What was the only thing better than a Saturday morning cartoon as a child? A Saturday morning cartoon featuring one of your favorite superheroes of course! Due to the crazy things that happen in comic books, the stories lent themselves very well to the animation industry, where they could be marketed to both kids and adults alike. While there were some legendary cartoons created because of this like Batman: The Animated Series, Young Justice, and Spectacular Spider-Man, we’ve also gotten a lot of shameless and terrible cartoons. These are proof that just because you CAN make a superhero show doesn’t mean that you SHOULD.
However, we’re not just going to focus on the shows that were bad. Instead, we’re going to highlight the ones that had great source material in the comics and threw it out the window. What we’re left with often times is a painful shell of the characters we know and love, and it’s not fun for anyone. Without further ado, here are 15 superhero cartoons that ruined the source material.
15. MARVEL DISK WARS: THE AVENGERS
The Avengers are great. Pokémon are also great. When put together, they’re not nearly as great. The early 2000s were wild time for anime shows that had tie-in tabletop games. Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Bakugan and a few other were all the rage. Apparently, Marvel wanted a piece of that action, so they created Marvel Disk Wars.
This show put all of your favorite heroes into these contraptions called DISKs. In order for the heroes to fight, there were kids who controlled the DISKs to send them out. If you’re not following, just imagine if Captain America were contained in a Poké Ball that a child threw out to fight Loki’s team of six in a death battle. Yeah, I wouldn’t watch it either.
14. WOLVERINE ANIME
The biggest problem I’ve seen with adaptations of Wolverine is that the writers fail to make him the uncaring, unpredictable, aloof powerhouse that he is in the comics. While that’s not a bad thing if the property does their own direction well, the Wolverine Anime does not.
Whereas the Iron Man Anime was fairly decent, Wolverine’s shot at the genre dropped the ball. As opposed to making him the brutal killer that we know him as, he’s simply motivated by love for the majority of the series. While I won’t deny that his personality makes him well suited for anime (the whole brooding young man persona), the show never capitalizes on that. It could’ve been an amazing tale, but it just fell flat in the end.
13. FRED AND BARNEY MEET THE THING
There are a lot of things that irk us about this show. Among them is the misleading presentation. You would think that from the title that Fred and Barney would be sharing the screen with the Thing (even if that were the case, it still wouldn’t be a great show). Nope. Instead, it’s split into two segments: one involving the Flinstones, and the other involving Benjy Grimm.
That’s right, I said Benjy. The portion involving The Thing takes the beloved member of the Fantastic Four and turns him into a laughing stock. Instead of being able to transform on his own, Ben has to touch two rings together shouting the phrase, “Thing Ring, do your thing!” That’s not even the worst departure from the comics. The Thing also solves mysteries like some Hanna-Barbera cartoon and saves his friends from school bullies.
12. SWAMP THING
Swamp Thing is one of DC’s more interesting characters. Being connected to nature and the dark arts, Swamp Thing often found himself in a more sinister side of the DC Universe, typically being involved with magical threats and the Justice League Dark. However, DC thought that they would be able to do the character justice and make a great Saturday morning cartoon.
Unfortunately, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. While Swamp Thing does faithfully adapt the origin of the character, it’s the structure of the stories that really take a hit. Where Swamp Thing, as we said before, is involved in dark occultic tales, this is just a surface-level actionfest designed only to sell toys. The character deserves so much more and has only gotten so little. The live action series didn’t fare much better.
11. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN
After Spectacular Spider-Man ended too early while being one of the best Spider-Man cartoons of all time, there was some speculation as to what the next series would be like. It wasn’t long after when we got wind of Ultimate Spider-Man. On paper, it sounded pretty good. Instead of being your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, Peter Parker has to focus on becoming the best he could be and improving his craft.
However, the execution was just off. Spider-Man is instead the leader of a team that includes teen versions of the Heroes for Hire. He is also relegated to being a poor man’s Deadpool, often breaking the fourth wall and stopping the show in real time. Spider-Man is all for jokes, but not to this extent. Making him a member of a team also didn’t help push the story forward. It just gave the writers something to do to stretch the show out.
10. AVENGERS: UNITED THEY STAND
The West Coast Avengers are a team that not many people know of. Nowadays, with the oversaturation of big characters like Captain America and Iron Man, it could’ve worked if done properly. However, Avengers: United They Stand came out in 1999, when the only Marvel superhero anyone recognized was Spider-Man (and maybe Iron Man and Cap).
How do they make this show different then? By cutting out Cap, Iron Man, and Thor. Instead, we get Ant-Man as the main character. But instead of them being dutiful heroes who fight for the good of the Earth, we get whiners who can’t stop complaining about their personal problems. On top of that, their costumes were given some “upgrades” to fit in with the ’90s. The results are a far cry from the comics and painful to look at all the same.
9. BEWARE THE BATMAN
Batman: The Animated Series was about as close to perfect as a superhero cartoon could get. It had just the right amount of darkness to keep things interesting without feeling too edgy. However, DC didn’t quite understand this when creating Beware the Batman.
This show instead takes things in an even darker turn. Alfred, instead of being a butler, wields all kinds of guns and fires at criminals. Then, there is no Robin in the entire series. Batman’s sidekick is instead Katana, someone you might recognize from Suicide Squad. We’re usually all for change when it’s done tastefully, but Beware the Batman takes the Dark Knight in every wrong direction. We haven’t even started talking about how weird the CGI looked in the show either.
8. SUPER FRIENDS
When talking about the Justice League, what’s the one thing that gets you the most excited? Is it the deep characters? The heart-pounding action? The brutal tension? If you value any of these things with DC’s cast of heroes, then I strongly suggest you stay away from the first season of Super Friends.
If the title is anything to go by, all of your favorite characters are instead reduced to sitcom stars. There is no action and no blend of drama or tension. Everyone is instead there to be kid-friendly and talk things out with villains. Oh, it also follows two teenagers and a talking dog that are so shoehorned into the show that they stick out like sore thumbs (even in how they’re designed). Just skip this and watch the Justice League cartoon.
7. SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED
Spider-Man is a compelling character because of how relatable he is. He’s just a kid in high school with real world problems, yet he’s still figuring himself out and trying to be a superhero. It’s the stories that have his personal life contend with his heroic life that end up being the best. Then there’s Spider-Man Unlimited.
Forget everything you love about the Spider-Man character before you watch this show because it has almost none of it. Spider-Man is instead operating on a “Counter-Earth” of sorts where he has to talk with giant animal people. Also, the creators decided that Spider-Man’s costume wasn’t cool enough on its own and gave him a strange cape. We guess this was to fit with the ridiculous look of many of the animal characters?
6. HULK AND THE AGENTS OF S.M.A.S.H.
The Incredible Hulk is a character that is difficult to film. What we mean by that is it’s tough to make an excellent film or TV show that stars him. How do you subvert this then? By adding a whole team of Hulks that all work together to smash things.
Much like Ultimate Spider-Man, Marvel took a character that is known for working independently and made him the leader of a team. While we’re not against a team of Hulks, it brutalized the source material. It also made Hulk less of an interesting character as a result. The noteworthy trait about him is that he can smash stuff really well. Then there’s his team that are little more than different colored or gendered Hulks. There’s not much to this series other than that.
5. PRYDE OF THE X-MEN
Before we got the fantastic X-Men cartoon that we all know and love, we got this pilot episode for a series titled Pryde of the X-Men. A lot of different choices were made for the show, and in just one episode, there’s a lot to dislike here.
The obvious choice is the fact that Wolverine is a strong Australian rather than a Canadian (ironic considering Hugh Jackman plays him). This was intended to have some significance in the show, but the warning bells were ringing too loudly. Then there was the fact that some odd choices were made when putting mutants on the roster. We got characters like Dazzler of all people. Then there’s the title itself. It’s possible that Kitty Pryde would play a big role, but that title is just too much of a dad joke to enjoy.
4. IRON MAN: ARMORED ADVENTURES
What happens when you take the snarky and tortured persona of Tony Stark and throw it out the window? Well, you’re left with a teenager that actually respects his father and tries to do good in the eyes of the world. If this doesn’t sound like Iron Man to you, then you’d be exactly right.
Iron Man: Armored Adventures follows a teenage Tony Stark. As opposed to creating the suit as an adult, he develops it at the ripe age of 16. Furthermore, his father has also been merely captured rather than dead in a car crash. There are so many changes to the Iron Man mythos that it makes Beware the Batman look pretty faithful by comparison. And the show even had a better Mandarin than Iron Man 3.
3. THE SUPERHERO SQUAD SHOW
If you like the Avengers, wait until you see The Superhero Squad Show. Because the writers were focused on “comedy,” they gave each hero in the show a particular trait that made them stand out. Hulk is extremely emotional and tends to suck his thumb, Thor is somehow ecstatic about everything, and the Silver Surfer talks like a stereotypical surf dude. Are you excited yet?
I haven’t even addressed the art style yet. All of your favorite characters look like Fisher Price toys. They have abnormally large heads and stout bodies. Many people were already turned off from the show by how it looks (and that’s the fault of the show, not the audience). As you might expect from a Marvel cartoon, there are some heavy references to Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet as well. So get hyped for Infinity War.
2. TEEN TITANS GO!
After Teen Titans had its run on Cartoon Network, fans were dismayed that it ended on a cliffhanger. Now, we loved the show but didn’t follow it, so we weren’t terribly burned when it was canceled. That having been said, when the network decided to bring the characters back, what we got is far from what many of us were hoping to receive.
Teen Titans Go! takes the beloved cast of layered characters and turns them into one-dimensional children that are only there to try and make kids laugh by using loud dialogue and lowbrow humor. This is bad in and of itself, but even worse when you consider that these characters made compelling stories in the comics. Now they’re just there for brony jokes. Oh, and one other thing: for some reason, the show fails to recognize what it’s doing wrong.
1. KRYPTO THE SUPERDOG
Krypto the Superdog is not the worst superhero show I’ve ever seen. When it comes to the source material, that’s a different story altogether.
The Krypto character was a Kryptonian dog (it’s a bit complicated) that belonged to the infant Kal-El. Jor-El decided to test the rocket that would later send his son to Earth by sending Krypto in it. However, it went off course and didn’t arrive on the planet until after Kal-El became Superman. This led Krypto to become the sidekick to Superboy and eventually fly around space to help deal with intergalactic threats.
In the TV show, Krypto is owned by a random family that could be replaced with anyone else. There is little to no action, as it was more focused on being kid-friendly and emulating the style of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.
Are you a fan of Spider-Man Unlimited? Was Pryde of the X-Men the best cartoon adaptation of Marvel’s mutants? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
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