I have long been a vocal supporter of Netflix and their service, especially since their integration into video game consoles, BluRay players, and even TV’s themselves to allow streaming content. I loved being able to watch old favorite movies and television shows at my whim. Rockford Files. A-Team. Airwolf. Knight Rider. They’re all there.
Imagine my joy just the other day as I was checking what was new to my streaming universe when I noticed some old-time Saturday morning goodness along with some more recent Marvel animation. The early 90’s X-Men and Spider-man cartoons stuck out of the jumble of later versions animated for the small screen. Also among the mix were the 90’s Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man series as well as the latest Avengers cartoon released last year, among others. Along with the motion comics, this gives Marvel a big lead over getting their characters in front of the faces of nerds like myself as they’re increasingly rolling out their big screen endeavors.
Now, as I’m sure there is someone out there who’ll list me the accolades of these later shows, I really don’t care. It’s not that I don’t think I’d enjoy them, I’m just too interested right now in reliving a period in animation that redefined everyone’s expectations. Along with the Dini/Timm Batman/Superman series of around the same time, these Spider-man and X-men shows brought a whole new era to the Saturday morning experience. Not only are they some of the closest comic to small-screen adaptations ever, these shows brought a new level of detail to animated series. Spider-man actually swung over crowded streets full of moving cars. He locked horns with the Kingpin and rubbed elbows with Captain America. He was broke and having trouble with girls. It was just like the comic books were. You never knew if Morbius the Vampire or the Punisher was going to show up in an episode. Hell, even Stan ‘The Man’ Lee guest starred. Joe Perry, apparently an old-school fan, composed and performed the opening theme music. CGI got one of its first major uses in a cell animation show, which is now the norm in everything from Justice League to Family Guy. This is the second most successful Marvel animated show ever for the company. It’s a great feat considering that Marvel produced the show themselves with their own production company after handing the most successful animated show (a little mutant group talked about below) to Saban.
X-Men was just as faithful to the spirit of its source material. Adapting thirty years worth of comic history to fit the half-hour animated format is no easy task, but they accomplished it with gusto while bringing forth such popular storylines as the Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past. Also, the look of the characters are directly influenced by big time artist Jim Lee. The opening music was distinct and got you ready for gritty, mutant action coming your way. I remember watching the two-parter opener Night of the Sentinels wondering who this new guy Morph was and why they’d go through the trouble of creating a character considering the extensive roster from which the show had to pull from. By the end of the second episode, I understood why. Morph didn’t make it back from that raid on the government building, and it pissed Wolverine off to no end. I was hooked on this new type of cartoon that was accessible to kids without being insulting as well as broaching serious topics such as racism, divorce, and AIDS.
If you’ve got Netflix, give both these shows a shot. They’re well worth it. And they make more sense. I don’t know, maybe you can convince me to try X-Men: Evolution once you answer why the kids go to a public school when the whole cover of the Xavier Institute is that it IS a school. Until then, I’m sticking with the classics.