Just in time for the release of Iron Man 2, Buena Vista has put out Iron Man: The Complete Animated Series on DVD. The cartoon ran during the mid-90’s, back when Marvel was churning out their properties for syndication. Unlike their massively successful Spider Man and X-Men animated series (both of which were innovative in their own way), Iron Man struggled in the ratings and only lasted two complete seasons. The inherent problem with Iron Man was that he was not a household name to most kids; he wasn’t as tortured as the X-Men and he wasn’t as fun as Spidey. It gets kind of boring when a millionaire can just whip up another costume to battle super villains, much like Tony Stark was able to do.
Of course, this series aired long before the hit film, Iron Man, and it’s blockbuster sequel. Thanks to the popularity of those two live action movies, we comic book geeks and youngsters now have the opportunity to watch Iron Man, War Machine and the cadre of characters that occupy his universe have at it in this old cartoon. Problem is, just like most of Marvel’s animated ventures back in the 90’s, the final product isn’t that great.
Sure, the stories are decent and the voice acting is overall good, but the animation is clunky and subpar. The armored suits are bulky and the character animation is not smooth at all. You can’t blame this on the era, as this was also the time of the excellent Batman: The Animated Series, as well as Tiny Toons and Pinky and the Brain. Moreover, Nickelodeon had begun creating some wonderful animated series. The only reason for the animation in this series looks bad is cheapness. I’m sorry to be critical, especially for a cartoon intended for young kids, but there is no other reason for it. When something looks this weak, I tend to get cynical and think that the only reason for this cartoon was the merchandising opportunities.
Nevertheless, there are some exciting adventures and my son certainly lit up when we sat down to watch the show together. However, he was much more attentive than I was, so that will tell you may get out of Iron Man: The Complete Animated Series when you choose to view it.
At the same time Marvel was churning out Iron Man cartoons, they were still in the X-Men business, and Buena Vista has also released the final volume of episodes from their popular animated, X-Men, show from the early 90’s. Volume 5 of the is for die-hards (i.e. those who own volumes 1-4) and young kids only. Picking up where Volume 4 left off, there is an obvious dip in the production value of these final episodes. While most of the voice actors remain the same, the animation company used was obviously different and some of the characters are so off model that they do not look at all like the same characters from the previous DVD’s/seasons. Think I’m being judgmental? It was my eight year old son who pointed out the differences to me. I can only imagine that Marvel was trying to cut costs by switching to a cheaper overseas animation company. What a shame. Instead of finishing out the show on a high note, the company delivered quality junk.
This is not Buena Vista’s fault, mind you, as the company had nothing to do with the production of this show. They bought it a few years ago and have been airing it on their channels. If Disney had been involved I know that the series would have looked excellent. If you can look past the bad animation there are some powerful stories in these episodes. With X-Men you always get an excellent message of tolerance, especially when the character Nightcrawler is involved. Although not a regular, he does appear in one well written episode about the search for his birth mother, Mystique. Mystique is a blue skinned shape shifter who abandoned Nightcrawler (himself blue, with the appearance of the devil) as an infant. Later in life, Mystique raised the X-Man, Rogue, as her own. Thus, Nightcrawler and Rogue are almost adopted siblings. The two heroes go on a mission to find her and when Nightcrawler confronts Mystique, the scenes are poignant and full of hope.
Elsewhere on the DVD set you get more of the same humans hunting down mutants plots, plus an appearance by Captain America! It’s nothing new, but it will still excite youngsters who have worn out the previous four volumes. As a parent, though, you will most likely leave the room, even if you are the most ardent fanboy.
With the release of these two DVD collections (and hopefully a deluxe Spider Man: the Animated Series package in the works) I hope that Disney is trying to whet the appetites of comic fans and kids in anticipation of some future, better cartoon series featuring the Marvel characters they now own.