It was a dark and stormy Thursday night in April of 1983. I was laying in bed watching a video tape of Spider-man the live action show my parents had gotten me. It was one of the VCR tapes we had rented from R&R electronics. I had been waiting all day for my turn to watch my rental. My memory says it was the episode about cloning Spider-man. I was as happy as a pig in slop.
You see I hadn't seen any super heroes on tv for nearly a month. It was a year past The Incredible Hulk and Greatest American Hero had ended in February. It really had ended a year earlier when the show starting stinking. It took a while for ABC to learn that it was over and pull the plug. New episodes of Spider-man and His Amazing Friends and the Incredible Hulk were months away and my soon to be a teenager self said I couldn't watch cartoons any more.
My one and only source of spring and summer super heroes were comic books. I would walk or ride six blocks to the local corner store and buy old 25¢ comics for a dime, which just happened to be the deposit on two glass coke bottles. Coke bottles could be found in the trash at the ball field for free. People were to lazy to return them to the stores for the deposit. Later I would hate two litter bottles because of that.
I spent the whole summer reading about the exploits of the Justice League, Bat Man, and Superman. I collected dozens of old yellowed comics that summer. My side of the bedrooms began to look more like a rummage sale of old comics then a bedroom. Looking back, the amazing thing is that of all the comics I had access to none of them were Marvel. With the exception of Spider-man and Hulk I knew nothing about the Marvel Universe. Then September rolled around and the corner grocery closed at the same time as Spider-man started again on NBC.
This meant I had to find a new source for my comics. That source was a store called Comics and Curios. It was a 2hour bike ride if my parents would have let me ride a bike so far and the comics were the full price of 60¢. I had to make fewer trips and couldn't trade coke bottles for comics I had to have real cash. This made me want to get the most for my few cents allowance. Since Spider-man was on TV I decided to buy the Spider-man Comic.
Can you say gateway comic. Number 238 Amazing Spiderman had the Hobgoblin tearing a Spider Suit in half. I had no Idea what the story line was about and it didn't matter it was a comic from March. I had to have it. (If you click on the picture it will lead you to one of the best 1980's Marvel history sites I've found. Jason Shayer's site has eaten many a hour that should of been more productive. )
I spent the next few months reading Spiderman comics when and where I could find them. I probably spent 20 dollars between September and Christmas. Then my parents made a mistake. I asked mom to buy me a comic for Christmas. I specified the store, the shelf, the price, even told her which one to get. She brought me X-men not Spider-man. I found out about the Marvel Mutants. That sealed the deal as a comic reader. The only problem was as a thirteen year old boy, I don't have access to huge amounts of money. Spider man was out X-men was in. But I still wanted to learn more about Spider-man.
I did have a shiny new VCR, six hour video tapes and Saturday mornings with super heroes. So while I couldn't afford the shiny new comics and back issues of X-men were only 20% off, and my supply of ten cent comics had dried up I could record every episode off of TV and watch them over and over again. Unlike comics where I might have to wait as long as three moths to see the end of a story line most of the cartoons were over in thirty minutes. I had a renewed interest in cartoons. Oh and a new addiction to feed.
I quickly learned how to program the VCR, then I became the family VCR programmer to keep my family from deleting my recordings. Remember this is the days of only being able to program four or five shows into the recorder at a time. I learned how to dub from tape to tape using my grandmother's VCR so I could arrange my library tapes without commercials. So because I couldn't afford new comics I learned video editing, programming, and eventually VCR repair. Not bad basic skills for a 14 year-old without the internet.
Over the years I collected nearly every episode of Spider-man, Flash, Batman, Superman, Hulk, Wonder Women, and Buffy. Most of which have been lost or were taped over when I moved out of my parents house. Today I still maintain a large collection of cartoons, on my network.
While I was away watching cartoons and only casually picking up a comic here and there the comics have (lets go for a nice word) matured. A huge amount of this comes from the eighties and people like Frank Miller, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaimen. These men and many more helped comics grow beyond the four colors of my youth.
While comics have matured so has its price tag. With a book costing $4 or more and trade paper backs running up to $25 I have again had to drop even the few books I would pick up from time to time. Again cartoons are there to pic up and help me find good super hero entertainment.
I'd like to think we are in the Golden Age of Super Hero cartoons. We have six excellent super hero cartoons on the air right now. It might take you a while to find them all but they are well worth the effort.
On Saturday mornings the classic cartoon day we have Green Lantern and Young Justice on Cartoon network. The first arc of the Green Lantern tells the story of Hal Jordan and Kilowog as they journey from Oa to the galactic rim to fight in the Red Lantern War. Along the way we meet other Green Lanterns and the season ends in a Galactic Fight of HEROIC proportions. Green Lantern is more of the weekly adventure story with a large seasonal arc. You can easily miss a few episodes and still catch up and enjoy the ride.
The second Cartoon Network show is Young Justice Invasion. While Green Lantern is a light snack Young Justice is a five course meal. With this show you have the full weight of the whole DC universal back story to work your way through. The story at its basic level is simple, what would happen if the main DC heroes all had side kicks, and the side kicks wanted to form a super team. Now before you say Teen Titans let me say yea your right. You might also say wasn't that a comic in the 90's and I might say not really. There was a comic by that name of Young Justice: The Secret back in '98. It was about Robin, Superboy, and Impulse but while this cartoon might owe its origin to that comic its more like Bat Man and Owl Man, same idea, way different outfit.
I have a deep respect for super hero comics and showa. I've spent nearly 30 years watching cartoons and reading comics. But there are many times I sit with my Kindle Fire in my hands as we watch the cartoon so I can look up some obscure piece of important trivia for the show to be able to follow the depth of the program. On the other hand my wife and son sit there and just watch the show and enjoy it as it is presented. As any DC fan knows there is a Meta Universe and for those that need to know how this series fits into that universe its Earth-16. Every one else can skip the last sentence.
The problem with Young Justice is that it's hard to pick it up in progress. Its just to serialized for me to suggest you just jump in any old place. There are so far three jump in spots for the show. Episode 1 for sure, also Episode 18 Secrets is a safe spot to enter as it sets up the last of the season and in season 2 the first episode Happy New Year has a small recap that will set you up for the second season. Of all the new super hero cartoons Young Justice has the deepest overall yummy flavor.
On Nick there is Avatar: The Legend of Korra . I'm not so much a fan of the Avatar the Last Air Bender as I am of Korra. Korra is a martial arts magic cartoon where through the use of martial arts people with a certain gift can control one of the four basic elements of earth, air, fire or water called bending. Korra as the Avatar has the ability to control all four elements. In the first half of the season we learn about her life and training and set up the villian for the series. I find the show somewhat slow but very entertaining. I really enjoy the 1920 steam punk feel of the show and how they have converted the martial art of bending into a sporting event and that the Avatar has decided to compete in the sport.
Disney has 3 of the show I'll be mentioning.
The first is Spider-man or I mean Ultimate Spider-man. Back in the eighties we had Spider-man and his Amazing Friends. Then Fox did a take on Spider-man in Spider-Man: The Animated Series which I feel is the best of the cartoons about Spider-man ever. Disney choose a style for Ultimate Spider-man that resembles the Japanese Animation style known as anime. Characters have over exaggerated eyes and minimalistic movement. With the addition of cut scenes and rapid fire jump cuts its a very and I mean very MTV style Spider-man show. Even with the so so video choices I love the stories. It reminds me of a cross between Battle of the Planets, Spider-man, and Family Guy but with great stories.
This is Peter Parker if he were a young agent of Shield. And since you have Shield you have Nick Fury. I would of been surprised if this wasn't the Samuel L Jackson styled Nick Fury and it was. Also joining Peter are Nova (Sam Alexander), Powerman (Luke Cage), Iron Fist (Daniel "Danny" Rand) and White Tiger (Ava Ayala). The only problem I have with the show is that its style turned off many people. Of the shows I feel this is the weakest of the ones on TV.
The Second of Disney/ Marvel's shows is The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
How could Disney do wrong with a show titled The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. They can't. I was by far the last person on earth to watch an Avengers Cartoon. I found the comics boring. Oh so very Boring. But I decided to give the Avengers web series they used as a prelude to the shows debuts on Disney a go. I'm a fan of Captain America from the early 1940's and 50's. So when I tuned in and saw that the Captain America short was set in the 40's with a teenage Bucky I had to watch the whole thing.
With the addition of Iron Man(Tony Stark), Antman (Henry Pym), Wasp(Janet Van Dyne) and Thor(Dr. Donald Blake) I had to at least watch one episode. Then I had to watch another. Soon I was up to a three episode a day habit. With only twenty of the Micro Episodes online I couldn't wait for the TV series. In case you don't know The Avengers are the Justice League for Marvel only that's putting to simply. The group dynamic for the Avengers is so very different then the JLA it is really hard to make that an honest comparison. Although they did team up in 2003 for a cross promotional book. And that is an episode I'd like to see on TV.
The last super hero show I'm going to talk about is Phineas and Ferb.
OK, if your done bashing your head into the monitor here is my proof.
If you can watch a P&F and not think how did they do that then you are not watching the show. The boys have all the tropes of the Super Hero with out the negatives of people doing violence to each other. (The above clip's violence is rare in the show) While the show might be more science fantasy then super hero I really think and feel its a super hero show at it's heart. Its a sweet, positive and nice show. It reminds me of the the wonder I felt reading about the Boy Wonder when I was 12 and it brought a little bit of wonder back into the life of an aging television fan. For it to have done that, they must be super heroes.
As I said earlier we are living in the Golden Age of Super Hero TV.