Superheroes and cartoons go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Animation is probably the best medium to translate comic books, as it allows for viewers to experience everything they love about comic books and superheroes without the limitations of live-action. Do you need the Fantastic Four to team up with the Silver Surfer to face Galactus with the fate of the world hanging in the balance? Or maybe you want a true translation of the Dark Phoenix storyline from X-Men? Cartoons are the way to go!
That being said, there have been some real stinkers. Whether the animation budget just wasn’t there or perhaps the cartoon just didn’t understand what made the superheroes great, there have been some colossal failures on TV screens over the years. The cartoons on this list represent the worst of the worst; shows that took beloved heroes and turned them into steaming turds. Can you have a Fantastic Four show without the Human Torch? Was there really a cartoon that gave Wolverine an Australian accent? Sadly, yes to both, and that’s just the tip of the ass-berg…
15. FRED AND BARNEY MEET THE THING
If you just read the title, you’d think that Fred and Barney Meet The Thing is a crossover show between Fantastic Four and The Flintstones. You’d be wrong. That was the title of the cartoon show from 1979 that showed new Flintstones cartoons with separate cartoon segments featuring The Thing. Well, the character in the show sure does look like Ben Grimm, but calling him The Thing would be a disservice to the great Jack Kirby and Stan Lee character.
Fred and Barney Meet The Thing featured a very different version of Ben Grimm. Renamed “Benjy Grimm,” a scrawny red-haired teenager. When he’s ready to fight crime and defeat bullies at his school, he puts his two magical rings together and says, “Thing ring, do your thing!” That turns him into the orange rock-covered Thing that we know and love. Just reading that description is enough to make you want to vomit. Thankfully, the show was canceled after one season.
After the massive success of the animated X-Men cartoon series from the early ‘90s, USA Network was desperate to find something to compete with the Fox hit. They quickly threw together a series based on the sorta, kinda popular Ultraforce from Malibu Comics. The result was not good.
The Ultraforce cartoon was clearly an X-Men animated series rip off. To feel the full effect, you have to watch the opening credits, which are such a blatant X-Men rip off, showcasing as they did the character using their powers next to a large version of their name. The music is similarly awful, trying to mimic the anthemic opening music of X-Men, with some disembodied voice yelling “ULTRAFORCE!” If this wasn’t enough, the animation and voice acting of the show made X-Men look like The Godfather. Mercifully, the series only lasted 13 episodes before cancellation.
13. THE AVENGERS: UNITED THEY STAND
How awesome would an animated series based on The Avengers be without Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor? Oh yeah, not awesome at all. That sums up The Avengers: United They Stand. The series was a failed attempt by Fox to capitalize on the success of Batman Beyond using Marvel’s biggest heroes in the future. Unfortunately, they had to do it without the use of Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor due to rights issues.
Without the “Big Three,” the series could have been pretty good. Sadly, the production team just didn’t understand the comics at all. Every character featured was changed for the show. The costumes of the Avengers are almost unrecognizable. Ant-Man, who leads the team, actually has a tiny jet strapped to his back for when he shrinks and needs transportation. The reason for these “upgraded” costumes was that the series was 25 years into the future. This was no Batman Beyond.
12. THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BATMAN
No, don’t confuse The New Adventures of Batman with Bruce Timm’s The New Batman Adventures. These are two completely different beasts, and a great example of what makes The New Adventures of Batman so bad. The New Batman Adventures featured a darker tone, with some great moments and an overall faithful representation of the Dark Knight. However, The New Adventures of Batman, released in 1979, decided to embrace the campiness of the ‘60s Batman series, but with 100% more Bat-Mite.
That’s right, Bat-Mite is a major character in this cartoon. Meddling in the adventures of Batman and Robin, Bat-Mite becomes the annoying comedy relief in the series. The New Adventures of Batman also decided it’d be a great idea to remove Alfred altogether. Combine these two factors with horrible animation and voice acting, and you’re left with a superhero cartoon that truly sucks.
11. SUPER FRIENDS
There have been multiple iterations of Super Friends throughout the ‘70s and early ‘80s. While later seasons featured more Justice League action, and weren’t completely horrible, the first season of Super Friends has to go down as one of the worst examples of superhero cartoons in history. The first season completely threw out everything you love about Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman in favor of turning them into kid-friendly Hanna-Barbera material.
Like most Hanna-Barbera cartoons at the time, they added two annoying teenagers and a talking animal, none of which had any sort of super powers. Instead, they just were “superheroes-in-training,” that tagged along on adventures. No big villains were featured either. Most episodes concluded with the Super Friends just talking things out with the villain, since violence in Hanna-Barbera cartoons had to be almost non-existent. If you want a quality show featuring the Justice League, Super Friends definitely isn’t it.
10. X-MEN: EVOLUTION
While some people have fond memories of X-Men: Evolution, the truth is the series just wasn’t very good. The series fails largely because the creators tried to have their cake and eat it too. They wanted to make a faithful X-Men series, but they also wanted to make an all-ages cartoon featuring teen superheroes in high school. The combination just doesn’t work.
The biggest issue with the series is the setting. Putting the X-Men in a normal high school and Xavier’s Institute at the same time just isn’t a great idea. Then, for some reason, the creators decided to create a new character named Spyke (‘Y’ instead of ‘I’ is so kewl!), who projects bone spikes and is a rebel because he likes to skateboard. Also, making Rogue goth is laughably bad. Like most of the series on this list, the dialogue and voice acting wasn’t great, especially with characters like Wolverine and Beast.
9. THE MARVEL SUPER HEROES
The Marvel Super Heroes was a show that ran in 1966 that was the first attempt to animate characters from the Marvel Universe. Calling the cartoon an animated series is pretty generous, though. The series is best known for its lack of animation due to how its producers utilized a process of scanning comic panels and applying a bare bones of animation to it to show movement.
By taking comic panels and doing the bare minimum to animate it, the series just fails. The animation is ugly and does a disservice to the story they’re trying to tell. The characters look great because the series borrows art from the comics, but the voice acting, dialogue, and animation are just horrendous. The series is a great example of how, even though dialogue and storylines were fairly campy in the Silver Age, they worked on the printed page. However, these same campy stories and art just don’t work as an animated series.
8. SWAMP THING
The 1991 cartoon Swamp Thing is just a bad idea from the beginning. The whole concept of taking a comic character that is horrific and not kid-friendly, and putting this character into a kids show to help sell toys is preposterous. That didn’t stop the series creators from making the horrible Swamp Thing cartoon.
You know Swamp Thing sucks just from the opening credits that feature a version of “Wild Thing” with lyrics pertaining to Swamp Thing. Get it? Ugh. The series creators also thought it would be a great idea to give Swamp Thing some sidekicks, Bayou Jack and Tomahawk. Tomahawk is a horrible Native American stereotype and Bayou Jack is a Vietnam veteran. Great for a kids show, right? The show is just a clear scheme to get kids to buy action figures, but in doing so, destroys everything that makes Swamp Thing great in the process.
7. THE NEW FANTASTIC FOUR
In 1978, Marvel decided to make a new Fantastic Four cartoon titled The New Fantastic Four. Unfortunately, The Human Torch’s rights were tangled up and Marvel couldn’t use him for the cartoon. Instead, joining Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Girl, and The Thing was none other than the uber-annoying H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot. However, having H.E.R.B.I.E. as a team member isn’t the only reason this show ends up on this list.
Compounding the H.E.R.B.I.E. problem are the horrible storylines. One episode has Magneto flying to New York City in his special Magneto car, complete with a big “M” on the front, to confront the Fantastic Four. Before hitting the city, he inexplicably stops at a gas station to ask for directions. Then there’s a whole sequence where he gets stuck in traffic before he remembers he can fly. He then floats above the cars and laughs at the lesser people stuck in traffic. It’s ridiculous.
6. THE BATMAN
The Batman earns its place on this list for a couple of reasons. Unlike the rest of the cartoons on the list, the voice-acting in the series is actually pretty good, with a solid cast of actors. The animation is also pretty advanced compared to most of the list. However, there is one fatal flaw that makes the show suck.
Let’s talk about the villains on this steaming pile, specifically their designs. While some stay fairly close to their comic book counterparts, characters like The Joker, Bane, and The Riddler look ridiculous. The Joker has some weird hairstyle and doesn’t look menacing at all. Bane looks like a bouncer at an S&M sex club. Then you have the Riddler, who resembles an anorexic ninja. These characters have iconic designs in the comics, but just look horrible in The Batman.
5. IRON MAN: ARMORED ADVENTURES
Imagine a teenage version of Tony Stark that is nice, respectful to people, and gets along great with his father. Doesn’t sound like an interesting character at all, and definitely doesn’t sound like any version of Tony Stark you know, right? However, this Tony Stark is the version viewers see in Iron Man: Armored Adventures.
The show was created to capitalize on the surprise success of the first Iron Man film. The creators decided they needed a kid-friendly version of Tony Stark and stripped him of any of the nuance that makes him an awesome character, basically replacing him with a poor man’s Peter Parker. If it weren’t for the armored suit, you’d be hard-pressed to find any similarities between Armored Adventures and the comic character it’s based on. That isn’t to mention the horrible computer animation. Just avoid Iron Man: Armored Adventures at all costs.
4. PRYDE OF THE X-MEN
The bulk of our ire for this show centers on its treatment of its biggest star: Wolverine. Who in their right mind thought that Wolverine should have an Australian accent (besides maybe Hugh Jackman, who smartly hid his)? Honestly, there was never any hint of the character’s secret Australian heritage in the comics. In fact, he is clearly Canadian. That didn’t stop Pryde of the X-Men from giving Wolverine the most stereotypical Australian accent ever. He’s like a cartoon version Crocodile Dundee. It’s just wrong.
According to a member of the production team, Marvel explained that Wolverine was going to be revealed to be an Australian expatriate in the comics, so the series just went all in on the Australian thing. However, Marvel decided against that reveal, so the character’s accent is just completely wrong and ruins the entire show. Thankfully, Marvel never produced more episodes.
3. KRYPTO THE SUPERDOG
Krypto is a beloved comic book character, first appearing in Adventure Comics #210 in 1955. That’s what makes it so sad that Krypto the Superdog exists. After watching an episode of this show, comic book fans will probably want to gather up all the appearances of Krypto and burn them, hoping this will erase their memories that Krypto ever existed.
The characters in the show are idiots. Krypto actually has a secret identity in the cartoon. When he puts on a cape, he turns into Superdog. However, no one in his family, except the little boy Kevin, knows he’s Superdog. In fact Kevin says, “All we had to do is put a cape on you and people think you’re another dog!” The character even points out how stupid the premise is. Somehow, this show lasted two seasons. Do children actually like this stuff? If so, the future doesn’t look promising.
The Spider-Woman cartoon has no redeeming qualities. The creators of the show clearly decided to capitalize on the success of Spider-Man by making a show about Spider-Woman without actually reading any comic books. They quickly threw together a show with horrible animation, which uses “stock footage” over and over again. Worst of all, the show just doesn’t make sense.
Spider-Woman also has whatever powers the creators need her to have in the cartoon. They decided to keep the “venom blasts,” but also give her a litany of other powers. Instead of flying, she shoots webbing. She also borrows Spider-Man’s “spider-sense.” Spider-Woman also has the ability to talk to spiders, create a spider-bubble to help breathe underwater, utilize a sonic scream, and similar to Wonder Woman, can spin really fast to change into her costume.
1. THE SUPER HERO SQUAD SHOW
No one wants to watch a show where Hulk sucks his thumb. You definitely don’t want to see a version of the Silver Surfer that uses stereotypical surfer lingo. And yet, The Super Hero Squad Show gives viewers versions of the characters that are completely ridiculous and stupid. Yes, obviously the show is aimed at little kids, but that doesn’t make it okay — there are plenty of “all-ages” cartoons that excel in their endeavors. But this is not one of them.
First of all, listening to the opening theme song makes us want to bash our heads into a wall. Aesthetically, trying to wrap your head around the idea that everyone in this universe has oversized heads, hands, and feet will make you reconsider reading comics in the first place. Watching shrunken down versions of villains and heroes fighting in a bowl of salsa is enough to make you want to punch everyone around you in the face. Never did we think that a children’s show would make us so hostile, but that was before we watched The Super Hero Squad Show!
What is your least favorite superhero cartoon? Let us know in the comments!