Like millions of other kids at the time, when I got home from school I’d fly downstairs to our TV and flip on X-Men the animated series. I loved Gambit, the smooth rogue who threw charged up playing cards. It was more than that, I wanted to be Gambit. Much to the dismay of my mother, I took to throwing cards around the house trying to get the wrist flick just right so that I could lodge a card in a bad guy’s neck. The show ignited my imagination and all of the characters were special in some way or another. Well. Almost all of them.
Jubilee was not strong. Jubilee had no character traits that made people empathize with her. She was just budget grade dazzler. A mutant who could temporarily blind someone with plasma blasts, aka fireworks, and that was about it. If you search “annoying characters from 90s animated TV shows” I can 100% guarantee that she shows up on every single one of them. Her voice actress did a very good job of making her a whiny brat character.
I’d put Jubilee on a different list. I’d put her on “Top 10 Characters Who Were Adapted Poorly Because The People Who Adapted it Had Never Read The Comics.”
Yes, bare with me for a little bit while I support the idea that Jubilee is actually great, with a little bit of evidence.
In X-Men: The Animated Series, now to be referred to as “the show” since there’s far too much punctuation to be had and I’m bad at typing, Jubilee was recruited after her parents scorned her for being a mutant and the sentinels subsequently try to kill her. This could have been a decent enough backstory but the show is great with stories and horrible with emotion so there’s no impact to Jubilee. She never expresses any remorse over losing her entire life. This is one of the key things the show misses about her character that I’ll return to time and again, Jubilee as a character is meant to highlight the impact of things going on with the X-Men teams.
In the comics, Jubilee’s parents have both been murdered (making her the prime entrypoint for any Disney movie X-Men incarnation!) and, not wanting to live with her neighbors, Jubilee runs away to live in the mall. OK, yes, she is very 90s. She roller-blades around the mall calling people dweebs and stealing what she needs to survive. When the mall is attacked and the X-Men show up she’s curious about them and follows them back to Australia through a portal (in one of the dumber Claremont era ideas, the X-Men were believed dead and so were living undercover in a bunker that they stole from Alexander Pierce and his cyborg Reavers in the Australian outback.) She hides and lives in their base unbeknownst to them until eventually all of the team go through some magical maguffin and disappear. Wolverine has been out and about doing his own thing these days so when he returns to Australia and finds the base empty and overrun by Reavers, well, things don’t go well for him in a pretty graphic way.
Jubilee, understandably, is like...oh crap. I just wanted free food and to see what these guys were like.
So she ends up tending to Wolverine and this relationship between Wolverine and Jubilee is a major one that is just non existent in the show. The point I’m trying to make is Jubilee in the show was a checklist of things teens are. Jubilee in the comics was that checklist as well but she was also empathetic. She was begrudgingly the good guy in spite of that checklist. For that, her character was so much stronger. Also, it’s easy to forget after watching the X-Men die or get maimed a million times, that these things happening are horrific. Normal people, and the people in Jubilee’s life to date don’t just get crucified by vengeance seeking cyborgs. Her character is used to ground the narrative back into reality when the more fantastical elements threaten to become the status quo.
Jubilee moonlighted in Wolverine’s series for awhile before merging with the main team. It was a great odd couple pairing; the man who knows no fear, and the terrified kid. This relationship in the show is never really there. The most I can remember is there was one episode where Wolverine was trying to teach Jubilee to drive and it was a one off joke - the tables were turned and Wolverine was the one displaying fear!
The early issues of Wolverine that features Jubilee weren’t anything amazing. Jubilee was most like Jubilee from the TV show at this point. She was far more tolerable though since she did, on a few occasions, save Wolverine’s bacon. These issues paved the way for one of my favorite storylines though. In Wolverine, he is sent to investigate the old Reaver base they used to live in (thank god at this point they stop pretending to be dead). After the X-Men vacated the base, Pierce and his Reavers moved back in. Sentinels from the future brought back by Trevor Fitzroy murdered most of the Reavers, teleported to NYC and killed most of the Hellions (Emma Frost’s answer to the New Mutants at her Massachusetts academy), and put Emma Frost into a coma before being destroyed. For reasons unknown, Charles Xavier sends Wolverine and Jubilee to investigate. They find a sentinel that really wants to feel and has a master plan to...oh nvm the bad guy here is not that important. During the inevitable scuffle, Jubilee is sucked into a time vortex and sees the night her parents died. She had believed it to be a car accident but discovers that they were murdered by people who mistook them for the neighbors (those ones she didn’t want to live with, kinda makes sense now why not). Knowing now the identity of the murderers she expresses her desire to go back in time to kill them before they can kill her parents. This leads to several conversations with Wolverine where he attempts to, if not dissuade her, then explain the consequences so she knows it’s a piece of her soul for their lives and that it won’t change anything. Eventually, the day is saved and Wolverine and Jubilee travel back to their time to confront Jubilee’s parent’s killers.
Wolverine actually goads Jubilee on and eventually she just gives them the old kick in the groin and walks away.
It’s a sweet moment but it also serves as a reminder of how far the other X-Men have come. Even Storm who once swore not to take a life, and brooded for weeks when Garrok slipped from her fingers into an abyss, now sees killing as a sometimes necessary occurrence. Gentle giant Colossus snapped a guys neck Inna fit of rage during the Mutant Massacre. Wolverine kills on the regular but this is an opportunity for him to explain those deaths do haunt him.
I like the issues of X-Men where nothing happens - there are no huge action packed panels full of lasers and energy and swirling vortexes of interplanatery miasma. They’re totally devoted to moving the character arcs and relationships forward. After the death of one of the main characters, one issue is spent detailing how each of the team is dealing with their grief. Most are concerned for that person’s relative, a teammember. Jubilee’s reaction though and Wolverine’s tenderness is just, *chef’s kiss*
In a land where everyone is stoic and brave and cries one single tear in secret while staring longingly at pictures of a family they can never have (UGH SCOTTTTTTT)...Jubilee is our way of connecting with these characters. That page above is by far the most moving scene in that issue.
There’s a reason they put Jubilee on the cover of the preceding issue with the words “If you read only one X-Men title this month, make it this one”. She carries all the emotional weight of the comic because everyone else has become almost inhumanly callous.
There’s obviously melodrama. Try to make sense of this at face value: Scott’s son is infected with an uncurable virus. He makes the tough decision to send his kid into the future where he can be cured. His son then grows up in the future, becomes a mutant time traveling terrorist, and is intent on getting revenge on Jean and Scott and Apocalypse (the one who infected him with the virus). It’s insane!
For reasons I won’t get into here, this terrorist shoots Professor X with a bullet that contains a techno organic virus which almost kills him (why he didn’t just use a regular bullet I’ll never know!) One of the upshots of him eventually being cured of this virus is that he can now walk again for a little while at least. So what does he do?
It’s another just very ...normal, very fun scene that pivots quickly into a gut punch when the professor and Jubilee are huddled under a blanket together and Charles is admitting that it really sucks that in a few hours he’s going to lose the ability to walk again.
So, try not to be too harsh on Jubilee. The creators of the TV show admitted they’d never read the comics. They had no idea what to do with Jubilee beyond making her the 90s sidekick character. With the way the show was structured it didn’t really have room or time to tell the stories or have the emotional buildup required to make Jubilee anything other than what she was.
Also in case you can’t tell, I’ve gotten through all the Stan Lee era X-Men some time ago. I think my final verdict is this: You can skip them. Most of the information from that era gets retconned away anyway.