Superhero cartoons have had a rough go of it in recent years. After all, the market for superhero adaptations is clearly saturated with film franchises, and Hollywood blockbusters always tend to outshine their animated counterparts. Therefore, executives don't really see the value in putting effort into making a well-done superhero cartoon.
Fortunately for them (and unfortunately for us) there's a long history of terrible superhero shows to draw from. Some of the worst comic book adaptations of all time have been animated, making for some truly bad superhero cartoons. Now, to be fair, there have definitely been more than a few terrible movies based on cartoons and TV shows as well. It could be that the industry just doesn't trust animated television to make for a marketable property.
But there's a huge potential financial windfall that pumping out animated features could represent. Animated productions are cheaper and easier to make, and they can draw in many of the same fans as their Hollywood counterparts. That being said, Marvel and DC may want to play close attention to the past before they make any commitments, because there have been plenty of missteps along the way they can learn from.
A crossover between The Flintstones and The Fantastic Four sounds bizarre already, but that wasn’t really what this show was. Fred and Barney simply split a 30-minute block of broadcasting with the Thing, typically the most popular member of the FF.
Even stranger, this version of the Thing wasn’t the one comic book fans were familiar with. Rather, he had been completely reinvented for the purposes of this show. See, the Thing was now a young boy in possession of a magical ring, who could transform into the rocky, orange hero by saying “Thing ring, do your thing!” Such poetry.
Actors: Mel Blanc, Henry Corden, Art Metrano, Marilyn Schreffler
Premiered: 1979see more on Fred and Barney Meet The Thing
There has never been a satisfying non-comic book version of the Fantastic Four, and The New Fantastic Four animated series did nothing to change that. The show featured stilted animation and objectively nonsensical plotlines that left viewers feeling like they had missed entire scenes.
Worst of all, the show made the terrible choice to replace the Human Torch, AKA the coolest member of the FF, with HERBIE, an annoying robotic sidekick. Flame off, New Fantastic Four.
Actors: Frank Welker, Ted Cassidy, Ginny Tyler, Mike Road
Premiered: 1978see more on The New Fantastic Four
Swamp Thing started out with a theme song “inspired” by the Troggs, and it went downhill from there. The vegetative hero, known for his extremely dark, convoluted, and conspiratorial storylines, wasn’t exactly a prime candidate for Saturday morning cartoons. But DC gave it a shot anyway, presumably because cocaine is a hell of a drug.
The animation was shoddy, at best, and Swamp Thing’s character attributes and power set didn’t really make sense for a kid’s show. This resulted in a show that left everyone, including the characters within the show, muddled and confused. Groovy.
Actors: Tabitha St. Germain, Len Carlson, Don Francks, Philip Akin, Richard Yearwood, + more
Premiered: 1990see more on Swamp Thing
The name Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers doesn’t exactly inspire confidence among serious fans, and that’s a fair assessment. The series, an obvious attempt to sell merchandise in the Pokémon model, featured a young protagonist who discovered several prominent Marvel heroes (like Iron Man, and the Hulk) trapped in “disks” which he could wear on his wrist.
The young man could then “summon” the heroes for limited periods of time to help save the day. If you ever wanted to see Captain America in a Pokémon battle instead of Pikachu, this show is for you. If not, congratulations. You're a sane person.
Premiered: 2014see more on Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers