'Generation X' Too Awkward to Be a Superhero

Article excerpt

Byline: Ted Cox

"Generation X," which airs at 7 p.m. Tuesday on Fox WFLD Channel 32, is a made-for-TV movie based on a comic book.

Talk about a mutant hybrid.

Yet, while most viewers - especially older ones - are probably unfamiliar with "Generation X" in comic shops, this movie is the most hotly anticipated (and dreaded) release of the TV season.

"Generation X" is Marvel Comics' attempt to graft its popular, but 30-year-old X-Men franchise onto today's slacker teenagers. In that, it is at least a little redundant. The X-Men are human "mutants," genetically endowed with superpowers that, ironically enough, make them feared and hated by the mass of men. With their tales of fantastic ability mixed with profound alienation, the X-Men naturally attract a teen audience; they have been among the most popular characters in comics since the '70s.

"Generation X," which hit the newsstands about 18 months ago, emphasizes the obvious in tapping into that teen market. It focuses on teenage mutants, Junior X-Men, who are only just learning to develop their powers. Consider them apprentice superheroes with a double dose of adolescent angst.

It's a well-made but unsatisfying comic book. The colorful, energetic art can't disguise the fact that, with its youth-oriented cast of characters, balanced according to race and sex, it's just too contrived.

Yet those contrived qualities are just what appeal to Fox, which specializes in youth demographics and ethnic diversity. So, with the blessings of the ever-lovin' Stan Lee, Marvel Comics' founder and an executive producer of the new made-for-TV movie, "Generation X" comes to the small screen in a live-action production obviously intended to be a series pilot.

If fans of "Generation X" should be excited, why should they also be apprehensive? Because, as an art form, the comic book is unique, an innovative visual medium that can do things nothing else can. Beautiful and dramatic by definition, the best comics function as both art and entertainment.

And TV has almost always failed to capture their distinctive grace and beauty.

"Generation X" is no exception. For the comics aficionado, it offers more to dread than to treasure. It is tame and predictable where the comic book is complex and daring.

But darn if it doesn't come off as involving and entertaining in spite of itself. Although older comics buffs (i.e., college age and above) will no doubt find it lame, preteens should pronounce it cool. …