Animation studios really seem to be getting the hang of things on the small screen. In the last few years, audiences have been treated to a host of comic properties turned into well-realized animated shows. Alongside their blockbuster movie counterparts, comics are branching out faster every day.
Here’s a list of the ten best animated series based on comics:
There was a time when Todd McFarlane’s Spawn reigned supreme as a comic book property, up there even with Batman.
Though the feature film was a bit of a dud, the Spawn animated series on HBO was really well received. It was dark, it was true to the source material, and it even won an Emmy award in 1999.
9. The Adventures of TinTin
Though decidedly different than the rest of this list, Hergé’s TinTin is too big to ignore. The original comic series was one of the most popular of the twentieth century, and was translated into more than 50 languages, with over 200 million copies sold to date.
It was adapted into an animated series twice: once in 1959, and again in 1991. Most recently, the series was turned into a feature film in 2011.
8. The ’90s X-Men
Until recently, it was hard to top the mid ’90s X-Men and Spider-Man adaptations. While both were solid, the X-Men wins out for its faithful adaptations of famous storylines and its killer opening theme.
The animation was solid for the time, and the voice acting was largely top-notch too.
But watch for the hilariously toned-down violence — Wolverine only ever uses his claws to open doors or stab robots.
7. The Super Friends
Super Friends doesn’t have the artistic merit of the rest of this list, but it’s cemented in the consciousness of an entire generation.
Sure, the show is kitschy and reeks of Hanna-Barbera … but it’s still fun. Plus, you get to watch Superman, Batman, Aquaman and Wonder Woman inexplicably pal around with two kids named Wendy and Marvin and their talking dog. It’s like Scooby Doo, but much weirder.
Ahh, the ’70s — a simpler time, when things didn’t need to make sense.
6. Spectacular Spider-Man
Both Marvel and DC have churned out quite a few quality animated shows in the last couple of years, and Spectacular Spider-Man was one of the strongest.
The voice acting was solid, the animation was really smooth, and the series really captured the feel of a teenage Peter Parker — something both the ’90s adaptation and most recent film missed.
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Sure, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series was often little more than an excuse to sell more bathtub Donatello toys.
And yes, it changed their origin. And yes, Shredder was often a bumbling idiot. But hordes of twenty-somethings live with a fond place for this show in their hearts.
4. The ’60s Spider-Man
The 1960’s Spider-Man series is still one of the most beloved animated adaptations of all time.
It might not be the flashiest or the most riveting, but it’s a classic for a reason. Strangely, Peter must always be high, as New York’s skyline is constantly reminiscent of a bad acid trip. The show managed to be great, cost cutting aside — Spider-Man’s costume only featured webbing on its mask and gloves to keep animation costs down.
Plus, it’s created some of the most entertaining internet memes in years.
3. Justice League
The Justice League series and its successor, Justice League Unlimited, are two of the crown jewels of the Paul Dini/Bruce Timm cartoon empire.
DC is pouring all of their resources into a live action Justice League film to match Marvel’s Avengers — but this stands as the best adaptation of the titular team to date.
2. Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
This series was recently canned in favour of a reboot more akin to the Avengers movie franchise, and that’s a shame.
The writing flows well and the animation is smooth and fluid. By far the best animated adaptation of Marvel’s flagship super team.
1. Batman: The Animated Series
No surprises here. Batman: the Animated Series is the best cartoon adaptation of a comic book, ever.
Bruce Timm and Paul Dini created what is largely considered to be one of the most definitive takes on Bruce Wayne. The animation is incredibly distinct, and Gotham feels incredibly real — an art-deco, film-noir sinkhole with a rotten core.
Voice actor Kevin Conroy is seen by many to be the real voice of Batman — so much so that he reprised the role in Rocksteady’s acclaimed Arkham City and Arkham Asylum games. Joining him was his counterpart Mark Hamill, who is a pitch-perfect Joker. His eerie laugh and Conroy’s baritone Bruce Wayne played off each other so well it’s creepy. There may never be a better combination.