The 7 Most Forgotten Comic Cartoons of the ’90s

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While Batman and Wolverine got all the press, these comic toons ended up in the footnotes of animation history…

After decades of hokey tie-ins, goofy super friends, and hanging out with Scooby-Doo, Batman finally got cartoons worthy of The Dark Knight with the 1992 premiere of Batman: The Animated Series. Show masterminds Bruce Timm and Paul Dini imagined a world of dark tones, serious plots, and a Gotham stripped down to its most essential parts, and it all worked beautifully. Not only has the series defined Bats ever since and started an entire DC Animated Universe, but it also paved the way for many more comic cartoons – though not all were as memorable.

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Sure, the X-Men and Spider-Man had long runs in their day, but they were hardly alone when jumping on the bandwagon, even if few recall these other shows ever existing. Not only did Marvel try to hit the big time with several other series, but many independent hits got the animation treatment. In fact, long before The Walking Dead, publishers like Image had a number of shows on TV, if ever so briefly. Do you remember any of these from Saturday mornings? And are they worth revisiting? You be the judge…

7. Ultraforce

Malibu Comics is such an intriguing victim of the rise and fall of the ’90s comic industry. Just as Image was proving there was room for more than Marvel and DC, Malibu used cutting edge production and unprecedented contracts with top tier comic creators like George Perez and Norm Breyfogle to make waves. Extremely ’90s heroes like Prime and Topaz were just as interested in social issues as they were in saving folks, giving off an MTV Generation vibe. While never as huge as Spawn, Malibu and its Ultras (their code for super-powered folk) even got its own animated series in 1995. However few folks saw Malibu’s syndicated run.

In both comics and cartoon form, Ultraforce was Malibu’s answer to the Avengers or Justice League, though the opening seems to be 90% similar to X-Men’s animated series intro. Ultraforce was a cornball show, and by the time it arrived, Malibu was already on its way to being aquired by Marvel. Canadian voice actors and Galoob action figures couldn’t save Ultraforce’s home base, and while the show doesn’t warrant much love, give it credit for attempting some linearity and mature storytelling; it even killed off a regular character! Also, you’ll probably never get to see this officially released, because the legal status of all this is still very up in the air.

6. WildC.A.T.S.

Jim Lee was the most popular X-Men artist of all time, with his X-Men #1 breaking records as the best-selling comic at one time. Soon after he struck out on his own with Image Comics and his imprint Wildstorm, premiering with the book Wild C.A.T.S. – which stands for “covert action team.” The team had a shadowy boss, a bland team leader, an amnesiac with knife-hands, a gruff guy in a trenchcoat, and a longhaired psychic in a skintight suit, but they were aliens, not mutants. Even with those similarities, Lee’s art was still strong enough to warrant high sales numbers and cartoon in 1994.

Premiering alongside Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and produced by the same folks as Care Bears, WildC.A.T.S. was a one season wonder as part of CBS’s short lived Action Block of Saturday morning cartoons. For all its similarities, WildC.A.T.S. actually had superior animation to X-Men most of the time, and who knows how much better it would’ve looked had it returned for a second season. Unfortunately, the comic boom had gone bust by 1995, meaning WildC.A.T.S. was just about finished before their show even premiered. Sure, the book kept going for years, but it wasn’t the blockbuster it began as in 1992.

5. Gen-13

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By the time of WildC.A.T.S. TV premiere, Jim Lee and his pals were already pushing a new comic that was gaining even more steam with fans. Instead of building a book around X-Men clones, why not just fill it with angsty/sexy teens? Gen-13 was full of youngsters who were hip to the max, listening to Soundgarden while experimenting with bisexuality. One character is literally named Grunge. They were a popular group, but these teens were way too sexy for Saturday morning, leading to them heading straight to video in 1999.

Gen-13 got a fairly accurate origin story told in their feature-length first adventure that used the unrated format to fit in some shower scenes and swears fitting the book’s style. Not only that, Kevin Altieri was directing it fresh off his run on Batman: The Animated Series. So why didn’t you see this back in the day? Because Disney was going to release it, but backed off when Wildstorm was bought by corporate rival Warner Bros. It got limited release in Europe and now is mainly seen via bootlegs, while Gen-13 themselves are merely a dated afterthought.

6 thoughts on “The 7 Most Forgotten Comic Cartoons of the ’90s

  1. The “Wild Thing” version of the Swamp Thing theme must have been used on the commercials, because I remember hearing it more than once, and it randomly gets stuck in my head once in a blue moon.

  2. Jeeze the Mask. I remember watching it from my childhood before going to school. I didn’t love it, it was just one when I needed something to watch. With how forgettable it was I wish it was the second show on later so I wouldn’t care that I only saw half. Also it and MIB I wondered why did the shows continue one way if the movies ended one way but no idea about the comic

  3. Ultraforce – It was another team of heroes and it was a fun show especially Ghoul. From what I remember, he was a sarcastically funny. I would say this is worth revisiting. It’s not as good as X-men nor Wildcats, but it is still worth the watch if you are interested superhero team show.

    Wildcats – It was supposed to head-to-head with Xmen on the tv schedule but Fox changed their schedule so that Batman aired against Wildcats. With the magic of VCR timers, I watched both. Anyway, Wildcats was a solid show all around and would also liked to have seen another season or two.

    Gen13 – I think I saw the movie several years back and remembered liking it but I don’t remember much else.

    Savage Dragon – I caught a few episodes here and there. It was entertaining but probably for the wrong reasons. It lasted two seasons which was the same as Street Fighter. Also aired on USA’s cartoon express block was Wing Commander which was based on the mega popular PC game at the time. Of the 3 shows, Wing Commander deserved a second season.

    Silver Surfer – One of the unsung animation series that was surprisingly very good. The tone of the show was on the mature side which didn’t quite catch on, unfortunately. I do recommend this series.

    There was an Avengers cartoon in the 90’s that was forgettable and justifiably so.

  4. Legit list Sir; I Totally blocked out the fact a Savage Dragon cartoon exsisted. HBO should totally battle Netflix, by offering their own live action comic book adaptation shows like, Shadowhawk, Savage Dragon and Spawn. Practically prints money yo!

  5. Good job with this list Hank, a lot of these entries brought back a lot of memories.

    Ultraforce – I remember reading about this in Wizard but I never saw it, being syndicated it’s possible it never aired where I live in Canada.
    WildC.A.T.S. – I dismissed this show when it was on CBS, thinking it’s an X-Men rip-off. And it kind of was. But then in the late 1990s there was the launch of Teletoon, the Canadian version of Cartoon Network. For SOME reason they aired WildC.A.T.S. reruns for quite a while so I ended up watching the whole series.
    Gen 13 – never saw this one, never was too interested in the comic to hunt down a copy.
    Savage Dragon – like with WildC.A.T.S., for some reason this was rerun quite a bit on Teltoon in the early years. Didn’t grab me though but I did like the crazy villains, having never read the Savage Dragon comic.
    Silver Surfer – I liked this one but it was probably too slow and melancholy to appeal to kids. Great animation for its time, and the intro theme is pretty epic.
    Swamp Thing – only saw one episode, only thing to stick with me is that theme song.

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