Retro Marvel TV
The Not-So-Marvelous 90s in Marvel Cartoons

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 10 Sep 2014 16:00
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Marvel wasn't always as incapable of doing wrong as its current cinematic efforts would suggest, which was very evident in their slew of 90s cartoons.

Last week: Remembering some good cartoons Marvel put out in the 90s. This week? Quite the opposite...

FANTASTIC FOUR (1994)
Okay. Some background: From 1994 to 1996, Marvel put out a syndication package made up of this series and an Iron Man series. The first seasons of both were... pretty terrible, with cheap, ugly animation and dopey sitcom-style humor inserted over what might otherwise have been decent story-adaptations. Fantastic Four, in particular, was infamous for its ear-bleedingly awful theme song. Ugh...

Now, here's the interesting part: Despite the near-universal pans from fans and critics, both this and Iron Man did well enough ratings-wise to get a second season. And, by what can only be termed a cosmic miracle, the people behind them decided to take the criticism to heart and go back to the drawing board -- upending the creative teams and taking a different track for the next order of episodes.

And while it's generally agreed that Iron Man was the more improved of the two (see below), Four was noticeably better as well: Superior animation, fewer bad jokes and a bigger investment in the "science adventure" side of the Marvel Universe. This also meant drawing elements from John Byrne's much-lauded 80s run on the title including an appearance by Malice, Sue Storm's hilariously Freudian leather-punk dominatrix "alt-persona."

IRON MAN (1994)
Much like its Fantastic sibling-series (see above) Iron Man had a fairly abysmal first season characterized by a brutally poor intro-sequence, the inexplicable attention it throws to the presence of D-list villains like Living Laser, Dreadknight or Grey Gargoyle and an obvious emphasis on Tony Stark's toyetic cache of alternate-armors.

But the second-season revamp brought with it a more serious techno-action flavor -- including a kick-ass new metal-style theme song whose Black Sabbath lyrical-reference amusingly precedes the movie using the real thing. Actually, the whole production is eerily prescient of the movies to come, particularly how it quickly gives way to essentially being an Avengers show... mostly starring Iron Man.

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