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The X-Men Episode Guide 2×11: Mojovision

X-Men cartoon screenshot

The early ’90s were spoiled for choice when it came to comic book adaptations. Not only was Batman: The Animated Series on the air, but X-Men led Marvel’s push to get on the small screen, diving right into the often convoluted continuity of everyone’s favorite mutants, luring in a generation of fans, and paving the way for cartoons to follow. That’s why we’ve set out to review every single episode of the ’90s X-Men animated series. This week: Mojovision. Mojo’s in it. I’ll understand if you want to skip this one, but it’s actually… kind of good?

Previously, on X-Men:

In our last episode, Beast was in the spotlight for a solid (if cliché) story about Carly, the love of his life whose sight he restored through a daring new medical procedure and who we will never see again. See you never, Carly. Also, perhaps more importantly, it was revealed that racist leader Graydon Creed was himself the son of Sabretooth, whose real name was given as Graydon Creed Sr. Still unrevealed: What kind of weirdo Canadian thinks that “Graydon” is an at all acceptable name.

NOTE TO PEOPLE NAMED GRAYDON WHO MAY BE OFFENDED BY THAT STATEMENT: Blame your parents, kid. I’m just telling it like it is.

In our discussion of great role-reversal moments in comics history, a lot of people brought up two pretty recent favorites: The switch-off in the X-Men that’s seen Wolverine take a place as the responsible headmaster of a school for gifted youngsters while Cyclops has become a rebellious outlaw, and the run of Batman and Robin where Dick Grayson was a friendlier, more relaxed version of Batman while Damian Wayne was an intense, bad-cop Batman. Both were handled pretty beautifully, although only one involved Wolverine befriending KRAKOA, THE LIVING ISLAND!

All right, there’s no more getting around it. Time to watch a cartoon about Mojo and Longshot.

 

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I am the exact opposite of interested in a story involving Mojo — he’s always been one of those characters that just makes my eyes glaze over and the snoring start whenever he shows up — but I’ll tell you right from the start that this is actually one of the most interesting episodes that we’ve seen so far, and a lot of it comes down to the cameos. I’ve mentioned before how fun it is to see the more obscure characters show up on what was probably Marvel’s biggest media success to date, and writer Brooks Wachtel and supervising producer Scott Thomas have loaded this one up to a truly insane degree.

It starts right from the opening, too, where we’re introduced to interdimensional TV stars Longshot and His Mullet. Not only do we see him fighting against the Brood, but there are also brief appearances by Psylocke…

 

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And the Super-Adaptoid, making its second appearance on the show:

 

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Also, ’90s Dazzler shows up for a hot minute to do Longshot’s makeup. The crazy thing? These are not the weirdest characters we’re going to see over the next 20 minutes.

Despite the intro being a reasonably exciting sequence featuring plenty of explosions, a windswept mullet and a logo that looks like it’s going to go in a completely different direction before a bullet shows up to make the O…

 

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…it seems that the audience is growing tired of Longsh*t and his adventures. Mojo stomps into the episode in his weird little spider chair, complaining to his majordomo, Major Domo, about how ratings are down. Incidentally, if you haven’t seen this episode and are curious as to what Mojo actually sounds like, imagine someone doing an impression of Robin Williams while trying, unsuccessfully, to hide a Canadian accent. It is slightly less appealing than it sounds.

Mojo blames Longshot for the dip in ratings, a thought that he expresses by picking Longshot up, shrieking at him, and then throwing him across the room. Longshot’s response is to claim that he, like Beyoncé, is irreplaceable, as Mojo has “abused every decent actor in the galaxy,” and Mojo responds by yanking out an alarmingly long handful of his nose hair.

 

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Let me assure you: These are things that are actually happening on this show.

Obviously, there is a conflict here, and after Longshot storms out, Domo reveals his solution: If Longshot no longer wants to face death for high ratings, then they’ll just kidnap the X-Men and put them through a series of deathtraps instead. So basically, Mojo is a way less awesome, way more convoluted, extremely annoying version of Arcade. Glad we cleared that up.

To be fair, though, the way this scene actually plays out is pretty fun, with Mojo watching a bunch of clips from the show, set to the actual theme song:

 

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It does do one thing that always annoys me when it crops up in superhero comics, though. While describing the X-Men, Domo refers to them as being from “a backwater.” This happens all the time in comics, and it’s always super dumb when people are snidely referring to a planet that has the Sorcerer Supreme, the only people who have ever successfully repelled Galactus on multiple occasions and the Phoenix Force. It’s even worse in the DC Universe, where this “backwater” has the last Kryptonian, the last Martian, six or seven Green Lanterns and the actual Gods of New Genesis. You’d think aliens would be pretty impressed, but then, we weren’t the ones who gave the universe ROM: Spaceknight, so who knows?

So just what are the X-Men doing while Mojo is plotting to kidnap them and force them into a life of starring in substandard media? Buying a new TV, of course, in the least subtle stab at irony the show has yet attempted. They only get a few minutes into the sales pitch — the salesman, whose nametag identifies him as “Calamari,” hasn’t even gotten to the 2-year replacement plan — when Mojo shows up on all the screens and starts blasting everybody with electricity, because that’s what his power is I guess. The rest of the X-Men show up, but before they can even figure out what’s happening, Spiral emerges breast-first from the wall of televisions…

 

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…and starts dancing at them in order to send them over to the Mojoverse. This is apparently her power.

Once they’re over there, and once they’ve been zapped by purple lightning that changes them into their costumes, Mojo explains the deal about how they’re now all going to be part of his new fall lineup. To its credit, this show does go the smart route with this — I really do like that Mojo keeps talking about how the audience doesn’t want peace, “they want blood and guts and love and hate! They want entertainment!” It’s the same gag from the comics, but seeing it on a TV show that actually does keep putting the X-Men into these weird, awful, melodramatic situations adds a pretty fun metatextual level to the whole thing.

And then they actually go into their shows, and for one shining moment, it gets awesome:

 

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Storm and Cyclops are Miami Mutants, a title card that they bust through in a flying speedboat in what is simultaneously the best thing that has ever happened on this show and also its greatest mistake. I mean, once you see that they can put Storm and Cyclops into a flying speedboat chase, why would you ever want to see anything else?

The sequence ends when Cyclops, fearless leader of the X-Men who has an uncontrollable destructive power that’s unleashed every time he opens his eyes, uses his optic blast exactly once and then gets sleepy and falls down.

 

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Good job, Cyclops. Good hustle out there.

Up next, Rogue and Beast head into a Star Trek pastiche with the pretty awesome name of “Rogue Star.” Now, I know I’ve criticized this show before for being kind of cheap and slapped together, and maybe that’s a little harsh. I mean, sure, it looks worse than G.I. Joe and almost as bad as He-Man in a couple of spots, but they’ve done a lot of interesting and deceptively complex things. On the other hand, nobody bothered to spell the characters’ names correctly.

 

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The “plot” of Rogue Star is that Rogue and Beast are in a doomed spaceship that’s heading straight for the sun, and if that’s not bad enough, they’re also under attack by the Brood. And no sooner am I criticizing the show for cheaping out than they give me the wonderful, beautiful gift of Beast’s reaction to the weird little space bugs:

 

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The next segment finds Wolverine and Jean in a bit called “I Dream of Jean,” and to be honest, this is where the show falls apart. Up ’til now, it’s basically been like a more mutanty version of that movie, Stay Tuned. Remember that? Where John Ritter and Pam Dawber buy a TV from Satan and get sucked into a nightmare version of TV where they have to survive for 14 hours or be horribly murdered and their souls damned for eternity? It’s basically the same thing that’s going on here, which leads you to believe that “I Dream of Jean” will be a spoof of I Dream of Jeannie starring Wolverine and Jean. That actually sounds like a lot of fun, but that’s nowhere near what we get. Instead it’s just this weird segment where Jean is standing on a roof while Wolverine climbs up the side of a building.

There is, however, one saving grace. This is where the cameos start back up, and in lieu of Major Bellows, we get the Punisher:

 

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Or at least, a robot disguised as the Punisher, but I’m counting it.

While Frank the Tank takes potshots at Jean, Wolverine is menaced by a trio of robots masquerading as the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. With the robots involved, we finally have a chance for Wolverine to actually go HAM on some bad guys, and there’s a bit where he straight up cuts Gladiator’s arm off that’s actually pretty exciting.

 

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In one of the better gags of the episode, Mojo’s voiceover for this part proclaims that he’s getting “the highest ratings ever for an educational show.”

While Jean is hanging from a building in danger of getting Punishered, she comes to the shocking, mind-blowing conclusion that television is just “electronic images created by machines! And machines can be affected by psychokinetic energy!” I am not kidding. We are 17 and a half minutes into this episode and Jean has just realized a) what television is, and b) what her own powers are. These are literally the worst superheroes ever.

Jean follows up this stunning revelation by shutting down the tele-visual machines with her powers, and needless to say, this upsets the crowd quite a bit. Even the Mad Thinker’s Awesome Android is visibly upset:

 

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Good to see you, Awesome Andy. Also, honest question: Who is that dude in the suit? Is Mojovision produced by Lorne Michaels?

While all this has been happening, Longshot himself has been making his way to Mojo’s control room so that he can shut things down and regain his place as the Mojoverse’s top-rated star. You’d think this would be the climactic set piece that would cap off the episode and really make use of this character they just introduced, but no. He walks past Spiral, announces what he’s doing, and pulls a lever.

 

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If only he’d pulled the one for this actual show.

With that, the X-Men are freed through no action of their own whatsoever. Even Jean messing with the broadcast was pointless since Longshot was already in the control room, which is pretty frustrating. They do, however, take one last act before they’re sent back to Earth, when Rogue and Wolverine team up to drop some heavy equipment onto Mojo, straight up trying to murder him. He survives, though, so I guess that’s something.

The X-Men head back to the mall and Mojo is left to rebuild his empire, but we still have time for one more cameo: When we finally get this week’s contractually obligated check-in with Magneto and Professor X in the savage land, Shana the She-Devil is down there too:

 

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Maybe next week we’ll get Ka-Zar.

Discussion Question: Since this episode was all about the Marvel Universe cameos, what’s the best cameo appearance you’ve seen in a superhero show? Not just cartoons, but we can throw in the live-action ones too, although keep in mind that KGBeast on Arrow doesn’t count until that dude cuts his own hand off.

Next Week: We do not get Ka-Zar.

 

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