the 15th anniversary of the premiere of
X-Men on the Fox Kids Network on Saturday, October
31, 1992, Blast From the Past recently had the
opportunity to interview Sidney Iwanter, the Vice
President of the Fox Kids Network from its creation in
1990 up until 1998, about his role as the creative
executive at the network put in charge of overseeing the
BFTP: What exactly was your role as the Executive
Director of the series?
SI: I was the network
executive in charge of shows such as X-Men, Batman the
Animated Series, Spider-Man, Beetlejuice, Goosebumps,
Silver Surfer, and Sam and Max among others. Each
show that airs on a network has a 'suit' in charge of
it. The executive assigned to a show okays all
premises, outlines, scripts, storyboards, first cuts and
final cuts. Usually these executives also okay all
writers involved with the series. Many times, this
power goes to their heads and they lavish each script
with enough notes to sink an iceberg. Many times
their notes are small minded, insignificant, and totally
misread what is in front of them. That is why they
pay story editors so much money.
BFTP: Were you ever a
fan of the X-Men comics before working for the series?
SI: I bought a lot of
them in the sixties along with Mad Magazine, DC Comics,
and Playboys. All were thrown out by my mother in
one fell swoop one day when I was not looking. I
never spoke to her again.
BFTP: Did you use the
late 1980's 'Pryde of the X-Men' pilot episode as a
guide on what to do and not to do with the series?
SI: I used 'Pryde of the
X-Men' as a template for what not ever, ever to do with
the Fox X-Men series. I watch that video online
every time I have to have surgery of any kind.
This episode so dulls my senses I have no need for any
forms of anesthesia. This was the X-Men Fox was
putting on the air and not Casper and the Space Ghosts.
The opening title would be straight heroic music without
any childish lyrics. We all love Stan but we
believed there was no need for any forms of internal
narration. If the viewer could not follow the
story without any internal narration, the writer was
shot. We kept Will Meugniot because he is Will
BFTP: How much control
did you have over what did and didn't go into an episode
SI: Well, Joe Calamari of
Marvel and myself finalized all premises and everything
else that went beyond that.
BFTP: Do you recall
the decision process on what characters would make up
the main cast on the team? For instance, Gambit
only first appeared in the comics in August of 1990,
which was not long before production started on the
series. Why was the decision made to include a
fairly recent character opposed to others who
already had well established backgrounds in the comics
like Nightcrawler, Iceman, and Kitty Pryde?
SI: That's a real
interesting question because what was missing in 'Pryde'
was what we extolled in every episode: while this was a
world of superheroes battling super villains, it was
also a world crammed full of down and dirty melodrama.
Cyclops loves Jean Grey; Wolverine love Jean Grey;
Wolverine is odd man out but he is also the most popular
of X-Men. Rogue is a walking sob story. She
has all the power of the world, yet can never touch
anyone without draining its life force. Beast, a
ferocious looking creature whose very appearance masks
his temperament as a Bartlett's quoting college
professor. We chose Storm because of her exotic backstory and her power to control the weather.
Professor X and Magneto were givens. Jubilee was
our kid representative. I chose Gambit because I
always loved the Cajun accent and we always need an
unctuous lady's man in the group. Pound for pound,
the two most powerful X-Men were females Rogue and
BFTP: The first two
episodes were fairly controversial in that the X-Men
lost the battle, with Beast being captured by the Mutant
Control Agency and Morph initially being killed by the
Sentinels. Was there any problem with getting
these episodes past the censors?
SI: The storyline was
only controversial for its day because it appeared so
mature for Saturday morning. Storytelling like
this had never been attempted anywhere before either on
Saturday morning or in kid's syndication. We had
the brilliant story editing of Eric Lewald and his team.
When you have writers of this caliber, you can push the
envelope until it not only falls off the table, but
crashes through the floor as well. The unsung hero
of Fox Kids Boys Action Adventure was Avery Coburn, my
Broadcast Standards and Practices person. I will
say it right up front. Without her understanding
of what we were trying to do, X-Men and most of the rest
of the shows I worked on while at Fox would have ended
up mindless Saturday morning fodder. Up to
the advent of Fox Kids in the early 90's most of the
Saturday Morning BSP (Broadcast Standards and Practices)
personnel had the sense of humor of a rusty trap door.
They did not censor scripts and action so much as gild,
geld and garrotte them. BSP people have tremendous
power to either enhance or destroy scripts because
everything written must go through them. Don't
believe anything you've heard about producers or writers
galloping roughshod over the network and creating their
own vision as if they were running the entire show.
It doesn't work that way. If Broadcasting
Standards does not want something in a script, it ain't
going to be in the script. Period. End of
statement. Without Avery, I could not have moved
X-Men and other shows to the weekly level of writing
that the viewing audience came to expect.
BFTP: Was Morph
originally included in the series just to be killed off?
It wasn't really common for a cartoon series to kill of
a main character and thus, was he just put in the series
to show the X-Men's vulnerability and that they would
not always win?
SI: We thought it would
be interesting to see whether BSP would let us kill off
a character if we promised that we would eventually
(like in daytime soaps) somehow bring him back later on.
But yes, killing off Morph did show the vulnerability of
our heroes and that not every story would end with
everyone happy and laughing like a Scooby adventure.
BFTP: In the premiere
of the second season, Morph returned working for the
evil Mister Sinister. Was his return due to demand
by the fandom since he proved to be more popular than
SI: No, it was because I
promised Avery that we would bring Morph back and I keep
Throughout the series, the show focused
on mature social issues such as prejudice, intolerance,
isolation, racism, and even religion, which is why the
show holds up pretty well with adults and even with
those who used to watch the show when they were
younger. Was the show specifically designed for adults
or did you not question the intelligence of younger
We were not going to strip away the content of what made
the X-Men the comic series it was and still is.
Why was this a mature way of handling these issues?
We just didn't sugar coat the message and turn every
episode into a pile of pablum. Mature social
issues sounds as if it only affects adults, but all the
examples you give affect kids from the earliest.
And no, the show was always meant for kids 6-11...it was
always a Saturday morning program.
BFTP: Was there any storyline that you had written or
episode that was animated that was not approved because
it was deemed to include too mature content by BSP?
None that I can remember, but then again we never talked
about child molestation, global warming, or flying
civilian airliners into towers.
BFTP: How similar or different was it to work on X-Men
than from working on Spider-Man the Animated Series?
personally like group dynamics. I also enjoy
working on superheroes that have not been done every
BFTP: Is there any one particular episode that you're
extremely proud of?
It was the end of the series and we had a five-part time
travel extravaganza involving both Bishop and Cable and
just about everyone else. It looked like curtains
for the universe until Bishop saves the day. It
was not lost on those who sent in letters (this was way
before the internet) that it was a black X-Men who had
BFTP: The beauty of the X-Men
series is that there are a ton of different
characters and thus, it's easy for someone to
identify with at least one of the mutants.
Which mutant do you like the most and why?
SI: Actually my
favorite X-Men on the TV series was Beast. I
just loved his soft spoken ways and his
brilliant mind, both characteristics that I am
totally devoid of.
BFTP: Is there anything you would have done differently
with the series now that you can look back at it?
would like to have had the Warner Brothers Batman budget
for animation production.
BFTP: Was there any reason for its cancellation in 1997
when it was still on top in the ratings?
Like Bob Dylan would say, times they were a changing.
New forces at Fox were afoot and I will leave the
alliteration at that.
BFTP: Even after all these years, the series it still
beloved by fans and was even shown on American
television as recently as last year. What do you
think it is about the series that allows for it to hold
up so well despite its age?
We made the stories multilayered and the characters,
including the villains, multi-dimensional. This is
a show that is all about the writing. Without it,
X-Men would now be another in a long line of forgettable
superhero programs. We worked everyone's
backstories so that when a character acted the way he or
she did, it was for a reason based on their history.
It was not some meaningless bombastic gesture. We
came to understand the internal philosophies of
Wolverine or Magneto or Juggernaut. The voice over
talent was superb. With scripts way above the
average of Saturday morning, the actors were able to use
their theatrical skills to really emote. The
success of X-Men proved that you did not need a
Superfriends script approach to success.
BFTP: Do you have anything you would like to say to
long-time fans of the show?
Hopefully they will one day be able to tune in again to
a show as rich, fulfilling, and provocative as the
Blast From the Past
would like to thank Sidney for taking the time to answer