Iron Man In Animation - A Retrospective

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

Whilst Marvel animation flourished in the mid 1990ís, come a decade later it was barely anywhere to be seen. X-Men: Evolution proved to be a big hit on Kids WB! And later Cartoon Network but once episode 52 aired, it pretty much dropped off the face of the Earth, rarely re-running and the fourth season is still absent from our DVD collections and the 3D Spider-Man: The New Animated Series faired even worse, dropped after a mere 13 episodes on MTV, after numerous month long delays in itís start. Despite doing well in ratings and earning fair reviews, the show wasnít a typical MTV show and was never brought back again. Two very entertaining shows based on Marvelís two biggest franchises, both cancelled due to one simple reason Ė networks. Marvelís troubles with the networks is well documented and one need go no further than to simply watch an episode of their cartoons Ė Marvelís big guns werenít allowed to smack each other in the face or kill each other with lasers from their eyes, hell, they werenít even allowed to frighten pigeons. In short, throughout Marvelís long and usually entertaining animated productions, the network has been nothing short than a complete pain in the ass.

Enter Lions Gates.

In a partnership between them and Marvel, they announced they would be producing and releasing nine direct to DVD features Ė no more annoying network restrictions! They announced the first two offerings would be based on the white hot The Ultimates comic book, which meant Iron Man was back in the animation business. Written by Iron Man season two writer/story editor Greg Johnson and directed by X-Men: Evolution veteranís Steve Gordon and Curt Geda The Ultimate Avengers made itís debut directly on DVD on February 21st, 2005, doing well both critically and commercially.

Looking back, itís different from most of Marvelís animated offerings as they clearly aiming at a slightly older audience here and it doesnít quite feel as ďcartoonyĒ as some of Marvelís previous efforts. The short run time and the sheer number of characters leaves the plot a little too cookie cutter for some and a lot of the characters donít really get too long to shine, so they really had to have make their moments count. No one in the movie does this better than olí shell head. Stealing every single last scene he is in, this version of Iron Man is utterly brilliant, from design to voice and everywhere in between. Heís probably not as developed as he could be, but thereís no denying it Ė the character has charm. Heís clearly in the team for the glory of it rather than helping people but comes through in the end. He was originally reluctant to join the team, probably to spite General Fury but the billionaire playboy did eventually join.

Marc Worden voices the character and does astonishingly well in the role. I remember being reluctant to even contemplate hearing anyone else in the role other than Robert Hayes, but this version of Iron Man is too different from Iron Man season two to have the same voice. Worden brings a sophisticated, suave tone to the role and does a hell of a lot to develop the character which is what voice acting is all about Ė itís especially good in this case as neither Iron Man or Tony Stark get a hell of a lot of screen time. Iím personally really, really glad heíll be returning to voice the character in this new solo DTDVD.

Design wise, Iron Man is immaculate. Rather than being a really, really cool looking action figure, Iron Man now looks like a sophisticated piece of machinery with all the bells and whistles included! Itís not really based upon the Ultimates design for the character, nor the traditional comic book version. Itís a brilliant blend of The Ultimates, the classic armour and originality on the designer Steve Gordonís part. I dare say this is my favourite design of his, closely followed by Wolverineís original X-Men: Evolution costume and his take on Magneto.

He would be further developed in The Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise Of The Panther in which the Chitauri returned and had bigger plans than the last one. Once again, this film wasnít to be focused on Iron Man Ė itís pretty much a continuation of Captain Americaís story and the introduction of a new player in the game, The Black Panther. He does however, get a new armour. There were rumours that the original suit was a little to difficult to animate, so Tony got a new War Machine inspired armour in the sequel which I donít like as much (that stupid mouth piece, it always makes Iron Man look dumb founded). Itís not a bad armour, in fact, itís pretty bad ass, I just prefer the original. We do get to see more of Iron Manís character here, and the classic Ďchest plate keeps the character aliveí is revealed here. Tony is at his quipping best here (Daddyís Here!) but the character gets his true moment of glory as he sacrifices himself in order to stop the Chitauri meteorite hitting earth. He is later revived thanks to Thorís hammer restating his heart.

And there you have it, Iron Manís vast history in animation. One would be foolish to assume that heís seen his best, however. With a new Iron Man DTV airing shortly, a new animated series airing in the fall and Iron Man finally making his big screen debut next summer, Iíd wager weíre going to be seeing a hell of a lot more of Iron Man in the future. Hopefully itíll be just as good as some of his previous incarnations!