There is no doubt that the world of animation is one of the best places for the super heroes we love to come to life. Colorful and easy on the budget (at least compared to big blockbuster films), the animated versions of some of our favorite heroes have existed almost as long as the comic books themselves. I present to you here, my top ten favorite animated super hero, comic book inspired shows.
10- Challenge of the Super Friends (1978-1979)
While by far not the best there is out there, I remember watching reruns of this show growing up. And the two things that made it so cool? First- the Legion of Doom! While these guys were not as intimidating as we know they can be, they were a collection of bad guys working together and hiding out in a swamp in a headquaters that looked like Darth Vader. Awesome! Second- the phrase "Meanwhile, Back at the Hall of Justice." This show helped lay the foundation for my future interest in the world of comics.
9- The Tick (1994-1996)
While I have never read a Tick comic, I have to admit that I was a huge fan of this show. The sheer ridiculousness of it was great, while the Tick and Arthur faced off against some pretty original and often hilarious villains. Who else remembesr the Mother of Invention and the Ottoman Empress? Plus, kudos for a show to be made that wasn't from one of the "Big Two" comic houses!
8- Batman Beyond (1999-2001)
How cool was it to get a glimpse into the future of Batman? The Dark Knight's legacy lived on AND he could also fly and cloak himself. Terry McGuiness hit the scene as the protege of a old and injured Bruce Wayne. In a way it was the blend of Batman and Spider-Man as Terry also had the ups and downs of being a teenager. It was so cool, that BB has not only popped up in other shows but has even landed several series of comic books.
7- X-Men: Evolution (2000-2003)
While skeptical at first, in syndication I grew to really enjoy this series. A creative reimagining of the X-Men and other characters from their mythos, but making a majority of the characters (including villains) teenagers. In the end it really worked and helped introduce more people to Kitty Pryde, which I believe to be a good thing.
6- X-Men (1992-1997)
This show really helped get the ball rolling for the genre in the 1990s. A different style of animation than many of the previous super hero shows out there as well as being a bit more edgy. Even better, we were given a decent range of both X-Men and villains over the show's 76 episode run. And who can forget Gambit's classic line "First you charge d'card. Den, you trow the card."
5- Spider-Man (1994-1998)
Another one of the shows of the 90s that really seemed to help the genre was Spider-Man. Currently, the longest running TV show featuring the Web-Head, it offered plenty of Spidey's rogue's gallery and was able to cross over with the X-Men, Captain America, and others. A catchy theme song and a decent action figure line didn't hurt either.
4- Justice League & Justice League Unlimited (2001-2004 & 2004-2006 respectively)
I had to combine these two series, because I just don't see them as separate. Granted, JLU introduced us to more characters, but essentially JLU was just the continuing adventures of the characters that were firmly established in the previous series as well as prior DC animated universe shows. It really helped make a team series work well on the small screen and also helped introduce lots of great characters that had previously not been on any of the series.
3- Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes (2010- present)
While a relative newcomer, I have been nothing but impressed with A:EMH so far. We have a solid core team and they seem to be making it work. Add in great foes like Zemo and his Masters of Evil, Loki, and Graviton and it's even better. We even have our very own version of Secret Invasion going on, so I say keep bringing it! I should also note that I am a bit biased as the Avengers are my favorite comic book team.
2- Young Justice (2011-present)
Another relative newby nabs another top spot, but this series has been great! I was leary at first becaue I figured it was a rehash of Teen Titans, but it really proved to be its own vehicle and has combined some classic and more modern teen heroes from the DCU. Storylines have been great and featured a nice assortment of foes. We have even had a pretty successful time jump which has answered some questions while raising many more. If you are not watching this, you may want to start.
1- Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)
Let's face it, what other show could take the top spot? Paul Dini's masterpiece is basically the bar that all other animated super hero shows should be measured against. It brought a gritty edge to a "kids' show" while staying very true to its source material. Batman was the intimidating, nocturnal instrument of justice and his colorful rogue's gallery was brought to life as never before. Between fantastic writing, art, and acting it reshaped how characters like Mr. Freeze and Clayface were seen so much that it actually changed them in continuity. Not to mention it introduced the world to Harley Quinn who became such a fan favorite that she eventually made her way into the Batman books. Hands down this show will remain in my top spot indefinitely.
Some honorable mentions...
There have been many great super hero cartoons, here's a couple that I debated about and depending on the day, may have put them on the list.
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981-1983)- Another show that brings back fond childhood memories. And like Batman:TAS, Firestar started on the show and became a mainstay in the Marvel U. Remember when Spidey and the X-Men took on Cyberiad or when the Chameleon was impersonating multiple heroes and the dog saved the day?
Spectacular Spider-Man (2008-2009)- Another great retelling of the Spider-Man story, featuring a fantastic line-up of many of Spidey's best foes, some with certain look or original make-overs. Unfortunately, this show cancelled before its time.
Teen Titans (2003-2006)- A perfect blend of camp and action. Slade (aka Deathstroke) was a formidable foe and the Japanese inspired animation and storytelling was a fresh take on the genre.
Wolverine and the X-Men (2009)- Another great reimagining of the X-Men, but like Spectacular Spidey, it was gone too soon (thanks Disney!!!).
Ultimate Spider-Man (2012-present)- The newest of them all, but so far it has a lot of promise. A variety of villains (yea Taskmaster!!!) and a clever reimagining of Venom and other characters is helping this series out. A nice blend of humor and breaking the 4th wall is nice too. Not too mention, more Agent Coulson (voiced by Clark Gregg himself).
So here's my list, if you like it...awesome. If you hate it...that's awesome too. To each their own, but any constructive feedback [nicely phrased is preferred] is welcome. Thanks!