The X-Men comics, originally created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, were a part of Marvel’s efforts to push the medium toward more three-dimensional characters and an increased focus on their interpersonal relationships. Genetic mutation provided a blanket origin story, with most special powers needing little to no explanation. The X-Men are brought together with a common mission of saving humanity, many times from themselves, but the most compelling angle has always been how they each grappled with doing it while society holds them in contempt.
“The X-Men are, in fact, antiheroes. The world fears them. The world is afraid of mutants,” Bob Harras told ET in 1993. At the time, Harras was Marvel’s chief editor of the X-Men storylines and a producer on the series. While other superheroes, such as Batman and Superman, are looked up to and celebrated, Cyclops, Wolverine, and Jean Grey have no such luck. “If you know the X-Men, you read about them, you realize they're really good people and just because they're different, there's no reason to be afraid of them. I think that's what the readers hook into.”
The ‘80s had been flush with successful children’s animated programming, yet Marvel president Margaret Loesch struggled to sell the idea of an X-Men TV series. Just as Professor Xavier saw great potential in his mutant pupils, so did Loesch in these beloved characters and stories. It wasn’t until Loesch became CEO of Fox Kids that she was able to champion the concept and bring the Marvel heroes to a new medium 15 years later.