The History Of Marvel’s Saturday Morning Cartoon Universe

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Have you ever looked at the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe and said to yourself “I wonder why they never did something like this before“? Well it turns out that Marvel already did. Well, not in movie form, but through a number of various Saturday morning cartoons for the Fox Kids cartoon block.

This universe started as a number of different shows, but through various cameos/guest appearances in other shows they effectively became a shared universe, even having an event that brought many of the different shows together.

The universe can be traced back to 1989 with the X-Men: The Pryde of the X-Men pilot, which unfortunately was never picked up for a full series.

 

However the same team re-assembled and after a second attempt were able to successfully pitch what became the popular and beloved X-Men series that ran from 1992 – 1997 with a total of 76 episodes. It was considered one of the best Marvel series ever produced. 

 

Later in 1994 saw the introduction of another popular Marvel super hero series, that being the original super hero family The Fantastic 4. While not as successful as the X-Men series it did run for two seasons with 26 episodes.

Also in 1994 was the Iron Man series. While the series did mostly revolve around Tony Stark aka Iron Man it was also a hero group series with many members of the team ‘Force Works’ incorporated into the story. Heroes such as War Machine, Spider Woman, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch and Century joining forces to battle the Mandarin and his group of villains. The show also ran for two seasons.

But neither show was quite as popular as the Spider-Man series. Beginning in 1994 the show lasted all the way until 1998 with 65 episodes. It is often considered Marvel’s equivalent to the Bruce Timm Batman series. Next to X-Men it is one of Marvel’s most popular shows from the 1990s. Multiple heroes such as Captain America and Daredevil also made brief appearances.

In 1996 saw the introduction of The Incredible Hulk as he battled Leader and his army of evil. The series only lasted until 1997 with a total of 21 episodes. Other heroes such as She-Hulk and Ghost Rider also made appearances. 

In 1998 there was a Silver Surfer series, a sort of spin-off from The Fantastic 4 series a few years earlier. The series however only lasted for a single season with only 13 episodes.

In 1999 a follow-up to the Spider-Man series called Spider-Man Unlimited made its way onto television. It could be seen as Marvel’s answer to the Batman Beyond series. However the series wasn’t as successful as its predecessor and only lasted one season.

The final series from this era is Avengers: United They Stand in 1999. The series was meant to try and recapture the success of the X-Men series but with Marvel’s other popular hero team. The team was based on the ‘West Coast Avengers’ with the team being made up of Ant-Man, Wasp, Hawkeye, Wonder Man, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Tigra and Vision with Captain America, Iron Man and Thor making guest appearances. However the series only lasted 13 episodes, bringing this universe to an end.

This universe lasted nearly an entire decade, had eight shows with 243 episodes between all of them and were able to have a shared universe with many characters making appearances in other shows. The biggest example being the Secret Wars arc in the Spider-Man series, bringing in characters from the X-Men, Fantastic 4, Iron Man and more into the fold.



Sure the continuity doesn’t always match up, but when you have multiple teams of people working on different shows that can happen.

Nevertheless this universe is one of the most iconic eras for Marvel, perhaps enough to rival the popularity of DC’s Animated Universe.

Did you grow up watching any of these shows? Which one was your favorite? Do you think these shows had any influence on the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Let us know your thoughts.


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