What Ruined Marvel Animation

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Troy Troodon

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Ever since the 90s Marvel has been on a winning streak of animated shows: Spider-Man, X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four, The Silver Surfer, X-Men Evolution, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Spectacular Spider-Man, Wolverine and the X-Men, Marvel's Super Hero Squad, and Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes; all animated shows that would even give DC a run for their money, focusing on the telling the stories of superheroes and their double lives as ordinary people dealing with almost real world challanges that audiences of all ages can relate to, they were engaging and thematic but also fun and entertaining to watch all the same. Then it all went down hill.

Since 2013 Marvel has thrown out Avengers Assemble, Ultimate Spider-Man, Hulk and the Agents of SMASH, and the Guardians of the Galaxy animated series, all met with exceedingly disappointing reception by audiences alike, even the recent Marvel's Spider-Man cartoon had such high hopes, something that was so close and yet so far.

So, what happened with Marvel?! What ruined Marvel Animation?!

I think there's a number of problems with Marvel Animation nowadays.



One problem is the influence of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, since the success of the first Avengers movie, there's been a new direction to treat their animation division as a marketing ploy, basically reverting back to the 80's approach. It's also because of that influence that Marvel has thrown tons of potential characters under the rug, at least until their relevant when their own movies are coming up; but this influence of the MCU also causes a stagnation in continuity turns up plot points that are directly tied again to the release of films like Civil War. Compare and contras with Batman the Animated Series, which only partly borrowed influences from Batman by Tim Burton. Yes Tim Burton's Batman was an influence for Bruce Timm's first animated series, but for the most part it was it's own entity that still tried to stick closer to Batman's comic book mythos.

Don't get me wrong, being influenced or inspired by another product based on the same source material isn't a bad thing in itself, but recently the influence of the success of the MCU has drastically shifted the direction of themes, settings, and characterization for almost all of their recent shows, to the point where they're actually hardly recognizible at all; there are times where you really can't tell whether they do want to be like the movies or their own thing, either way they're not succeeding.



Another thing that hurts Marvel Animation, and even DC Animation to an extent is the current landscape of cartoons; more specifically cartoons on public television that are geared towards children. It's no secret that for the past five or even six years that Action Cartoons have all but died out on tv, (in fact cable television in general seems to be dying out altogether but one topic at a time) with most shows nowadays gearing more towards slapstick comedy, and any action shows left are basically treated as a side show (especially to movies and toy sells) which gives them less material to work with hence why the quality of storytelling or characterization isn't as strong as it was before, and it's also because that they're made for kids that the higher ups treat them like they don't need that much effort in making more complex stories with more relatable characters as they use to, thus relying on decades old tropes to tell their stories even when most of them are no longer relevant nowadays. Let me put it this way, the current marvel shows basically talk down to kids while previous shows were on the same level as kids; think Dora the Explorer as opposed to Sesame Street. (Maybe not the best analogy but I digress)



And lastly, perhaps another thing that hurts Marvel Animation would be the influence of the higher ups of the entertainment side of things; yes I am of course talking about Disney!



Since Marvel was purchased by Disney, Marvel has undergone quite an identity crisis, for the most part it wasn’t directly Disney’s fault, at least not in terms of their actual comic book division or their live-action properties; but it is more so on the animation and even video game side of things. Disney has had its own identity crises for about a decade or so, especially on television, but after a while their quality in animated shows has improved significantly, with such shows like Gravity Falls and Star vs The Forces of Evil; but the Marvel animated shows did not fare. Bare in mind Disney is a corperational industry, and as a company gets more corperational there is bound to be more stagnation in some parts.



This would explain why Marvel’s animated shows have been, and still technically are treated as marketing gimmicks for the movies, and why there generally isn’t that good a quality in their art style or in the writing department; and why these currant programs are playing it safe and not doing anything bold as they’ve done before.

It’s ironic to think that they would because Disney has proven they actually can tell strong stories and characters, especially in recent years with stuff like their ducktales reboot; but even shows like that are still a product of animation’s current landscape on television as they do still rely on being mostly comedy based. (they have to make you laugh first before they make you think or do anything else)



And I think those are Marvel Animation’s biggest problems nowadays; in the current landscape of cartoons, and under the influence of the higher ups (be it Disney or Marvel Entertainment) the animation division isn’t really taking a lot of risks with that they could potentially make, even with the material that they’re given. As is, there is no clear direction in Marvel’s animation division.



But now that the curren't shows have all but run their course, now in light of Marvel's upcomming "WhatIf" project, and the new upcomming "Offenders" shows in the works, there is still hope that Marvel Animation can reevaluate it's self; and a new line up of shows, be they on tv or streaming will help Marvel Animation get back into the playing field.

But those are just my thoughts, what do you think? Am I right, am I wrong, or am I missing something? For either, please tell my why, I'm open to other people's opinions.
 
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Fone Bone

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About half of the shows you mentioned at the top of the post were utter crap. Only Wolverine and the X-Men and Earth's Mightiest Heroes were actually great. X-Men TAS, Spider-Man TAS, and The Spectacular Spider-Man were mixed bags, X-Men: Evolution and Armored Adventures, mediocre. Everything else was pure garbage.

I'm not going to argue that the current Marvel stuff is any good. But this is not a recent problem for Marvel animation. Most of its stuff is subpar.
 

Frontier

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About half of the shows you mentioned at the top of the post were utter crap. Only Wolverine and the X-Men and Earth's Mightiest Heroes were actually great. X-Men TAS, Spider-Man TAS, and The Spectacular Spider-Man were mixed bags, X-Men: Evolution and Armored Adventures, mediocre. Everything else was pure garbage.
I'd honestly put Spec above WaTXM in terms of overall quality, as much as I enjoyed the latter, and I think Evolution was fairly strong and got much better as it went along.

Armored Adventures
was a kind of shaky premise that I think held it's own as it went along and proved pretty solid.
 

Freddy

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Yeah, I don't want to make this seem like we are ganging up on you Troy, but I have to agree that saying that most of the Marvel shows of the past hold-up or, from the critical point-of-view, measure up to DC's general output (and I'm saying this as devoted Marvel fanboy, who doesn't care much about any of the DC heroes personally) is being extremely generous. Like, X-Men TAS is easily their only 90's show that I would feel comfortable calling great, while the rest are either bad (Fantastic Four, Avengers: United They Stand, Spider-Man Unlimited), very flawed (Iron Man, Spider-Man TAS) or had potential for greatness, but were cut short thanks to either early cancellation or executive meddling after the first season (Silver Surfer, The Incredible Hulk). Meanwhile, X-Men Evolution, Iron Man Armored Adventures and Superhero Squad took so much liberties with the material that most comic fans don't seem to count them as their favorites and I have never heard the general cartoon fans talk about them/going back to them (let alone the plain general audience).

From the point-of-view of someone who was there when the shift happened (Jesus, I make it sound like big traumatic event :sweat: ), it wasn't so much "Marvel Animation used to be great and now Loeb and Man of Action ruined it", but "Marvel Animation was getting great and now Loeb and Man of Action ruined it." Spectacular Spider-Man, AEMH and WatX were all beloved and acclaimed shows, and with the direct-to-DVD movies also taking turn to the better with Hulk vs. and Planet Hulk (jury is more mixed with Tales of Asgard) everybody thought that Marvel Animation was starting its first true Golden Age, but it was sadly cut short thanks to legal red tape (in the case of SSM) and moronic business decisions.
 

TheLemsterPju

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Ever since the 90s Marvel has been on a winning streak of animated shows: Spider-Man, X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four, The Silver Surfer, X-Men Evolution, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Spectacular Spider-Man, Wolverine and the X-Men, Marvel's Super Hero Squad, and Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes; all animated shows that would even give DC a run for their money, focusing on the telling the stories of superheroes and their double lives as ordinary people dealing with almost real world challanges that audiences of all ages can relate to, they were engaging and thematic but also fun and entertaining to watch all the same. Then it all went down hill.

You lost me when you claimed cringey 90s cheese was on par with what the DCAU was doing around the same time.

There was nothing "thematic" about the Fantastic Four cartoon, other than maybe Ghost Rider giving Galactus the penance stare.
 

PapaGreg

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Marvel has always been hit or miss when it comes to animated series so while I dont agree with the fact they were equal with DC in terms of quality I do understand the rest of the post. What I miss from earlier Marvel Shows is that they at least felt different, I could write you all the different ways Evolution, Spec Spiderman and EMH were different from one another but almost every Marvel show now feels too similar.


Also can we please have decent backgrounds for once

Sent from my SM-J727T using Tapatalk
 

RoryWilliams

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I'll join the chorus saying that you have on nostalgia goggles for a lot of those shows.

As for the actual question, they seem to have really cut down on the budgets for some reason. There's a very evident cheapness to most of the shows.
 

Troy Troodon

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Looking back I guess I was part of a special minority that actually liked FF, Incredible Hulk, SS, and Evolution... ^^;
 

Troy Troodon

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I will say that I liked Evolution and the first season of the Incredible Hulk.

Yeah I prolly shouldn't been more specific there; it was the first seasons of Hulk and FF that I liked, the second season definitely sucked. Iron Man [Iron]ically had the opposite effect, where the first season sucked but the second was a marked improvement.
 

bigdaddy313

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Season 1 of IM and FF where not great until season 2, while IH was the other way around. Marvel was getting to really up it's game until Loab era happened.

Hopefully it changes soon.
 

Frontier

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I'm not going to say Marvel Animation was perfect in the past even if I've enjoyed plenty of their cartoons and I think there was more genuine creativity and quality in the past then we have now for the most part (not that this is meant to disparage the work of the people currently working on the cartoons), but I think Troy kinda hits on the main points for why Marvel Animation ended up the way it is right now:
  • Jeph Loeb and Man of Action - The clearest fingers to point for the shift in Marvel Animation are when Jeph Loeb was in charge of running the division as a Marvel Entertainment executive and had Man of Action spearheading the major cartoons (to the point where they were pretty much writing the scripts for every episode). Now I think Jeph Loeb has been very successful on the TV side of Marvel, and I have enjoyed Man of Action's work in the past, but I think they brought a very old-fashioned and simplistic view of cartoons when they were working on the Marvel shows. Stories had to be simplistic, one-and-done, and more in your face without much in the way of nuance, subtlety, or complex character relationships. And characters got reduced down to being more immature or irresponsible caricatures of themselves. It came off that they felt they were trying to write "proper" children's entertainment but lost sight of what truly makes quality children's entertainment. And even when the executive oversight shifted to people like Stephen Wacker and Cort Lane who tried to move the cartoons forward, it still feels like they're limited by the precedent set by Loeb and Man of Action.
  • The movies - It's hard to discuss the cartoons without discussing the movies, because they were made to be so interconnected. It's not so much that the cartoons took inspiration from the movies, because even DC cartoons take influence from DC movies, but that they came to define so much of their identity and stories in relation to the movies. Characterizations had to match depictions in the movie to the point where shows abruptly "reboot" characters in order to match the movie versions, characters who were in the movies were generally given priority focus or used over other characters, characters not in movies owned by Marvel Studios were pretty much treated as Persona Non Grata, and storylines or elements from the movies got overemphasized or used sometimes without any rhyme or reason. More often then not the movies did not come off as an inspiration for the cartoons but as a limitation to what they could truly be, making the cartoons come off less like independent entities and more like extensions of Marvel's movies.
  • The lack of investment - Disney XD may run their fair share of promo's for the Marvel cartoons, but I feel you would be forgiven for thinking that Disney themselves are not that invested in them. Beyond the cheaper production values which indicate heavy cost-cutting on an animation level compared to other Disney shows of similar caliber, shows get put on long hiatuses out of seemingly nowhere and never seem to be as much of a priority as the movies are, both for Marvel Entertainment and Disney Corporate. Look no further then the recent D23 panel where the MCU content on Disney+ was received and promoted with far more fanfare then the relatively bare bones Marvel Animation panel.
 
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SweetShop209

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I usually don't self promote , but I think it would help if Marvel lets other companies have large creative control in their projects.
 

Medinnus

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Like so many things, the quality of Marvel animation has always come back to the editorial policy and the writers.

When you have an editorial policy that aims the cartoons at children - making edicts about simplifying storylines so that they are not multi-part, slavishly linking them to the developments in the MCU wherever possible, etc. you get a product that is pablum, and insulting to both the intelligence of the kid audience AND the adult audience.

Loeb proved that to my satisfaction by shutting down AEMH and making the last half of Season 2 sub-par to what had gone on before.
 

Frontier

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Loeb proved that to my satisfaction by shutting down AEMH and making the last half of Season 2 sub-par to what had gone on before.
I think it's a testament to the quality of EMH that, as hamstrung as the second half of season 2 was, the quality was still much higher compared to the initial seasons of Avengers Assemble (in my opinion).
 

spyke

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Before I start listing what went wrong with Marvel Animation over the last several years, I would like to say that there has been some recent improvements in Marvel Animation over the last couple of years. The last 2 seasons of USM,the current SPIDER-MAN animated series,AVENGERS PANTHER'S QUEST, AVENGERS DISK WARS,and FUTURE AVENGERS have been some recent bright spots in Marvel Animation, despite their flaws.

Now here are the reasons why Marvel Animation was mostly garbage for the last several years.

1. Putting people in charge of the animation division who has no experience or knowledge of how an animation company is run in regards to what makes a good animated series. The people I'm talking about are Joe Quesada,Jeph Loeb,and (to a lesser extent) Stephen Wacker. Those 3 men are responsible for some of the things wrong with Marvel Animation that I will be listing.

2. Writing and dumbing down the stories for their intended audience.

3. Constantly rehashing the same stories with the same villains across different shows.

4. Slavishly loyal synergy to the MCU.

5. Terrible art and animation.
 

Spider-Man

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I don't think you can really say Marvel Animation was really ruined as it was never really consistently good like the DC cartoons. For every X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons there's the first season of the Marvel Action Hour or the second season of The Incredible Hulk. For every Silver Surfer there's Spider-Man Unlimited or Avengers: United They Stand. I know we tend to think of most of these series as animation royalty for Marvel fans but in actuality these series weren't really good to begin with when compared to what else was out there. Spider-Man TAS is barely watchable from the second season on and there are only a handful of nicely animated X-Men episodes even if that show was at least strongly written. We did get a good run of Marvel cartoons with the likes of X-Men Evolution, Spec Spidey, Avengers EMH FF WGH and Wolverine and The X-Men but we also got Spider-Man TNAS and Iron Man: Armored Adventures which were more bad than good. However Marvel cartoons became at least consistently bad starting with Ultimate Spider-Man, Avengers Assemble, S.M.A.S.H. and GOTG and it's only recently started to churn out some good stuff like Marvel Rising and Spider-Man. We got some good Marvel cartoons but they were never really consistently good so there's really nothing to ruin. We just remember a lot of these cartoons fondly and better than they actually were because they're the cartoons we loved as kids and its hard to admit we might like something that's not really good. People also think of these cartoons as pre-Disney and post-Disney and I find when a lot of people say Marvel Animation was ruined they really mean it as a way to harp on Disney and the cartoons since the Disney takeover because they're upset the buyout meant some shows were definitely not coming back and are taking it out when in actuality in a buyout like this it's what any other studio would do. Disney is just happens to be an easy target plus it's also some fan-fave cartoons and it can be upsetting to realize there's no chance they're coming back and people need a target. Truth is as much as I don't like most of the current shows all that much they're not as bad as some of the worst that came before. So there's nothing that actually got "ruined." We just went through a spell of bad cartoons across the board that we're now getting out of.
 
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