Iron Man In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two - Part Three - Part Four - Part Five - Part Six

The year is 1995, (I think, I really canít remember). Since the vast majority arenít located here in glorious England like I am, allow me to paint a picture for you. Itís September, youíve spent the entire summer watching re runs of cartoons each morning during the summer break from school. Shortly after returning to school, the new autumn programming would start on Saturdays. In the two years prior to this, I got up to watch Live And Kicking, which was the block which most of these shows were on. This was a tradition in our household between my brother and I as in 1993; we sat down and to our delight, saw that The X-Men would be gracing us with their presence at 10.30. I didnít have the slightest clue as to who Wolverine was, but we decided weíd watch it anyway. That, ladies and gentleman is very much the origin of Marvel Animation Age right there, as Iíve watched and taped every single Marvel show since (except The Avengers, because I was ignorant to itís existence for years. Ah, the good old days!)

Anyway, it was 1995. We had seen commercials for The Marvel Action Hour that would be start airing on Saturdays. My brother was instantly excited for this, I mean, jumping up and down excited, because at long last, The 1980ís Incredible Hulk would be returning to TV. Here in the UK, the BBC doesnít air commercials during their shows so they added Hulk in to make sure Marvel Action Hour actually lasted a full hour, not 40 minutes. Hulk was the only character used in the commercials Ė we werenít even sure who else would be starring in the show. Then it came on, and the voice over dude started talking;

ďTony Stark. A man of Iron strength, Iron determination and Iron courage. Yes, Tony Stark is Iron Man. Plus the astonishment, the action and the adventures times four, The Fantastic Four!Ē

After that little parade, the show came on. At the time, I didnít think it was that bad. I remember thinking it wasnít as good as Spider-Man, Batman or X-Men (and really, what is?) but I looked forward to seeing it each week, which is more than can be said for Fantastic Four, which I instantly thought was poorly conceived gibberish. Looking back on Iron Man now however, itís bad. Really, really bad.

The season started with And The Sea Shall Give Up Itís Dead (which began the showís trend of having really, really stupid titles) features The Mandarin trying to create an army of radioactive Russian zombies to do his bidding. (No, Iím not making this up). Clearly not impressed with the dozens of supervillains he had working for him (he wasnít the only one) The Mandarin succeeds until Iron Man randomly discovers his plan and foils it. The episode makes absolutely no attempt to define any of itís characters other than saying whether or not they are a hero or a villain and it brings out all itís big guns yet fails to make any of them shoot properly. Upon realising that his own band of supervillains isnít enough, Iron Man calls in Fin Fang Foom. (The highlight of the episode is James Averyís delivery of ďFin Fang Foom!!Ē upon realising it was the dragon that attacked Iron Man). Mandarin then realised that even Fin Fang Foom (!!) wasnít enough, and Titanium Man was brought in, only to have his ass kicked in less than 20 seconds. Truly embarrassing.

Unfortunately, the season didnít get much better. It never quite reached Fantastic Four season one awful but it was rarely good. The majority of the episodes featured the same plot Ė Stark would build some weapon, The Mandarin would attempt to steal it, Forceworks would beat Mandarinís action figures, whoops, I mean henchmen, let them get away and do the same in the next episode. Lather, rinse, repeat. Add this to the crude designs, flat acting and mediocre animation and you donít really have that good a show.

Despite what you may have read, there are actually a small handful of good episodes to be found in Iron Man but they do all have flaws that hold them back. No episode is perfect, but a lot of the mistakes found in Iron Man season one are just plain sloppy. It also had the worst CG changing sequence you will ever, ever see.

The highlight of the season is Enemy Without, Enemy Within in which MODOK pleas for Iron Man to stop one of The Mandarinís latest plans. It is revealed that The Mandarin has endangered MODOKís wife with his newest scheme and we are told MODOKís origin story. Oddly enough, the show wasnít half bad at origin stories and everyone who got one benefited in some way. In what is arguably the best scene in the season, we learn of how MODOK became a floating head and why he works for The Mandarin. You see, only The Mandarin knows how to cure him. Iím not quite sure why only The Mandarin knows and he probably wouldnít even if he could, but there you have it. Iron Manís own origin isnít too shabby, but itís still not good enough to be considered good. You donít get any justification as to why he chooses to fight crime with his armour, he just does.

The main flaws of the season come from itís set up Ė none of the other members of Forceworks are developed. Itís been over 10 years since the show debuted and I still donít have the slightest clue as to who Century is. We were never told why they joined up, we were never told what their powers and well, you get the point. They were just there to sell more action figures. Itís the same with Mandarinís goons. The characters werenít there, the stories were juvenile trash and the visuals were dire.

Thankfully, most of the crew and even the cast were replaced in season two and it improved exponentially. But how do you save a show this bad?