Top 10 Mainstream Superhero Cartoons Part 1

When it comes to animation, superheroes are usually a safe bet. Action? Check! Comedy? Check? A little bit of romance? For the most part check! And while it may be challenging to build a whole world from the ground up it’s quite fun and simpler to take an established hero and run with him/her/them. I for one love Superhero’s.

There have been many superhero cartoons over the years but I’m confining this to the ones from DC and Marvel that aired on primetime kids networks (sorry Spawn and Marvel Anime…not like the latter was making any lists anytime soon).

Let’s start with some honorable mentions.

Static Shock, The Batman, Hulk: TAS, Green Lantern: TAS

10. Spider-Man 1967-1970

Let’s give credit where credit is due. The original Spiderman series is one of the best. It’s corny to be sure, oh boy is it corny, Spiderman deflects a pumpkin bomb by making a baseball bat with his web fluid. Much like the 60’s Batman it embraces the cheesiness, then runs with it. It has all the classic makings of a cartoon, the characters are likable and while their is a lot of stock animation I can forgive that all just for the simple theme song.

Spider-man memes, salute your maker

Spider-man memes, salute your maker

9. Young Justice 2010-2013

Though it’s the youngest show on the list, only having ended earlier this year, Young Justice has become a cartoon giant. Focusing on a team that acted as Batman’s clandestine special recon team, Young Justice pole vaulted clear over the set bar from things like animation, story telling and character development and is one of the only western animated shows to have a (well executed) time skip. It could be funny, dramatic, sad or scary. It created it’s own little world and history while showing us new characters we’d never have given a plugged nickel for a couple years ago. (Lookin at you Sportsmaster) Oh did we mention it won an Emmy?

The gangs all here

The gangs all here

8. Avengers Earths Mightiest Heroes 2010-2012

Another very young show on this list, but if I added these shows simply for the action scenes you can bet this would easily jump into the top 3. The show follows the Avengers from there individual origins straight into their formation as a team, through several crisis’ and roster switches to the final showdown with Galactus. All while staying true and faithful to the comic book origins and spirit of the characters. Though some have criticized the animation and though the stories got weaker in the second season it stayed strong to the end and cemented itself as the best animated incarnation of the Avengers.

Proportions shown on cover may not represent size of figures in actual show

Proportions shown on cover may not represent size of figures in actual show

7. Spiderman the Animated Series 1994-1998

Riding high off of another superhero animated series’ success was Spiderman the Animated Series. If Batman was the dark gritty avenger, Spiderman was the polar opposite, full of life and energy, not to say that he didn’t have some dark moments but Spiderman’s adventures were pretty much that. He went to other planets, dimensions, encountered genetic freaks and kept up with a single love interest. Add that to a fun slew of guest appearances from the X-Men, Captain America and even the Punisher and you have a classical cartoon.

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6. Batman the Brave and the Bold 2008-2011

After it came out the series was immediately accused of not being like the previous Batman cartoons. People didn’t like the new lighter tone of the Batman series, but BTBATB proved that, in the words of Bat-Mite in episode 18 (Legends of the Dark Mite) that “Batman’s rich history allows him to be interpreted in a multitude of ways, to be sure this is a lighter incarnation of the character but it is no less true and valid to the characters roots than the tortured avenger crying our for mommy and daddy…and besides those easter bunnies look really scary right?!” Snarky as all hell, incredibly fun and constantly changing up the formats to keep things interesting, BTBATB is truly a classical series.

Say it with me now "The Hammer of Justice Is Unisex!"

Say it with me now “The Hammer of Justice Is Unisex!”

5. Teen Titans 2003-2006

If I had to pick a superhero cartoon that defined a generation for kids who were growing up in the early 2000’s, it would be Teen Titans. This was the show all the cool kids watched, you tuned in every week just to see the next new plot twist. It was a teenage superhero story at it’s best. Five friends (who happened to be superheroes) living in a tower in the middle of a bay, fighting crime and encountering a wacky cast of villains. Like the others, it could be dark and had messages as well, then on the other extreme no show on this list got quite so insane, maybe not even Brave and Bold. The show’s characters were constantly being explored, dynamics were constantly being shifted or added and their was clearly a lot of passion and creativity put into the whole design. It may have come off as childish or just plain weird in the beginning and it kind of was, but it morphed into the show that would get a whole new generation into the comic book scene.

The original team of dysfunctional teenage slapstick superheroes...with  disturbing forays into the deep

The original team of dysfunctional teenage slapstick superheroes…with disturbing forays into the deep

Join me next time for the final four.

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Street Fighter: The Animated Series

Anyone remember the old American Street Fighter cartoon? I watched most of it before I actually played any Street Fighter, loved it. Now…well, I still find it enjoyable but for all the wrong reasons most likely.

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The show was released around the same time as the movie which means (and I warn you, if you’re a street fighter purist to stop right now) Guile is the focus, Ken and Ryu are wandering adventurer’s, Zangief is a full fledged bad guy, T-Hawk can fly for some reason, Chun-Li’s second identity is that of a news reporter, Dhalsim used to work for Bison, Blanka is one of his former experiments who, pre transformation looked a lot like Charlie and Cammy was simply brainwashed at 18. Though actually the last one is due to the fact that her true identity as a clone hadn’t been revealed yet. Still, it’s enough to make a life long street fighter fan either laugh or punch his computer screen.

The voice acting can be horrendous at times, at by horrendous I mean the truly-and-ultimately-horrific-sweet-nixon-please-chew-my-ears-off-now kind of bad. Guile shouting now as he cheesily raises his arms up at the sky yelling “NO!” as he watches Bison flee isn’t actually that bad compared to hearing the voice actors for Ken and Ryu yell “Hadoken!”. Seriously it has to be heard to be believed.

The animation doesn’t really help either. If you watch the intro on You Tube and read the comments you’ll see what I mean. (Chun-Li looks more African than Asian, it was that bad.)

Now the physics, oh man. Chun-Li could basically fly like a helicopter with her spinning bird kick, I mean literally fly into the room by busting down the door with that then take a few laps around the room, hover than spin back out. Dhalsim in one episode explains that through training the traditional laws of nature no longer apply to him.

Dhalsim: “Not if I were bound by your immutable laws of physics. Fortunately, I have advanced beyond such simple-minded perceptions and embraced the limitless enlightenment of metaphysics.”

Well…that explains a lot.

Despite all the corny problems I honestly love this show, and not just for the camp factor. I mean, Chun-Li kicks apart a tank in the intro. How can you not love that? Theirs also this cheesy little romance between Guile and Cammy since Julie doesn’t exist in this world apparently, unless that woman in the premier episode was meant to be her. Bison is simply deli…yeah sorry, we won’t go down that path. However, two of his most famous lines come from this series. The “YES! YES!” one at his immortal.

Bison: Yes, yes I killed your father. What is it with you women anyway? I killed my father and you don’t here me whining about it!

 

catb5d

So much for being a family man

It’s also worthy to note that Guy and Cody from Final Fight make an appearance, I do believe that it was before they made the crossover to the Street Fighter series. Thus, Cody is still a good guy here and Guy is well…Guy.

The show is currently on DVD but no longer sold in stores so if you want the whole thing you’re gonna have to do some online browsing. The entire series is available on youtube though and it might be worth a watch if you can go in with your mind open…and I mean really, really open.

Star Wars The Clone Wars

And now for something more current. Star Wars the Clone Wars (not to be confused with Star Wars: Clone Wars which is a whole different cartoon altogether) is now entering the end of its fifth full length season. It seems just yesterday when the episode ‘Ambush’ premiered.

For those of you that have been living under an animation rock since 2008 allow me to lay out the basic plot for you. Following the events of Episode II Anakin Skywalker is assigned a new padawan, a fourteen-year-old Togruta Ahsoka Tano. Together with R2-D2 and Clone Captain Rex they campaign across the galaxy, holding off the advances of the incompetent (yet extremely successful off-screen) Separatist Fleet.

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First premiering in a not so well received (yet far from horrible) movie of the same name, the show has since become a merchandising and ratings juggernaut for Cartoon Network renewing a star was phenomenon with everything from licensed clone wars lunch boxes to t-shirts to Legos. (You could hear the groans when Disney made their purchase of the Star Wars license) The show, much like other TV legends such as M*A*S*H, has now ran longer than the fictional three year Clone Wars.

It’s been slow but the show has progressed forwards, the characters have gotten more complex, the story lines have gotten deeper and the CGI animation….good gravy the animation has gotten gorgeous. I swear that some episodes exist for the sole purpose of having the animators gleefully rubbing one aspect of their new abilities in our face. (“See? See? Obi-Wan’s hair can MOVE now!”) Episodes as early as Landing at Point Rain were pure battle episodes with nothing but wonderfully animated fight scenes.

Despite this, some problems that the show began with still remain today and at this point I can only assume it’s a conscious decision on the part of the creators to keep it that way. The dialogue can get really stiff at points, and I mean really, really stiff, stiffer than the animation. (yeah, yeah sorry, I just felt the urge to make a CGI joke). We have kids talking like no kids ever would, authorities giving us information in the most info dumpy way possible and bad jokes a plenty. Clone Wars can do really good humor when it wants but theirs just some stuff here that falls really flat. Like the Gascon Arc, I’m trying to repress the memory of that.

Another gripe I have with this show is the War itself. The show often has this kind of pascifist pseudo political agenda it wants to push. Anti- war mongering (*coughrepublicancough*) anti-deficit spending (no seriously there is a whole !@$#% episode just for that plot line.  We can’t allow them to purchase more clones at those interest rates!!! Hurry Senators!!! We must draft a bill! To the writing desk!) While at the same time most good episodes involve them blowing stuff up. Yet with the series of deaths, suicides (kids show, hah!) and moral questions raised I get the feeling that this show wants to be sending out this kind of reluctant fighter kinda of feeling. War is bad but we should fight when we need to. Clone Wars that is a noble goal but please, stop trying to preach to us, it’s annoying and boring rather than charming or enlightening. You will never be another M*A*S*H, heck you’ll probably never be another Hogans Heroes either.

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Unlike some others however, I don’t really mind Ahsoka. A lot of people call he over powered but I just keep reminding myself that if Mace Windu or Seasee Tinn was a sixteen year old padawan (how old is she at this point?) then this would probably be their power level. I do get ticked when she can hold of General Grevious (who is a complete wuss in this series), I mean this guy is supposed to be the Jedi slayer and a teen wielding two sabers can hold him off longer than a couple of knights?

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Speaking of villains we’ve had some good ones over the years. Droids make the acceptable disposable army, but guys like Savage, Maul, Cad Bane, Asajj Ventress, Hondo, Deathwatch are all recurring villains that really have some backbone and personality to them. Most even have their own character arcs and back stories. Cad Bane infiltrates the temple, Savage finds his brother, Asajj is betrayed by Dooku, Deathwatch descends into civil war, Hondo…gets drunk. The bad guys may just be more interesting than the normally stoic Jedi philosophers. 

All in all I enjoy the Clone Wars, despite all the things I’ve badgered it for, it’s clever, it’s good hilarious moments (See Hondo), dark moments (beginning with Anakin force strangling Poggle the Lesser in Season 2 Episode 8) genuinely sad moments (don’t get me started) and awesome action scenes. Here’s to hoping the show doesn’t get mutilated on Disney XD!

Fillmore! (T.V Series)

I figured I’d start out with an old favorite of mine. ‘Filmore‘ an old Disney cartoon that ran for a total of about 26 episodes from 2002 to 2004 originally airing on ABC Kids and then on Toon Disney for the final year.

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Fillmore centered around the the Safety Patrol, a very clear parody on every 70’s cop show…ever. Every lovable cliche is there. The chase scenes, the monologuing, the shady back street deals and the hardboiled detective sleuthing. Oh yeah and the whole thing takes place in a Middle School.

Let me give you a typical situation that the X Middle School Safety Patrol took on. A shady looking tween character opens up a briefcase as two other figures look on just outside the racquetball court where the club is practicing. The dealer gloats that they’re forged tickets for seats at the drama clubs new play. Mon Ami evilly cackles that they’ll regret not letting him join.

Mon Ami: They said I overact. IMAGINE THAT! ME!!!!

Suddenly, the Jamaican sounding buyer pulls his badge, that of an esteemed safety patrol officer. Busted. Quickly Mon Ami bolts and Officer Fillmore gives chase dodging balls all the way before finally getting caught. Suddenly, Fillmore’s fellow officer, Ingrid Third appears at the other end as the pair corner the counter fitter.  He’ll get at least a week of detention for this.

The plots were always child friendly but man did they really milk their genre choice for all it was worth. Not that it was a bad thing by any means, this show rocked!

Characters

The main cast always involved Cornelius Fillmore (Orlando Brown) and Ingrid Third (Tara Strong). Both were initially reluctant initiates but throughout the season we see both of them grow into their roles. They grow as characters, we care about them and their well being. They have their quirks, there traits and what would they be without catchphrases. (‘Disco’ and ‘Crackers’ respectively)

Cornelius was a former punk, a trouble maker with a reputation he could never fully manage to leave behind. As a patrol officer he let’s nothing get in the way of his mission, tough and reliable, doing anything to get the job done, yet he’s also laid back and not above cracking jokes, especially off duty.

Ingrid Third was Fillmore’s partner, resident intellectual genius yet also the local goth chick. As another former delinquent she was reluctant to join the force but ended up helping Fillmore out on a case and going down the straight and narrow by becoming an officer. She’s quiet and observant, usually more so than Fillmore, perhaps due or because of her photographic memory.

Joining them on the force is the Safety Officer Commissioner Vallejo, the leader of the group who’s constantly aggravated by Fillmores costly methods.

Vallejo: A bill for a 200 dollar lobster suit and a three thousand dollar floor waxer? FIIIIILLLLLLMMMMOOOORRREEEE!!!!!!

Forensics leader Karen, bodyguard Joseph and the bumbling photographer O’Farrell. They all report to the Principal much like on reports to the mayor who holds the usual threats over all their heads should they be unable to solve a high profile crime.

Overall, the show was extremely funny, with great animation that still holds a candle today, awesome characters and extremely interesting plots. It’s one of the few cartoons I know to have absolute ethics, it’s one of the earliest to recognize the existence of Fandoms and to talk about a number of series problems, albeit in a toned down and humorous way.

Overall Rating: 8/10

(credit goes to http://urbanhorror.wordpress.com/2007/07/16/filmore-a-cartoon-that-never-got-its-due/ for the pic)

Cartoons in General

Animation, it’s a completely worthwhile genre of entertainment that’s often over looked and deemed childish. Unfortunately for these nay sayers they have missed out on a wide wonderful world of stories, characters, action, adventure, romance and comedy. This is a blog featuring cartoons. Mostly western animation but it also occasionally includes dubbed anime and foreign cartoons that aired on American networks. No matter the time period, no matter the genre, no matter the rating this blog will cover it to the best of it’s abilities. Past, present and future. 

More is to come!