Last month, Disney+ launched X-Men ’97, a continuation of the classic and beloved animated series, to rave reviews. The show has brought back many of the creative forces from the original cartoon, with stories that stay true to the 1990s sensibility but with an updated shine on the thematic elements the X-world is known for.

In conjunction with this momentous relaunch, Marvel Comics debuted a new comic series last month—also titled X-Men ’97—that is acting as a prelude to the new cartoon. Written by Steve Foxe, with art by Salva Espin, colored by Matt Milla, and lettered by Joe Sabino, X-Men ’97 is helping fill in the gaps between the end of the first cartoon and the beginning of this new one, adding texture to an already layered world.

Foxe is no stranger to the X-world, most recently helming Dead X-Men and with some upcoming X-titles launching later this year. I spoke with Mr. Foxe recently about where the X-Men find themselves in this prequel series, collaborating with Disney+ in the construction of the comic, his personal experience with Marvel’s mutants, and why the X-Men cartoon has had such staying powers with fans old and new alike.

Steve Foxe spins X-tales that are always engaging, each feeling fresh but with all the hallmarks that make an X-Men story thoughtful and fun. Foxe and the whole creative team on X-Men ’97 have come out the gate running with the book’s first two issues and we’re excited to see where they take these versions of the mutant heroes and villains next.


X-MEN ’97 #1 cover


FreakSugar: Before we get into the X-Men ’97 comic itself, this isn’t your first foray into writing for Marvel’s mutants. What is your professional and personal experience with the X-Men?

Steve Foxe: I’ve said it often and I always feel like it comes off like I’m doing a PR bit, but the X-Men really did set me on my current life path. I am a kid of the late eighties, and some of my earliest memories are of buying the Toy Biz action figures (including Kane with his string-attached hand!) and finding Pryde of the X-Men on VHS. Following that up with the original Animated Series and the comics, video games, and toys to come made me a lifelong fan and opened up the wider world of comics to me. Who knows if I ever would have become a comic fan, let alone a comic writer, if not for the merry mutants.

As for my professional relationship, I’m very lucky that my Marvel journey more or less started with the X-Men, too. About a decade ago, I interned with Marvel, where I worked under Jordan White, who just ended an era-defining stint as the X-Men group editor. A couple years back, when it came time to cast a book that would meld the aesthetic and vibe of the 1992 Animated Series with the world of the Krakoan era, he thought of me, mostly because of my tongue-in-cheek work on the Spider-Ham series at Scholastic with artist Shadia Amin. I had a blast doing that cameo-heavy, slightly satirical series, and I’m very grateful it led to a lot of main-continuity work with the X-Men, from Dark X-Men to X-Men Unlimited to Dead X-Men to X-Men: Heir of Apocalypse, with a few one-shots here and there, too. I never counted on writing a single X-comic in my career, so the fact that I’ve gotten to do SO many in the last few years is something I deeply, deeply appreciate.

FS: The X-Men ’97 comic is a prelude to the cartoon now on Disney+. Where do we find the merry mutants at the beginning of the series?

SF: Astute viewers of the original series may remember that it ends with Charles Xavier in grave health, leaving Earth with Lilandra for the hope of Shi’ar medical technology. Magneto, who was preparing his greatest assault yet on mankind, decides to lay down his arms in honor of his fallen friend. We pick up a short while later, closer to the beginning of the new show, as the team tries to adapt to a new normal without the Professor there to guide them. Cyclops strains under the responsibility of living up to his mentor’s shadow, Wolverine bristles at Scott’s overcompensation, and Jean Grey has a very important new development she’s anxious to share with the team.

In addition to the main team members present throughout all of the original Animated Series, Bishop has also become stranded in this time thanks to a malfunction with his time-travel device, so he’s got to make the best of it trying to fit in with the X-Men until Beast can get it repaired. Outside of the Mansion, the wider world’s opinion on mutantkind has actually started to improve, thanks to years of selfless heroism from the X-Men, and the seeming loss of the Professor, but there are of course forces lurking shadows who have sinister motives to turn back the clock on mutant/human relations to advance their own sick goals…


X-MEN ’97 #2 cover


FS: How much collaboration or noting from the cartoon production team in order to be able to write the prelude?

SF: This project was a long time in the making—I first got put in touch with the Disney Studios team early last summer, I believe. I was very lucky to get early access to scripts as well as a walkthrough of some of their plans for the first season and beyond. They were very generous about ways this prelude could reveal some of the changes between the original show and ’97, as well as how things in this miniseries might help pay off or reflect things to come farther down the road. Some of it’s very subtle, and won’t really hit until we get deeper into the season! I was admittedly nervous about doing a series with additional levels of approval like this, but it was a very seamless process—they were very accessible and collaborative, and the end result was a ton of fun to put together.

FS: The X-Men are known for their wide and extensive cast. Who has been a character you’ve grown to like more from writing this book?

SF: Can I pull a cop out and say “all”? The first who comes to mind if Morph, of course, because they’re so unique to the Animated Series, this is really the only opportunity I’d ever have to write them. Getting to script classic Wolverine/Sabretooth standoffs is a nineties-kid’s dream come true. Writing classic, erudite Beast never gets old, especially after being courtside for wicked war-crimes Krakoan Beast these last few years (Hey, Ben!). Storm’s voice is ICONIC and a privilege to try to channel. And Jubilee is my GIRL, especially since I wrote part of this alongside Dead X-Men, which features the 616 version of the character. Yeah, sorry—the answer is just “all.”


X-MEN ’97 #3 cover


FS: The original X-Men cartoon has a special place in the hearts of so many people, comic fans and casual viewers alike. Why do you think this adaptation of the comics resonates so strongly with fans?

SF: Aside from the heightened melodrama, I think what made the original show such a lasting hit is that it really understood and embraced the source material. Sure, it made changes, condensed storylines, tweaked chronology, etc. But the fundamentals were all there. If you were a comic reader, you were seeing the stories you loved brought to the screen. If you were a kid watching the show and hungry for more, you could pick up a comic and more or less figure it out. More than almost any other animated adaptation of a comic series ever made, X-Men: the Animated Series really provided a bridge, while also delivering pitch-perfect melodrama, high action, over the top voice acting (in the best way), and a big cast that had someone for everyone.

FS: The comic is gorgeous and meshes so well stylistically with the cartoon. What has your collaboration been like with the creative team?

SF: I was so, so thrilled we got Salva Espin back for this. Salva and I did X-Men ’92: House of XCII together, which was technically inspired by the cartoon, but set in its own universe. For that, he adapted his own style, taking inspiration from other sources like the Capcom fighting games, too. Here, Salva has really proven he’s a chameleon, embracing the ’97 style guide while still delivering his trademark action and movement. He’s just a beast and can pull off anything. We are also very lucky to be joined by Matt Milla on colors, to bring that extra animated touch. There’s a risk, when trying to evoke an animated look, of coming off flat, but Matt’s such a pro—every page is dynamic and fun and fresh. I’d work with the two of them as long as they’d have me!


X-MEN ’97 #1 page 2


FS: What’s been the most gratifying part of writing X-Men ’97?

SF: Part of my philosophy as a creator is to never make goals I can’t personally control. That’s why I said above that I never expected to write a single X-comic. I certainly wanted to, and I’m very grateful I have. But to know that I have become a small part of the official fabric of the cartoon legacy that helped set me on the creative path I’m on now, over 30 years later, is something I’ll always treasure.

FS: Are there any other projects you’re currently working on that you’d like to talk about?

SF: Dead X-Men will have just wrapped when this interview goes live, I suspect. It’s a time-and-space-spanning adventure featuring a very classic team of X-Men facing impossible odds, and it’s very tied to Rise of the Powers of X, one of the finale books of the Krakoan era. After that, my final two X-projects are out this summer—X-Men: Heir of Apocalypse, in which twelve mutants are chosen to compete for the dubious legacy of following in Apocalypse’s footsteps; and X-Men: Blood Hunt-Psylocke, in which Kwannon and her lover, Greycrow, try to take a restful trip to Japan…and find themselves slaying bloodsuckers instead! I’m joined on those by Netho Diaz and Lynne Yoshii, respectively, and both are KILLING it. Outside of mutant-land, Spider-Woman just kicked off its second arc, with our new artist, Ig Guara, and the debut of THE ASSEMBLY, some of the brand-new teen heroes featured on the “New Champions” variant covers last year. But Jessica Drew suspects there’s more to these kids than meets the eye…and she’s right! I’d also keep your eyes peeled for other Spider-news from me in the near future, hint hint.


X-MEN ’97 #1 page 3


FS: Without spoiling anything, what is one last thing that you tease for us to expect in the X-Men ’97 comic?

SF: Part of the joy of doing X-Men ’92: House of XCII way back when was packing it to the gills with cameos. Salva and I were a bit more restrained here, but we still got in some choice nods thanks to Morph’s abilities and Trish’s news reports. Plus our central antagonists comprise some of my favorite ‘80s and ‘90s villains. The Marauders! Hazard! SIENA BLAZE! And I can spoil this—they’re not here to have a good time and get along with everyone!

Issues #1 and 2 of X-Men ’97 are on sale now from Marvel Comics. Issue #3 goes on sale Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

From the official issue description of issue #3:

DANGER ABLAZE! Powerful new foes descend on the X-Men, endangering not just our merry mutants – but any innocent civilians caught in the crossfire! Will humanity’s improved opinion of mutants survive the chaos – and will one member of the team find herself pushed past her limits? Find out in the penultimate installment of the official prelude to the hit new Disney+ TV show!