The 90s were a turbulent time for Marvel Comics. While they nearly saw financial ruin, they also met with success by teaming with Saban Entertainment to introduce two of the most beloved animated series of the decade: “X-Men: The Animated Series” and “Spider-Man: The Animated Series.” Boosted by their success with Saturday morning cartoons, it wasn’t long before Marvel attempted to bring even more of their biggest properties into the world of animation… with varying results.
While Marvel Comics has dabbled in animation since the mid-60s, it wasn’t until 1999, when they joined forces with Saban International and 20th Century Fox, that the publisher offered up its first animated series based on The Avengers. The series, “The Avengers: United They Stand,” was heavily promoted and much hyped among Marvel and comic based publications. The collective fan response upon its debut on FOX Kids, however, was less than enthusiastic, and even to this day, there’s a relatively middling response to “United They Stand” especially in the face of superior fare like “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”
I’ve managed to become a huge fan of the “Marvel Rising” TV specials as they’ve given a big spotlight to superheroes that don’t get their proper due or are overdue for their own spotlight very soon. Among them, there’s Squirrel Girl, Miss Marvel, Spider-Gwen, and Inferno. Disney has taken advantage of these specials to give some side adventures to some unique superheroes and heroines and I have enjoyed what has unfolded for this new team, as well as the diverse team of voice actors.
Directors Gustavo Steinberg, André Catoto, and Gabriel Bitar deliver an interesting and original animated adventure with “Tito and the Birds” that’s based around very relevant social and political themes. Audiences will find some fascinating messages to be mined from “Tito and the Birds,” as the writers explore the idea of prejudice and hate the potential for disease and misery to be exploited by fascism and greed.
In 1989, Nintendo was beginning to take over the world, and had done so right out of the wake of the video game crash of the eighties. With arcades fading, Nintendo was one of the strongest competitors for home gaming consoles, and in 1989 they were juggernauts of pop culture. Back in that era, just about everything was TMNT, The Simpsons, and Nintendo, and the latter had taken the minds and hearts of gamers and tech geeks everywhere that loved a good challenging platformer or run and gunner. In 1989, Nintendo finally branched out in to the wider arena of pop culture by basically helping to fuel a kids’ movie that would become a cult classic.
After years of delivering a new style of animation for a new generation of DC and Warner fans, the DC animation department is going back to the well and reviving the classic Bruce Timm animation style for some brand new films. While they all haven’t been slam dunks, “Justice League vs. The Fatal Five” is a fine return to form for a part of DC Comics Entertainment that almost always delivers. It’s certainly better than the junky 2017 “Batman and Harley Quinn” movie, and even takes the time out to delve in to important overtones about PTSD, Mental illness, and overcoming our fears.
Like a lot of previous efforts to reboot a property, Neil Marshall’s handling of “Hellboy” was the apparent product of studio interference and clashing ideas that resulted in a hectic shoot for just about everyone. That’s a shame since when Neil Marshall is allowed to unfold his own ideas and monsters, he gives us “The Descent,” and “Dog Soldiers.” It’s not to say that “Hellboy” is a bad movie, it’s just one half of a very good reboot that’s fun, and action packed, and one half of a sloppy studio film that’s boring, over explained, and sloppily tailored for sequels, prequels, and spin offs.
After what’s been a mixed bag of titles in the DC Universe animation library, DC and Warner has suddenly decided to re-visit the classic Bruce Timm animation universe they retired so long ago. Not that I’m complaining, as it’s been a pretty awesome experience re-visiting the style that helped usher in much of what we know from DC Animation from the nineties in to pop culture. “Justice League vs. The Fatal Five” is thankfully a fun re-visit to this property that works as a semi-sequel to the “Justice League” animated series that also seems to be testing the platform for “The Legion of Superheroes,” again.