REVIEW: X-MEN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – SEASON 1-5

CAST

Cedric Smith (Mutant X)
Norm Spencer (Rescue Heroes)
Catherine Disher (The Good Witch)
Cathal J. Dodd (Goosebumps)
Iona Morris (Robotech)
Alison Sealy-Smith (This Is Wonderland)
Chris Potter (The Waiting Game)
Tony Daniels (Yin Yang Yo!)
Alyson Court (Elvis Meets Nixon)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

John Colicos (Battlestar Galactica)
Jeremy Ratchford (Cold Case)
Lawrence Bayne (Highlander: TAS)
Barry Flatman (Odyssey 5)
Richard Epcar (Power Rangers)
David Hemblen (Earth: Final Conflict)
Don Francks (La Femme Nikita)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Len Carlson (Swamp Thing: TAS)
Susan Roman (The Racoons)
Dennis Akiyama (Pxiels)
Nigel Bennett (Andromeda)
Maurice Dean Wint (Robocop: Prime Directives)
Philip Akin (Highlander: The Series)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)

X-Men (1992)I recently watched through the entire 90’s x-men Animated Series for the first time. So does the show hold up for someone who didn’t watch it when it first aired? Is it still a good show? Overall, the show is really good. It was also revolutionary as it was one of the first animated TV shows to have a continuing storyline throughout the first few seasons.X-Men (1992)Rather than creating exclusively new story lines, the show based most of its episodes on well known events from the comics. Stuff like the ultra-famous dark phoenix saga all the way to a modified version of Days of Future Past that included the time traveling mutant Bishop. Most of the episodes changed details here and there to keep thing simple, but the basic premise remains the same.The animation is a mixed bag. On the one hand, still shots look very good for a 90s cartoon. Both characters and environments are finely detailed and even facial expressions are usually well done. On the other hand, it doesn’t look too good in motion. The frame-rate is often choppy and at times characters in the background are just standing still. There are occasional continuity errors as well, like characters swapping outfits between shots (the episode titled “Nightcrawler” comes to mind).Characters are generally portrayed well in the TV show. The main team consists of Professor X, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Beast, Storm, Gambit, Rogue, and Jubilee. Professor X, Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast and Gambit are all portrayed well in the show. I found some of their voice actors were a little off-putting at first, but as I watched they grew on me. Rogue probably has the best voice acting of the bunch.X-Men (1992)I wasn’t quite as fond with the portrayal of Storm or Jubilee however. Storm was alright, but having her constantly talk about what she was commanding the weather to do is annoying at times. Does she have to verbally command the wind every time she blasts enemies with it? I get that she’s a bit of a showoff and that’s part of her charm, but still.X-Men (1992)The show has a great spotlight of different villains as well. It features everyone from mega villains like Magneto, Mr. Sinister, and Apocalypse to smaller villains like Vertigo, the Juggernaut, and even the Brood. The show even mentions the Juggernaut’s relationship to Xavier (they’re step brothers). Mr. Sinister in particular is very well portrayed in the series, and we even get an origins episode in season five (heavily modified of course).If you have any interest in the X-men and want to try out the comics, this is a decent show for finding out some of the franchises back-story. It’s rarely as good as the original stories it’s based on, but it’s easier to find and for the most part, it’s an easy watch.

REVIEW: THE INCREDIBLE HULK (1966)

CAST (VOICES)

Max Ferguson (Spider-Man 60s)
Paul Soles (The Score)
Peg Dixon (Strange Paradise)
John Vernon (Dirty Harry)
Bernard Cowan (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea)
Paul Kligman (Spider-Man 60s)

1280x720-6ImThe Incredible Hulk. Initially aired as three seven-minute segments in the (weekly) animated Marvel Superheroes hour in 1966, this two-disc box set compiles all 39 Hulk episodes into one fantastic collection and provides a fascinating window into the cartoons of old. Lifted directly from the early Marvel comics in which he first appeared, most of what we know and love about the Hulk is already here. Following the classic origin story to a tee, Dr Bruce Banner, missile expert and genius scientist, runs out onto a missile test range to rescue wayward teenager Rick Jones. But in doing so, Banner is caught in a detonation of his own making and blasted with gamma rays. Waking in the infirmary sometime later, Banner feels a change coming on and is soon busting through clothes and turning a darker shade of green.hqdefaultCreated by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby four years earlier, it’s fair to say the character was still in development at this point and, playing more into the monster myth on which the Hulk was originally based, Banner’s transformations are initially triggered more by the sun going down rather than losing control of his emotions. Nevertheless, all the other character traits we associate with the green-skinned one are here – the lack of intelligence, the uncontrollable rage, and the complete disregard for his or anyone else’s safety (with the exception of constant love interest Betty Ross). Other familiar faces play their part, General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross, Betty’s father, continues his life-long mission to capture and control Banner’s monster, while other Marvel characters, including Iron Man, Thor, The Wasp and Captain America, also make a guest appearance as The Avengers. It’s a shame The Avengers don’t feature more heavily, although a few of them do return individually in later episodes. That being said, this is Hulk’s show and it’s only right that he takes the starring role, and that he does.nick-furyAnd it’s not just the Marvel heroes who turn up, classic villains like the Gorgon, Leader and the Metal Master also take their respective turns as enemies of the Hulk and do their best to enrage the muscle-bound giant. Each of the villain’s are brilliantly voiced, lovingly drawn and serve as suitable adversaries for the Hulk, doing their best to either thwart, capture or kill our favorite beast. Another character to feature heavily, and of some annoyance, is the already mentioned Rick Jones, the Hulk’s guilt-ridden sidekick who blames himself for Banner getting caught in the radiation blast. And while, at first, Rick seems a welcome addition to the Hulk origin story, he soon begins to grate and becomes something of a boy wonder, and proves just as annoying. That aside, the characters, friend and foe alike, really make the journey from page to screen and make these episodes all the more enjoyable for being there. And at only seven minutes long, each episode is easy to watch and doesn’t ask too much of the viewer in terms of investment and commitment, making the stories easy to follow and extremely watchable.untitledIt’s also worth mentioning that while these episodes will hold fond memories for most Marvel fans, the series has received criticism in the past for it’s almost entirely static animation, save for the movement of mouths, eyes and the occasional arm or leg. But such criticism is unfair and unwarranted, especially when you consider the limitations of the time and the quick turnaround required for the weekly episodes. It goes without saying that, when compared to the animation standards of today, that the artwork here seems crude and almost basic, but again it was fitting with the times and served as an accurate representation of what many consider to be Marvel’s Silver Age of comics. So accurate, in fact, that the artwork was directly lifted from the comic books themselves and, through a process known as xerography, printed directly onto the animation cells. This process allowed for the series to act as something of a showcase for the wonderfully nostalgic artwork of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Don Heck, Marvel luminaries themselves and just as deserving of our adoration as Stan the Man himself.

 

 

REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA (1966)

CAST (VOICES)

Sandy Becker (The Beagles)
Paul Kligman (Spider-Man 60s)
Paul Soles (The Score)
John Vernon (Dirty Harry)
Bernard Cowan (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea)
Peg Dixon (Strange Paradise)
Chris Wiggins (Babar)

The graphics during the cheesy but patriotic and memorable opening theme tune are a clue to what to expect from this 1966 cartoon series. Basically it is a cartoon version of several tales involving Captain America taken from the early years of Tales of Suspense and The Avengers.


It was great to see animated versions of several of Cap’s early triumphs, well animated in the sense of moving comic book images. Included here are several tales set in WWII involving The Red Skull who wears a sanitised version of the costume he wore in the original comic and Adolf Hitler’s role in the Skull’s origin has oddly been replaced by some generic Nazi figure. These tales also feature Cap’s sidekick Bucky Barnes. From the 1960’s C.A. takes on Batroc and the Red Skull again with his Sleepers and the Cosmic Cube, featuring A.I.M.


It also includes several tales from The Avengers. There is an edited version of Cap’s silver age re-appearance in Avengers #4 (minus the Sub-Mariner’s role) the other tales involve Zemo and his Masters of Evil (The Black Knight, Radioactive Man and the Melter), the Commissar, Super Adaptoid, Enchantress and Power-Man and ending with the Sworsdman and the Mandarin. Several versions of the Avengers are seen with Thor, Iron Man, Giant-Man and The Wasp, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch….. even Rick Jones and Jarvis. The only downside of the Avengers tales is the daft voice given to Giant-Man. Just watch how the Wasp’s costume changes over even this short period of time. All 13 episodes are included here and I highly recommend it, just don’t expect Pixar quality animation

REVIEW: THE SUB-MARINER (1966)

 

CAST (VOICES)

John Vernon (Dirty Harry)
Bernard Cowan (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea)
Peg Dixon (Strange Paradise)

This is the oddest of the rash of the Marvel character cartoon series that were released in the mid-1960’s.  There are a mixture of tales, some taken from the original Tales To Astonish series, an odd mish-mash from the Fantastic Four and some new tales. My favorites here are those tales involving Attuma, Krang and Byrrah that are taken from Tales to Astonish.
There are some stories that are new to me, Namor in ancient Rome, in outer space on the planet Argon and with the Siren Loralie and the Mud-monster. These may have been original stories created for this series I certainly do not recall them. But by far the oddest one is a tale that features The Avengers and a whole host of classic villains from the early Marvel Universe, including the Mandarin,Mole-Man,Super Skrull amongst others who are brought into conflict with the heroes by Doctor Doom.MV5BODE5OTU3MWYtNTM0Yi00MDE3LTgyMmYtY2EyMjdjMTAxNDBjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc4Njg5MjA@__V1_The X-Men appear here in one of the most amateur, but endearingly so, pieces of animation of all time. The clue to us old-timers is that it is based on Fantastic Four #6 and FF Annual #3 (The marriage of Reed and Sue) only with the very cunning idea of leaving the Fantastic Four out entirely and inserting the X-Men in their place, the animated Iceman is particularly hilarious.MV5BMTY0MTU5MmQtZTdlYS00MDE4LWE4NDMtMWVlYmI2OTA4NDI2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc4Njg5MjA@__V1_The last episode tells the tale of the Sub-Mariner’s origin. Apart from a few minor grumbles this is a pretty good package for anyone interested in the early Marvel years.

REVIEW: THE AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES

MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Brian Bloom (Vampirella)
Chris Cox (All Star Superman)
Jennifer Hale (The Rick)
Peter Jessop (Jla Adventures)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Eric Loomis (Shin Chan)
James C. Mathis III (Undercover Brother)
Colleen Villard (Duel Masters)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Rick D. Wasserman (Planet Hulk)
Wally Wingert (American Dad)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST COICES

Gabriel Mann (Cherry Falls)
Drake Bell (The Reef 2)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: The Teenage Witch)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and Teh X-men)
Alex Desert (The Flash 90s)
Vanessa Marshall (Duck Dodgers)
Kari Wuhrer (Eight Legged Freaks)
Elizabeth Daily (Valley Girl)
Troy Baker (Lego Batman)
Nolan North (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Crispin Freeman (Hellsing)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Grey DeLisle (Danny Phantom)
Cam Clarke (He-Man)
Lance Reddick (Lost)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Nika Futterman (Hey Arnold!)
Lance Henriksen (The Terminator)
Jonathan Adams (Bones)
Jeffrey Combs (Gotham)
Graham McTavish (The Hobbit)
Dawn Olivieri (The Vampire Diaries)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Keith Szarabajka (The Dark Knight)
Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
David Kaufman (Superman: TAS)

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Both Marvel and DC have to an astonishing degree started to pick up these last few years, with several well-appreciated shows that I really enjoy: Young Justice, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Green Lantern TAS, and now this; The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It’s very rare indeed for a superhero cartoon of this magnitude to be  great from start-to-finish, but that’s what Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is, right from Episode 1 `Iron Man is Born’ to the finale `Avengers Assemble!’. There are literally no dud episodes whatsoever! The whole series is infused with tremendous intrigue, exceptional plotting and some of the tightest continuity I’ve ever seen in a TV series. The number of sub-plots and story-arcs that are juggled here is staggering, but the creative team handled it all with such precision. The coherency, intricacies and pacing is nothing short of exemplary overall. This isn’t just essential for kids; adult Marvel fans will get bags of satisfaction from watching this cartoon!MV5BMTgxOTA1Nzk3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDk0MzY2MjE@._V1_So what exactly can folk expect? Well, as I said, the choicest pieces of Marvel history (be it in comics or on film) have been successfully adapted and utilized here. From how the Avengers banded together to life-changing events like the Civil War threat and the Skrulls’ Secret Invasion (adapted beautifully here!). Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Ant-Man/Yellowjacket, the Wasp and Black Panther are all superbly established before `Assembling’ for the first time, members come-and-go, characters undergo changes, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel and the Vision join the ranks, and all-manner of superb guests join the party, such as Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Fantastic Four and even those Guardians of the Galaxy!

And on the villains-front, you can be subjected to a cracking-bunch of dastardly rogues, such as Loki, the Red Skull, Hydra, A.I.M., Baron Zemo, the Enchantress, the Masters of Evil, Kang the Conqueror, Doctor Doom and (of course!) chief arch-nemesis Ultron. And it’s not all just for window-dressing. The depictions of all these characters (hero, villain and otherwise) and their worlds is just pure gold. It’s perhaps the most faithful animated portrayal of the Marvel Universe.
Really, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes could (and should) have gone on for more seasons. Instead, Marvel pulled the plug in favor of the replacement show Avengers Assemble. Thus in the last batch episodes, you DO get the feel that the writers were trying to wrap things up and give the show a grand swansong to make way for the next-cartoon-in-line. Admittedly, there are a few loose ends left over, but the series is mostly wrapped-up in winning style with a very acceptable conclusion. And in an age where too many shows are cancelled prematurely/end on a sour note, it makes that final moment of `Avengers Assemble!’ all the more of a triumph, just like the entire series itself.

REVIEW: AVENGERS: UNITED THEY STAND

 

CAST (VOICES)

Linda Ballantyne (Sailor Moon)
Tony Daniels (The Black Mirror)
Graham Harley (The Cutting Edge)
Roy Landry (The Little Bear Movie)
Hamish McEwan (Amelia)
Ron Rubin (Flying Rhino Junior High)
Martin Roach (Cube Zero)
John Stocker (Babar)
Rod Wilson (Chloe)
Lenore Zann (X-Men: TAS)

MV5BMTQxNDc0MjM4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDc0MDI5MDE@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Although set in New York, this cartoon is loosely based on the Marvel comic entitled ‘Avengers West Coast’. The team roster includes founding Avengers Ant-Man and the Wasp alongside long-term members Scarlet Witch and the Vision, newer members Tigra and Falcon, plus best friends Wonder Man and Hawkeye, the latter seen in the recent film ‘Avengers Assemble’. Fellow characters and founding members Captain America and Iron Man make guest-appearances in one episode each, as does Sub-Mariner himself, Prince Namor.Although the costume changes weren’t popular with everyone, I really enjoyed team-leader Ant-Man’s new suit which featured a miniature rocket-ship worn as a backpack; when Ant-Man shrunk, he could go aboard the backpack and fly it on missions!MV5BMTg0MTk5NDIyMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTYwMDQ2MjE@._V1_The stories, as you’d expect, are very child-friendly, but the relationships between the characters are subtle enough for adults to enjoy. In this series, Ant-Man and the Wasp’s marriage is portrayed as a very strong one with lots of teamwork, there’s a bit of a love triangle between Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch, and the Vision, and when Captain America shows up, there’s a bit of friction between he and the team’s leader, Ant-Man.MV5BMTQzOTc0OTY2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTY4NTM2MjE@._V1_

All in all, I feel it’s a shame that the loose ends concerning Wonder Man’s ailments, and the evil alien gang, the Zodiac, were never resolved before the series was cancelled.

REVIEW: AVENGERS CONFIDENTIAL: BLACK WIDOW & PUNISHER

 

CAST

Jennifer Carpenter (Limitless TV)
Brian Bloom (The A-Team)
John Eric Bentley (Transformers 2)
Grant George (Ever After High)
Kari Wahlgren (Justice League Vs Teen Titans)

Some of their most bleeding-edge hardware has somehow made its way out into the wild. Did someone break through S.H.I.E.L.D.’s world-class-and-then-some security to access these schematics? Is there a mole in the organization that’s forking over all this tech to the highest bidder? At this stage in the game, S.H.I.E.L.D. is left with more questions than answers. A mission to capture the only known link to this enigmatic group of terrorists has just been compromised, and the bastard they’ve been hunting down has once again scurried underground. The good news — and, well, the bad news too — is that The Punisher had just enough time before S.H.I.E.L.D. swooped in to indulge in a little torture and get some key intel.

They’re at a stand-off. The Punisher and Nick Fury each see the other as reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous, and they both have a point. The compromise is to set the Punisher free to wreak some havoc on the shadowy group known only as Leviathan, but he has to have the super-spy codenamed Black Widow fighting alongside him. What they uncover hits a hell of a lot closer to home than either of them would’ve thought possible, and the scale and scope of the havoc that awaits them will test the full might of The Avengers.

The Punisher and Black Widow team-up is a combination that makes quite a bit of sense. They both have dark pasts that they’re trying to reconcile, one as a search for redemption and the other as an unyielding force of vengeance. Both of them do their best work in the shadows, not shackled by the black-and-white sense of right and wrong adopted by more traditional heroes. They each have been sculpted into one-man armies, more than holding their own against the deadliest supervillains even without the benefit of any metahuman powers themselves. I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the idea of translating The Punisher and Black Widow to anime.

Avengers Confidential is an improvement on previous Marvel Anime and is interesting to see the characters in this style of animation.