugh Jackman is tall. Seriously, comic Wolverine is closer in height to Rocket Raccoon than his team-mate Colossus, with actor Jackman standing a full foot taller than his character. His healing factor is also cranked up (as it was in the comics around the time). Initially his healing would cap out and slow down when put under stress. After Magneto forcibly extracted the metal from Wolverine’s bones, the X-Men was left unable to heal from any injury for months to follow. As noted, these are pretty minor changes as the rest of the character is perfect. Jackman captures the part loner, part feral, part carer to a tee, with Rogue coming under his care early in the film series. He certainly did a lot to make the movie succeed.
Played by Halle Berry
The Comic: For those unfamiliar with the comics it may be difficult to sum up how much Storm brings to the team. If I had to pick one event to sum her up, it’s when Cyclops turned up to reclaim his spot as team leader. Storm was unwilling to simply step aside so she challenged him to hand-to-hand combat, no powers allowed, and mopped the floor with him. This captures her attitude and spirit, but only scratches the surface of the character and her story. An orphan on the streets of Cairo, she became a master thief to make her way. When her power to control the weather manifested she became seen as a goddess in her native Africa. The two sides of her personality combine to make a formidable hero, with both strength of character and insanely powerful mutant abilities. In short: she has gravitas.
The Movie: Well, she was certainly in it. Halle Berry was at her career peak when she took on the role of Ororo Munro and while we don’t know if it’s the writing, lack of direction or inability of the actor but Berry does not give us anything close to an accurate portrayal of Storm. Gone is the backstory about life on the streets, as a thief and as a goddess – she’s just there to round out the team. Her powers are intact, although we don’t get to see them used to really impressive effect until later films. This version of Storm is best remembered for the awful, awful line about zapping toads with lightning – which was intended to be the culmination of a running joke that was ultimately cut. Storm seems to have been included for diversity and iconic status, as she has no personality of purpose in X-Men.
During the course of the film cameos from Iceman, Pyro, Shadowcat, Jubilee and others appear. These characters will be covered as they get a larger role in the sequels.
Played by Sir Ian McKellen
The Comic: Appearing in the very first issue, Erik Magnus Lehnsherr AKA Magneto has long been a key enemy in the X-Men canon. Unlike his peers such as Doctor Doom, Magneto has a relationship with the heroes more complex that rivals and enemies. Upon leaving the Earth, Professor Xavier trusted Magneto enough to take on his role with the X-Men and the New Mutants. What separates Magneto from Xavier is his belief that mankind will eventually attempt to wipe out all mutants, a belief reinforced by his childhood incarceration in Auschwitz, and his desire to defend himself and his followers. Magneto would often establish havens for mutants, where they would live apart from the human world. His immensely powerful control over magnetism means he can accomplish whatever he sets his mind to, and is capable of fighting off any attacker. On occasion some X-Men have defected and switched sides from X-Men to the Magneto’s team due to his ideology.
The Movie: Given the limited run time of the movie the script does an admirable job of fleshing out Magneto’s character and history. We see him as a child losing his family to the Nazi’s, we get echoes of his past with Xavier and he gets the time to explain his ideology. The characters personality and the extent of his powers comes across remarkably well. Much of this is thanks to actor Sir Ian McKellen giving the character plenty emotion and strength even if he is physically older and smaller than his comic counterpart (Magneto’s younger appearance in the comics is the result of him being reduced back to being an infant in the 80s…because comics). It’s little wonder that this villain went on to be a recurring main character in the franchise.
Played by Rebecca Romijn
The Comic: Raven Darkholme was introduced into the X-Men universe as the leader of Freedom Force, a government sponsored unit created to tackle mutant threats. Ironically Mystique populated the team with former members of Magneto’s brotherhood including Blob, Avalanche and Pyro along with Mystiques partner Destiny. Mystique and Destiny had long been a couple but the comics never delved into writer Claremont’s plans for the characters as the ridiculous Comics Code prevented any depiction of a homosexual couple. After this team broke apart, Mystique played a number of roles orbiting around the X-Men including as a member of X-Factor, Dark X-Men, the Xavier Institute and being revealed as Nightcrawler’s biological mother. She’s never been a main character but she’s been consistently present.
The Movie: Mystique’s shape shifting abilities are extremely well utilised in the films, used creatively during combat and espionage. She also has blue skin, which is accurate to the comics, although in the films she’s a brighter shade of blue, has patches of scales on her body and a habit of wandering about naked when not in disguise. In the comics she would wear a sensible white tunic decorated with tiny skulls (?). Mystique is initially played by Rebecca Romijn, who plays her as a strong, stoic right hand man to Magneto, and it’s implied that she’s romantically involved with him, which doesn’t line up with her comic counterpart. She’s also picked up some impressively athletic fighting skills, whilst her comic original usually just shoots people.
Played by Tyler Mane
The Comic: Sabretooth entered the Marvel universe as a for for Iron Fist before hooking up with the Marauders while they’re partaking in the Mutant Massacre storyline. Sabretooth is quickly established as a savage psychopath with incredible strength, razor sharp claws and rapid healing, immediately one of the most dangerous enemies the X-Men have had to face. He later becomes a major player in Wolverine’s backstory, them being partners in the Weapon X project and later becoming arch-enemies. Whenever they meet they tear each other to pieces, with Sabretooth making a point of ruining Wolverine’s life on his birthday. It sounds silly, but it involves doing things like killing Wolverine’s girlfriend.
The Movie: Sabretooth takes up the role of dumb comic relief in the Brotherhood. On the surface he appears similar to how he does in the comics, and they hint at his past with Wolverine and savage nature, but there’s very little to it. He’s just Magneto’s muscle, and he never comes across as being the vicious, uncontrollable murderous maniac he should be. Sabretooth in the comics is a scary villain who will happily shred apart children if they bother him, the movie Sabretooth is more likely to knock himself out by walking into a wall.
Played by Ray Parks
The Comic: The impressively named Mortimer Toynbee is better known as the mutant Toad, named for his ability to leap incredibly high, is a founding member of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He’s a huge fan of Shakespeare and as such created a costume based on the Elizabethan Era of theatre dress. In his early days, Toad was very much the suck-up lackey to Magneto, who despised his attitude. When Magneto and Toad was abducted by aliens and Magneto plotted his escape it would have been nothing to bring Toad back to Earth with him, but Magneto makes a point of leaving him behind. He does eventually turn up on Earth and has evolved a prehensile tongue to emphasis his toad-like powers.
The Movie: Movie Toad has the high jumps and prehensile tongue, in addition to some fast-hardening slime spit, and is as repulsive to people as his comic counterpart. In the comics Toad has regular skin pigment while the movie version has green tinted skin and hair. His character doesn’t get a great deal of time dedicated to him, so there’s not a lot on show. He’s more aggressive and hostile than the fawning comic version, and he’s there just to fight the X-Men. Ray Parks is a great physical actor, so he got that key aspect of the character down to a tee.
Coming coon – X2: X-Men United!