While younger fans might know the X-Men best through the live-action films, for many '90s kids, the X-Men tv series launched in 1992 was their first window into the world of Marvel Comics' mutant superhero team. Recently, the cast of the show sat down for an interview with Chandler Poling of White Bear PR and co-host of X-Reads Podcast, in remembrance of Norm Spencer, who voiced Cyclops, and who passed away on August 31st, 2020. During the interview, Alison Sealy-Smith, who voiced Storm, explained how groundbreaking her portrayal of a Black superhero was back then.
"I don't know how many Black superheroes there were before X-Men, but it's huge. I lived out in Scarborough [Canada] for a long time and for those kids, that there was a Black superhero, and that there was then a Black actress who was actually voicing the character... it was a big deal. And so, we shouldn't underestimate the power of that was too, for people who didn't often see themselves represented or think of themselves as superheroes."
At the time that the X-Men series debuted, Marvel's live-action Blade movie starring Wesley Snipes was still six years away from completion. The most important Black superhero on tv screens at the time was Sealy-Smith's take on Ororo Munroe aka Storm, a mutant with the power to control the weather, and one of the most powerful characters in all of the X-Men. Storm was voiced by Iona Morris in the show's first season before Sealy-Smith took over the part, and continued with it until the end of the show.
Even back then, Black Panther was one of Marvel's most popular superheroes, and Larry Houston, who served as Series writer, producer, and artist for the X-Men show, recalled the excitement among fans when they were able to have the King of Wakanda play a supporting role in the series.
"It's really between Storm and the Black Panther, at the time in the '90s for two top characters representing Black superheroes getting seen as being out there. There were some other characters like the Falcon, but [they were] the two top tier most recognized fictional characters that kids got behind and we were lucky enough to have not only [Storm], but I was able to put the Black Panther as a cameo in one of the episodes, which all the kids when they saw that, the fan reaction, they were so excited to see the Black Panther existing in the same universe as Storm."
In the years hence, both characters received even more success with their live-action movies, from Halle Berry's turn as Storm in the live-action X-Men movie in 2000 that many fans consider the true genesis of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to Chadwick Boseman's career-defining role as King T'Challa aka Black Panther in one of the most successful standalone superhero movies in the modern MCU. Hopefully, the two iconic superheroes will soon unite onscreen in a live-action adventure now that the X-Men are also preparing to join the MCU.