While it is the movies based on comic books that has set the world on fire, comic book adaptations have always been around, especially in the world of television. Possibly the most loyal adaptation when it comes to the source material comes in the world of cartoons as well.
Animated comic book cartoon adaptations have been around since the first comic books were published, and continued on every decade since, with everything from The Avengers, Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four to The Justice League, Superman, Batman, Teen Titans and more.
This week, the staff of Renegade Cinema count talk about our favorite animated comic book properties.
Batman: The Animated Series
Bethany Lewis: Not only does this show have a fantastic cast that has come to be iconic, but it stands out as a creative and dedicated adaptation of the original comics. Just like the comics, the series was more complex, intelligent, and witty than it at first appears. It is one of my favorite depictions of Bruce Wayne, his life as Batman, and his relationship with both his friends and enemies.
Derek Johns: By this point, I’ve made it no secret how much I love Superman, but for once I have to side with Batman here. The show’s darker tone and noir setting was something that hadn’t really been done before and could be argued hasn’t been done since. Even now BTAS continues to leave a cultural impact since voice actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are still regularly seen by many to be the gold standard for how Batman and the Joker are portrayed (which is really saying something considering how many A-list actors and Hollywood legends have played both characters over the years).
What’s also worth noting is how BTAS served as the foundation for a DC Animated Universe that would go on to span for about 15 years with others series that have become successful in their own right like Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, Justice League and Justice League: Unlimited. All in all, it’s a universe that will most likely put the still unproven DC Cinematic Universe to shame.
Caleb Masters: Batman The Animated Series is an absolute classic and there’s no denying its staying power and impact on all of DC’s animated outings to date, but my favorite is actually The Justice League and its follow-up series Justice League Unlimited.
The Justice League brought all of BTAS creator Bruce Timm’s animated outings in the DCAU together under one umbrella to tell some of the greatest superhero stories to ever hit the small screen. Everything from the exceptional voice cast(led by none other than Kevin Conroy’s Batman) to the weekly world ending stakes was exciting and full of energy. They faced off against old enemies such as Lex Luthor and the Joker, but also took on the likes of Gorilla Grodd, Amazo, the Earth 2 Justice League, and eventually the very government they were sworn to fight for. Did I mention the series finale successfully wrapped up 10 years worth of mythos from at least 5 movies and 4 full length series into a nice neat little bow?
This series acts as both a giant love letter to longtime fans and high octane entertainment for newcomers. Marvel may have defined the big screen superhero team ups, but DC did it first on the small screen and it’s every bit as fantastic.
Spider-Man: The Animated Series
Caliber Winfield: I’d have to go with Batman, like everyone else, but to keep it fresh, gotta go with my boy Spidey…
Sure, it’s not as smooth as Batman, or not as well written, but I grew up a Marvel kid, and always loved Spider-Man more than Batman, so this was my boy. This series brought everything to life in a hell of a way, with a ton of action, and story-lines that I find hold up very well today. It had an innovative look that I felt was a classic animation look, without going too over-the-top in innovation like future Spider-Man shows would. Matter of fact, I’d take the Venom storyline, which was over a 3 parter, that as a kid, KILLED ME having to wait, over anything Batman The Animated Series has to offer. Great stuff. Although to be honest, I’ve never known what was said in the opening theme song. It sounds like “Spider-Flyer, Spider-Flyer, radioactive Spider-Flyer”, but I don’t know why they’d call him a Spider-Flyer.
Max Fleischer’s Superman
Sandi Davis: My favorite animated hero is one every likes, but it takes a bit of searching to find these. My husband got two Superman DVDs from a friend and each is the original Max Fleischer cartoons that have been digitally restored.
The first of these created comic scenes by tracing live action figures by Max and his brother Dave, who also directed transformed animation, and a type of roto-scoping. The nine cartoons on the disc titled Superman: vs Monsters and Villains, were released from 1941 to 1943. The other fun DVD is Superman vs. Nature and War.
Theses cartoons are worth gathering your family around the screen, popping popcorn and enjoying a total of 17 Superman adventures. Up, up and away!
Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
Shawn S. Lealos: I am a Marvel kid through and through. While Spider-Man was always my favorite hero as a kid, and Spectacular Spider-Man is easily my favorite Spider-Man animated series, there is something I completely love about Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. I think it is the fact that, while watching these cartoons, I remember the comics I read as a kid and these are the most loyal cartoons based on the actual source comics that I have ever watched. Whether it is the Kree War or battles with Ultron, it is almost like they pulled these stories out of the popular comics of yesteryear. Yeah, I like the new versions of The Avengers on the movie screens, but these cartoons really brought back what I loved about the team as a kid and they will always hold a place in my collection.
Stevie Lee: Young Justice is not only the best, and smartest, animated comic book television series ever made, but the biggest travesty when it was cancelled and replaced with a kiddie version of The Teen Titans. The episodes were smart and better than almost any comic book brought to TV. I miss it more than I miss any other cartoon I have ever watched. Come on Netflix, bring it to us!