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Animation has always been a huge part of the comic industry. It has introduced whole scores of new fans to their respective universes. In fact, it’s usually the kid’s first introduction to the characters. It’s also the most faithful way to adapt the comics for the screen. A lot of the bright colors and big stories don’t translate well to the movie screen, but they work just fine in an animated setting.
DC is evidence of this. With their DCAU, other shows, their one-shots, or animated movies they’re all a beacon for quality animated material. Batman: The Animated Series is legendary amongst comic book fans. Most — most — of their animated movies are faithful adaptations of their greatest stories, movies that they’re still making. It’s a fantastic way to get new fans while still watching out for the old ones.
Then there’s Marvel. Oh Marvel. To be fair, it’s not like they’re all misses. Marvel has had some pretty big hits. 90s X-Men and Spider-Man, early 2000s’ X-Men: Evolution, the newer shows Spectacular Spider-Man, Wolverine and the X-Men, and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. However, as of late we’re left with… something else.
Since Disney bought Marvel, their animation efforts have been… well, not lazy, but focused on just the lowest common denominator. I don’t just mean kids, animation has always needed to be aimed at kids, but just the worst kids. Look at this. Look at what they’re aiming for.
Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes took some of Marvel’s best stories from The Korvac Saga to Secret Invasion and adapted them faithfully, but accessible to newcomers of any age. The new Avengers Animated show, with access to all of Marvel’s characters — well, most — is now about the Avengers fighting over cookies. Spectacular Spider-Man took all the classics of the Spider-Man mythos and weaved them together in a way that entertained the unfamiliar while surprising those well versed. Ultimate Spider-Man crosses over with Disney Channel kids in between hilarious sight gags!
So it raises the question: Has Marvel’s animated ventures already peaked? Is the best already behind us? The case could be made. Disney is sweeping up wide audiences with the MCU, they don’t need to use animation to grab new comers. They just need to sell toys. So many toys.
Though, can we really say these shows are bad? They’re definitely not aimed at me. I’m sure there are a ton of really young kids that love Hulk: Agents of S.M.A.S.H and the “LOL Random” humor of Ultimate Spider-Man.
Check out those jokes! To me, they’re pretty bad. Painful. But, I dunno, maybe to a kid they’re HIL-ARIOUS! When I was a kid, I was into some pretty horrible stuff. You guys ever go back and watch the old Mighty Morphing Power Rangers? It’s, like, the worst. After all, Ultimate Spider-Man has been running for what appears to be at least three seasons. So it has to be making someone money.
So, sure, Marvel’s animation efforts may not be “bad,” they’re just not for me anymore. I can accept that. Still, there’s something to be said for animation aimed at people for all ages. Most of the Batman: The Animated Series episodes hold up after all this time. Will the current fans of Avengers Assemble be able to go back to it after 20 years and not cringe… to death.
Animation is a criminally underused medium with a lot of strengths. Marvel has a ton of great stories, most of which lay untapped, that deserve to be adapted using that medium. Using a modicum of love and seriousness, Marvel could produce a series that would not only sell the hell out of toys, but stand the test of time as well. We need Marvel’s DCAU. We deserve Marvel’s Batman: The Animated Series.