Movies Reviews

X-Men Comics That Inspired the Movies

The X-Men film series started in 2000 and ran until 2020, with over thirteen films in the franchise including various spin-offs featuring characters like Deadpool and the New Mutants. The films were some of the earliest superhero films to break out with mainstream audiences and one notable aspect of the franchise is how the early films stripped down the original comics, swapping the colorful costumes for black leather uniforms. The X-Men films do stand in sharp contrast to the superhero films of the MCU and DCU that draw heavily from the style of the comics.

Yet the filmmakers behind the X-Men films did still draw heavily from the comic books. The film series is filled with adaptations and reworkings of classic X-Men storylines, but also offers its own unique spins to fit already established in the movies. James Gunn recently highlighted the comics that will inspire his version of the DCU, and here are some of the comics that inspired the Fox X-Men movies.


“X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills” — X2: X-Men United

Marvel Comics

The first X-Men is very much its own unique story but is the classic X-Men vs the Brotherhood of Mutants story that was seen across the franchise. X2: X-Men United on the other hand drew inspiration from a particular storyline titled X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills. Published in 1982 by writer Chris Claremont and artist Brent Anderson, the storyline saw Magneto team up with the X-Men to save Charles Xavier from Reverand William Stryker from using Xavier’s telepathic powers to kill all mutants.

Related: Every X-Men Movie Ranked by Box Office Gross

While the key plot points of the X-Men and Magneto teaming up, and Stryker using Xavier to try and kill all the worlds’ mutants remained the same, the film did make some changes. The biggest was turning William Stryker from the leader of a religious fanatic to a military scientist, particularly the one responsible for giving Wolverine his adamantium claws, merging the storyline with the famous Weapon X story from the comics. Combining these two different storylines and merging them into one showed the franchise’s willingness to draw from the source material while also forging its own path.

“The Dark Phoenix Saga” — X-Men: The Last Stand and Dark Phoenix

Dark Phoenix Saga
Marvel Comics

“The Dark Phoenix Saga” is one of, if not the most famous X-Men storyline around and two attempts to adapt it into film have been made to negative responses. In the comics, the Dark Phoenix storyline spans nine issues from X-Men #129 to #138 as well as multiple issues prior with Jean Grey as the Phoenix and her long history with the X-Men.

While both X-Men: The Last Stand and Dark Phoenix attempted to plant the seeds of the Dark Phoenix storyline in their prior entries both rush the storyline and rob it of much of its dramatic tension where the X-Men are forced to confront one of their own becoming a villain, and a character audiences have grown attached to.

Dark Phoenix does try to correct some fan complaints of X-Men: The Last Stand’s handling of the storyline by making the Phoenix cosmic in origin and introducing aliens to the X-Men franchise, yet it still tries to cram so much story into one movie with only having spent half of X-Men: Apocalypse setting up this new version of Jean Grey. While it might be tempting the best thing the MCU X-Men franchise can do is to avoid the Dark Phoenix storyline for a long time.

“Gifted” — X-Men: The Last Stand

Astonishing X-Men Comic
Marvel Knights Animation

X-Men: The Last Stand makes the baffling decision to not only attempt to adapt the highly acclaimed and massive Dark Phoenix storyline but also merge it with a cure for mutations storyline which appeared in the “Gifted” storyline from Joss Whedon and John Cassidy’s Astonishing X-Men from 2014. The six-issue storyline saw a mutant cure created by Dr. Kavita Rao which was sponsored by an alien race known as the Ord.

The cure storyline plays a big role in X-Men: The Last Stand, but the alien subplot is dropped, instead, the cure is funded by Warring Worthington Jr., the father of the X-Men character Angel with Dr. Kavita Rao appearing in a minor role as the scientist who developed the cure by studying the mutant Leech (who is a character from the comics but has no connection to the cure). The cure becomes the inciting incident of the war between the X-Men and the Brotherhood, and without the Dark Phoenix storyline might have made for an interesting conclusion to the X-Men trilogy.

“Weapon X” and “Origin” — X-Men: Origins Wolverine

Origins Wolverine
Marvel Comics

X-Men Origins: Wolverine draws from two X-Men comics storylines for inspiration, the “Weapon X” story arc from 1991 from writer and artist Barry Windsor-Smith and the 2001 six-issue limited series Origin written by Bill Jemas, Joe Quesada, and Paul Jenkins with artwork by Andy Kubert on pencils and Richard Isanove doing color work. Origin in particular was the most details on Wolverine’s mysterious origin given at that point, revealing his real name to be James Howlett, his bone claws, and his relationship with a character named Dog Logan, who is hinted at being his half-brother.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine draws heavily from Origin in its opening sequence, recreating the moment when a young James Howlett’s mutant powers manifest for the first time, and he kills the man who murdered his father. The storyline with Dog Logan is reworked to be Sabertooth, who is revealed as Wolverine’s half-brother. The Weapon X storyline makes up a bulk of the second and third act, featuring characters like Deadpool who were retconned into the Weapon X program after the original comics, as well as Wolverine’s romance with the character of Silverfox.

“First Class” — X-Men: First Class

X-Men First Class
Marvel Comics

The early days of the X-Men have been a favorite in comics, with comics like X-Men: Children of the Atom, X-Men: Season One, and in 2006 a limited series titled X-Men: First Class, which was expanded upon into an ongoing series. The stories often focused on the original X-Men lineup created by Professor Xavier: Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Iceman, and Angel.

In 2011, Fox released X-Men: First Class as a movie, a prequel to the X-Men film series. The movie pretty much only draws from the comic’s name and the idea of exploring the early years of the X-Men but does not adapt any particular storyline. It also features a roster keeping with the continuity of the films, with the only original characters from the comics team in the movie being Professor X and Beast.

The lineup features Magneto and Mystique alongside Banshee, Havoc, Angel Salvadore, and Darwin which is a roster from various eras of X-Men storylines. The Hellfire Club is the main antagonist and set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, X-Men: First Class brought the franchise back to its roots during a time close to the original comics publication and featuring the bright colorful costumes the previous films ignored.

Frank Miller’s “Wolverine” — The Wolverine

Wolverine Frank Miller
Marvel Comics

In 1982, X-Men writer Chris Claremont and artist Frank Miller teamed up for a limited series about Wolverine that took place in Japan. The storyline was a fan favorite among readers and even Hugh Jackman himself who wanted to adapt the storyline first, before being convinced to make X-Men Origins: Wolverine first. The Japan storyline would be set up in one of the film’s mid-credit scenes. For a follow-up film, Fox finally decided to adapt the storyline with The Wolverine.

Related: MCU: 6 Things Marvel Studios Can Learn From Old X-Men Movies as They Introduce the Mutants

The 2013 film sees Wolverine in Japan and features characters like Mariko, Yukio, and the Silver Samurai. Due to Fox losing the rights to Daredevil in 2012, they were unable to use the ninja group The Hand from the original comics. However, they do bring in a character not present in the original comic storyline named Viper, who in the comics goes by the name Madame Hydra. Fox was not allowed to call her Madame Hydra due to the organization being part of the MCU, but do keep her Viper name and mutation.

Interestingly the MCU would introduce their own version of Madame Hydra in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as an original character named Ava; the character was split so both Fox and Marvel Studios could use her without interfering with any rights issues.

“Days of Future Past” — X-Men: Days of Future Past

Days of Future Past
Marvel Comics

Next to “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” “Days of Future Past” is one of the most influential X-Men storylines. The story was a two-issue arc in X-Men #141–14 (and was actually published two issues after “The Dark Phoenix Saga”). The story featured a future version of Kitty Pryde from the year 2013 inhabiting the mind of her younger self in the then-present 1980s in order to prevent a dark apocalyptic future where the Sentinels have taken over and wiped out most of the mutant kind.

The time travel plot device was perfect to merge the two different X-Men film franchises of the present set original trilogy with the cast of characters set up in the period piece X-Men: First Class. Wolverine becomes the time traveler of the story as his aging allowed him to be present in both time periods played by the same actor (and the character is the most famous of the franchise) with Kitty Pryde using her phasing ability to send Logan back in time.

The movie was an all-star event featuring many fan-favorite characters from both X-Men film series including both the young and older versions of Professor X and Magneto. X-Men: Days of Future Past is regarded as one of the best X-Men movies of all time.

“Old Man Logan” — Logan

Wolverine 3 Is an R-Rated Old Man Logan Adaptation?
Marvel Comics

Logan was Hugh Jackman’s final film as Wolverine (before the announcement of his return in Deadpool 3) and in many ways is the emotional ending of the Fox X-Men franchise despite it continuing with Deadpool 2, Dark Phoenix, and New Mutants. Logan took its storyline loosely from a 2008 comic series “Old Man Logan” written by Mark Millar and artwork by Steve McNiven.

The movie takes the loose outline of an older Wolverine suffering from a degrading healing factor approaching the end of his life in a post-apocalyptic western set future. Due to the separate natures of the Fox X-Men franchise from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, many of the characters in the comic like Old Man Hawkeye or the Hulk are not present in Logan. The film instead features the debut of the character X-23 whose real name is Laura. Laura was introduced in the animated series X-Men: Evolution and was later brought into the comics, and in the film is featured as the clone daughter of Wolverine.

One of the biggest differences between “Old Man Logan” and Logan is that the latter actually does feature the death of Wolverine, giving this character an end to his story. “Old Man Logan” was a comic storyline that received mixed reviews and the film is seen as a general improvement, with Logan even earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

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