The live action comic book movies released between 1990-1999 were a mixed bag to say the least. But when it came it animation, we had come classics to enjoy.
Ask any comic book fan what their favorite cartoon of the 1990’s was, and their answer will be either “Batman: The Animated Series,” or “X-Men.” There were some other good cartoons in the decade, but Batman and X-Men remain the favorites. But the 90’s also had some now forgotten cartoons that I faithfully watched back then, despite their flaws. How many of you remember these shows:
By 1994 the “X-Men” cartoon was a big hit for Fox, so CBS decided to find the next best superhero team. But if you’re thinking CBS got the rights to the Justice League or to The Avengers, you’d be wrong. Instead of going with a classic property, the network turned their eye to the WildC.AT.s.
If you’re somewhat knowledgeable about comics, you may remember the Image series that this show is based on. The comic was created by the legendary Jim Lee who had produced a significant amount of influential work for Marvel and in 1992, he helped launch Image Comics.
From the start, the WildC.AT.s. were compared to the X-Men: Both had bland team leaders, a tough guy with knife-hands, a gruff guy in a trench coat, and a longhaired psychic in a skin-tight suit. The only real difference was that they were aliens, not mutants. And oh, yeah, the WildC.AT.s. theme song is so bad that it will haunt your dreams.
Malibu Comics became a victim of the ’90s comic industry boom. But early on, Malibu gave Marvel and DC a run for their money with their cutting edge Ultraverse line featuring series like Ultraforce and Prime. The comics clicked with fans thanks in large part top-tier comic creators like George Perez and Norm Breyfogle and many others.
In both comics and cartoon form, Ultraforce was Malibu’s answer to the Avengers and the Justice League. By the time the Ultraforce cartoon arrived, Malibu was already on its way to being acquired by Marvel.
Solid work by Canadian voice actors and a Galoob action figure line came too late to help Malibu. It didn’t help that Ultraforce aired in syndication on Sundays, but I’ll give the show credit for attempting a somewhat more mature storytelling style for a “kids” cartoon.
The Savage Dragon
Out of the original Image comics, my favorite title was Eric Larsen’s The Savage Dragon. The Savage Dragon is an amazingly fun and ridiculous book, that has included the Dragon battling God and the devil, aging in real-time, real world drama as a Chicago cop, and lots and lots of sex. The Savage dragon comic is still kicking ass today and it worth checking out.
Anywho, I was really excited when I heard the USA network was going to air a Savage Dragon animated series. What I got was a toned down kid friendly version of the comic I loved. This is when I learned that sometimes it pays to keep your expectations very low.
Right about now, a few of you reading this are probably saying: “The Silver Surfer had a cartoon?!?” Yep, he sure did
After Fox found success with “X-Men” and “Spider-Man,” the network was looking for another Marvel hit in 1998, and chose the Silver Surfer. The CG-heavy show stuck closely to Jack Kirby’s version, and featured characters like Adam Warlock, Thanos, and The Watcher. After the first season aired, the show was cancelled during production on the next season. Why the show was cancelled depends on who you ask.
Avengers: United They Stand
The team in “Avengers: United They Stand” is not the team fans know from the current Marvel movies. Hell, these Avengers weren’t even the Avengers I knew from the comics.
“Avengers: United They Stand” featured an eclectic roster featuring Hawkeye, Tigra, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Wonder Man, Wasp, and leader Hank Pym as Ant-Man. The show stayed away from actual comic canon, and instead tried to build a world of its own. For example, Tigra has an altered origin in the cartoon. The series took away mystical background turning her instead into a genetic experiment gone horribly wrong.
United They Stans was just… a mess. Hawkeye looks like Shaft from Youngblood. Falcon donned unnecessary armor as well, and everybody on the team had this transformation sequence each time they armored up. This sequence is so bad that it would make the Voltron team shake their heads.
There are probably a few cartoons from the era that I missed, so I may revisit this corner of Geekville in the future. But for now that’s my list of forgotten 90’s comic book cartoons. Now, if only I could get the “Wild C.A.T.s” theme song out of my head…