With IRON MAN 2 hitting screens this week, the DVD shelves are filled with tie-ins, including this surprisingly disappointing effort, IRON MAN - THE COMPLETE 1994 ANIMATED SERIES.
This series ran for two 13-episode seasons, and each season was produced by different animation studios. The show also changed writing staffs between seasons, so it really does seem like two entirely different shows.
In the first season, Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Hays, AIRPLANE) battles the machinations of his evil archenemy, The Mandarin (Ed Gilbert), and his cronies (which include virtually all of the Armored Avenger's rogue gallery), with the help of a bunch of other super-heroes like Hawkeye, The Scarlet Witch and War Machine. In the second season, Tony inexplicably now has a mullet, and battles the Mandarin's endless plots pretty much by himself, employing a wide variety of different powered metal suits (all the better for the toy line, you know). In both seasons, the stories and dialogue are just awful, the voice acting lifeless, and the animation looks cheap and shoddy, even by the standards of the time.
Obviously sensitive about portraying an Asian villain, the producers decided to make The Mandarin green and give him pointed ears. As you may recall, Marvel Studios did the same thing to Flash Gordon's nemesis Ming the Merciless back in the 80s cartoon, THE DEFENDERS OF THE EARTH. I thought that was stupid and unnecessary, but at least Ming was an alien, so it could kinda be justified. The Mandarin is Chinese. His damned name is "The Mandarin," fer crying out loud! Arrgh.
Now, I've never been a regular reader of the Iron Man comics, so I don't know how much of this was simply reflecting the comics of the time, but as an objective viewer coming to it now, I'm really not impressed. The writing and the actual animation both seem really weak, frankly, even for something intended "just" for kids.
Disney Home Entertainment's 3-disc DVD set includes all 26 episodes, in perfectly satisfactory 1.33:1 fullscreen transfers. There are no extras included.
If you're a fan of the Jon Favreau/Robert Downey Jr. films and are looking for more of that sort of entertainment, you're not going to find it here. On the other hand, if you grew up watching the series back in the 90s or are a die hard collector of the character, you may want to pick this up. It's complete and looks fine.
BUY: Marvel Iron Man: The Complete Animated Series - 3-Disc DVD