The 7 Most Forgotten Comic Cartoons of the ’90s

4. Savage Dragon

Sometimes it pays to keep your expectations very low. While Jim Lee focused on CBS and direct to video, Eric Larsen’s series got to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond on cable. The Savage Dragon is a joyously ridiculous book, that included Dragon battling God and the devil, aging in real time, and living the life of a Chicago cop (though with  more blood and puss-covered foes than most policemen face). While  toned down for USA’s kids programming, most of those extreme elements were still present in the animated series of 1995 and ’96.

The show lasted one more season than WildC.A.T.S., which is sad because it wasn’t even half as good. The main problems; painfully cheap animation, laughable writing, and lame fights that would have been left on the editing floor of shlock like the Street Fighter cartoon. The only plus it has was a stellar set of voice actors. Savage Dragon was played by Jim Cummings (best known Darkwing Duck and Tigger). Other talent included Mark Hamill, Tony Jay, and Star Trek’s Michael Dorn. Casting will only take you so far though, and after 26 episodes, the series was done – though Larsen is still dedicated to the comic which recently passed its 200th issue.

3. Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer is one of Marvel’s most iconic heroes, but even his fans will admit he can be a total bore. He’s a Christ figure who flies through space, meets random aliens, and then solves their problems using his nigh infinite power. And all that happens as Surfer constantly pontificates about existential questions on the nature of existence. Shockingly, that spirit was channeled a little too well for his ’90s Saturday morning cartoon.

After Fox Kids’ mid-90s success with X-Men and Spider-Man, the Saturday morning juggernaut was looking for another Marvel hit in 1998, and in retrospect it’s nuts that they chose Surfer over Captain America or Thor. The CG-heavy show stuck very closely to Jack Kirby’s dream of cosmic adventures, with a focus on lesser known characters like Adam Warlock, Thanos, and The Watcher. After the first season was done, the show was cancelled during production on the next batch of episodes. Some said because Surver was so odd, but the producers insist it was due to contract disputes with Marvel.

2. The Mask: The Animated Series

Though most may think the subject of this cartoon got its start with the Jim Carrey film, it really got its start in Dark Horse Comics in 1989. The comics were super violent and his madcap action had gory real-world results. The movie toned that down considerably and also spared Stanley Ipkiss’ life (which didn’t happen in the comic). Carey never appeared in the horrendous sequel, nor did he appear in the CBS cartoon, though the animated series fared far better than Jamie Kennedy’s live-action revival.

The show ran for three years, with voice acting vet Rob Paulsen doing a more-than-decent job of recreating Jim Carrey’s performance with a number of jokes that likely wouldn’t fly on network TV today. And the show ended with a bang by featuring a crossover with the awful Ace Ventura cartoon, uniting Jim Carrey-actures into one butt-obsessed two parter. There are worse ways for a show to end.

1. Swamp Thing

Thanks to Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and other comic creators of the 1980s, Swamp Thing became one of the most important figures in mainstream comics. His stories brought new maturity and nuanced storytelling to a mossy creature created for cheap horror books. At the same time all that was happening, Swamp Thing also starred in multiple films and TV shows that did far less artful things. Swampy’s very brief animated run has to be the furthest thing from Moore’s vision, as the show basically reached the campl level of the later Ninja Turtles seasons.

The original opening (a parody of The Troggs’ “Wild Thing”) was cornball wonderfulness, but was gone by the second episode, perhaps due to legal action of some kind. Swampy still had very eco-friendly adventures, but his reflective journeys beyond consciousness were replaced with fistfights against characters designed to be toys first and characters second. Swamp Thing even got a couple vehicles, because you gotta sell accessories with the toys. Shockingly, the series only lasted five episodes as part of an anthology series, and despite the many DC animated shows and films since, Swamp Thing has yet to appear in any of them. C’mon, the show wasn’t that bad.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *