TV Time: Super Cartoon Roundup

No movie this week. The only thing that looked appealing was “Chimpanzee,” until I discovered it wasn’t about chimps taking over the world but rather was a nature documentary. Who pays to watch those anymore? Isn’t that what Animal Planet is for?

So instead I’ll get caught up on a topic I’ve been putting off for a while. Who knew turning 50 would make a man too tired to blog?

Marvel Anime

If you’re a fan of Marvel Comics and Japanese animation and are one of the five people in the world who get the G4 channel, you might want to check out this block of programming that’s been running for a while. They’re probably available for rent if you don’t have G4. By the way, if you don’t have G4, you’re not missing anything.

Marvel Anime consists of four shows — “Iron Man,” “Wolverine,” “X-Men” and “Blade” — based on Marvel Comics characters made by Madhouse, a Japanese animation studio. If you’ve ever wondered what Tony Stark, Logan and company and Blade the Vampire Hunter would look like with pointed noses, big eyes and elongated bodies — here’s your chance.

Each show consists of 12 episodes and here’s where the great weakness lies: instead of telling a number of stories of varied lengths, each show tells one 12-episode story (I have to confess I only watched a couple of episodes of “Blade” but I’m assuming it followed the same format). None of the stories were worth spending 12 weeks to tell. I lost interest in all the stories long before they ended.

“Wolverine” was probably the best of the bunch. The “Iron Man” series spent so much time with his alter ego that they really should’ve named it “The Tony Stark Show in which Iron Man appears in the last act.”  A shame, too, because Iron Man looks pretty cool in anime. The “X-Men” episodes were often too dark and murky — plus they had Emma and Armor taking away space from X-Men I actually care about.

DC Nation

A couple weeks back Cartoon Network launched its DC Nation block of programming which consists of a Green Lantern cartoon and the second season of “Young Justice.” I’m not sure why two shows makes up a “block” of programming, but whatever.

“Green Lantern: The Animated Series” tells the story of GLs Hal Jordan and Kilowog who are stuck on the other side of the universe fighting the Red Lanterns. It’s a decent show so far. It’s done in CGI-style so the characters look plastic and a bit like action figures, but I don’t mind it. The space stuff looks pretty good.

“Young Justice” is arguably the best animated superhero cartoon airing right now. It’s also well written. And yet I just can’t wholeheartedly support it. I’ve never understood the point of Young Justice in a world that already has the Teen Titans. And I don’t like clone Superboy. And what on earth has happened to Aqualad? And why is he leading the group instead of Robin? I do like the fact that Batman and the Justice League are regular supporting characters. I wish this was a Justice League cartoon.

The DC Nation block also features a variety of shorts that air during commercial breaks I guess to keep kids tuned in during commercials. They’ve got a lot of attention but I haven’t found them very interesting. I was excited about the ones done by Aardman Animations (of Wallace and Gromit fame) until I saw them. They’re just dumb. I can’t believe kids find them entertaining. They also have a bit where people test out comic book weapons. You’ll be pleased to know that batarangs really work.

Marvel Universe

Not to be outdone by their rivals, Disney recently launched an hour of block programming called “Marvel Universe,” which features yet-another Spider-Man cartoon along with the second season of “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

“Ultimate Spider-Man” features young Peter Parker joining up with Nick Fury of SHIELD to learn how to be the ultimate Spider-Man. He’s also teamed up with a bunch of other teen heroes. Ultimate Spidey also now rides a motorcycle for no reason other than — I’m guessing — to sell toys.

This is, by my count, the eighth Spider-Man cartoon series. I’d rank it in the bottom half. I watched the first episode but skimmed the second. It’s trying too hard to be funny and hip. Maybe kids like it, it certainly seems to be aimed at a younger audience than previous efforts.

“Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” continues to be entertaining although the animation still leaves much to be desired. If the people animating “Young Justice” were doing this cartoon, it would be the greatest cartoon ever.

The Marvel Universe block also features shorts to make the commercial breaks run longer. MU features a segment on super powers in the real world (much like DC’s), a segment where Nick Fury gives a bio on the hero of the week, a segment where Marvel Head Honcho Joe Quesada draws a character and talks about him, and “Marvel Mash-Up,” where they take old Marvel cartoons and change the dialogue in a (usually lame) attempt at humor.

Now here’s an interesting comparison/contrast between the DC and Marvel shorts: The DC ones are too short, the Marvel ones are too long. Just when you might be getting interested in a DC short, it’s over. Meanwhile the Marvel ones just go on and on and on…

So the winner in this competition would have to be DC, because it’s far better to leave them wanting more than to make them want to change the channel.

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