In the beginning...
Comic book legend Stan Lee originally created X-Men for Marvel Comics in 1963. 20th Century Fox Studios released the first X-Men film in July of 2000. That same summer, Tribune Entertainment and Marvel Comics teamed up to plan a live action show about mutants called Genome X. The show's title would later be changed to Mutant X to be more descriptive. Though production began shortly after the cancellation of Howard Mackie's popular Marvel "Mutant X" comic book series in 2001, executive producer Rick Ungar asserted that this was a mere coincidence, for the show's characters were completely unrelated to those in Mackie's comics. There was, however, an understanding between Marvel and Tribune that the show's connections to the prosperous X-Men franchise would help to boost sales.
Unfortunately, by the time the television show was proposed, Marvel was no longer the exclusive owner of all things X-Men. Fox had purchased from Marvel the right to create, produce, distribute and promote live action versions of X-Men as early as 1993. In April of 2001, while the Mutant X show was still in production, Fox Studios sued Marvel Comics for copyright violation. Fox claimed that the similarity of Mutant X's premise and characters to X-Men made the show a thinly veiled live action version of X-Men. Fox accused both Tribune and Marvel of capitalizing upon its X-Men movie's popularity without first consulting or including Fox in the show's profits. Having spent over 90 million dollars on promoting the film, Fox was not pleased that Tribune's live action show should ride on the coattails of its success for free. Fox proposed an injuction to stop production of the show. 13 minutes later, Marvel counter-sued, protesting that the show's characters were entirely separate from those of the X-Men world, and that the Fox suit had been brought solely to block the show's release.
Was Mutant X really an X-Men rip-off? The show's title and premise, along with the timing of its release ensured that comparisons with X-Men were inevitable. And despite subsequent heated claims to the contrary by its creators, one has to admit that Mutant X, as it was originally conceived, was similar to X-Men in many ways. Here are the early character descriptions:
Adam Xero: Adam is 30's, handsome, charming and at ease with everyone. He is the leader, strategist, tactician and all around one-man brain trust of the Mutant X. Adam is simply the smartest man alive-one of the special breed of children genetically engineered within the Human Genome Project - a product of a test-tube baby. He knows everything known to man since the dawn of time and can call upon this information at any time. His extreme intellect is his mutation. Even at the age of 10 he was a published writer in the fields of physics, biotechnology and medicine as well as writing bestseller novels that made him a millionaire. He very sexy and has an excellent body. The call sheet requests a physical actor.
Shalimar Fox (aka Shadowfox): She is a fiery and feral beauty utterly in touch with her primal nature. She is a little wild and completely unpredictable... breathtakingly sensual. Outrageous sexiness, with a dark edge. She has strong survival instincts, all of which are the natural outgrowth of her mutant abilities. She also has strength & speed. This actor must be extremely sexy, have a fantastic body and be an amazing athlete.
Brennan Mulwray (aka Fuse): He is the master of electricity-able to literally throw off sparks with enough power coursing through his body to power a small city. A street-smart guy, he is fast talking and wise-cracking with an ingratiating grin. He is a vibrating mass of nervous energy, jumpy and impulsive. He loves being a Superhero and thinks throwing off sparks is a total gas. He is a good-natured, partying, wiseguy, urban roughneck. He has one weakness.... the Mutant X named Emma for whom is is crazy about.
Emma Desalvo (aka Rapport): She is a telepathic, capable of creating a psychic link with any other living thing, sensing empathetically the feelings of others, as well as plant suggestions in humans that affect and direct their behavior. She is beautiful, charming and saucily sexy with a wisdom beyond her years. She can also manipulate the way others feel. She is a sunny, happy young woman with a sense of mischief and prankish nature. Her psychic powers have also given her too much information at times…which sometimes terrifies her but also makes her a strong survivor in the team.
Jesse Kilmartin (aka Synergy): A very complex guy. Son of a self-made millionaire. He grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth. He is a lonely guy who has gone though life unloved and uncared for. He is cautious and defensive. Jesse can literally split his body into three triplicates, each representing a different aspect of his personality. He wants to use his powers to help others in need. He can be aggressive, charming, sensitive and is also able to take on the physical appearance of anyone around him.
If this information is accurate, the following points are readily apparent.
1. The early Mutant X logo's X closely resembled both the X-Men movie's X and Mackie's "Mutant X" comics' X.
2. Adam Xero's surname began with an X, and his mental capabilities were genetically enhanced, like his X-Men counterpart, Professor Xavier.
3. One of Jesse Kilmartin's original abilities was to alter his physical form to look like other people, a characteristic of the X-Men character Mystique.
4. Emma deSalvo (later named deLauro) was going to be a telepath like X-Men's Jean Grey. Also like Jean, Emma was to be paired with the Scott-like character of Mutant X, Brennan.
5. Mutant X's main villain, Albion Magnus (later named Mason Eckhart), had a name resembling his X-Men counterpart, Magneto.
6. Jesse Kilmartin's father was Senator Kilmartin, an antagonist of the same caliber as Senator Kelly of the X-Men universe.
7. The Mutant X team members had code names like the X-Men: Shalimar Fox = Shadowfox, Brennan Mulwray = Fuse, Emma DeSalvo = Rapport, and Jesse Kilmartin = Synergy.
8. The Double Helix shared the stealth capabilities of the X-Men's jet.
9. Shalimar Fox had a really cool motorcycle like Scott Summers.
10. In the X-Men film, Professor Xavier and Magneto play chess with a glass set. Sure enough, there's a glass chess set in Sanctuary.
11. Early interviews with the creators and initial plot breakdowns clearly emphasized the X-Men connection:
"The series is based on the feature film X-Men. Different characters, different stories. This series is about 5 genetically engineered humans who were all victims of the Human Genome Project-a top secret experiment on fetus's that created children with enhanced gifts. They were made still very human and yet they have capabilities that far exceed those of mankind. The New Mutants, led by Adam Xero, are a 'family' of outlaws with a mission to find the victims of the Human Genome Project...aid them in mastering their abilities, protect them from those who would exploit or harm them, and to provide a sanctuary where they can rebuild their lives. ... There is a government agency called the Genetic Security Agency (GSA), a completely covert intelligence service under the command of Albion Magnus, that seeks out Mutants to bring them into the government's custody. Our New Mutants heroes are not about to be captured by the GSA. The government agency has converted a team of mutants to work for them in their mission to track down all the New Mutants. Each adventure will pit Mutant X against other equally powerful-or even more powerful-mutants, working for the GSA."
After deliberation, Judge Allen Schwartz allowed Tribune to continue production, since "any harm to the public as a result of its association of 'Mutant X' with 'X-Men' is illusory, because the goodwill associated with the 'X-Men' is Marvel's alone." The judge did, however, order that some eliminations be made in the show's planning and promotion, such as Adam Xero's surname, the appearance of the green metallic X logo, and the Mutant X members' code names. As a result, Adam remained surname-less for the first season, finally acquiring "Kane" in the introductory voice-over of the second season. The characters' code names were also cut, Mason's name changed, Jesse's powers and father's occupation were altered, Emma became a telempath (emphasis on the 'm', though her abilities would later be expanded), and the logo's font underwent a curvaceous makeover.
Even with these compromises, the legal battles between Fox and Marvel continued until March of 2003, when the two companies settled privately, and ADV Films was awarded the rights to distribute Mutant X DVDs, which it released in June. Seven months later, shortly after Tribune had also settled with Fox, Tribune sued Marvel for 100 million in damages, blaming Marvel for all the costly drama which had ensued. Marvel fired back in December 2003 that the problems were solely Tribune's fault, and that Tribune never paid them any revenue made from the Mutant X series. This dispute was finally settled in November 2005.
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