Who Is Morph in X-MEN ’97? His Bizarre Marvel Comics History, Explained

Spoiler Alert

A very delightful aspect of X-Men ’97 so far is the bigger role for Morph, the mutant shapeshifter and “comic relief” X-Man. However, thanks to his expanded role, it’s led many folks to comment that the character was a creation of the original X-Men: The Animated Series. That is only half true. Yes, the name “Morph” was an invention for the cartoon. But Morph has a history in Marvel’s X-Men comics, going back to the mid-1960s. Here’s how a discarded and forgotten X-Man got a second life thanks to the Saturday morning cartoon, and how that character then returned to the comics, and back to animation again.

Morph Took the Place of Thunderbird in X-Men: The Animated Series

The death of Thunderbird in Uncanny X-Men #95. art by Dave Cockrum.
Marvel Comics

When developing the original series back in the ‘90s, producers wanted to raise the stakes by having one of the team die in the first episode. In the original comics, the mutant named Thunderbird died in a very early mission with the second generation team, in 1975’s Uncanny X-Men #95. But seeing as Thunderbird was a Native-American character, the producers realized it was problematic to introduce a POC hero only to kill him off right away. That left the X-Men: The Animated Series creators in a bit of a predicament. Who would be the first mutant to die?

Morph, the first mutant hero to die in 1992's X-Men: The Animated Series.
Marvel Animation

According to the behind-the-scenes book Previously on X-Men by Eric Lewald, the creators decided to comb through the back issues for a replacement for Thunderbird as the sacrificial lamb. There, they found a long-forgotten X-Man named Changeling. They changed the name to “Morph,” as DC Comics had a popular Teen Titans hero by that name already. Interestingly, when that character came to animation himself in 2003, DC changed his name to Beast Boy. The company thought the word “changeling” was too much of a mouthful for young kids.

The Original Version of Morph From the X-Men Comics Was Called Changeling

The original version of the X-Men's Morph from the comics, challed Changeling.
Marvel Comics

Marvel first introduced Changeling in X-Men #35 back in 1967. Created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Werner Roth, Changeling was a member of the mutant villain group Factor Three. (He also wore one of the goofiest helmets in comic book history.) Most of Factor Three consisted of already existing X-Men foes, but Changeling was a new character. The shapeshifter, who was second in command of the group, served the mysterious “Mutant Master,” a second-rate Magneto who sought mutant supremacy over the Earth. Eventually, the story revealed the Mutant Master was actually an alien who sought to destroy humans and mutants alike. Changeling turned on his master, helping the X-Men at the end. And for a long time, we didn’t hear from him again.

Changeling Becomes the First X-Man to Die in the Line of Duty

Changeling takes Professor X's place in flashback scene in a 1968 issue of Uncanny X-Men, art by Neal Adams.
Marvel Comics

Professor X was seemingly killed in X-Men #42, leaving the team without their mentor. But in X-Men #65, he was shown to be alive, working in secret in the X-Men’s hidden bunker. In one of the X-Men’s first major retcons, Marvel revealed the Professor X who died was actually the Changeling in disguise. Discovering he had a terminal illness, the Changeling came to Professor X. He sought atonement for his crimes in his final days. Since Charles had to concentrate all his energies on preventing an upcoming alien invasion, he let Changeling take his place in the X-Men. He augmented his limited psychic abilities so he would pass among the team. Sadly, the villainous Grotesk killed him not long after, making Changeling the first X-Man killed in the line of duty.

Changeling Transforms Into Morph for X-Men: The Animated Series, Later Comes to Comics

From L to R: The X-Men's enemy Changeling, X-Men: The Animated Series' Morph, X-Men: Age of Apocalypse Morph, and the Morph of X-Men '97
Marvel Comics/Marvel Animation

Once X-Men: The Animated Series introduced Morph, he became pretty popular with kids. So the executives at Fox Kids asked the producers to bring the character back to life. His popularity on the show continued to grow, and Marvel Comics took notice. The show brought in an alternate universe version of the character in 1995’s Age of Apocalypse event. Here, he was given pasty-white skin and a bald head, and the real name of Kevin Sidney. Another alt-universe version of Morph became a lead character in the reality-hopping series Exiles. Sadly, that version of the character died too.

Morph Lives Again in the Pages of Marvel Comics

Flash forward to 2019, and the modern Krakoan age of the X-Men. In this era, all of mutantkind stands united, living on the living island sanctuary of Krakoa. Using Charles Xavier’s psychic backups in Cerebro, as well as Krakoan methods of resurrection, the original Kevin Sidney returned to life. He has not had a large role in this modern era, but he’s out there, waiting to become a main member of the X-Men again. And given his popularity thanks to X-Men ’97, where the character turns into all manner of fan-favorite mutants, we think it’s only a matter of time.

Top Stories
More by Eric Diaz
Trending Topics