It’s a Saturday morning, and chances are high that you’re still in your pyjamas. You’ve got a bowl of cereal, the undivided attention of the television set and an M-Net decoder. It’s K-TV time mother-lovers and more importantly, it’s time to watch some good ol’ cartoons starring the children of the atom. In the 1990s, superhero cartoons were at the peak height of popularity and Marvel was more than ready to cash in on that craze.
It resulted in a glut of fantastic series, ranging from the aforementioned X-Men through to the Fantastic Four and an Iron Man cartoon with the most rockin’ of soundtracks. They weren’t all smash hits, but they’re still easily watchable thanks to some fantastic voice casting and quality animation at the time.
The 2000s were perhaps a better, more experimental time for Marvel as they capitilised on the buzz of the Fantastic Four movies (not that one) with an animated effort from French studio MoonScoop Group that looked interesting, while also throwing in two x-cellent new X-Men series: X-Men Evolution and Wolverine & The X-Men. Marvel’s best animated effort in the 2010s was easily Avengers: Earths Mightiest Heroes, a series which magically combined the coolest of stylised animation with stories suitable for any age. Great stuff.
Also, the last decent project that ever proudly associated itself with the House of Ideas. Marvel’s cartoons at the moment, just feel…cheap. That’s a strong sentiment, but one that feels justified in light of the sneak peek that was shown for the new upcoming Spider-Man cartoon series:
It doesn’t look bad, but it doesn’t look good either. A running theme with Marvel cartoons like Hulk: And The Agents of Smash, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ultimate Spider-Man. Look, if I was nine years old again then I’d be thrilled to see these cartoons on TV. Nine-year-old Darryn would be in heaven, too blissfully stupid to notice the shoddy outsourced animation on offer for stories which recycle the highlight reel of Marvel’s movies again and again ad infinitum.
This is where Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the X-Men animated series of the past managed to become so beloved, as these were TV projects that emphasised effort. X-Men may look a little dated now, but it’s still leagues ahead of the animation of offer in Marvel’s TV line-up. These are cartoons which also managed to be surprisingly mature for the time, making them worth a rewatch years later when you were older and more jaded.
There used to be pride in the work delivered, actual cash thrown at the budget for these programs to make them so memorable. Look at DC’s TV efforts, which have usually always trumped whatever Marvel has had to offer: Justice League, Beware the Batman and Justice League Action looks like every possible dollar given to the team has been spent. Hell, even Teen Titans Go manages to make good use of a more limited budget to deliver something that takes full advantage of art director’s Dan Hipp’s unique style to its advantage.
Marvel’s cartoons may be hitting all the right tween demographics, but I’d bet you easy money that in a decade’s time you’d rather watch the Spectacular Spider-Man again than sit through the horrible mess that is Ultimate Spider-Man. I had some hope that Spider-Man’s latest TV adventures would boast a higher level of animation when it hits flatscreens later this year. If the writing matches the visuals for this cartoon series again, consider those hopes expertly dashed.
Last Updated: June 5, 2017