X-Men Fandom Panel Steals the Show at WonderCon 2024

Author: Travis Hayward

In a whirlwind of excitement and anticipation, WonderCon 2024 hosted the highly anticipated X-Men Fandom panel, drawing in fans from far and wide to celebrate their love for all mutants. Moderated by Chandler Poling and Chris Riley, the dynamic duo behind the popular X-Reads Podcast and the new X-Men fan convention, The Uncanny Experience, the panel promised an inside look into the world of the hit new Disney+ series, X-Men ’97

As the iconic opening theme music played, the audience buzzed with excitement as the panelists took their places on stage. Among them were the talented voice actors who bring beloved mutants to life: Isaac Robinson-Smith as the stoic time-traveling Bishop, JP Karliak as the shape-shifting Morph, Gui Agustini as the fiery Sunspot, Holly Chou as the jubilant Jubilee, AJ LoCascio as the charming Cajun Gambit, Lenore Zann as the sassy Rogue, and Matthew Waterson as the ever-iconic master of magnetism, Magneto. Supervising Producer Jake Castorena rounded out the panel, offering insights into the behind-the-scenes creative process.

As the discussion kicked off, each panelist shared their first exposure to the X-Men universe. While most of the panelists mentioned either the original 1992 animated series or the popular arcade games, Zann, who has been voicing Rogue since the original series, told her story of how she came to book the role in 1992. “I walked into a studio in Toronto named Sounds Interchange in 1992, and I saw a picture of this character who was standing there with an attitude,” Zann began. “I had been told they were looking for somebody who had a deep, husky, sexy voice who could do a Southern accent. I walked into the booth, opened up my mouth, and said, “My Daddy’d like to kill himself when he found out I was a mutant!” The crowd cheered as Zann continued in Rogue’s iconic southern drawl, “I had me a boyfriend when I was 13, till I KISSED HIM! Poor boy went into a coma for three days!” It was upon uttering these now memorable lines from what would become the pilot episode that Zann booked the role. 

When asked how they could keep the show fresh while maintaining 90s nostalgia, Castorena provided behind-the-scenes insights into the creative process, offering a glimpse into bringing the X-Men to life on screen. “It comes down to everyone working in tandem together,” Castorena shared, “Understanding the core fundamentals of the X-Men has always been, will always be, should always be an allegory for prejudice. Without that, you don’t have the X-Men. There’s a reason why the tones and themes that the Lewalds and Larry Houston never shied away from in the original show are relevant today.”

The cast then went down the line sharing their audition stories, explaining how most of them seemed to recognize the audition sides as lines from the original series, despite Disney using fake code names for the characters to maintain the project’s secrecy. Karliak said of his audition for Morph, “I remember getting the audition, not really knowing much about the character because everything was coded, but I do remember that the character was listed as non-binary. Reading in what thinly-veiled backstory I could read, this character has a fairly traumatic backstory but he covers it up with humor, he’s very wity, he’s the comic relief. I think not only for me, but for queer people in general there is a very identifiable trope of pushing through trauma with humor.”

The panelists also took questions from the audience and awarded prizes to those lucky fans who could ask. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to the mic quickly enough. Still, I could see that the prizes contained some limited edition boxes of “Magnet-O’s” cereal made specifically for the red carpet premiere of X-Men ’97. The first audience question was if there’s a chance we may see a crossover with the 90s animated version of Spider-Man. Castorena was enthusiastic about the idea but noted that it all really depends on not only the success of X-Men ’97, but that they would have to get the okay from Sony, who owns rights to the character. My personal favorite audience question, and quite possibly the best question of the night, was when a fan asked if each of the cast could recite in character, “Previously, On X-Men,” which they all graciously obliged. 

While the hosts, unfortunately, couldn’t tease any new footage from the series, they were able to play a few already released clips showing our heroes in action facing off against ruthless Sentinels and the diabolical Mr. Sinister, generating enthusiastic cheers from the whole crowd. If there was one panel to be at this WonderCon, it was with the X-Men.

Were you mesmerized by the mutants’ tales at WonderCon? Let us know what your favorite panel moment was in the comment section below!

Interested in hearing how you can use X-men in the classroom or therapy setting? Check out the most recent episode of Happiest Pod On Earth, part of the Geek Therapy Network of Podcasts, and even get access to free social-emotional worksheets!

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