For more than 50 years, we've been treated with superhero animated shows featuring our favorite characters. While each series has something different to offer in its adaptation, here are 21 animated superhero shows that were entertaining, well produced and did justice to their source material.
21. Legion of Super Heroes
Originally airing on the Kids’ WB Saturday morning block, “Legion of Super Heroes” was the first attempt to bring the storied franchise to the animated television world. While members of the team have made guest appearances in various DCU shows, there had never been a series of any sort dedicated to the future team until this show came out.
With a young Superboy sent forward through time, many children were introduced to characters such as Saturn Girl, Braniac 5, Bouncing Boy and Lightning Lad for the very first time. Though the show only lasted two seasons, the series still provided fans with an animated adaptation of an unrenowned DC property and anytime we get content like this, we’re happy to watch.
20. The Batman
Winner of six Daytime Emmy Awards, “The Batman” was the first attempt for a Batman series to depart from the DCU set by the original “Batman: The Animated Series” and its sequel shows. While fans and critics originally disliked the departure from Bruce Timm’s established style, “The Batman” found its niche and was a very solid show.
With a lighter tone and character design by “Jackie Chan Adventures” artist Jeff Matsuda, this take on Batman sought to modernize the character for children. That did not deter the show from having well written episodes with a wide range of heroes and villains from Batman’s rouge gallery.
19. The Incredible Hulk
As a 1990’s superhero animated series that was often overshadowed by “X-Men” and “Spider-Man,” “The Incredible Hulk” was a very respectable series for the green goliath. Running for two years and consisting of 21 episodes, this Marvel series featured some grim story lines that captured the disparity and direness between Bruce Banner and the Hulk. After “The Incredible Hulk” ended in 1997, it would take 16 long years before Hulk would star in his own animated series again.
18. Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends
One of the early successes for animating Spider-Man was with his amazing friends. While the preceding solo series in 1981 was an enjoyable show, it was not nearly as popular with audiences as “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.” By bringing in Firestar and Iceman as college roommates for Peter Parker, the show established a new unlikely team-up of heroes that strayed from their comic counterparts.
Although a majority of the 24 episodes produced were episodic, this Spider-Man adaptation featured occasionally deeper story arcs and character progression than viewers had been acquainted to at the time. The show was precedent to a more serious series that would later be produced in the 1990’s.
17. Green Lantern: The Animated Series
This was a prime example of a show being cancelled right as it was about to hit its stride. “Green Lantern: The Animated Series” was released in 2011 with momentum from the feature film starring Ryan Reynolds. But like a double edged sword, the series was also cancelled due to low sales of action figures generated by the film.
While it was on the air for 26 episodes on Cartoon Network’s DC Nation block, the series generated a fan base that adored the show. As a 3D CGI series produced with Bruce Timm’s art style as inspiration, Green Lantern seemed like a natural evolution for animated DC superhero shows. The series did nothing wrong to be cancelled. It was a pity “Green Lantern: The Animated Series” fell victim to network politics as it had plenty of compelling stories left to tell.
16. Super Friends
Much like what “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends” did for Marvel, “Super Friends” was early proof to studios that there was an audience for superhero animated content. Spanning 13 years and 109 episodes, “Super Friends” set the bar for future superhero shows.
Although the show went through multiple name changes during its course, “Super Friends” would always showcase light-hearted stories and dialogue featuring a diverse cast from the DC library of characters. Before “Justice League,” “Super Friends” was the most successful attempt at an animated television series featuring the Justice League.
15. Superman: The Animated Series
Wanting to capitalize on the massive success of “Batman: The Animated Series,” DC and Warner Brothers quickly brought the Man of Steel into the fold with his own animated series in 1996. During a decade of critical reboots to superhero continuity in comic books, this show re-winded the clock to tribute silver-age and bronze-age Superman continuity.
“Superman: The Animated Series” was and still is the best animated adaptation for the iconic hero. With a wide range of characters and stories, the series ran its course for four seasons. Its success allowed for DC to and Bruce Timm to further expand the animated DCU with "Justice League."
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