Marvel made a lot cartoons in the 90s -- but only a couple of them really worked. Today we're talking about the better of their 90s efforts with The X-Men and Spider-Man.
Marvel, as a company, went public in 1991. At the time it probably looked like a good idea. Comic sales were starting to soar, the mega-success of Tim Burton's Batman had made superheroes hot properties for film and television and Marvel owned almost all of the noteworthy characters not already owned by Warner Bros through DC. They expanded, they diversified, they made deals for movies that would either never happen or take years to happen and ultimately they almost went bust when the bubble burst.
But while they were flying high, they were doing what every other comics publisher in the business was doing (or trying to do): Making cartoons. A lot of cartoons.
Obviously, the story of superhero cartoons in the 90s is overwhelmingly dominated by Batman: The Animated Series, a production so miraculously good that in the eyes of many it supersedes its comics predecessor as a generation (or two)'s "definitive" version of Batman. Its shadow looms large over the genre for the entire era, both in its original three-season run and the reworked fourth-season revival tied-in to Superman that gave birth to the DC Animated Universe. But what of Marvel?
In most versions of cartoon history, Marvel was the sideshow in the 90s. While DC cartoons were redefining the entire superhero genre, Marvel's more numerous (ten total, from 1992 to 1999) cartoons -- comfortably couched in the more familiar superhero language of simple Saturday morning plotting, shouty/jokey dialogue, kinetic action and cheesy hard-rock/hip-hop scoring and often drawn to mimic the dismal state of 90s comic-art trends -- were the also rans. And while it's tempting to be revisionist... yeah, no. It can't be denied that the DCAU was next-level and Marvel was playing by the numbers... and most of its output didn't get past 1 or 2 seasons.
But we'll talk about all the ones that didn't work next week. This week is for the two that were not only popular, but unquestionably set the stage for the first wave of Marvel movies just under a decade later...