How Embracing Lee and Kirby Saved The Fantastic Four Animated Series

Welcome to Adventure(s) Time's fifty-fifth installment installment, a look at animated heroes of the past. I've mentioned before that this series isn't limited to the DC Animated Universe.  This week, I prove it by focusing on the most Marvel of Marvel properties.

Fantastic Four Cartoon

The Fantastic Four launched the Marvel Age of Comics in 1961, becoming an instant hit. A cartoon series followed in 1967, an adaptation so faithful the writers literally tore Fantastic Four issues in half, with one scripting the first section of the comic and another the final simultaneously.

The 1970s brought a revamped series and, later, a Thing solo series. These are best forgotten.  Especially when the Thing is paired with Fred Flintstone.

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The Fantastic Four's next shot in animation came in 1994 as a part of the Marvel Action Hour. The debut season is legendary, for all the wrong reasons. Cheap animation, lackluster plots, bizarre character designs... and a Vanilla Ice-worthy rap from Johnny Storm. It's a such a disappointment, Fantastic Four writer Tom DeFalco felt compelled to take a shot at the series in the actual comics. (Marvel was not happy about this.)

The quality of the series was so rancid, producers realized changes had to be made.  Thankfully, Season Two received a drastic makeover.  Philippine Animation Studios, known for some of the better X-Men episodes, replaced Wang Film Productions as the animation studio.

The new direction is evident just a few seconds into the second season premiere.  "And A Blind Man Shall Lead Them" opens with a terse action sequence, pitting the team against Doctor Doom. The action is intense, the voice acting is credible, and the animation is admirably fluid. The first season had a camp quality; the new direction is all about sincerity. Just listen to Reed Richards call out in anger to Doom, who's kidnapped Sue. (The loquacious Doom even apologizes for the "damsel in distress" cliché.) Sue's actually the one to save the team, when Doom detonates a bomb that destroys the island base.

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