Comic book adaptations are a big market right now. We’re seeing news pretty much everyday about something dealing with a live-action comic book movie or TV show. It might be news about casting, a new trailer, or the development of another property. Fans gobble the news up because it means more entertainment is headed their way.
What we don’t see a lot of is news about animated comic book adaptations. We practically have a drought when it comes to actual cartoon series based on comics. Besides simply providing entertainment, animated shows based on superheroes can offer other advantages for the market and bring even more exposure to the comic book industry.
My first introduction to the world of superheroes wasn’t through comics. My earliest memories was watching repeats of the 1967 Spider-Man series and old episodes of Super-Friends. Other shows surfaced such as old Superman cartoons and eventually shows like Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends and The Incredible Hulk. I was glued to these shows long before I actually read a single comic book. These were my official introduction to the characters and genre. Those are the shows that gave me my foundation in comic book characters.
Take a look at the animated shows that air today. Saturday Morning Cartoons aren’t what they used to be. We may have plenty of animated shows and channels devoted to showing children’s programming but we don’t have many with actual superheroes. There are kids today that do become aware of the characters through the live-action movies. With most of them rated PG-13, they’re not exactly appropriate for the younger crowd, despite many parents taking their kids to them. Should young kids see Tony Stark having a one-night stand or Wolverine telling people to “#%*$ off”? This might be fine for older audiences but it may not be the best introduction for the younger crowd.
The only shows we really have right now are Ultimate Spider-Man, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., Avengers Assemble, and Teen Titans Go! They may have some good qualities but they aren’t exactly true representative of characters. Hulk doesn’t hang out with other gamma-irradiated characters while doing video diaries during missions. Spider-Man doesn’t break the Fourth Wall and isn’t an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Teen Titans don’t do even a fraction of the wacky things that happen on the show.
Past shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Spectacular Spider-Man, and Young Justice gave a closer look at what comics were like. A large factor the networks rely on for the profitability of a show is being able to sell merchandise. It’s understandable that networks want and need to make money but there has been very few attempts at selling products based on Teen Titans Go! or Beware the Batman. There isn’t even anything based on the Hulk series.
What needs to be learned is what “all-ages” really means. Everyone seems to take those two words together as meaning watered down or something just for kids. If television producers and animators can recapture the formula of quality shows that, literally, anyone of any age can enjoy, new doors could be opened into the comic book world. The younger generation needs to learn who these characters are and what they’re all about. This has to go beyond just being able to recognize them. If we can get shows they can watch along with older siblings or parents, everyone wins.
Of course the other crucial factor that goes along with animated shows these days is the merchandise. Care and thought needs to be put into what gets approved and made. This was the discussion in a recent video as well. If there’s a quick rush to slap together a mediocre line of action figures or collectibles, no one will buy them and it will be deemed a failure.
Some parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles will buy these bizarre renditions of superheroes for the children in their lives because there isn't much else available in the retail market. Some children will accept them because they simply don't know any better. They have no idea Batman pretty much always wears dark suits and would never wear some of the funky brightly colored 'armor' we've seen over the years in various action figures.
It was those old animated shows that got me interested in reading comic books. Today's market mainly is geared towards the teen or teen plus crowd because they've become familiar with the characters through the movies. Having more animated shows, that are true to the actual characters and not watered down, could bring in more fans. More fans could mean more people interested in buying comic books. It's just really unfortunate that we are currently in an age with really great comic stories and live action movies but the state of the comic book animated market is at an all time low.