Fantastic Four In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two - Part Three - Part Four

With the likes of Batman, Spider-Man and The X-Men proving that superheroes could once again work on Saturday mornings, Marvel announced that both Iron Man and The Fantastic Four would receive their own animated series in 1994 and curiously, had decided to syndicate the cartoons rather than pitch it to any of the networks.

So, on the 24th September 1994, The Fantastic Four debuted. And it was utterly, utterly terrible. The stories were pretty much adaptations of the comics with all the fun, drama and humour taken out. The characters were all pathetically two-dimensional and more often than not, incredibly annoying. Reed always came across as more arrogant than intelligent and often proved to be a little too smug to be likeable. The brilliance of Reed Richards is that he was once too arrogant to shield his vessel into shape and because of it, turned his friends and family into freaks. Hence, in an effort to make up for effectively ruining their lives, he made them into celebrity superheroes, built a massive tower in the middle of New York for them to live in and a flying bathtub for them to fly around in, whilst of course, working on a way to make Ben human again. The likeable thing about Reed is that he does what he does out of guilt, and is doing his all to make amends, even if he never will admit it to any of them. None of that is found here – in this season, Reed is an arrogant know-it-all who actually comes across as really stupid for not shielding their ship, even after Ben warned him that disturbance they were investigating could prove to be harmful to them.

Johnny is an air head who tries his hardest to be cool but comes across as tired and cheap. Sue is a damsel in distress despite the fact that Sue was created for the sole purpose of being a female comic character besides Wonder Woman who could hold her own against supervillains and has long been considered the most powerful member of the group (look at how she beat Ben with ease in season when she turned heel for proof.) And Ben, poor, poor Ben. With how badly you were treated this season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Aunt Pertunia rolling in her grave.

The villains were so unthreatening and clichéd that a back of pre-schoolers probably could’ve defeated them. Dr. Doom was especially awful, which is an absolute travesty given that Dr. Doom is by far one of the coolest supervillains of all time. His numerous hideous designs, his complete lack of any real motivation and how just plain stupid most of his plans are. The Mask Of Doom is arguably the most tedious drivel I can ever recall watching – it’s on par with that God awful Avengers cartoon on the suckiness factor. It blows, no other way to describe it.

Mighty Galactus, one of other favourite supervillains is… words can’t describe it. Terrible doesn’t justify it. Considering how popular and beloved The Galactus trilogy is in the comics, one would think adapting it to a cartoon wouldn’t be that difficult a task but no, as it turns out, it’s 40 of the most tedious of my entire life. It was laughably bad to the point of almost being physically painful to watch.

The shows visuals were outdated by about 20 years, the designs themselves were ugly, generic and tame, and the show’s colouring style did nothing to make them pop. More often than not, the show was simply an eyesore. One need only look at The Silver Surfer to see how screwed up the visuals truly were. There’s not a single sharp looking design in the entire season - everything is simply bland.

Thankfully, it all ended with The Silver Surfer and The Return Of Galactus, which by the way, is not only a stupid title but when watching the episode, it leaves one wondering where the hell Galactus is as he doesn’t appear until the last few minutes. There’s few very, if any, positives to be found in this season, save for maybe Neil Ross trying to give just about every villain in the show an ounce of personality and the utterly fantastic casting of Chuck McCann as The Thing.

Thankfully, the show was revamped and a new crew was hired to bring The Fantastic Four back to the small screen for season two.