A few months ago, one of my friends sent me a text – “I’m so glad to be part of the Marvel/DC generation!” Technically, anyone alive during the 1960’s and on is part of the Marvel/DC generation, but my friend had a point – in the 1990’s specially, fans were introduced to all variety of comic book characters on Saturday morning cartoons – and Iron Man is no exception.
The first Iron Man cartoon debuted twice before the 1990’s – first in the 1966 series The Marvel superheroes and second in a guest spot in Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends,. Most people – my friend included – are familiar with his appearance in the 1990’s. Iron Man had his own show in 1994, which ran for two seasons. Ironically, Iron Man shared the spotlight considerably not only with Jim Rhodes’ future alter ego War Machine, but also with the Avengers spin-off Force Works, which consisted of classic heroes like Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch. Iron Man’s arch-nemesis the Mandarin appeared, with a similarly prolific group of supervillains, including Blizzard, MODOK, Grey Gargoyle, Justin Hammer.
The next Iron Man cartoon appearance came during Spider-Man: The Animated Series, when Spider-Man teamed up with both War Machine and Iron Man against the likes of fan-favorite adversaries Venom and Carnage. Iron Man cartoons would continue with appearance in the Incredible Hulk animated series as well as a non-speaking role in the Fantastic Four cartoon.
The Iron Man cartoons have been continuing through present day. Iron Man showed up in the Ultimates-based Avengers: United They Stand as well as his own direct-to-DVD animated feature the Invincible Iron Man. Iron Man was also seen in the latest Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Hero, and there is a second Iron Man cartoon series airing soon – if it hasn’t already. An older Tony Stark will also appear in the direct-to-DVD animated feature Next Avengers.
In many ways, the scattered appearance of the Iron Man cartoons through several animated series through both stand-alone series and guest spots represents a larger strategy by Marvel Comics. One of the principal charms of Marvel comes from the interactivity of its characters, which all inhabit the same fictional New York City. Since Marvel Studios now owns the rights to its own film projects, expect to see a guest appearance by Tony Stark in the upcoming Incredible Hulk, paving the way to a big screen Avengers sometime in 2011.