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Superheroes in animation


Superheroes in animation

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This image of Superman appeared at the beginning of each of the Fleischer cartoons. This image of Superman appeared at the beginning of each of the Fleischer cartoons.

Superheroes have been portrayed in animation since the early 1940s. In the years that followed, cartoon shows featuring superheroes became a staple of children's entertainment with a few shows reaching adult audiences.


In late 1941, Superman became the first superhero to be depicted in animation, The Superman series of groundbreaking theatrical cartoons was produced by Fleischer/Famous Studios from 1941 to 1943 and featured the famous "It's a bird, it's a plane" introduction.

A frame from the opening sequence of the 1960s Spider-Man series A frame from the opening sequence of the 1960s Spider-Man series

With the rise of television in the 1960s, superheroes have found success in animated television series geared towards children, including Filmation's Superman-Batman Adventure Hour and Grantray-Lawrence Animation's Spider-Man, featuring the "does whatever a spider can" theme song.

In the 1970s, Japanese anime strove to emulate American superhero cartoons with their own creations. The most successful was Kagaku ninja tai Gatchaman (Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) which became a television classic that created a template that many other anime series followed.

A frame from the opening sequence of Super Friends A frame from the opening sequence of Super Friends

In the 1970s and 1980s American superhero animated series were constrained by the broadcasting restrictions that activist groups like Action for Children's Television lobbied for. The most popular series in this period, Super Friends, an adaptation of DC's Justice League of America, was designed to be as nonviolent and inoffensive as possible. The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends were similarly tame. Kagaku ninja tai Gatchaman aired in North America as the Battle of the Planets but it was so severely edited for violence that plots were incoherent although it still won many fans for its distinctive take on the genre.

A scene from Batman: The Animated Series A scene from Batman: The Animated Series

Starting with Batman: The Animated Series, which debuted on the Fox Network in 1992, superhero animated series gained a new maturity and respect for the comic books on which they were based. This continued with Fox's X-Men, and Spider-Man and the original series Gargoyles, which, like Batman were geared towards older audiences but accessible to kids.

The widely successful Batman: the Animated Series also had a significant influence on American animation. The show featured simple graphics but lavish animation, a style that was replicated in the sequels The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond and the spinoffs, Static Shock and Superman: The Animated Series and Cartoon Network’s successful adaptations of DC's Justice League and Teen Titans.

Animal superheroes

Mighty Mouse, one of the earliest funny animal superheroes. Mighty Mouse, one of the earliest funny animal superheroes.

In addition to the human superheroes found in comic books, animated superhero series have often featured comedic anthropomorphic animal superheroes. These series combine two timeless niches in children’s television: superheroes and funny animals. The first such series was the Superman-inspired Mighty Mouse, which was the flagship series of the Terrytoons company in the 1940s. Underdog, ThunderCats and Biker Mice from Mars are popular examples from later decades, while Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles combined martial arts cliches and conventions with the more sci fi, fantastical, and outrageous elements of superhero stories. Currently, the most popular such series in production is Krypto the Superdog which features Superman's dog as well as Streaky the Supercat and Ace The Bathound, all more cartoony versions of original characters from the DC Universe

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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