TV Animated Superheroes

10 Reviews - (3 New)
A Dark and Scary Place

The Incredible Hulk: Complete Animated Series (1966)

Starring (Voice): Max Ferguson and Paul Soles

Marvel (Clear Vision) May 2010

Certificate: PG

Doctor Bruce Banner is a military research scientist. Whilst conducting an experiment from a desert bunker, he notices with horror that a young man has unwittingly strayed on to the test site. To avert a disaster he races outside to escort the stranger to safety, but gets caught himself in the blast when an impatient colleague sets the machine in motion. Banner is bombarded with gamma radiation, which periodically changes him into a large and powerful green-skinned Hulk. The man who Banner saved becomes his only friend, and the protector of his secret, as the Hulk becomes feared and persecuted like Frankenstein's monster...

Collected together on official DVD for the first time comes The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Series. This animated show from 1966 hits the shelves as a two-disc set, incorporating thirteen episodes each split into three digestible segments, with an over-all running time of 4 hours and 12 minutes.

Doc Bruce Banner,
Belted by gamma rays,
Turned into the Hulk.
Ain't he unglamo-rays!
Wreckin' the town
With the power of a bull,
Ain't no monster clown
Who is that lovable?
It's ever lovin' Hulk! HULK!! HULK!!

I realise this series is primarily aimed at a young audience, but the theme song is sickly sweet to the point of being twee. Whereas the well-remembered Original Spider-Man tune from the same period fits the generally light-hearted mood of the piece, silly lyrics like this are a million miles removed from a character building weapons who changes into a rampaging beast that everyone is afraid of or wants to kill.

The animation is pretty basic - crude even - incorporating plenty of static scenes wherein zooming-in is utilised for close-ups and dramatic effect. Cut-out figures are also used, which glide across a backdrop as if on ice skates. The pictures we are shown are literally straight out of the earliest
Hulk comics, and that is in no way detrimental because we are presented with the classic artwork of Jack Kirby. I have to say that I grew increasingly attached to this quaint little series through each additional episode I viewed. There is even a poignant moment at the end of the final episode when the Hulk feels dejected by the way people see him, and his only friend Rick tells him he saved everyone. He's a hero.

The rogues gallery of villains include, The Leader, The Chameleon, The Toadman, The Space Phantom, The Metal Master, Tyranus, Boomerang, and The Ring Master. General 'Thunderbolt' Ross is the regular anti-hero, perpetually hateful and always arguing, very much in the vein of newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson from
Spider-Man. One episode features The Avengers, so we get guest appearances from the likes of Iron Man, Thor, Giant Man, and Wasp. In conclusion, this is an enjoyable little series, with each story split into mini-cliff-hangers, and will be of interest to followers of the Hulk character or the prolific Marvel output as a whole.

Verdict: 6 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2010)

The Incredible Hulk: Complete Animated Series (1982)

Starring (voice): Michael Bell, Bob Holt, Michael Horton and B.J. Ward

Marvel (Clear Vision) June 2010

Certificate: U

Released by Clear Vision, from the bottomless vaults of Marvel, comes The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Series, from 1982. It incorporates 13 episodes spread over two discs, with a total running time of 5 hours and 6 minutes.

Episodes consist of:
Tomb of the Unknown Hulk; Prisoner of the Monster; Origin of the Hulk; When Monsters Meet; The Cyclops Project; Bruce Banner Unmasked; The Creature and the Cavegirl. It Lives! It Grows! It Destroys!; The Incredible Shrinking Hulk; Punks on Wheels; Enter: She Hulk; The Boy Who Saw Tomorrow; and The Hulk Destroys Bruce Banner.

For anyone who has been struck by gamma rays and spent fifty years in a cave going green at the gills, The Hulk is a simple-minded but immensely powerful creature that scientist Bruce Banner turns into when he becomes upset or angry. The quirky attraction to this representation of the comic character is the narration by none other than Hulk (and most other marvel costumed heroes) creator, Stan Lee. You just can't knock his enthusiasm. He sounds like he's having the time of his life.

The theme tune and incidental music is infinitely more suited to the immense power and anger of the character than the 1960s series. The animation is very much of its time, as you would expect, but I must say that the sixties series has more heart. This one seems somehow larger than life, and aimed at an even younger audience. Although the Hulk himself acts and speaks more realistically ("Hulk smash!!") in this than the original, the characters are not so well refined. Banner's only real friend, Rick, acts like one of the Scooby-Doo gang.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but with a format which is perhaps one of the least sustainable in the Marvel canon, the artwork and storylines need to be significantly more compelling. Having said that, the series did begin to grow on me, with some of Stan the Man's exuberance rubbing off.

Verdict: 4 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2010)

The Incredible Hulk & She-Hulk (1996)

Starring (voice): Neal McDonough, Lou Ferrigno, Luke Perry and Genie Francis

Marvel (Clear Vision) September 2010

Certificate: PG

Released by Clear Vision, from the extensive archives of Marvel, comes The Incredible Hulk and She-Hulk, the 1990s animated series. Here we have the complete second series; eight episodes on a single disc, with a total running time of 2 hours, 50 minutes.

In
Hulk of a Different Colour, the Leader convinces the Grey Hulk that he can remove Doctor Banner from his genetic make-up, but is only intent on tapping his gamma energy; in Down Memory Lane, She-Hulk begins to lose her strength from burning the candle at both ends; in Mind Over Anti-Matter, a creature from another dimension possesses Bruce Banner, creating Dark Hulk, and She-Hulk and Doctor Strange take a journey through his mind to revive the dormant Green and Grey Hulks; in They Call Me Mr Fix It, a woman crime boss has the power to make men fall in love with her, but when she kidnaps Banner the She-Hulk and Grey Hulk muscle in as new crime lords; in Fashion Warriors, the Leader and the Abomination try to hold celebrities hostage at a fashion show; in Hollywood Rocks, Doctor Doom steals Banner's new machine and uses it to send the Hulk in to space and onto an asteroid headed for the sun; in The Lost Village, the Hulks help protect a mythical and hidden city from a violent outcast; and in Mission Incredible, a deep sea symbiotic life-form takes over a number of people in order to infiltrate a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility with an unstable gamma core.

Having not received series one for review, I can't really comment on the early episodes, and a rather confused and chaotic update at the start of this disc doesn't really help. Nevertheless, it seems that in this updated take on the popular comic characters, Bruce Banner's alter ego is known by both Betty Ross (his love interest) and her father, General Ross - although they have very different and perhaps predictable opinions of the scientist. Banner's cousin has had to be bombarded with gamma rays in order to save her life. It leaves her green-skinned but strong and sexy. Contrary to Banner's constant battle to rid himself of the Hulk, the sassy She-Hulk revels in her new look and abilities. In a failed experiment to separate Banner from the Hulk, the rather more coherent but eminently dislikable Grey Hulk is formed. Now, each time Bruce Banner's anger, pain or anxiety is released we witness a constantly raging internal struggle between the Green and Grey Hulks, and whoever gains the upper hand at that moment is the one we see take form.

This is by far the best animated series of
The Incredible Hulk I've come across. The She-Hulk is fun and funny, the Green Hulk lovable, and the Grey Hulk no-nonsense and somewhat tiresome as he should be. Fortunately, this series is action-packed, with interesting storylines. It is enjoyable without ever playing down to a young audience. Consequentially, there are no cringe-worthy moments I can recall. A success by any reckoning.

Verdict: 7 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2010)

Spider-Man: The Original Animated Series (1967)

Season 2 - Volume 1

Starring (Voice): Paul Soles, Peg Dixon, Paul Kligman

Marvel (Clear Vision) November 2009

Certificate: U

Everyone's friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man returns for another round of animated adventures from the original 1960s series. This time it's Volume 1 of Season 2, incorporating six 20-minute episodes:

The Origin of Spider-Man is a self-explanatory episode showing, very briefly, how the shy student obtained his powers. King Pinned has our webbed wonder up against Fisk, the Kingpin of crime. Swing City has the Master Technician take over a energy plant and use it to lift Manhattan Island into the air, and threaten to drop it (like you do). Criminals in the Clouds pitches Spider-Man against the Sky Master, who has kidnapped an American football prodigy. Menace From the Bottom of the World has the webhead follow a disappearing bank to a subterranean city. And in Diamond Dust, SM goes up against a master jewel thief. There is a definite tendency towards more conventional super-villains here, rather than costumed super-powered rogues.

I thoroughly enjoyed the nostalgia of Season 1, after fondly remembering the reruns from my youth. However, these episodes are not split in two like before, and consequentially they are far too long for the content. Far, far too long. Because the stories are still written for a ten minute segment, a huge amount of padding is necessary to make up the episode running times. As a result there are tedious extended sequences featuring our hero swinging his way across town, accompanied by loud jazzy music. The same animated short scenes are repeated, so that our web-shooter appears to pass the same landmarks or even go back the way he has just come, in an attempt to 'rush' to a crime scene. Did I mention that he swings a lot?!

This sudden lack of attention to detail reduces this release to standard fair. Take my advice, go and buy Season 1 instead.

Verdict: 5 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2009)

Spider-Man: The Original Animated Series (1967)

Season 2 - Volume 2

Starring (Voice): Paul Soles, Peg Dixon, Paul Kligman

Marvel (Clear Vision) January 2010

Certificate: U

Spider-Man, Spider-Man continues doing what a spider can... in this new collection of episodes from Season 2 of the original series incorporating six 20-minute stories with an accumulative running time of 2 hrs 4 mins.

If the first season was tightly-scripted and action-packed, then season 2 just kept getting increasingly weird. Gone are the standard criminals and costumed super villains, to be replaced with mole men, giant insects, sorcerers, sentient plants, crazy magicians, cats and gold cities in the sky. It kind of makes you wonder what the writers might have put in their tea (allegedly!).

In
Spider-Man Battles the Molemen, much of the animation from the first volume story is re-used as the same story of buildings being taken below ground and somebody controlling subterranean dwellers is rehashed in a drawn-out tale of too much swinging. In Phantom from the Depths of Time, a small island appears to be lost in time. However, the giant insects and prehistoric creatures are actually robots controlled by an individual who is using the indigenous people as slaves. In The Evil Sorcerer, an academic tutor from the museum is fired for his obsession of an old sorcerer called Kotep. To prove himself he manages to bring Kotep back, but it is a mistake that Spider-Man has to clean up by going head to head in a battle to stop a demon horde.

In Vine, a pod is discovered in the loft of a house, and when subjected to light, grows increasingly large, rampaging through the town on its way to the heart of New York. In Pardon Presents, the evil magician returns, this time using a giant shadow cat to do his bidding, including hypnotising a room full of dignitaries. Finally, in Cloud City of Gold, Peter Parker is on a light aircraft which becomes lost and damaged in a storm. It crashes on a strange land in the cloud with an ancient city of gold. Of the three other men, no one questions the fact that Peter Parker goes missing and Spider-Man shows up to help them.

I know the Spider-Man comics have done the
Savage Land stories, but I consider these tales to be far too outré for the character. Nevertheless, they remained in the minds of a generation.

Verdict: 5 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2010)

Spider-Man: The Original Animated Series (1967)

Season 3 - Volume 1

Starring (Voice): Paul Soles, Peg Dixon, Paul Kligman

Marvel (Clear Vision) March 2010

Certificate: U

Here we go for another bunch of episodes from the original Spider-Man animated series, with the theme tune you just can't get out of your head. This time it's Season 3 - Volume 1 and, unlike Season 2, we return to the first year format of two individual story segments in each episode. So we effectively get 12 tales over a running time of 2 hours and 5 minutes. This ensures that the the plots are tighter and more concise, doing away with the need for the endless time wasting swinging we had in Season 2.

In
The Winged Thing, the flying Vulture attempts to instill fear into the city's inhabitants; in Conner's Reptiles, Spider-Man tries to help Dr Conner who has changed into the man-sized Lizard; in Trouble With Snow, a snowman is struck by a live electric cable, comes alive, grows larger with each snowfall and terrorises the city; In Spider-Man Vs Desperado, a wannabe cowboy on a mechanical flying horse, robs banks; In Sky Harbor, a zeppelin aircraft carrier with first world war planes firing lasers holds the skies to ransom; in The Big Brainwasher, the Kingpin ropes an oblivious Mary Jane into his scheme to bring city officials under his control. It's a joy to see MJ dancing like she's covered in insects. In The Vanishing Doctor Vespasian, a scientist uses invisibility to steal some priceless jewels; in The Scourge of the Scarf, a master thief uses a hypnotic projector to send the city to sleep while he robs every theatre on Broadway of its takings; in Super Swami, the magician returns to cause havoc in New York with realistic illusions; in The Birth of Micro Man, Spider-Man gets miniaturised in his bid to recapture an escaped criminal scientist; in Knight Must Fall, a knight in shining armour, riding a motorcycle steed, prevents a robbery, only to steal the money himself; and in The Devious Dr Dumpty, a gang uses gas-filled inflatables to steal gems.

The weirdness of season 2 is reigned back in with the return of some established Spidey enemies, such as the Lizard, the Vulture and the Kingpin, but not quite to the extent of Season 1. Still, it's a welcome return to a semblance of normality. These were simpler times, so don't expect intricate story arcs or complicated plots. The 1996 Spider-Man series was a work of art compared with this, but I still hold fond memories of the reruns.

Verdict: 7 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2010)

Spider-Man: The Original Animated Series (1967)

Season 3 - Volume 2

Starring (Voice): Paul Soles, Peg Dixon, Paul Kligman

Marvel (Clear Vision) April 2010

Certificate: PG

This release incorporates the final seven episodes of the original Spider-Man animated series. The running time is 2 hours, 25 minutes. One of the episodes is split into two separate tales. Those of you who have read my reviews of the previous releases in this particular series will remember my preference for the split episodes, because generally the brief plots can't sustain a 20 minute time slot. Shorter and punchier tales are the order of the day. Season 1 was in this format, and Volume 1 of season 3 returned to it. However, the stories here are a little stronger, but negated by returning villains for the pure and simple purpose of re-using much of the same animation that has been seen before. There doesn't appear to have been any remastering conducted on the picture and sound, and in Up From Nowhere there is a dark shadow across the print which to all intents and purposes resembles the ear piece from a pair of glasses.

In
Up From Nowhere, Dr Atlantean uses alternative technology to threaten the world above the ocean depths and trap New York within a bubble; in Rollarama, SM enters a realm of sentient plants in a bid to stop a destructive growing tumbleweed (yes, really!); in Rhino, the human battering ram steals gold to fashion a statue of himself (I'm certain this episode has already been included in a previous release); in The Madness of Mysterio, the ex-movie special effects and stuntman attempts to defeat SM by means of post hypnotic suggestion; in Revolt in the Fifth Dimension, SM protects the data from an entire alien library from an evil force (this is arguably the best of the bunch here); in Specialists and Slaves, SM is sent on a diversion so that the Radiation Specialist (I'm sure he was called something else last time) can return to take over New York's only experimental nuclear reactor; in Down to Earth, Peter Parker travels to the North Pole to investigate the landing of a meteor from space, only to be confronted as SM with a primitive tribe, fantastical creatures and an active volcano; and in Trip to Tomorrow, SM regales a young boy with tales of his escapades.

This series holds fond memories for me from when I was young, but the central storylines are pretty basic and sometimes... just out there mad as a box of frogs. I would say that it just about outstayed it welcome. Whilst the 1990s animated Spider-Man lasted significantly longer, it had much more intricate and interwoven plots. One more point about the Original Spider-Man: why did almost all the villains have green faces?

Verdict: 4 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2010)

Spider-Man: The Original Animated Series (1967)

Season 1 - Volume 1

Starring (Voice): Paul Soles, Peg Dixon, Paul Kligman

Marvel (Clear Vision) August 2009

Certificate: PG

Finally, via Clear Vision, we have the very welcome first time on DVD release of the original Spider-Man animated series from 1967. Stan Lee's inventive and most prestigious early output at Marvel Comics means that not only did he create some of the best and most famous superheroes - including Spider-Man - but that he made certain they had an abundance of colourful villains with which to do battle. Spider-Man possesses more than most. So our colourful line-up of social outcasts include Dr Octopus, the Lizard, Electro, Mysterio, Scorpion, Sandman, and the Green Goblin. All are loud and over-expressive like the moustache-tweaking "I shall rule the world!" megalomaniacs of old.

The animation is rudimentary by today's standards. Most of New York's Manhattan skyline is not fully realised, with the non-specific or irrelevant buildings sufficing as a few basic lines. On at least one occasion the spider is absent from the chest of Spider-Man's costume, and several short sequences are re-used; particularly those where he is swinging or wall-crawling his way across town. However, the show is quirky without playing-down to young viewers, and the small handful of characters are well-realised. J. Jonah Jameson, the Daily Bugle's self-centred publisher is gloriously annoying in his hatred for all that is Spider-Man ("A menace to society!"), and his sweet secretary Betty Brant is the perfect target for his bluster. Peter Parker does a Batman and lowers his tones whilst in costume, but is true to the original comics with his insecure teenage wise-cracking.

In this first volume there are six twenty-minute episodes, each (aside from one) split up into two separate tales - with a total running time of around two hours. Effectively then, these are bite-sized mini-episodes, so don't expect a cast of thousands or any sort of development. For the purposes of character background we only see the teenage Peter Parker working at the Daily Bugle as a freelance photographer; which is a great way of having him privy to breaking news. Cracking on with the relevant story means that Spider-Man can fashion his web into virtually anything, and they even work under water.

This original colour series featuring Marvel's flagship character carries a great deal of nostalgia. I remember watching TV reruns of this when I was of primary school age. It has a Scooby-Doo feel to it, and string quartet or brass incidental music which makes it quaint rather than dated. You can't help but love it. Besides, who hasn't heard of that famous theme tune?:

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can.
Spins a web any size, catches thieves just like flies...

Verdict: 8 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2009)

Spider-Man: The Original Animated Series (1967)

Season 1 - Volume 2

Starring (Voice): Paul Soles, Peg Dixon, Paul Kligman

Marvel (Clear Vision) September 2009

Certificate: PG

"Walloping web-snappers!" Spidey is back for another round of stories from the original 1967 animated series. In this second volume there are seven episodes, all bar one of which is split into two separate ten-minute tales.

Returning for a second outing is Electro (who escapes from prison during an electrical storm), Mysterio, and Parafino (who fashions famous henchmen from wax and brings them to life). A well-known Marvel villain makes his first appearance here in the form of the Rhino (the only double-length episode on this disc). All of the others are much lesser-known master criminals from the early days.

Dr Magneto is very possibly a precursor to the principle X-Men bad guy Magneto, and the Hunter an early version of Kraven the Hunter. It's good to see something different to the half-expected costumed maniacs too; here we meet Doctor Noah Boddy (yes, he's invisible), the Sinister Prime Minister (aren't they all?), Ms Trubble (a bookseller who can conjure mythical beasts), a master magician, the Fifth Avenue Phantom, and others.

Again, we have a hugely enjoyable and fun viewing experience (see review of Volume 1 for more details) with a healthy running time of 2 hours 26 minutes. You'll love every episode - I did. Go buy.

On a final note, did you know that the lyrics to the Spider-Man song were written by Paul Francis Webster (I kid you not!) All I can say is thanks to the Web(mei)ster.

Verdict: 8 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2009)

Spider-Man: The Original Animated Series (1967)

Season 1 - Volume 3

Starring (Voice): Paul Soles, Peg Dixon, Paul Kligman

Marvel (Clear Vision) October 2009

Certificate: PG

Spider-Man, Spider-Man. Carries on doing what a spider can, in this new collection of episodes from the 1960s animated series. He spins a web any size, then has some chips just like fries (I made that last bit up).

Volume 3 incorporates chapters 14a to 20b, seven 20-minute episodes with each split into two separate stories. So that's just under three hours of web-swinging action spread over two discs. These make up the final tales of Season One. Some of the classic villains return in the form of Dr Octopus, the Vulture, Electro, the Rhino and the Green Goblin. We have a second crime spree from the Human Fly, and some more bizarre criminals such as the Fiddler and Doctor Von Schlick (who can control oil) make a first appearance.

The same standard of fun is maintained, although this series sticks solidly to a set format. A crime takes place, Spider-Man has a run-in with the villain who then gets away, Peter Parker overhears useful information from the newspaper offices of the Daily Bugle, Spider-Man tracks down the guilty party and webs them up for the police. Similarly, the more you watch these episode the more you notice repeat sequences of Spider-Man swinging through the city. Incidental music is much repeated too, and publisher J. Jonah. Jameson continually accuses Spider-Man of everything that happens, even though in every story he is proved wrong.

Yes, Original Spider-Man has its faults, but it's quaint and you can't help but love it.

Verdict: 8 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2009)