All Out Cartoon Attack

Comic books and animation seem like two things that should go together pretty well, and for the most part there have been some good comic book cartoons, but out of Marvel and DC who has had the best animation track record?

So I am going to go out on a limb and say that DC has probably had the best animated adaptations of their comics. This statement is purely my opinion so anything I say could be wrong.

Starting out lets look back to some of the earlier days of comic book animation. If I am correct, and I’m probably not, I think DC was probably the first of the two to have a cartoon adaptation. Can anyone guess whom DC chose to adapt first in animation? Well I feel like it would seem fairly obvious but just in case I will tell you— it was Superman.

So Superman from my understanding was probably the first with its Max Fleischer’s Superman cartoons in the 1940’s. The cartoons were pretty good, there were about 12 animated shorts and used a somewhat unique approach to animation. What Fleischer studios did was they traced over live action actors to get an animated effect. The cartoon was pretty basic for the era, things like fighting giant robots and mad scientists. Anyways, this was the start of superhero animation adaptations and gives DC a slight edge in experience.

There wasn’t much going on between the 1940s and 1960s in super hero animation, at least none that I can think of. But once the 1960’s hit we had the cheesy Spider-man cartoon made out of old episodes of Rocket Robin Hood. The show was entertaining but to say it was a quality cartoon is a joke. The animation was poor and often recycled for later use in a different episode, although humorous the shows biggest achievement was its catchy theme song.

Also in thee 1960s comic fans were treated to the classically cheesy yet entertaining “Marvel Super-heroes Show”. The show itself holds a warm spot in my heart, but was even cheesier than Spider-man. Super-Heroes was basically small tales of famous Marvel characters shown in what has to be the lowest produced cartoon of all time. The show featured almost no animation and was hilariously bad.

Ok, so where was DC in all this bad cartoon goodness? Well to be honest I don’t know, if there were any DC cartoons that came out in ‘60s they flew completely under my radar. I am guessing DC was more concerned with its popular live action Batman show instead.

So the ‘70s come around and shows like Plastic Man and “The Super Friends” come out. I’m not sure if Plastic Man was really a DC character yet, because he wasn’t a DC original, but his cartoon was slightly funny and was a giant step forward for comic book animation. The previous decade had really suffered from entertaining but poorly done Marvel cartoons.

Then there was the Super Friends, yes the Super Friends, the cartoon was an immense success and lasted up into the ‘80s. Delightfully cheesy but featured a wide range of heroes and its animation ran fluid.

Blah, Blah, Blah and now comes “Spider-man and His Amazing Friends”, this one basically like the worst issue of “Spider-man Team Up” being repeated over and over. The show starred a young Spider-man, The Human Torch and Firestar. This one was a bit brutal and hard to stomach so I won’t really spend too much time talking about it.

So finally we get to the ‘90s, the time in which I am probably most knowledgeable about cartoons. The ‘90s was a good time to be a comic book, lots of super hero cartoons were coming out and many of them weren’t even from Marvel and DC. We had some cool cartoons based on Image Comics characters like Savage Dragon, Spawn and WildC.A.T.S. Some off the other odd properties to come out of the ‘90s was The Tick and, Big Guy and Rusty

However, I think the cartoons most people remember from the ‘90s when it comes to super heroes were Bruce Timm’s “Batman and Robin,” and his “The Adventures of Superman,” also people remember Spider-man and The X-men. All great shows in their own way. In fact there were other Marvel and DC properties to come out during that time period. Marvel had The Silver Surfer, The Fantastic Four, The Hulk and Iron Man which are all pretty forgettable. DC had Justice League and “Justice League: Unlimited”.

I have to say that DC with their shows really stressed quality not quantity, something that Marvel seemed to do the reverse of. Batman was a dark and moody cartoon that had a neo-noir flavor, and Superman really just stuck to the flavor and feel of who Superman was. Marvel’s Spider-man was really good and entertaining, its animation was vastly superior to their X-men cartoon.

X-men was probably the most poorly animated cartoon out of the Marvel cartoons of that era, but was good in that it stuck closely to its source material. X-men featured some clunky animation but it adapted the stories written by Chris Claremont pretty faithfully and dealt with some adult issues like racism.

Out of all of these cartoons though I would say Batman shone the brightest, the comic had real style, good story, and great voice actors.

So lets fast-forward through all the stuff that has happened in the new millennium and look at the direct-to-video animation. The past decade saw some good and bad cartoons come out and the two comic book powerhouses were probably tied. But the direct-to-video animation seems to be a new thing that both companies are doing, and once again I believe DC is on top.

Marvel attempted to adapt Ultimate Avengers, Iron Man, Doctor Strange and a couple others for the direct-to-video market, most, of which was all a tad under whelming. Marvel’s big break was with its Hulk Vs. cartoon, which was really cool and is probably what led to Planet Hulk being adapted for the direct-to-video market (I have yet to see this).

DC has adapted some other things and to what I feel has had a better product. DC did “The Death of Superman”, they did Darwyn Cookes “DC: New Frontier”, “Batman: Gothic Knight”, “Watchmen: Tales of The Black Freighter”, Wonder Woman and the Green Lantern. All of these cartoons were incredibly entertaining and in my opinion well done; however, I felt that the New Frontier was the coolest of all the animated films.

The DC product in the direct-to-video market has been a lot better and could be partially due to the fact that Warner Bros. owns DC, but they are also choosing to tell better stories with their cartoons as well.


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