X-MEN ’97: Character Designs Then and Now

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Just last Friday, Marvel Studios dropped a bombshell announcement during Disney+ Day, announcing the first modern Marvel Studios project set outside of MCU canon: X-Men ’97, an original animated series continuing the story of the classic X-Men cartoon from 1992. Fans everywhere rejoiced and all was well in the world.

During the announcement, character designs were shared, demonstrating how faithful the series would be to the original show. The new designs look so authentic that at first I thought nothing had changed at all, until my friend and former GWW contributor Jacob Tyler set me straight. Fascinated with the changes, I made a series of reference images comparing the designs of all eight characters from 1992 with their designs in the upcoming show. Can you spot the differences?

x-men 97 team


Rogue’s design has barely changed from ’92 to ’97. Her face looks noticeably younger, and her hair is shorter and more modernized. Of course, the shadow accents on her body are a bit more natural and less sexualized. Interestingly, the animators decided to keep her boots at the same height (which was not the case for all the other characters). 



At first glance, Gambit also seems to have barely changed. But if you look at the legs from ’92, Gambit has some crazy long lower legs. Thankfully ’97’s shins are a more realistic length and his knees are back where they belong. Also he looks cooler with spiky hair now, so that’s a big win for anime hair representation in American media. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.

WolverineX-Men wolverine

Wolverine looks almost the same, just with smaller accents on his boots, shoulders, and cowl. Cosmic Circus writer Tucker Watkins pointed out that his claws may have moved to his knuckles instead of the back of his hand as they were in 1992. I think it’s hard to tell but knuckle claws are in fact superior, so I hope he’s right!

Jac also noticed that ’97 shaved his arms. This cannot be unseen.


Jubilee’s features are distinctly Asian now and she has greater boot detail. Like Rogue and Gambit, her hair is shorter and spikes up more than down. In the announcement image, her coat interior is the same color as its exterior, but that could be just a coloring mistake.


I honestly don’t think Cyclops changed at all. One pattern across all the characters is cleaner details and less emphasis on the undies area, but other than that, I don’t really see anything different here.


The most noticeable change about Storm is that her hair is a more natural height. I think her body pose and accent shadows are also more natural and less sexualized. Her facial expression and body language have more power and confidence. One minor difference is also that her boots are shorter now, stopping below her knees to give her legs a full range of motion.

 Jean Grey

Jean’s changes are the most obvious. Her face is more feminine and her ponytail from 1992 has been replaced with a more classic hairstyle, which reminded me of her design from X-Men: Evolution. The weird bikini area has been replaced with a thicker belt. Also her shoulder pads are shorter, her arm gauntlets don’t wrap around her hands anymore, and her belt buckle has a red X on a dark background instead of vice versa. I guess they changed the colors so it would stand out from her new belt?


Beast’s face is slightly more demonic and his toenails have turned blue.

Beast is still Beast.


An interesting pattern is that every character’s design has been updated to be more natural, from their posture to the shadow accents, to their body features. The most noticeable change is in how the women are drawn, especially with new faces that are more representative of each character.

How many design differences did you notice? Did I miss anything? Let me know on social media (@vinwriteswords)!

[2024 update: Hi from the future! This article was written in 2021 when the only reference we had was the concept image above. With X-Men ’97 out now, Marvel.com has shared a special interview with Lead Character Designer Amelia Vidal . The interview talks about their thought process behind the changes and includes high res images of the final character designs, including Magneto, Bishop, and Morph. Check it out here!]

X-Men: The Animated Series Guide

x-men-1992-guide X-Men the animated series

Review: ‘X-Men ’97’ Premiere Is A Valiant Return to Form for Marvel

X-Men '97 Banner


Special thanks to Jacob Tyler for inspiring this piece and providing feedback when comparing designs.

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Reviews, reading guides, and crazy theories. Obsessed with the Midnight Sons. Find me on Twitter @vinwriteswords!

Vin has 137 posts and counting. See all posts by Vin