Iron Man - The Complete 1994 Animated Television Series
Tying in with the release of Iron Man 2, Buena Vista Home Entertainment is releasing the complete animated Iron Man series, which aired 26 episodes from 1994 to 1996. It was paired and syndicated with Fantastic Four under the title The Marvel Action Hour with introductions by the legendary Stan "The Man" Lee, which regrettably haven't been included.
The '90s were a renaissance for animated superheroes on television. Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men debuted in 1992 to acclaim and with their success, 1994 saw the release of the aforementioned Action Hour along with Spider-Man and even the hero-spoof The Tick. I was a fan of most of these shows, but I had never come across Iron Man before, which is a good thing because the series is geared towards young kids who wouldn't notice its flaws.
The seasons are different from each other in animation style and storytelling due to changes in creative talent. The first season is filled with self-contained, original stories that don’t have much continuity. Tony Stark (voiced by Robert Hayes) leads a team, closely resembling the group known as Force Works, comprised of Century, War Machine, a Scarlet Witch different from the comics, Hawkeye (who wasn't a member) and Spider-Woman. They do battle against the Mandarin and his assembled team of villains that includes Blizzard, Whirlwind, MODOK, Fin Fang Foom, and original character Hypnotia. Many of the stories find Mandarin attempting to steal Stark Industries inventions.
"The Origin Of Iron Man" is presented and altered from the comics. Rather than Stark having his heart damaged by shrapnel in Vietnam, which requires him to build the armor to stay alive, his spine is damaged as a result of Justin Hammer's sabotage. He is then taken to the Mandarin and ordered to build invincible armor for the villain's army.
The second season finds writer Ron Friedman gone and a new animation house doing the work. Adapted stories are used, like "Armor Wars," while most of Force Works leaves after first episode; and the Mandarin has a reduced role, showing up in epilogues as he searches for his power rings. Other characters and threats surface, such as A.I.M. and the Hulk, and the show gets a little more serious. There is also a change in the opening title sequence that indicates Stark has heart issues and he is given a large, flowing mane of hair.
The series gets very goofy at times. It's hard to take Mandarin serious as a threat when he gets upset with Blizzard for harming his begonias. Mandarin also gets undermined when armor fists under their own power punch him repeatedly in the face.
There are occasional flaws in the animation with colors quickly changing or disappearing. In one scene Spider-Woman's costume isn't drawn other than her face and it appears as if she is topless. For some extremely odd reason there are scenes where the animation of Iron Man switches from hand drawn to CGI. The latter stands out and looks absolutely terrible. It almost appears like incomplete test footage for demonstration purposes.
Kids who are fans of superheroes will likely enjoy the show. For older Marvel Comics fans, it will provide a few laughs in conjunction with cocktails and party favors. Admittedly, it is fun seeing all the characters that make appearances throughout the series. However, there are much better superhero cartoons to spend time on, and I would recommend them first.
Iron Man to the Rescue!
Article first published as DVD Review: Iron Man - The Complete 1994 Animated Television Series on Blogcritics.org