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The Avengers In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two - Part Three - Part Four

Created in the boom period of comics in the 1960ís by the legendary duo of Stan ĎThe Maní Lee and Jack ĎKingí Kirby, The Avengers were a group of superheroes basically featuring a few of the lower tear characters that the Marvel created, mixed in with some of the heavy hitters. The roster would constantly change over the next few decades, but the group never reached the levels of popularity that Spider-Man, The X-Men and The Fantastic Four enjoyed.

The team has received a great boost in popularity in recent years thanks in no small part to The Ultimates, a new, modern world take on The Avengers and the recent New Avengers revamp, which basically streamlined the roster and added some of Marvelís heavy hitters like Spider-Man and Wolverine and some of itís more obscure characters like Spider-Woman, Luke Cage and Sentry. Marvel seemed to really get behind the book, and with Brian Micheal Bendis behind it, it has become one of the best selling comics on the rack. But what of their animated exploits? With The Ultimate Avengers finally arriving on DVD next week, letís take a look back at some of the cartoons members of the team have appeared in.

The obvious place to start would the 1960ís Marvel Superheroes Show, which featured daily blocks of Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Submariner and finally Thor that aired in syndication. Possibly the cheapest cartoons in memory, these stories where only minutes long and literally featured panels from the comic books with the occasional animated sequence, such as lips moving or sound effects drawn. Whilst perfectly entertaining (especially to fans of Jack Kirby) and immaculately faithful to the comics they are based on, these five shows are probably best known for their utterly cheesy theme tunes, much like the Spider-Man cartoon from the same era. Just try not to sing ďWhen Captain America throws his mighty shield!Ē after hearing it!

It would be well over 10 years before another Avenger arrived on the small screen, in any manner. With Marvel producing their own Spider-Man animated series for syndication in 1981, this gave them an excellent opportunity to place any character they wanted in the show. Only Captain America and The Submariner would guest star in this particular show, but when Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends arrived a few years later, it was filled with guest stars and cameos in itís criminally short 24 episode run.

Both of these cartoons absolutely scream ď1980s!Ē at the tops of their voice, so donít expect too much in the way of fighting, as itís simply not to be found. The series did faithfully represent several of The Avengers however, in a style directly influenced by the likes of Sal Buscema and John Romita. Sr. The likes of Iron Man, Thor and The Hulk appear in one form or another and Captain America returns once again in Seven Little Superheroes, which is arguably the highlight of the entire series, until itís baffling ending when the real hero proves to be Aunt Mayís dog, Ms. Lions. I told you this show screamed 1980s!

Things picked up around this time when The Incredible Hulk was given his own animated series to air in the same block as Spider-Man. Despite featuring some typical 80ís cartoon cheese, The Incredible Hulk was genuinely one of the great cartoons of the decade and came across as that touch darker than the usual squeaky-clean fanfare. Featuring nice designs, great characters and stories and well as an outstanding voice cast, the tale of scientist Bruce Banner searching for a cure for his green alter ego and keeping the fact he was the great green goliath was easily the best superhero cartoon before a certain Dark Knight came to our screens in 1992. It was all a very short but sweet affair for olí jade jaws however, The Incredible Hulk was cancelled after only one season of 13 episodes to make room for more child friendly cartoons. Poppa Smurf was indeed the most powerful of foes back in the 80ís cartoon marketÖ