People often look back at ’90s superhero cartoons as a crowning achievement. How could they not? With Batman:TAS, X-Men (1992), and Spider-Man (1994) firing on all cylinders and creating a generation of new fans, it’s understandable. With Marvel 2 for 2, how could they go wrong? Easily. Very, very easily. I present to you four pieces of evidence, showing how easily superheroes can go wrong. The first, Iron Man: The Animated Series.
Holy bipolar writing, Batman! Talk about a tale of two Iron Men! The show lasted only 26 episodes across two seasons, and both seasons were incredibly different in tone, almost as if it were two different shows. Well, because it was. Originally part of The Marvel Action Hour, along with Fantastic Four (1994), Iron Man saw the goofy adventures of his colorful band of allies fighting the good fight against his He-Man like comical villains. No explanation, almost no set up. The opening credits introduced Iron Man’s allies, Force Works (Hawkeye, War Machine, Century, Scarlet Witch and Spider Woman), and the Mandarin’s henchmen (Fin Fang Foom, MODOK, Grey Gargoyle, and more).
This right here is why fans were so surprised that Iron Man was good, or that Avengers even happened. This show. The first season, written primarily by Ron Friedman, was utter nonsense. Take “Silence My Companion, Death My Destination” (all the episode titles were over the top), where Tony uses music to power his armor, or the constantly recycled animation, even when it didn’t fit, as seen in “The Wedding of Iron Man.” Better yet, MODOK, in a stroller, as seen in the first episode, “And the Sea Shall Give Up Its Dead.”
Everything changed the following season. The animation studio was switched, Friedman was replaced by Ron Tataranowicz, even the theme song changed. It showed Tony, now rockin’ a mullet, shirtlessly forging the armor to a bitchin’ rock song. Force Works had abandoned Tony after he faked his death to work with the Mandarin against Fin Fang Foom. Only Julia Carpenter and War Machine stuck around. Most episodes ended with the Mandarin, looking like a beggar, reclaiming another lost ring, rising to power. This season was much better in quality, telling a more cohesive, logical story. My only complaint was Tony’s endless supply of armors. He had one for every and any occasion. All the better to sell you toys, my dear. I was fine with the armor, but his Mega Man-like way of switching out was bothersome.
The show, along with the Fantastic Four and Marvel Power Hour or whatever, was cancelled after its second year, and for good reason. Marvel tried to right the ship after the ridiculous first season, but it was too little, too late. I will say, the voice of Iron Man, Robert Hays, was decent enough, reprising the role for an episode of The Incredible Hulk (1996), and the end of Spider-Man (1994).
Honestly, I couldn’t recommend this show enough, especially the first season. I recently watched the series and couldn’t stop laughing. Seriously, the show is freaking hysterical with its sub par quality. Watch any, or every episode, you’ll see what I mean.
Enjoy the first season as much as I did? Think the second theme song was catchy? Comment below!
In addition to THN’s Saturday Morning Cartoons and Nerd at the Movies, Tony writes for his own site, thecredhulk.com, about comics, video games, movies, TV and more, six days a week. You can follow his updates on Facebook or Twitter. Drop by and tell ’em hi.
“I am Iron Man,” complicated lyrics.