Saturday, October 8, 2011

The 15 Best Animated Superhero Shows

Superheroes are awesome, it's just fact. And while live action seems to be the trend lately, animation is a much more natural fit to really represent them in the best way possible. So with that in mind, here are the 15 best examples of top notch shows pretty much anybody should be able to enjoy:

#15: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Far more goofy than their gritty comic book origins, the original Turtles show took a whole bunch of weird and made it work. As if the Turtles themselves weren't crazy enough in concept, adding brain-like space alien Krang and moronic minions Bebop & Rocksteady turned it up a notch. And yet for the most part it worked really well, managing to combine decent action with comedy really well. It kind of fell apart the last couple seasons, but few shows, animated or otherwise had such a strong run for such a long time, to this day they are still making TMNT, with a new show on Nickelodeon coming out this year, which speaks to the appeal and strength of this oddly fantastic foursome of ninjas.

#14. Freakazoid : Possibly the most insane superhero ever, winning most of his battles by simply irritating his enemies more often than doing anything remotely heroic. Whether he actually even qualifies as a hero is possibly in question, since he just does whatever he wants most of the time, mostly in an absolutely hilarious fashion, with completely awesome and random humor thrown in just for the hell of it.

#13. The Tick

While most of these shows do a pretty good job at poking fun at the superhero genre once and great while, The Tick managed to do it every single episode, be it the dim bulb hero or his equally ridiculous allies like Sewer Urchin and even more awesomely ridiculous enemies such as Chairface Chippendale. A still brilliant parody of the occasional stupidity of comics, this probably still reigns as the greatest superhero comedy ever.

#12. Darkwing Duck: Superheroes are supposed to be selfless, all about helping their fellow man, and don't really care for glory. That is not Darkwing at all. He's all about the glory, extremely petty, egotistical and selfish, sometimes dangerously so. And that's what makes him so awesome. But at the end of the day, he still beats the bad guy, making him one of the few heroes that usually can back up his huge boasts.

#11. X-Men Evolution: It'd be nearly impossible to try and outdo the original X-men series (more on that later), so why even bother? Granted, sending heroes back to high school is a risky proposition, but Evolution made it work incredibly well, bringing a great mix of stand-alone and arching storylines that would even stretch into the next season, which is extremely rare for an cartoon shows. It's a shame it only lasted 3 seasons, which didn't five it much of a chance at having a rich a deeply layered history like it could have.

#10. Gargoyles: This is probably Disney's most ambitious animated series to date. It's has layers upon layers of character development and plot lines, it's dark, dealing with deep betrayal, murder, kidnapping, hate crime and other such non-kiddy fare. And being on Disney with this kind of subject matter, you knew it was only destined for a few seasons, but what a fantastic few seasons they were.

#9. Batman: The Brave & the Bold : It's an incredible accomplishment to do Batman as light and campy and still make it work exceptionally well, but that's exactly what the most recent Dark Knight series has done, being extremely funny and loaded with cameos from DC's vast B & C-list such as Blue Beetle & Plastic Man. It's also the only show to portray Batman as having an actual sense of humor, which while out of character for his more serious portrayals, works very well within the show.

#8. Batman Beyond : There can't really be another Batman other than Bruce Wayne, right? Nobody could possibly fill that role. Except what the hell do you do when Batman actually does get too old? In comes Terry McGinnis, who isn't Bruce Wayne, not by a longshot. But he's a new kind of Batman, for a new age, and it works, even beating the likes of Freeze and the Joker in his own way. Gotham doesn't always need Bruce Wayne, but it does always need a Batman, and Terry fills in the role very nicely.

#7. X-Men : Premiering the same year as Batman: the Animated series, this was one of the first attempts to do a real, serious cartoon show, and boy did it work. Arcs that ran over the whole show, a real continuity to the universe and the episodes, and the bonus of bringing some classic X-Men storylines to life. This was one of the first examples that animation and cartoons specifically did not have to be candy coated crap meant to sell toys and could be as good as anything on prime time TV. If it has any failings, it was that unlike the best shows, it was completely serious, instead of having a good mix of humor and drama.

#6. Spectacular Spider-Man : There have been a fair amount of Marvel cartoons over the years, several starring Spider-Man, this is far and away the best, managing to perfectly capture the personality of the wall-crawler while successfully taking a new spin on most of his villains and friends. Sadly this fantastic show lasted only 2 seasons, a fatality of the rights going back to Sony, which choose to go with a new show rather than keep the great original. Boo Sony.

#5. Teen Titans : This might actually be the funniest superhero series that isn't a spoof, giving the show an exaggerated anime style and most of the characters extremely goofy yet enjoyable and endearing personalities. Yet it manages to mix in some seriousness, most of it dealing with Robin's arch nemesis Slade but also dealing with things like Raven's repressed darker nature from time to time. For pure entertainment and hilarity, it's hard to top this awesome 5-season run.

#4. Superman : The Animated Series: Arguably DC's most famous hero (at least until Batman's recent leap in popularity), a huge problem with Superman was that he was practically invincible, how do you keep that interesting? Bruce Timm managed to do it, making nearly every episode entertaining and the best representation of the Man of Steel to date.

#3. Avatar: The Last Airbender : Like many of the shows on this list, Avatar manages to blend drama and humor extremely well. What makes it stand out is that it's an original property that manages to create a rich universe and it manages to tell its story in three short but amazing seasons. It could've gone on longer (and sort of will thanks to an upcoming spin-off) but in the end it didn't really need to, it accomplished what few shows, especially cartoons manage to do in wrapping up all its key plots to come to a stellar and satisfying conclusion, making it easily one of the best series ever, animated or otherwise.

#2: Justice League/Justice League Unlimited : The original Justice League show was a great feat, managing 8 superheroes in compelling ways with great intertwining storylines for 3 seasons. When it changed to Unlimited, potentially incorporating the entire DC universe, it got even better, taking time to make us care about nobodies like Hawk & Dove, Vigilante, or the hilarious Booster Gold while still giving plenty of screen time to the big name heroes. Probably the most amazing aspect was continuity, even mining episodes of Batman, Superman & Batman Beyond for episode material.

#1. Batman: The Animated series: Arguably responsible for cartoons finally being taken as something more than kid's stuff. It was true to the source material, and actually made the comic it was based on better. Harley Quinn was an original creation of the show, Mr. Freeze was made a better villain, and so on. It managed to have great adventures, seriously dark moments, and even completely hilarious episodes. It is the standard-bearer, and probably always will be.

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