These days, action cartoons are few and far between, and most animated shows are 11-minute comedies. This isn’t a bad thing, since shows like Adventure Time and Steven Universe have shown you can make amazing story-driven comedies in a short-format. However, we miss those Saturday-morning, action-packed shows that seem to have gone out of style. With so much success from the comedy-hybrids, it doesn’t seem like serious action shows will be returning anytime soon as successful comedy-driven reboots like Teen Titans Go! and the new Powerpuff Girls have furthered this trend.
Don’t get us wrong, we love a lot of these shows, and as much flak as Teen Titans Go! gets, it’s still a fun, off-the-walls comedy. The thing is, we also love action cartoons, and they seem to be a dying breed these days. All we’re asking for is a little variety with cartoons. Most action cartoons these days are either anime on Toonami or revivals like Samurai Jack and Young Justice, the latter of which isn’t even going to be on TV, instead premiering on DC’s streaming service. We think it’s about time for a new action cartoon renaissance, and reviving these 8 shows could spearhead it. Though, to give some fair balance, we also found 7 that should be completely avoided.
15. COME BACK: TEEN TITANS
Teen Titans Go! was a fun way to bring back the voice cast of the original show, but if we’re being honest, it pales in comparison to its predecessor. The original Teen Titans had a great cast of characters (and voice actors), great design and style, and perfectly blended action with drama and comedy. Teen Titans was, at the time, something fresh and new, departing from the DCAU shows in both style and tone and not afraid to establish its own lore.
Teen Titans lasted five seasons and ended with the TV movie Trouble in Tokyo. The movie acted as a good ending to the series, but we were still left with a major cliffhanger. Not a lot of fans of Teen Titans seem to enjoy Go!, so a revival of the original could bring back a lot of viewers to Cartoon Network.
14. STAY DEAD: LEGION OF SUPERHEROES
Character designer Derrick J. Wyatt did work for both Teen Titans and the short-lived Legion of Superheroes, but the two couldn’t be more different, despite their similar visual style. For one thing, Teen Titans lasted five seasons and had a huge following before and after its cancellation, while Legion of Superheroes only lasted two and wasn’t as widely loved. Not to say the show didn’t have its merits, but it didn’t seem to quite capture the same magic as Teen Titans.
The Legion of Superheroes is actually a great comic to adapt into an action cartoon, since it has a wide cast to choose from and lots of weird, obscure characters to give revamped, rebooted depictions. However, Legion of Superheroes just didn’t have much going for it. Who knows what it was the show lacked, but we’d overlook this one if we were looking for action shows to resurrect.
13. COME BACK: SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN
Historically, Marvel has never had quite the same success with animation that DC has, though that might be changing these days. Regardless, Marvel has had two cartoons that people will unanimously agree are amazing; Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Spectacular Spider-Man, the first of which had a satisfying ending, the second leaving fans wanting more after its cancellation.
Marvel deserves a lot of credit for not giving up on the 22-minute action format since they kept it going with Ultimate Spider-Man and Avenger’s Assemble and continue to do so with the most recent Spider-Man cartoon. However, we wish they would backtrack a bit and bring back one of the best, if not the best Spider-Man cartoon of all time. Spectacular Spider-Man had amazing design work (by Sean Galloway) and over-arching storytelling that made it so disappointing when the series was cut short in its prime.
12. STAY DEAD: FANTASTIC FOUR WORLD’S GREATEST HEROES
Some might not remember this rather obscure Marvel cartoon, and frankly, it’s better that way. The show had some good things going for it, awesome character design (especially the FF’s costumes), new and unheard-of voice actors, and a mix of 3D and 2D animation. However, as great as the designs were, the animation fell incredibly flat — with static, life-less movement — and the 3D didn’t blend as well as intended.
The show was a co-production between America and France, leading to some issues with the series. The two biggest issues were the strange pacing and off voice acting. With these in mind, it’s no wonder the show didn’t make it past the first season. We’ll give Marvel credit for trying something new with World’s Greatest Heroes — the art style was unlike anything they’d done before — but we don’t think anyone’s craving a revival.
11. COME BACK: MEGAS XLR
Created by Jody Schaeffer and George Krstic, Megas XLR’s premise is pure gold. Slackers Coop and Jamie stumble across a robot from the future which Coop customizes by giving it a car for a head, only to be roped into protecting humanity from an alien invasion. The show was known for having the look and feel of a Saturday morning action cartoon with the insane, off-the-walls comedy of Japanese anime, most of the humor coming from the pure destruction Coop’s “piloting skills.”
The show wasn’t particularly story-driven, so it wasn’t cancelled on some big cliffhanger, but that’s what makes it so great for a reboot. Following a villain-of-the-week format, Megas XLR was a fun ride no matter what episode you watched. Who dig’s giant robots? We do, which is why we want Megas XLR back on TV.
10. STAY DEAD: LOONATICS UNLEASHED
The animation market wasn’t always all-comedy, in fact, there was a time when action cartoons ruled in the early 2000’s. This action-heavy market actually inspired some action-oriented reboots or re-toolings of comedy properties, production companies trying to get in on the trend. We got some cool shows out of this, though one that left us a little confused was Loonatics Unleashed.
Sporting a cringe-worthy title and an even cringe-ier premise, the show was a reimagining of classic Looney Tunes characters as superheroes in the post-apocalyptic city of Acmetropolis. To make things even stranger, the main characters are descendants of the Looney Tunes they’re based on. Loonatics Unleashed deserves come credit for trying something different, but we don’t think it needs to be revived any time soon.
9. COME BACK: SYM-BIONIC TITAN
Like Samurai Jack before it, Genndy Tartakovsky’s Sym-Bionic Titan was cut short despite critical praise. But, Samurai Jack eventually returned, so maybe there is hope for Tartakovsky’s other masterpiece to make a comeback. Sym-Bionic Titan was a short-lived action show following three alien refugees hiding out on Earth, Princess Ilana, elite soldier Lance and their robot Octus as they protect the world from monster attacks — sent by the man who took over their planet — by forming Sym-Bionic Titan.
Sym-Bionic Titan was basically Voltron meets John Hughes movies, with lots of giant-robot and monster action mixed with high school melodrama. There was so much to love about the show from the beautiful art to the brilliant vocal performances. Sym-Bionic Titan was cancelled after one season and Cartoon Network later wrote off the series, so a comeback might not be entirely possible.
8. STAY DEAD: GODZILLA THE SERIES
Speaking of giant monster attacks, one cancelled series that needs to stay dead is the 1998 Godzilla cartoon. Simply titled Godzilla: The Series, the show oddly took place after the critically panned ’98 American Godzilla film. Who’d have thought they’d make a follow-up to the film that received two Golden Raspberries?
The show makes the mistake that most American versions of Godzilla have made, making Godzilla the good guy (seriously the monster was made to be a metaphor for nuclear weapons), which makes for a strange premise. It follows a task force that fights giant monsters with the help of Dr. Nick Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick’s Character in the film), who Godzilla listens to. It was essentially a monster-of-the-week cartoon that felt a lot like a cash-grab; a strange, short-lived series that doesn’t need a comeback.
7. COME BACK: TRON UPRISING
The original Tron was a landmark of visual effects, it was one of the first films to immerse itself in computer animation and dazzled audiences everywhere for its, at the time, cutting-edge CGI. Tron eventually garnered a sequel in 2010, Tron: Legacy, followed by a short-lived animated series, Tron: Uprising. Uprising took place between the two films and depicted how the programs lived under CLU’s rule. One program named Beck, voiced by Elijah Wood, had enough and decided to fight back as “The Renegade.”
Tron: Uprising had a rich and compelling story rife with drama and thrills, which was paired with stunning visuals. Seriously the design, cinematography and choreography on this show was mind-blowing. There has been no official announcement from Disney of Uprising‘s cancellation, though it’s been four years since the end of the first season, so maybe it might come back some day.
6. STAY DEAD: IRON MAN ARMORED ADVENTURES
Before Disney bought Marvel and started airing all Marvel cartoons on Disney XD, Marvel shows aired on every cartoon channel you can name! One of the strangest was the Nicktoons channel, which aired the even stranger take on Iron Man known as Iron Man: Armored Adventures. Taking a drastically different approach to the first Iron Man Film, which had come out a year prior, Armored Adventures portrayed Tony Stark in his teenage years, becoming Iron Man much earlier than in the comics.
The show took a lot of new directions with characters like Tony, Rhodey and Pepper Potts, and even featured the likes of Black Widow, Hawkeye and The Hulk. Armored Adventures received mixed reviews during its two-season run, and with more success tied to comics-accurate Iron Man, we don’t think it needs to come back any time soon.
5. COME BACK: MOTORCITY
Another Disney show cut short too soon was the critically acclaimed Motorcity, created by Chris Pryonski, one of the creators of Megs XLR. Motorcity was an action-packed cartoon following the Burners, underground freedom fighters who used their tricked out hot-rods to rise up against the dystopian leader of Detroit Deluxe, Kane. Motorcity not only boasted unique and stylistic animation (done by Titmouse) it also had compelling, adventurous writing that kept you on the edge of your seat.
Unfortunately, Motorcity was cancelled after only one season despite critical praise. There was talk of a revival (along with Megas XLR) but nothing has yet to come of it. If there’s going to be an action cartoon comeback, Motorcity could really drive it forward (sorry for the pun) and bring with it new and exciting cartoons. Hopefully, Titmouse is able to get a revival going sometime soon.
4. STAY DEAD: JACKIE CHAN ADVENTURES
Before we get any angry comments here, we’re not saying Jackie Chan Adventures was bad, not in the least. The show is remembered fondly by many and it holds a place in the heart of many action-cartoon lovers. However, if there’s one thing we’ll say, it’s that Jackie Chan Adventures was very of its time. Meaning, a show like this, following the fictionalized life an actor/martial artist, wouldn’t exactly do well these days.
So forgive use for putting that “stay dead” next to Jackie Chan Adventures, since it was a fun and crazy adventure that was mildly popular when it was airing. However, it wouldn’t really serve well as part of an action cartoon comeback since it relies on a person rather than an original idea or franchise. Jack Chan Adventures may have been fun, but it doesn’t need to come back.
3. COME BACK: THUNDERCATS (2011)
After just one season, 2011’s reboot of Thundercats was cancelled. Despite receiving seemingly endless praise for the animation, design, updates to the original, writing and characterization, Cartoon Network did not renew it for a second season. The 2011 Reboot was a fantastic update of the original series, rocking an animation style that combined both American and Japanese elements and a more coherent story than the original.
It was never really made clear what led to the series’ cancellation, but one thing was very clear, fans were outraged and wanted more. Seriously, we can’t praise this show enough, it was beautiful and adventurous and action-packed all in one. Hopefully Cartoon Network hasn’t written off the Thundercats reboot yet, because we’d love to see more of it.
2. STAY DEAD: STREET SHARKS
We haven’t heard any word of any kind of Street Sharks reboot/revival in the works, but you can never be too safe. By that we mean do not bring back Street Sharks, we are begging you. Though the show has its merits, mostly for being ironically hilarious by sheer ridiculousness, it doesn’t need any kind of comeback.
Street Sharks was one of the many attempts to cash in on the popularity of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, which led to a whole slew of anthropomorphized animal superhero cartoons. So if there were so many bad ripoffs of the Turtles, why specifically do we not want Street Sharks to come back? No particular reason… other than the anthropomorphized sharks are just straight-up disturbing.
1. COME BACK: GENERATOR REX
Created by Man of Action (known for Ben 10 and Big Hero 6), Generator Rex was based on a comic by two of the members of Man of Action, Joe Kelly and Duncan Rouleau. The cartoon followed Rex, a teenager who can control nanites, microscopic machines that have infected the world, turning random people into EVOs, mutated monsters and creatures. With his powers, Rex can cure these monsters or fight them with mechanical enhancements he can grow from his body.
Generator Rex lasted for three seasons, ending on a bit of a cliffhanger that set up potential future adventures of Rex and crew. The show boasted some fantastically deep, dark and intense writing that mixed well with the action and unique characters. Though we’re not expecting a comeback anytime soon, it can’t hurt to dream.
Which action cartoons do you think should come back (or stay buried)? Let us know in the comments!
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