Marvel Animation: The Long and the Short of It by Jerry Whitworth
The recent history of Marvel animation has been troublesome, to say the least. Part of the blame falls upon the acquisition of Marvel Comics, and its subsidiaries, to the Walt Disney Company. In the same manner the argument has often been made that the relationship between Warner Bros and DC Comics has been stifling, where if you want to see a Batman movie or Superman cartoon, it would have to be through Warner and air on a Time Warner channel like Cartoon Network, various projects now fall in house under Disney. Likely the prime example of this was the cancellation of Spectacular Spider-Man. Despite good ratings and being critically received, Spectacular fell under the unfortunate circumstance of being produced by Sony, leading to its demise in favor of Ultimate Spider-Man. It appears likely a similar fate awaits Iron Man: Armored Adventures which airs on Nicktoons as Gary Marsh, president of Disney Channels Worldwide, mentioned talks in developing an Iron Man animated series without comment of the one currently on air.
Beyond Disney’s desire to bring everything Marvel directly under its umbrella, another unfortunate circumstance that has arisen is Jeph Loeb, Head of Marvel Entertainment’s Television division, who frowns upon animation with an ongoing narrative. Commenting that animation should primarily target children and that children shouldn’t be expected to maintain a regular schedule for watching a series, a show like Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes fails to realize its full potential as it builds towards something over time (despite its positive reception and the mounting response to its cancellation). To capitalize on the success of the Avengers film, a new animated series is in development in Avengers Assemble which features the stars of the movie and will likely subscribe to Loeb’s beliefs on animation.
There are, of course, other bumps that have come up recently. Wolverine and the X-Men was another series that was well-received but only lasted a season reportedly when Marvel ran into a dead end negotiating the cost of producing another season. The Super Hero Squad Show is another program with a positive response but was unfortunate to have been airing on Warner Bros’ Cartoon Network. Currently, its status is up in the air. The show has moved to the Hub network, owned by Hasbro who has had a long-standing positive relationship with Marvel, but no update has been given regarding a third season. In October, a new animated series was announced called Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. starring various gamma-empowered characters associated with the Hulk franchise that will air on Disney XD (which features a block of animation dedicated to Marvel not unlike Cartoon Network’s DC Nation, though the former airs on Sundays and latter Saturdays). Only time will tell if this new direction can move past the current trend of Marvel animated series which can’t seem to produce shows that last more than two seasons. Further, should these new series follow Loeb’s beliefs, can they produce the same positive response abandoned series have thus far garnered?