One of the many Comic-Con 2010 panels I was unfortunately absent for was for the upcoming animated series The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Of course, I missed it because I was already in Hall H that day, and got a chance to see the cinematic version of The Avengers on stage, so that makes up for it.
The panel was the World Premiere of the first two episodes of the animated series, which is set to debut on Disney XD later this year. Those that did manage to catch it had nothing but high hopes for the series, and they’ve got me excited as well. You see, for almost two decades I’ve been hoping for a decent Avengers cartoon – and this, finally, seems to be it.
There have been half-hearted attempts in the past, of course. The 1994 Iron Man animated series featured Force Works (essentially a retooled West Coast Avengers) in the first season, and a downsized version in the second. Then of course there was the short-lived Avengers: United They Stand cartoon in 1999, which for various undisclosed reasons, featured a version of the West Coast Avengers once again, instead of more familiar characters. Ironically, that was the least of the problems with that series, which included extreme costume redesigns and also featured “battle armour” reminiscent of the Super Sentai/Power Rangers series.
Since then, Marvel Animation has redeemed themselves with the well-received The Super Hero Squad Show, which is essentially a pastiche of the hallowed team geared towards young children aged 8 and below. However, by avoiding the “Avengers” name altogether, the show clearly wishes to distance itself somewhat from the comics its based on (which is ironic, considering there’s a homage to classic comic book covers in each episode’s title card).
Not so with The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. There can be no doubt that this is finally the animated series fans have been waiting for. Firstly, the line-up features the original roster – including Ant-Man and the Wasp, whom I had feared would be conveniently forgotten, with no sign of them so far in the 2012 film and the drastically different situation in the Marvel Universe (where Hank Pym IS the Wasp). Secondly, the animated series, based on the first two episodes as well as the trailers, seem to be extremely loyal its comic book origins, with a host of cameos both heroic and villianous.
If I can have any gripe, it is a small one, and it has to do with how the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to be leading the way in determining how characters appear and behave. For one thing, Iron Man has clearly overtaken Captain America as the de facto leader of the Avengers, whether it be in the comics, in the films and now in animated form. This is, of course, thanks to Robert Downey Jr’s A-list status and commanding presence. The other, is that Nick Fury is most definitely going to be based on Samuel L. Jackson from here on out, no thanks to Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch and anyone else who thought it would be a good idea.
The good thing is that these cosmetic changes don’t change the dynamic of the Avengers at all, and I look forward to being sated by the animated heroes while waiting with bated breath for Whedon’s movie.