For fans of comic books (or fans of the classic 80s and 90s Saturday morning cartoons in general) you likely grew up with with a classic mantra spoken from a particularly famous crippled bald psychic: "To me, my X-Men."

Adapted from the groundbreaking comic books (duh), the original X-Men animated series was groundbreaking in it's own right, telling deep, intricate super hero stories on par with their source material. It wasn't the first (or certainly last) time an animated series nailed comic book storytelling this well, but it's certainly one of the greatest examples.

Which is why it's such a delight that its sequel series, Marvel Animation's X-Men 97', is so damn good it's almost hard to believe. And, in our state of blockbuster super hero malaise, so refreshing to see such a great comic book adaption.

No Film School was lucky enough to chat with staff writer Anthony Sellitti about writing for the extremely successful show and the intricacies of comic book storytelling. We also chat writing for animation versus live action, coming up as a staff writer in Hollywood within the (moderately) niche world of X-Men, as well as the weight of adapting a beloved franchise.

Check out his insights below, for Genosha's sake.

Editor's note: the following quotes are edited for length and clarity. For pro-mutant eyes only—no sentinels allowed!

X-Men Origins: Staff Writing for X-Men 

"I came to the X-Men at a really young age.

I'm from Staten Island and I grew up gay and in the closet, and the original X-Men show really meant a lot to me—it was my portal into what that world was and the comic books and the idea of found family and acceptance, and all that really resonated me with me. I think a lot of my storytelling instincts came from X-Men and from the comics, and I just really dove into that world.

I read anything that I could get my hands on. I was a big X-Men, and Batman, and just a comic book fan in general. I was always making movies, making shorts and films when I was in high school and when I was young. I've been in LA since 2011, and the X-Men continued to be a big part of my life.

[That lead to] interning at Bad Hat Harry, the company that was producing the X-Men movies. At the time they were doing X-Men: First Class, and it was really cool to be around and in the orbit of the development of that.

After that, I had a writer's assistant job with Dan Harris, who co-wrote X-Men: X2 and Superman Returns. I was working with him when they were doing Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse. It was a lot of research development, helping, being a bounce board, and seeing how somebody's brain sort of processes story, and it was really helpful to see that process.

After working as an assistant for a few years, I ended up taking a step back from that because I felt like I wasn't able to give enough time to myself in terms of writing specs and features and pilots, because when you're interning and assisting, it kind of feels like you're—I'm very lucky I was able to learn a ton—but I back-burnered a lot of my own work, and that's kind of when I went back to bartending and focusing on freeing up my days. Also financially just being in a better place by just going to work at night, focusing on making money, and having a stable enough foundation from that to write during the day.

It was a little bit scary because I siloed myself off from the industry in a way because you're going into that other world, but it ended up paying off. I wrote some stuff and then saved a bunch of money to make and direct a (editors note: very good!) horrorshort film a couple of years ago right before the pandemic called "Deep End". That was the thing that got me repped and got me into some meetings that were exciting and fun.

As I started to write and make shorts and direct on my own, I was finally in a place where I was lucky enough to come work on the show and bring my own sensibility to the X-Men."

Breaking Down the X-Men Writing Process 

X-Men 97'

Marvel Animation / Disney +

"[The writer's room was] three of us ultimately, so it was like ... Well, we really just felt like as fans of the original show, it was this amazing dream to pick up this baton and try and carry forward what we thought would be meaningful.

The 90s was such an amazing time in comics, and Beau [DeMayo], the head writer, definitely had a firm idea of things that he wanted to explore, and we wanted to hit some of the untouched Chris Claremont era stories that the old show really hadn't had a chance to get to yet, but not play karaoke with them—to sort of have them serve this larger narrative that was moving this thematic argument forward.

It proved to be a really interesting challenge. And the thing that's noteworthy about the old show is it burns story like wildfire also. When you watch it, it's like they cram so much story in. If you look away from the screen for 30 seconds, you're like, wait, I'm lost. What happened? What did I miss? And it was about channeling the feeling of that, honoring the original, while adding some modern storytelling sensibility to it. Knowing the larger themes that we wanted to explore this season we sort of looked for the comic arcs that helped serve that.

We had a pretty firm blueprint of the overarching structure of the season, and we would pitch ideas. Beu and I co-wrote two [episodes eight and 10], and I scripted episode nine, and it just felt like we were writing fan fiction. We were like, what if this, that? And it was just like kids playing with toys. It was great.

We'd jam out in the room, write an outline, and then go to script."

X-ecuting Comic Book Adaption 

X-Men 97'

Marvel Animation / Disney +

"We pulled some stuff from the Graham Morrison 2000s era. We also talked about how the Lewalds, when they did the original show—and just to say, Eric and Julia Lewald are the sweetest human beings in the world. They took the Claremont-era stories, but also took stuff that was happening in the modern comics around them at the time in the 90s, and folding that into the show.

So we also looked a little bit to Morrison and the 2000s era, taking some of the DNA of those stories, but wrapping it in the 90s style in a way. So that's where the attack on Genosha comes from.

The Morrison run and Fatal Attractions were very important to me as a kid. That was one of the first comics that I read, and I remember having the trading card when Wolverine gets his Adamantium pulled out, and I was like, oh my God, that could happen. Holy shit. It just stuck with me for a very long time.

To be able to write that and bring that to the screen was very cool and very weird."

Writing for Animation Versus Live Action 

X-Men 97'

Marvel Animation / Disney +

"One of the things I like most about it is how iterative it is.

I write a lot of feature stuff, but with this show, it's very cool to write something and then see some of the best storyboard artists in the business get it on its feet six weeks later. You could sort of see the rough shape and blueprint and hear it and see it, and it gives you the opportunity to sort of take a crack at it again and keep tightening the screws and making it better.

We do that throughout the whole process until a certain point when you're locked and it shifts to animation, it takes forever, which was surprising. But yeah, it's interesting. Initially I came into the process thinking like, oh my God, the sky is limitless. You could do anything and everything, and you kind of can, but also it's live action in the way where it's like every set you're seeing, every build, every background is the time and energy of a lot of artists and all that stuff costs money too.

So you try and be smart about how to make certain things easier on the animators and the artists—we talked about that a lot. What can this show do that live action can't do? It's the scale and scope.

In episode eight I wrote "Wolverine does a clawnado through the Prime Sentinels," and then Marvin Britt, who's an awesome storyboard artist, punches that up, and suddenly Wolverine is in the sky slashing through and careening back down toward the mansion, and it's just like this amazing confluence of everybody's imaginations coming together in a way that sometimes you can't get in live action.

We are a very script driven show. There are some shows where at least my understanding is that you have the rough blueprint, and then artists and animators sort of taken in a different direction. With this it really started with the script, and then it was an awesome collaboration afterward to try and bring what was on the page to life and then watch it shift and pivot as we would go.

It was best idea wins, basically."

The Pressure of Living Up To Legacy

X-Men 97'

Marvel Animation / Disney +

"Very challenging that it's so beloved and we all care about it so much that we were like, we want to do it justice. We want to honor it. We want fans of that show be able to see its DNA in this new version, with the hope that new audiences would fall in love with it just like we did as kids.

It's like a bit of a tightrope walk where you'll be rewarded for your knowledge of the old show, but you don't need to have that to enjoy it either. I think it enriches the experience, but we didn't want to box anybody out.

People are really connecting with it, which is just so cool and so rewarding. We all worked so hard, and we've been living with it for two, three years, and it's like, I hope people like this as much as we like it, so it's cool to see it's success."

Days of Future Writing Advice 

X-Men 97'

Marvel Animation / Disney +

"I really think it's just write the things that you want to see, ingest and read as much material from the things that you love as you can, and just keep writing."