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The Weekly Nerd: Comic Book Animated Series

Welcome back to another column of The Weekly Nerd!

This past week, it was announced that the short-lived DC cartoon Young Justice will be getting a third season! The show had received a lot of critical acclaim while slowly building a dedicated fanbase. I think that being on Netflix really helped Young Justice gain significantly more viewers, as word-of-mouth brought more people into the fold.

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If you are a fan of this show, there are certainly a few other short-lived animated comic book TV shows that you should give a shot. Sadly these shows have definitely reached the end of their lives and are either unlikely or impossible to continue, Having said that, these shows are absolutely worth your time. So let’s dive in!

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Spectacular Spider-Man

Spectacular Spider-Man is a show focusing on Peter Parker’s early career as the titular wall-crawler. This ill-fated cartoon ran from 2008 to 2009 with 26 episodes. The show’s fate was sealed when Disney gained control of the rights to Marvel’s animated pantheon of heroes. At this time, while Sony may have still had full ownership of the webhead in theaters, the animated series was another story. Spectacular Spider-Man was produced by Sony, so they had no choice but to drop it. Unfortunately, it was replaced by the significantly less interesting Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon.

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One thing that is immediately noticeable about this cartoon is its art style. When character concept art first debuted, many fans (myself included) were shocked and disappointed in the look of the characters. At first glance, they could be fooled for well-drawn artwork from a webcomic. There were interviews with the creators stating that the main focus of the show’s aesthetics were to have fluidity of movement rather than have detailed character designs. This sounded like a flimsy excuse for an odd choice in art style, but let me tell you, once I saw the show in action, my fears were immediately put to rest. Spectacular Spider-Man’s numerous action scenes are very well choreographed. The way Spidey smoothly transitions from swinging on a web to throwing a punch never gets old. Each opponent has a different set of abilities that force Spider-Man to think on his feet to adapt to the situation.

The storylines in Spectacular Spider-Man are well thought out. It takes elements from the comics, movies, and even the 90’s cartoon. The most impressive part of this is how it seamlessly integrates all of these plots into a coherent and compelling story. It smartly focuses on Peter as a teenager, so he is grappling with what it means to be a hero as well as how to withstand the temptation to use his powers to basically become popular. This may sound trite, but the show handles this deftly. Honestly, I have been a fan of the web-head since I was a child and I truly believe this show would have surpassed the ’90s animated series if it had a chance to run more than two seasons.

If you have any interest in Spidey, you owe it to yourself to check out Spectacular Spider-Man.

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Green Lantern: The Animated Series

Now, hold on! I can already guess that a lot of people do not give a rat’s ass about the galactic green-clad guardian. He has been mocked for having a God-awful live action movie, having poorly-defined powers, and being weak against the colour yellow. With that in mind, it is understandable that people would be wary of Hal Jordan’s space adventures. I am here to tell you that Green Lantern: The Animated Series is significantly better than I expected it to be.

This computer animated cartoon ran from 2012 to 2013, spanning two seasons with 26 episodes. Green Lantern was cancelled as a result of poor toy sales… which in turn was a result of that dismal movie starring Deadpool Ryan Reynolds. It follows the exploits of Hal Jordan as he and his best friend/drill sergeant Kilowog travel across the galaxy fighting the newly-discovered Red Lanterns. Joining the two heroes are the AI learning to love named Aya and the reformed Red Lantern member named Razer.

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The character designs are based on Bruce Tim’s art style that was made popular by Batman: The Animated Series from the 90’s. This gave the show an immediately recognizable style and pedigree. The action scenes tend to be quite a lot of fun. The way each character uses their constructs from their rings helps display their personalities their personalities. Hal is often creative in the use of his ring as he will try to trip up his opponents. Kilowog, on the other hand, will make hammers… and hit people with said hammers. The fights certainly are fun to watch, but they lack a certain level of dynamism that you may see in a more traditional action cartoon. This may be a result of their use of CG as opposed to more traditional hand drawn animation.

Similar to Spectacular Spider-Man, Green Lantern‘s greatest strength is its use of the source material for the show’s storylines. There is a major focus on the lore of the various Lantern Corps and the different powers that their rings possess. For fans of the of the Green Lantern, there is a lot of easter eggs and exciting character appearances. For those completely new to Hal and his adventures, the narrative does a great job of explaining the lore behind the various Lantern Corps and the effects they have had on the galaxy. Green Lantern: The Animated Series is definitely worth a shot.

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The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is based on the Marvel superhero team with the same name. It follows the exploits of Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Ant/Giant Man, Wasp, Thor, Black Panther, and Hawkeye as they form a crime-fighting team. The show lasted for two seasons, with a total of 52 episodes running from 2010 to 2013. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes did not quite get cancelled, but it was replaced by Avengers Assemble in July of 2013. Assemble is based directly on Marvel’s The Avengers and is aimed at a slightly younger audience.

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes features a bit of a divisive art style as it is very cartoony looking, despite the serious tone the show takes from time to time. The character designs look a little flat and simplistic, plus the animation is not as smooth as Spectacular Spider-Man. Even with these faults, there certainly is a lot of charm to this series. Each hero’s skills and powers were displayed well. There were a lot of heroes and villains put into interesting situations that forced them to be creative with their abilities as well as depend on their comrades to get them out of a bind. Because of this, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is always a pleasure to watch.

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Like the previous shows I talked about earlier, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ greatest strength is its use of characters and storylines ripped from the pages of the comic books. There are a few arcs that are truncated versions of major plot lines that were event storylines from the comics. These arcs are translated to the show with varying success. The fact that it brings in an absolute plethora of heroes and villains who are successful representation of their comic book counterparts is nothing short of impressive. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is a great entry point for people who are interested in the Marvel Universe. It allows new fans to get a taste of how theses heroes interact and they may find a new favorite character just from viewing this series. For veterans of the Marvel universe, it is a lot of fun to see some B-level heroes and villains who have not yet been represented on the small screen. The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is well worth your time.

These are just a few of my favorite animated series that were A.) based on comic books, and B.) cancelled way too early. There are many more interesting shows that actually got to run their course or had a short mini-series that focuses on a specific character.

Having said that, I am absolutely excited for the return of Young Justice as it is a show that is clearly loved by many. Now is a better time than ever to be a fan of comic book superheroes!

Nedu is a grown-ass adult that enjoys watching some cartoons. So what? Fight me. He is also a content writer on AYBOnline. His views are his own.  

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