The X-Files Debuted 20 Years Ago Today

The X-Files #1

With Arrow and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. joining a growing cadre of genre television on both mainstream networks and cable, the last couple of years have been widely discussed by TV critics as very geek-friendly.

Much of that, though, is credited to the head of steam that started building twenty years ago today, when Twin Peaks's David Duchovny traded in his stockings and high heels for a sensible suit and trench coat as The X-Files's Fox Mulder. Joining him was Gillian Anderson, FHM Magazine's sexiest woman alive in 1996 (Simon Pegg didn't place) and a cast of recognizable character actors that made up a strong ensemble without any one superstar to dominate or even a Daryl Dixon-type breakout personality who shunted the rest of the cast to the side.

It was also the first show with enduring popularity that merged elements of genre storytelling with an elaborate, Twin Peaks- or Lost-style continuity.

“I would say that paranoia has in many ways become the new normal,” said Mark Pedretti, a lecturer in the English department at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “And ‘The X-Files’ was the first to really tap into that in a compelling way.”

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The X-Files would go on for nine seasons and a pair of feature films (as well as numerous novelizations and comic book tie-ins) before settling in at IDW earlier this year with Joe Harris's well-reviewed The X-Files Season Ten series of comics.

On their Facebook page, IDW Publishing is holding a contest to celebrate the show's birthday, in which series editor is asking fans to guess his favorite "monster-of-the-week." Joe Harris, who recently detailed some of the series' upcoming plans, noted to Facebook that he's coining the term "monster of the month" for the comic, since it's more accurate.