Marvel Animation is Dismal, So Let’s Fix It
I have a serious problem with Marvel Animation. Ever since Disney acquired Marvel Studios, the films have flourished, while the animated television branch has failed in my opinion. I have a plan and proposal on how to fix this abysmal output of animation.
*I’ll focus mainly on Avengers Assemble and Ultimate Spider-man as those are the shows I’m most familiar with.
There was a fear amongst fans when Disney completed a takeover of Marvel. There was the fear that this would result in a dumbing down or a more child friendly approach to the Marvel animation production. That fear was rightfully evident as Disney’s takeover lead to a child friendly approach, which isn’t bad; but an approach that misinterprets and underestimates children’s minds. The reason for the banality of Marvel Animation begins withAvengers Assemble. It was the first show to reboot Marvel Animation.Why, not only cancel a great show, but also replace it with some second rate, average successor? Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes was the essence of a great animated comic book television series. It respected and cared for the characters and storylines it was dependent upon. It showcased stellar crossover stories with the Fantastic Four. The show developed lengthy and acclaimed storylines for its central characters such as Thor, Captain America and even Hawkeye. It was just—amazing. Back to my aforesaid question: why cancel such a good series? Why replace it with mediocrity? Avengers Assemble is cookie cutter material; its clichéd and uninteresting. After The Avengers film became a global hit in 2012, Marvel aimed to see if that success could transition into animation apparently. Assemble, is modeled after the MCU featuring central characters from the Avengers film. It’s hard to argue with the reasoning behind this decision. But, let’s not forget the wonderful attributes of EMH. It’d be wrong to expel what made EMH great and not carry that into Avengers Assemble. After finding success with the films and making them comprised of decent writing and storytelling, Marvel would surely do the same with its animation division? If you were a betting individual, I’d advise you to bet against Marvel in this circumstance.Marvel decided to embrace the clichés of commercialism and aim for pleasing, and misjudging, a specific youthful demographic. It determined that this demographic was maybe a bit mindless. The company decided to betray a great TV show for commercial opportunities. Assemble is an extremely dim-witted series for children with the average attention span of a goldfish. It’s not only Avengers, as Ultimate Spiderman and Agents of SMASH is the same. All of these shows took a little too much of the humor and comedy of the films and not enough of the solid storytelling and care for mythology. I find it difficult to comprehend how cancelling a series for a reboot could be monetarily and commercially industrious.Superman: The Animated Series. Justice League. Justice League Unlimited. Batman Beyond. Batman: The Animated Series. Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Young Justice.Spectacular Spider-Man A kids show can be chock full of mature writing, engaging characters and intriguing plotlines. The TV shows mentioned above are proof of such. In a world where great animation still exists, why be lazy and conform to the uninspired?
There have been some rumors that the Disney XD shows may crossover with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I think this is Marvel believing that its film universe, and stamping MCU on anything it has, will make it great. That’s not always the case and it doesn’t have to be. I have my own ideas for how to fix Marvel Animation. None of them line up with depending on the success of the MCU. Marvel needs to trust its animated characters. It has access to a bevy of characters the MCU does not. The animation division has more opportunities to be bigger, in terms of story, than the MCU. I have an idea for retooling the animation universe. And here it is.
KNOW & RESPECT YOUR DEMOGRAPHIC
Children’s cartoons have had adult-themed episodes. Discussing topics such as racial prejudice, murder, etc. After all, they have done prejudice before in the form of X-men: TAS and a toned down depiction murder in Batman:TAS and EMH. But I do think that, these days, children can really understand this sort of stuff. Besides all of the serious topics of bigotry and murder, cartoons can be more mature without those dire topics. Avengers EMH was never about prejudice, murder or anything of the kind. It did have a certain level of maturity that made it stand out in the animated medium. The characters were resolute in their endeavors and principles. There were stakes in every battle. Consequences of actions weren’t just physical but emotional and ethical. There was legitimacy to the show.
There’s a social stigma that seems to be that all cartoons are integrally juvenile, something that isn’t true at all. For example, BTAS was extremely adult most episodes, it just wasn’t always overtly so. A children’s show doesn’t have to foolishly pander. It can trust the youthful audience to either identify with the mature matters addressed in the series or the whimsical animated fun; or both. There’s a fine line of what can appeal to children. EMH found a great balance in between. It was mature but also amusing. It’s all about making a show that’s appealing to kids and adults. We now inhabit an age where cartoons are not just for children. The regularities of Saturday morning viewership have changed. Marvel tends to put out material which targets new young viewers but as the company grows in popularity, it should be aware of growing demographics. Just because something is ‘’with kids in mind’’ doesn’t mean it can’t be respected by adults; it just means that the series in particular is not treating kids like fools and appreciates their intelligence and understanding.
GET AN ANIMATION OVERSEER(S) WHO CARES
Marvel’s animation division is so bad in general partially because of Jeph Loeb (animation president) and partially because Marvel just would rather focus on the live action stuff they are doing. Loeb runs Marvel’s entire TV division which includes live action and previously ran animation for some time. This guy has his hands full. With the success of the Netflix corner of the MCU, I wholeheartedly believe, he put more work into the live action side of Marvel TV. Who cares about the animation? It’s not that significant right? Wrong. A lot of DC’s animation strength in the past also had to do with Bruce Timm, someone whose head is completely focused on animation. He has no other obligations or responsibilities. Stephen Wacker (Marvel Editor) was recently given control of animation while Loeb looks over the TV department. I dont know much about this guy, so I will stick to my ideas for who should run the animation department; dont know enough to evaluate what he can do. Marvel needs an individual, or individuals, who are ONLY focused on running Marvel Animation. I nominate: Ciro Nieli and Joshua Fine. These two men were the developers of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (Christopher Yost was as well but he has moved on to writing in the MCU).
Besides working on the late great EMH, their credits include the 2003 animated series Teen Titans, the Planet Hulk film, Spectacular Spiderman and the current running Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Nickelodeon; An impressive resume indeed. These guys are veterans in the animation world, particularly with Marvel, and they’ve worked on series and properties that have been successful in quality and commercial aspects.
There’s always an outcry for the return of EMH. I doubt that will happen. But bringing back the backbone of what made that show so great, to usher in a new age for Marvel Animation is important. It shows that Marvel cares about its animated features. It shows that Marvel wants to bring a certain level of distinction and quality to them.
A SPIDER-MAN SHOW SHOULD BE ABOUT SPIDER-MAN
My biggest issue with Ultimate Spiderman is not only the overzealous comedy and hackneyed satire, but the S.H.I.E.L.D. academy high school and the additional heroes at the school he’s teamed with. There are episodes that will focus on characters more so than Spidey. While I enjoy seeing Spidey in a group dynamic, what makes the web head interesting as a character is his status as a lone hero and how he alone deals with being a teenage hero. The show should be called S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy if you want to focus on all of these young Marvel heroes as teenagers.
Spidey is a kid fighting evil, juggling high school and providing for his household. Spectacular Spiderman REALLY fleshed out these topics. He’s’ a struggling geeky kid with little resources. Giving him access to S.H.I.E.L.D and numerous teammates on a daily basis dismisses the greatest attributes of the character.
The best Spider-man for me was the 90’s Fox Kids one. It would do season long story arcs, building on each other. It really followed Peter Parker as Spiderman and as Parker. It didn’t feel the need to diminish the character with having to add constant teamups and cameos. It trusted his characteristics and world. There was the occasional crossover, but Spidey was the main selling point.
Peter Parker’s life sucks but he continues to persevere and protect his city. A Spidey show should focus on Parker’s mythology and world and nothing else. I’m all for the occasional crossover, but if you’re going to name your show Ultimate Spiderman, make it all about the web slinger from Queens.
HULK DOESN’T NEED A SHOW
He just doesn’t, let’s be honest. Not much to explain here.
Anyone who has watched Avengers Assemble, SMASH or Ultimate Spidey knows that the story aspect of these shows is very minuscule and the action is heavy. I miss the deeply woven connected stories in EMH and Spectacular Spiderman. These show made sure to really dig deep into the underpinnings of characters backstories and relationships with others. Little is explained in character motivations and history with the current slate of Marvel animated shows. For example, in Season 2 of Assemble, the Avengers, out of nowhere, began battling Ultron. Ultron was not in season 1 . That just fixated on the Red Skull and the Cabal. Also, the Infinity Stones were recently inducted into the story as was Thanos. The writers believe anyone watching knows the films and can just hop into the story. I appreciate when story is developed correctly. Characters are fleshed out. Relationships are explored and broken down. EMH did this with ease; as did Spectacular Spidey.
There’s this blatant attempt to coincide the animation with the MCU stories and it’s stupid. I don’t understand this big Civil War push. Recently, Avengers Assemble did a quick and meaningless Civil War arc where Captain America and Iron Man didn’t see eye to eye, so Cap and his supporters joined S.H.I.E.L.D. and Tony and his team stayed Avengers. The reasoning behind their squabble wasn’t even properly explained. Civil War is all about Cap alluding SH.I.E.L.D. not joining them. The conflict turned into a comical display of who can stop what threat better. There’s a lack of respect for classic comic storylines as well as a lack of development for them. Story is significant.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY IS A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION—IF DONE RIGHT
The upcoming Guardians show elicits mixed feelings within me. I hope for the best, but what I’ve seen so far in promotional videos, doesn’t have me excited. But the choice to make a show for them is a good one. Marvel Cosmic is a massive and important facet of the Marvel Universe. And the animation branch of Marvel has access to characters such as Galactus, Silver Surfer, Uatu the Watcher, the Skrulls, and many more galactic characters the films can’t use. The Guardians are a great way to introduce those other characters. It’s also interesting to encounter a team that’s so different from the Avengers; one that’s intriguing enough to hold their own show as well.
BUILD YOUR OWN ANIMATED UNIVERSE
I think Marvel Animation can build their own small universe. One that doesn’t have to be beholden to the MCU. Embrace smaller characters like the MCU has though. I think the Avengers and Spidey aren’t the only heroes who should be blessed enough to have their own shows. If there’s one thing Marvel Animation can take from the MCU, it’s to give smaller characters the chance to shine; characters that may not have had time to be displayed in animation on a consistent level.
My Proposal/Ideas: The New MARVEL ANIMATED UNIVERSE (on DIsney XD)
*There would obviously be the occasional filler episodes, but these are the main storylines.
*I didn’t do a Guardians proposal as I don’t know much about what the show will be; I don’t know if it will be good or bad yet
Show: The Avengers
Lineup: Captain America, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Hulk, Black Panther, Thor, Captain Marvel and Vision
*Lineup can vary and change due to cirucmstances
Plot: Season One
Comic Inspiration: The Initiative: Sub Mariner Revolution
An attack is made on the U.N. Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D. immediately goes to the location to find out what happened. They find traces of Atlantean DNA. All blame is pointed to the Atlanteans. Namor leaves Atlantis to investigate. The Atlanteans often have disdain for their king’s relationship with the surface. Namor cooperates with the surface world while his people tire of having to answer to them. A rogue cell of sea dwellers attacks the surface. Meanwhile, Batroc and his mercs (disguised as SHIELD) set a bomb on Atlantis and the undersea city is partially destroyed. Countless Atlanteans look for shelter and they find it—in Latveria. Doom offers Namor and his people refuge in Latveria. Namor is given an offer by Doom: Doom will use his resources to help Namor claim complete control of all underwater territory on Earth, if Namor aids him in his machinations.
Atlantis goes into disarray as countless villains pillage the city of its weapons and resources. The remaining Atlanteans attempt to reclaim their resources, only to be used by Doom. They tangle with the Avengers. Namor helps Doom kidnap the Fantastic Four. Captain America, with a S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltration unit comprised of Agent 13, Mockingbird and Hawkeye, enters Latveria and tries to see if they can extract the F4, but they fail. In that failure, they’ve sparked a small war between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Latveria. Cap and his team are now prisoners of war as the soldiers of Doom hunt them down. In the meantime, Doom introduces Namor to The Hood, Mandarin, Baron Mordo, Crossbones and Sin. Each member has their own motives, but they all intend to rule the world. The goal is to use their collective power to do so. Namor gives Doom access to his Atlantean people. Doom sends them to battle the Avengers. Doom also has a secret plan in place; one that involves Terrigen Crystals he acquired from Atlantean wreckage.
Show: The Astonishing Spider-man
Plot: Season One
Comic Inspiration: The Amazing Spider-man: The Gauntlet and Grim Hunt
Peter Parker is a year into his career as Spider-man. He’s just started his junior year of high school at Midtown High and he has a prestigious internship at OsCorp. He also holds a job at the Daily Bugle. He’s got great friends in Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacy. He’s managing much. He’s also developed a relationship with a psychic older woman named Madame Web, who aids him in his adventures. Spider-Man’s exploits have grown in a year since he first appeared. Spider-man encounters a mysterious female named The Black Cat who steals a sample of Peter’s blood. An enigmatic pursuer, Kraven the Hunter, captures Madame Web, discovering her connection to Spidey. The blood stolen by the Cat is taken to a mad scientist named Mendel Stromm, who works for OsCorp. The CEO of OsCorp, Norman Osborn, watches Mendel closely as the blood intrigues him. He thinks Spidey’s blood holds the key to an experiment he’s working on. Kraven means to hunt Spidey as he sees him as the ultimate prey. Spidey must discover just who the The Black Cat is and what she wants with his blood. He must also escape Kraven, who is stalking him and those close to him, hoping to set up the ultimate hunt. Meanwhile, the Maggia, a failing criminal organization whom Spidey has been dismantling, hires Mysterio to take care of Spidey.
Show: Marvel Knights
Lineup: Daredevil, Black Widow, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Misty Knight and Luke Cage
Plot: Season One
Comic Inspiration(s): Marvel Knights Vol 2 #3 & The Immortal Iron Fist Series
The team protects the smaller neighborhoods of NYC from organized crime. Without the money to pay off Kingpin, former Fisk employee Cockroach Hamilton decides to run from NY, but the Knights decide to stop him as they want info on Kingpin’s operations. Kingpin’s men want him as well. The Knights get to him and discover that Kingpin and Crane Mother have joined forces. Crane Mother seeks to capture and punish Iron Fist for refusing to participate in the Tournament of the Heavenly Cities. Kingpin uses Typhoid Mary to control the minds of the Immortal Weapons who Crane Mother uses to hunt Danny. As they elude the Immortal Weapons, the team must find Typhoid to cancel her hypnosis. The Owl is freed from police custody by Kingpin. In return, Wilson Fisk wants Owlsley’s services in order to distract Daredevil and takeover a leftover faction of The Hand, being run by Elektra.
WHAT MARVEL ANIMATION’S MANTRA SHOULD BE:
LET IT MARINATE!!!