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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Iron Man The Animated Series (1994 - 1996). 26 episodes

Overall verdict: 4/10
(2/10 for season 1, 6.5/10 for season 2)

The Good: Much of the second season, cameos by numerous marvel comic characters.

The Bad: Everything about The ENTIRE first season.

Current Availability Status: available on imported code 1 DVDs. Currently not available in local stores.


Following the success of 1992's "X-men" animated series, Marvel returned to daytime TV entertainment with "Iron Man The Animated series" as part of the "Marvel Action hour". Any discerning viewer would be able to pin point the exact purpose of this animated series, and that is to sell toys to children. As a result, whatever complexities about the character that were inherent in the comics, including his womanising nature and his alcohol addiction, were discarded in favor of a more child friendly premise. And what could be more child-friendly than "heroic good guy team versus dastardly bad guy team".

Much of the show's first season was a dismal disappointment. It was easily a cut and paste rehash of G I Joe or the cheesy 1980s He-Man cartoon with Iron Man leading his "Force Works" team against the evil Mandarin and his cronies. Every episode was largely the same as the last: The Mandarin attempts another goofy world domination plot or to steal a new Stark invention, there is some dissension caused within Iron Man's team, evil plot seems to succeed but Iron Man's team settle their differences in time to save the day.

Formulaic, bland and actually boring at times, season 1 also featured some horrendous animation. It was not just bad in terms of 1990s standards, but bad even when compared to animated series of the 1980s or late 1970s. Artwork would constantly go "off model" and character movements were strictly twelve frames per second. Furthermore in order to save costs, the animation company would use a lot of stock footage from past episodes in subsequent ones with no effort made to cover the cost cutting measure.

A year later, Marvel re-vamped the Iron Man series by hiring a new creative team and animation company. The results were a drastic improvement. The show took a darker turn in season 2 where the Force works team is disbanded after Tony Stark betrays their trust. Now working alone with occasional help from James Rhodes Aka War Machine, Stark must fend off his competitor Justin Hammer while dealing with new threats despite the disappearance of the Mandarin.

Season 2 largely discards the formulaic style, choosing to directly adapt popular story-lines from the Iron Man comics while having more character centered episodes that deal with common themes that anyone can relate to such as phobias, trust, the price of beauty and obsession. There is also a greater sense of continuity as the affects of events in one episode carry over into the next. Koko Enterprises, known for their work on the award winning Batman The Animated series give the animation in Iron Man's second season a much needed bump in the right direction. Character movements are smoother, art detail is better and the color scheme loses that bright cheery look of season one, replacing it with heavier blacks and more angular designs.

After twenty six episodes, Iron Man the animated series remains a very mixed bag. Blame for this shows disappointing quality can be attributed to constrictions placed upon the writers to feature as many Iron Man suits as possible in each episode as free publicity for the toys.

On the bright side, it got better, allowing the audience at least 13 episodes of decent animated entertainment.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you remembered this "cool" show from your childhood days about some guy with a robot armor suit doing cool stuff.
Avoid it: If you would like to hold on to your impression of Iron Man that you got from the recent movies or the more mature comics.

Entertainment: C+
Story: B-
Characters: C
Animation: C
Art: B-
Voice work: B-
Replay Value: C
"Brains": C


Care! Bear! Stare!!
Yes the stories in season 1 were never too sensible

No Escape for you, orange blob! ITS HAMMER TIME!
Neither was the animation

I'm In THREE DEE!! no wait......feels more like playdough
Iron Man season 1's attrocious 3D CGI suit transformation sequence


With Blazing Courage I dispense Burning Justice
Darker and edgier animation from season 2

Even Tony Stark's character design got a makeover

Kids, kids, there's plenty of me to go around.

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