The 20 Best Superhero Animated Series, Part I

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I've always been a big fan of cartoons. Any and all cartoons really, but like most of my passions in life, anything superhero related automatically took precedence. So it's no surprise that I have been a huge fan of the various superhero animated series that have aired over the years on the various networks. Thankfully, my love for cartoons never disappeared as I got older, much to the chagrin of my parents, friends, and love interests.

Yes, love interests. It’s rare to find that special someone who doesn’t mind a multi-season marathon of the numerous Batman series that have aired over the years, but it’s something I have accepted. Because I live for the multi-season marathon, so that isn’t going to change anytime soon. I’m getting a little off topic here, and possibly airing my desperate loneliness to the world at large, so we should move on.

As I began looking through my collection to determine the next series I should line up for a marathon, I began thinking that not everyone has the collection or desire to really sit down and get into some of these cartoons, especially with so many out there. So, like any self respecting (and horribly alone) comic book cartoon fan I felt it was my duty to create the following list to share with you, and to help decide what exactly I am going to watch next, and what you should start with.

Everybody wins. Mainly I win, though.

20) The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk was a series that aired alongside a few other early ’90s attempts at bringing some Marvel properties to the masses. The Incredible Hulk was the best of the bunch, but still not breathtaking. Around the same time aired Iron Man: The Animated Series, which was laughable but still better than the horrible Fantastic Four series that featured Brian Austin Green as the voice of Johnny Storm. Hulk told a fairly decent story across it’s two seasons, and even co-starred She-Hulk for the second season. It featured a ton of Marvel character cameos, and while it softened quite a bit for the second season, it had a pretty dark take on the Hulk that set it aside from it’s ’90s Marvel counterparts.

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While not the best example of a superhero animated series, it was the best of the three it aired with which grants it the last spot on the list. It also featured some great voice talent with Neal McDonough as Bruce Banner, Lou Ferrigno as Hulk, Luke Perry as Rick Jones, and Mark Hamill as Gargoyle.

19) Teen Titans

I was always a big fan of the Teen Titans growing up, and an even bigger fan of Robin, so you figure I would have loved this show immediately. Well, I didn’t, as I was turned off early by it’s clear aim towards a younger audience as well as its heavy anime influences. But I still gave it a shot, because I am a loyal fan who will give my favorite stuff all of my time and money in spite of my personal feelings. But then as I continued to watch the series something changed, and I actually began to like the goofy, non-continuity cartoon that I still wanted to hate with every fiber of my being. It followed the much younger cast of Teen Titans with very little/no involvement of the various mentors of the team or any adult superheroes that you would expect from a DC cartoon, but developed clear characters and formed a nice little family that really brought the heart from the comics.

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Another strong cast featuring some big names in animated voices like Tara Strong, Dee Bradley Baker, Khary Payton, and even Ron Perlman. And as much as I hated the opening theme song, I would always find myself randomly singing it under my breath, while anyone near enough to hear stared at me strangely.

18) Green Lantern: TAS

While still early in its run, I was pretty impressed with the latest CG outing by DC Entertainment. I enjoyed the animation and the character designs, but also the story they envisioned for the first part of the season really brought me into the series and offered me something new right away. Not only did they effectively introduce the GL Corps, the Guardians, the main supporting characters, the villains, and a groovy new spaceship, they did it all in ONE episode. Tight plotting, great visuals, and a stellar first season (which is still running) has already put this rookie series securely on my list.

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Voice talents again feature some well known animation names that include Josh Keaton as Hal Jordan, Kevin Michael Richardson as Kilowog, Grey DeLisle as Aya, and even Spongebob Squarepants (Tom Kenny) himself! Since there isn’t much of an intro to the show, here’s a brief sizzle reel to give you an idea:

17) The Tick

I’m having trouble describing everything that was awesome about The Tick. The parody nature of its take on superheroics? The ridiculous characters like Die Fledermaus and American Maid, all too real imitations of Batman and Captain America? The tongue-in-cheek villains constantly attacking The City with various doomsday plans that are always doomed to fail? After much deliberation it’s painfully obvious why The Tick was a great cartoon, and that is simply because of the Tick himself! One of the most unintentionally hilarious spoofs on superheroes ever to grace the small screen, I constantly find myself shouting “Spoon!” at various crowded establishments, only to hear it followed by a chorus of fellow Tick fans joining in.

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While not full of as many well known voices as some others on our list, it still featured Townsend Coleman as the Tick, Rob Paulsen and Micky Dolenz as Arthur, Brad Garret, and even Roddy McDowall! Later it would become a short lived live action series starring Patrick Warburton as the Tick, but we might have to talk about that one another time…

16) Spider-Man: TAS

Chances are if you grew up in the ’90s you were at least aware of this show. After the success of another Marvel cartoon on our list we’ll talk about later, Spider-Man: The Animated Series debuted on FoxKids and became an instant favorite. While some of the animation certainly doesn’t hold up today, and the number of repeated shots throughout the series gets a little old, the series wasn’t afraid to tackle some of the biggest moments in Spider-Man mythology. It also didn’t steer away from interconnected episodes, sometimes even devoting an entire season to one huge story arc. While it started to jump the shark a little bit in the later seasons, some of the redone origins were so well done they are considered more well known than the original comic versions. Ask the casual viewer just how Venom got his cool alien suit, and chances are they will recount the way it is told in this series instead of the actual version from the comic.

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Easily the longest lasting Spider-Man animated series Marvel has yet to bring us, it sits in most fans hearts and more than deserves a spot on this list. Starring Christopher Daniel Barnes, one of the most recognized voices of Peter Parker/Spidey, it also featured Ed Asner as J. Jonah Jameson and Hank Azaria as Eddie Brock/Venom!

And that does it for the first part of our look at some of the best superhero animated series! Hopefully this will give you a good start so you can one day become the ridiculously lonely awesome cartoon nerd that I am.

I’m so alone.

Until next week!

READ: THE 20 BEST SUPERHERO ANIMATED SERIES, PART II
READ: THE 20 BEST SUPERHERO ANIMATED SERIES, PART III
READ: THE 20 BEST SUPERHERO ANIMATED SERIES, PART IV

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