April 18th, 2005
Animation on television, child-safe and otherwise.ZOINKS!
Comic Book Properites, Animated
But the more recent comic book adaptations that have hit the air have been anything but faithful. A few, like the Brian Michael Bendis Spider-Man series on MTV, were still pretty loyal to the original characters, but more often than not, the latest spate of animated versions of comic books have introduced new characters, drastically changed "classic" plotlines, and gone off on tangents from the source material. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Marvel, not historically known for innovative cartoons, surprisingly broke the new ground on this front, with their X-Men: Evolution series. Although viewers were used to a new lineup of mutants with each movie or cartoon series, the Evolution series shifted gears entirely, slowly introducing Teen X-Men and evil mutants in a public high-school setting and taking place in a world without any previously known heroes. The show still featured classic concepts, but presented them in new ways; Alex Summers, for example, still turned up as Cyclops's long lost brother, but instead of the laughably silly Living Monolith/Egypt storyline from the comics, they tied him in to a more relevant Magneto story to close out season one. Likewise, characters like Avalanche and Boom-Boom switch "teams" at times, acting more like teenagers who just want to hang with their friends than people with the fate of the world resting on their shoulders.
Meanwhile, DC's mid-'90s Milestone line of comics finally found its way to the small screen with Static Shock, featuring the best of the Milestone heroes. Although the cartoon keeps a watered-down version of Static's origin(in which Virgil Hawkins, a geeky inner-city kid, is drawn into a gang war at which experimental gases are released, giving him and many others powers), many of the major issues addressed in the original series fall by the wayside. The most notable example: Richie, Virgil/Static's best friend, comes out of the closet in the comic, forcing Virgil to confront both his own and society's homophobia. On the series, Richie is not only straight, but ends up becoming a super-hero himself. But the show still manages to address social issues, providing one surprisingly deep episode about illiteracy, and becoming possibly the first kid-centric cartoon to feature an episode supporting gun control. At its core, even if characters have been changed or watered down, the show still features sharp dialogue and a solid look at some contemporary issues.
Some fans bitched about the shows, complaining that they weren't like the original characters or plots. And if that's all you're looking for, you're out of luck here. But instead of providing animated carbon copies of adventures that we've all read (and that, in some cases, really aren't worth seeing again anyway), these shows broke new ground, showing the potential of the X-Men characters even after all these years, the potential for the Milestone universe to win over a mainstream audience, and the inherent silliness that can be found in superhero comics. Granted, not all changes are necessarily good ® the jury's still out, for example, on the new (and not nearly as tragic or exciting) interpretation of Mr. Freeze on The Batman. But all three of these shows are amongst the best in the long line of superhero shows to hit the air, and anyone who ignores them because they only want "faithful" adaptations is missing out.
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