To Me, My X-Men Fandom

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I’m ready to embark on a series of new creative projects. To develop works guided by passion and interest, as opposed to capitalism and career advancement. So, what will be my first game project for Equip Story?

First, a different question: Did you watch X-Men ’97? I promise, I’m not stalling. This is very much a part of my answer!

Are you as obsessed with X-Men ’97 as I am? I never watch those YouTube videos where the hosts present fan theories and dissect end credits sequences. Videos that are sometimes as long as movies and TV shows they dissect! But you better believe I want to know all the Beast-related easter eggs. (Hank McCoy’s on-again, off-again relationship with reporter Trish Tilby is finally immortalized on Disney+, you guys!!) I can’t believe the first season is over already. Please give this show several hundred episodes and start airing them all next week. Thank youuuuu!

I think many people get into professional media jobs because they’re a fan of something. The film nerd who becomes a director. The gamer who becomes a streamer. The comics reader who becomes a cartoonist. The enthusiasm of their fandom is the drive that inspires these folks to take the long, strange, health insurance-less journey into monetizing their creativity.

That’s not me. I wanted to be a “writer when I grow up” since I was in 3rd grade, when I aced a class assignment to write commercial jingles. Mrs. Virgo put my jingles on the big board outside of the classroom – where anyone in the hallway could read them! Gasp! Is this… celebrity?!

I looked up to my mom, a stage actress and voice over artist, and my dad, a playwright who wrote musicals. That’s what inspired me to get into “The Business of Show” (Copyright 2024 The Walt Disney Corporation).

But please don’t get the wrong idea, I am very much a nerd. I have been a fan of many things over the years and my work has reflected those influences. When I was a teen, I wrote and recorded parody songs in the vein of “Weird” Al Yankovic and “The More Obscure” Stan Freberg (my nickname, not his). In my twenties, I attempted to write and draw a webcomic about my college years that was a painfully obviously “homage” to Bloom County. Currently, I’m designing a strategy card game for a publisher that’s taking me back to my lunchroom obsession with Magic: The Gathering. But it’s not my love for the properties that drives my creation. It’s my love for the act of creation that drives me, and then I look to my fandoms, current and forgotten, for inspiration on what to make.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a great fan, to be honest. I just kind of like stuff? There’s nothing I’m a fan of that I’d call myself a true expert in. I only joined one fan group in my life (more on that in a sec). I do buy memorabilia, but I don’t have focused collections, so much as smatterings of pop culture nonsense. I’ve never cosplayed, and while I’ve been to many comic-cons, it’s usually on business. Business, lol! These days to network, and in my past life as a publisher, to sling books. I’ve never participated in an event specific to a fandom, but maybe someday I’ll make it to Garfield Gathering. (A man can dream, can’t he?)

There’s a part of me that really admires the fan-to-artist pathway. It feels pure to me. To love something so much that you want to contribute to it, in some way, irregardless of pay. Lots of creatives I know started out as kids who wrote fan fiction, stapled fan zines, or drew fan art. Sometimes I feel like I missed a stage in my artistic growth. I just finished The Artist’s Way, and one of the central themes of the book is that your inner artist is a child who needs to be nurtured. So, for my first Equip Story project, I’m going to give my inner artist action figures of Storm, Jubilee, and the Beast with the projector in his chest.

My plan is to make a game inspired first and foremost by my lifelong love for the X-Men. The animated series was a must watch for me on Saturday mornings. I started reading X-Men comics in middle school. The thought of Magneto ripping out Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton still makes me cringe. One of the few fan groups I ever joined was an X-Men club that met Wednesday nights on America Online. Sadly, the Fox movies are hit and miss for me, though I’ve seen every one except for The New Mutants, which I hear is bad, but I’ve seen all of Legion, which is very good! Heck, I even sat through X-Men: Wolverine Origins, speaking of Wolverine-related trauma. I fall in-and-out of the monthly books, though I really enjoyed the beginning of the Krakoa era.

X-Men ’97 has reinvigorated my love for the franchise. This is the right time for me to explore what I like about X-Men and why I keep coming back to Marvel’s not-so-merry mutants. I know I’m going to “file the serial numbers off” and create original characters heavily based on X-Men favorites, because I like having the freedom to tell original stories without being burdened by the histories and expectations of legacy characters.

I also know the game is going to be a visual novel, because X-Men’s stories and characters are what interest me. “X-Men inspired visual novel” is one of my “TOO WEIRD” ideas I kept rejecting over the years. A superhero game should be action oriented, right? Well, there are plenty of classic X-Men side scrollers, beat ’em ups, and fighting games out there, but I want to make a game that captures what intrigues me most about the animated series. A group of young misfits hated by the world. A war of philosophies. A team with big powers and even bigger personality clashes. And the epic romance! Rogue can’t kiss Gambit or he’ll die?! But they BELONG together, y’all!

More details to come in the weeks ahead, equippers!

Will I have a creative partner? Yes, someone I haven’t teamed up with since the pandemic…

What will our unique take on X-Men be like? Will it will involve a guy who’s kinda like a treefrog?

Am I ending this newsletter on… a cliffhanger? How very X-Men of me!

📨 Next Week: I answer a reader question about how to get a creative industry job. No arts degree necessary.

🎲 Your Turn: What’s your fandom? Have you ever written fan fiction, drawn fan art, or something similar?

Geoffrey Golden is a narrative designer, game creator, and interactive fiction author from Los Angeles. He’s written for Ubisoft, Disney, Gearbox, and indie studios around the world.

27 responses to “To Me, My X-Men Fandom”

  1. Dave Goldschmid

    YES! A VISUAL NOVEL!!! 😁 😁 😁

    This makes me so happy, I cannot wait to play it! Or click thru it? Am still fuzzy on the VN terminology for that lol. Will it be kinetic or branching? I can’t see you creating merely a kinetic VN, you love playability. So many damned questions! But I’m legit happy you’re doing this 🙂

    I’m a lifelong comic book guy, but I confess… X-Men was never my jam haha 🤯 I’m glad so many like you are loving this new cartoon, though. Prime’s “Invincible” is pretty great too, even better than the comic imo

    1. You know, reading through your comment, I realized that VNs are kind of the perfect way of marrying traditional comics, Choose your own adventure books, and digital media. No idea if that’s what the inventor of the genre was thinking, but it makes perfect sense and makes me wonder why there aren’t more VNs based on comics properties, even if just fan-made.

      1. You’re totally right. I wonder if there are a lot of VNs based on manga, since the genre originates in Japan. But yeah, US comics publishers should embrace them, too. ICYDK: Marvel collaborated with Scott Adams (of the Adventure series) in the mid-80s for a series of text adventurers called Questprobe.

        1. That’s a good question, re VNs from Manga, though I have a feeling if VNs adapted from other Japanese media are common, they’re probably mostly second level adaptations from anime based on manga… then again, game adaptations in general tend to get lost in translation unless we’re talking one of the shounen fight blockbusters that can support an endless stream of fighting games even after the original manga has concluded(Mostly looking at you, Dragon Ball and Naruto), especially looking back to the old days when the time delay between Japanese and English release could be long enough all the games are for obsolete hardware(I understand there’s a lot of 90s anime with Super Famicom games where the anime didn’t see US broadcast until the N64/PS1/Saturn era or even the PS2/Gamecube/OGXB era… and Ojamajo Doremi didn’t see partial US broadcast until 2005… and 4 of its 5 tie-in games are PS1 titles(1 party game in the style of Mario Party or Sonic Shuffle, 3 Edutainment titles as part of Bandai’s Kidstation line-up(which uses a speciall controller consisting of just Cross, Circle, Square and Triangle blown up to like 3″ in diameter and kind of resembling the old Simon electronic game)… though the fifth is a VN released for Windows during the XP era, though I know little about it beyond title and genre and it being the only one of the five I don’t own a physical copy of…

          Though, all this talk about comics and VNs is making me want to pull my Tiger 2XL off the shelf and replay what of the licensed tapes from their Marvel and DC lines I’ve managed to get hold of… and go on eBay to see which of the ones I don’t already have I can find(and seriously, 2-XL still feels like a high point in the history of interactive, audio-focused entertainment even 30+ years later and its a damn shame there was never a walkman(the Tiger version is perfectly portable, but it’s far from pocket sized) or CD-based(the Tiger version managed to feel like there was actual programming just switching between 4 monoaural programs playing in parallel, what could be done with full stereo and the ability to have parallel parts of hte program being able to be different lengths?)version)… *Consults checklist of program tapes… appears I only own the two Batman programs and never got around to searching eBay for the SpiderMan, Superman, and X-men programs, of which there are 1, 2, and 2 respectively)…

          1. I’m a big fan of the Tiger 2-XL! I’ve got both the X-Men games for it. They play like lost episodes of the animated series with some of the original voice cast. I’d like to try the Batman ones someday. I agree, a CD Tiger 2-XL would’ve been cool and even more interactive.

            A few years ago, I made the first new game for the Tiger 2-XL in over 25 years called Facts About the Robot Uprising. It debuted at IndieCade in 2020. I had a blast producing it! (Designing for four synchronized audio tracks was a challenge.)

            I’m also very interested in interactive audio fiction. ICYDK: You might like Twist Tales. They make short, interactive audio books you can play with your voice.

            1. I’ll definitely check out the links.

              ANother interesting tidbit, around the same time I bought my Tiger 2-XL and did an initial spree of nabbing tapes off eBay, I also purchased a tape player for recording audio cassettes to a computer… and it turns out, since this necessitates ripping the tracks a normal music cassette would use for side two(and what a monoaural book-on-tape would use for sides 2 and 4) backwards, and the fact audio cassettes don’t play at a perfectly consistant speed due to the conversion between spiralling rotation and linear movement, simply reversing the rips for the side two tracks doesn’t guarantee the 4 will be in synch… still, if ripping the tapes properly could be figured out, how cool would it be to store the programs as quad audio, write a simple audio player app that can swap the tracks on the fly, and 3-d print a custom case for a Raspberry pi styled after the Tiger version… And while it was before my time, I’m kind of curious what the Mego version of 2-XL was like.

              And now, I find myself wondering how hard it would be to write a bash script that plays an audio clip, asks the user for an input, then plays another audio clip as appropriate to the response… probably not too hard, and would be easier to script since no need to keep things synced and needing to stick to the 4 parallel paths, but part of what made our little robot friend seem so retro futuristic is that there’s no real coding involved and it seems almost magical even knowing how it tweaked an at the time ubiquitous technology to do the seemingly impossible… very much a case of limitation inspiring creativity.

              1. *Listens to the Robot Uprising Trailer.*

                This isn’t the 2-XL I remember from my childhood… and that might be the most chilling thing I’ve heard in a long time, but I want to play.

                1. Haha, no, “3-XL” isn’t exactly a friendly learning robot. Some day I’ll make a digital version of that game. I have all the audio files, I just need to make a proper interface.

              2. That would be an awesome Pi project! Looks like someone did figure out how to rip the tapes

                1. I feel like there’s a lot of cool things that could be done with a quality CAD model of Tiger’s version… the Pi-XL idea mentioned above, adding articulation to the arms and neck, adding wheels, shrinking it down to Keychain or TTRPG mini size… which got me to wondering how big a version scaled to use the micro cassettes old timey answering machines used.. Can’t tell from skimming the Wikipedia article on microcassettes if 2XL could heoretically use them, though they do have the same tape width and have similar duration to standard cassette tapes… Really need to pull down my 2-XL, tapes, and resume my attempts to complete my collection… And consulting my check list, I find it a bummer that there’s no Star Wars programs(There is a Star Trek one, but still, how awesome would it be for 2-XL to hang out with R2 and 3PO? 2-XL even fits the aesthetic and naming conentions… And then we could toss Marvin, though he’d probably end up depressed over having a human-like name among the other droids).

                  1. If the micro-cassettes are double sided and in stereo, it should theoretically work, because there would be four tracks on the tape (Side A – L, Side A – R, Side B – L, Side B – R) to switch between.

                    Agreed, we needed Star Wars programs for the 2-XL! 2-XL’s personality reminds me a bit of R-3X from the old Star Tours ride.

                2. Did try playing Deadly Games from the link… sadly, the interface is a bit clunky to use with a keyboard, and the buttons for switching tracks lack labels my screen reader can read. Still pretty cool that an emulator exists, just would be nice if it mapped ASDF to 2-XL’s buttons or some such.

                  1. I agree, it’s not a great interface. But maybe those audio files could be downloaded and used in another project, like the one you’re talking about.

    2. Yay!! When you said you were working on a visual novel in the comments a few weeks ago, I almost give it away, but I didn’t want to spoil the surprise.

      Haha, you play visual novels. “Click through” would be like saying you want to “jump through” Mario. Technically true, but “play” makes more immediate sense. It’ll be branching, for sure. Though I appreciate the art of a kinetic VN, I’m all about that player agency.

      Hey, to each their own. We’re bringing something different to the X-universe. Maybe you’ll dig our spin on it. I saw the first season of Invincible and thought it was great! Now that X-Men ’97 is over, we should dive back into Invincible. Any excuse to enjoy the hilarious Jason Mantzoukas.

  2. Amanda

    Yes!! X-Men ’97 has also re-sparked my love for X-Men especially the cartoon and comics. I’m excited to see what you’re planning 😊 it’s also got me to go back to creating my own comic.

    1. Yay! A fellow… X-Fan? X-Head? What do we call ourselves?

      That’s wonderful the show has inspired your creativity. If you think of it, please post pages of your comic in the comments. I’d love to see them.

  3. I confess, my love of video games is a big part of why I picked computer science as my major in college, though going blind as I was learning C++ also gave me an interest in accessibility… and speaking of which, visual novel is actually one of the easier genres to make blind accessible… Ren’Py, one of the major VN engines out there, even has native support for adding text-to-speech to a VN built-in(though sadly, devs have the option to disable the functionality, so there are popular Ren-Py VNs that require a mod to re-enable TTS), and a VN is the only modern game with a defined end I’ve actually managed to beat since going blind(I did get a 2048 tile in a text-only version of 2048 that runs in the terminal under Linux, despite not being able to tell where gaps are on the board, but there isn’t a defined end to that game and I stopped playing because of how tedious that game is(the nature of the game means the time to forge each higher value tile is twice as long as for the previous high value, assuming optimal pain, but something a sighted player would never think about is how much the syllable counts in numbers increase when dealing with powers of 2(2, 4, and 8 are monosyllabic, 16 is two syllables, 32 and 64 are three syllables, 128, 256, 1024, 2048, and 4096 are seven syllables each, 512 is 5 syllables, 8192 is ten syllables… reviewing a 4*4 board is quick when each row is at most 4 syllables, not so when each row is 28 syllables. Its maddening enough I tried recreating the game using alphabetic tiles where matching tiles merge into the next letter of the alphabet instead of matching tiles adding their numeric values together(Nice thing about letters is that, excluding W, every letter of the English alphabet is monosyllabic X would be equivalent to 16,777,216, which is a whopping 20 syllables(and in case you’re wondering, I’m enough of a numbers nerd to know 2^24 is 16,777,216 off the top of my head)… never quite figured that one out, but then again, programming a terminal game to use the arrow keys is surprisingly advanced…

    Fandom wise, I’m a bit all over the place, but animation is probably my biggest focus outside of gaming and I was really big into East Asian comics(mostly Manga, but also what Manhua and Manhwa I could get hold of), and even in the realm of gaming, I’ve always had a preference for games with a Cartoony or Animesque aesthetic over ones that strive for realism(or what passed for realism in the days before quality 3-D graphics could be rendered in real time). Back when I watched television, I was most often tuned into Nick or Cartoon Network and when on other channels, it was usually for Saturday Morning or afternoon cartoons and anime. Though, one of my favorite Genres of all time is the Magical Girl Genre, especially series where action takes a backseat to more slice of life or problem of the day type plots… to that end, Ojamajo Doremi is my favorite anime of all time(though sadly, English speaking audiences got royally screwed over compared to every other major European language and the fansubs were only about halfway though the show’s fourth and final main season when I went blind, and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is one of the best pieces of Western Animation of the last 15 years in my opinion.

    I do write fanfiction, though my releases are sporadic at best… and very not safe for work, so I won’t be sharing my pen name… another reason I’m interested in games is that, in some ways, writing for a game is easier because a game’s narrative can be skeletal in a way a novel can’t get away with and most of my writing is either short stories, collections of short stories with a shared theme, or more a series of individual events with only the losest threads stringing them into a longer story.

    1. I love that Ren’Py has built-in TTS. In addition to TTS, I imagine the generally less complex controls for VNs are relatively easy to remap.

      I’m also a big animation fan, and I, too, prefer “cartoony” graphics to real ones. Though I haven’t watched a lot of Magical Girl anime, I do enjoy Sailor Moon. Currently, I’m watching Delicious in Dungeon, which I think is very entertaining and well-realized.

      Have you looked into the LitRPG scene? As I understand it, those authors write episodic stories with video game like progression arcs, and I think they’re more skeletal than typical novels.

      1. Sailor Moon was among my first anime and probably my introduction to the magical girl genre… Though honestly, a number of Precure series do the whole team of teen superheroines fight monsters variant of the genre better… Sadly, another example of the Genre shafted bybiases of the dubbing industry.

        Also, forgot to mention, but heading to the other small, island nation with disproportionate influence on global Pop culture, I’m a fan of both the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy(the text adventure version of which taught me the word analgesic in order to avoid death by bulldozer while trapped in my bedroom with a hangover) and Harry Potter(though I’ve only read the books and have never seen the movies, and which accounts for the majority of my fanfiction intake).

        1. I love Hitchhiker’s Guide, too, in all its forms: the text adventure, the book, the radio drama, the BBC series, and… okay, not the newer live action movie so much, but all the others!

  4. I’ve written a lot of RPG-related character vignettes and my notebooks are full of comic pastiches, but the only real fan fiction I ever wrote was a submission for the Kickstarter 50th anniversary of KOLCHAK THE NIGHT STALKER. The story was nixed, but the book sold out and went on to win a Bram Stoker award.

    The previous post was a reprint of a fan theory about Carl’s ubiquitous straw boater, which originally appeared in ParABnormal Magazine.

    Big X-Men fan, though. My older brother had much of the classic Claremont run, including Giant-Size X-Men #1, where the expanded modern team first appeared (also Krakoa!). My favorite cartoon series was actually Evolution. Haven’t seen ’97 yet.

    1. Admittedly, Kolckak is a property I know literally nothing about, but I’m glad you wrote your own story in the Stalkerverse! I hope writing it was a fun experience in and of itself.

      How cool that your brother had Claremont’s run and Giant-Size X-Men #1! You know it’s a great cover when you can close your eyes and picture it in your head. I should revisit Evolution. When it was on, I think I was just aging out of Saturday morning, but now I’m an adult, so cartoons it is!

      1. I never really aged out of Saturday Mornings prior to giving up on cable television altogether, but for me, Classic animated X-men was before I went out of my way to follow releases of new episodes, plus kid me saw Fox mostly as a live-action network(The Simpsons being the big exception in my mind), so Evolution was the show the lined up when I would be the first one in the house up every saturday and had to make hard decisions between which show to watch during each half-hour.

  5. Vanessa Boggio

    Hello, I also love x-men. Although when I saw the animated series when I was 7 years old, I couldn’t help but pair Rogue with Wolverine, she looks like poison and he heals, couldn’t he become immune? 🤔.

    I have written x-men, Dragon Ball and Harry Potter fanfic. I like stories, plot twists and especially strange couples.

    Plus, I’m a Role Master, so playing with absurd plots and turning them into epic events is my art. I really hope to see you create with your mutant child spirit. Greetings

    1. Greetings to you, Vanessa!

      Yes, Wolverine would absolutely heal and that’s a great idea! The question I have is how quickly does he heal. Like, can he heal fast enough where he would resist the effects of Rogue’s power (in the way Magneto can), or would he just get knocked out for less time? Important questions!

      That’s awesome you’ve written for so many universes. Which one is your favorite? Also, are you referring to the tabletop RPG Rolemaster or something different?

  6. Ahoy hoy! I’m excited to see what you do! A buddy of mine Sahoni made The Exceptionals which was a mutant/X-men inspired game but it was openly much more based on the community side of things.

    Writing fanfic for a podcast got me to learn how to screenwrite! It can be great learning what your brain thinks a character is. Or just spinning your own take.

    1. Thanks, Luke! I had a blast on your X-Men actual play podcast playing Mojo. When I saw there was an X-Men ’97 episode called “Motendo,” I knew the show was gonna be my jam.

      The Exceptionals looks really cool! I’ll check it out. It turns out I own it already from three different Itch charity bundles, so I’m excited to see Sahoni’s take.

      Those are all good reasons to write fanfic. Plus, it seems like fun. And I like fun!

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