The Fifth Color | Earth’s Mightiest Cartoon
There’s news being reported by fan sites and our own Spinoff Online that The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will not be making it past the current second season. You might not have seen the animated series, and that’s sadly understandable: It’s on at a weird time (Sunday-morning cartoons?) on a weird station (Disney XD), and it had a ridiculous theme song for the first season (we’re talking Star Trek: Enterprise bad). Cartoons are still more or less considered kids’ fare, so I can imagine someone eschewing these half-hour animated stories.
Now, I have no idea why they would want to, but I could see some factors involved in missing it, not getting around to it, or simply not having access to it.
The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is the most important cross-media ambassador we have to attract a new generation of comic fans that might still hold true to the original values the last age fell in love with. It’s a Herculean feat to transform classic comic storylines into fresh-faced continuity kids young and old can enjoy. Did you know Rocket Raccoon and Groot were in an episode? ROCKET RACCOON! GROOT! There are such deep wells of character development and introduction that I can honestly say The Avengers: EMH version of Carol Danvers is the one I know best. There are no gimmicks, no CGI or special power suits, just quality adaptations of quality stories, all wrapped up in a bow and left on a really far away doorstop at a really awkward time of day.
Years ago, when Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow debuted at Comic-Con International, there had been … very little enthusiasm on my part for Marvel’s direct-to-DVD market. The Ultimate Avengers didn’t do much for me in terms of making the source material relatable or new. The awkward Iron Man movie, the hilarious Doctor Strange one — I just had no hope going into that panel. My arms were folded, my eyeballs rolled; I was ready to finally nail that coffin down on Marvel Animation. And then we watched the movie. If you haven’t gotten around to Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, please do so. It’s fun and surprisingly complex for the target audience. The two guys in front of me turned out to be a couple of the animators, and they told me something I’ll never forget: that this movie was where they really got to cut loose and show how much they loved comics.
It’s a sentiment that would follow years later from The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes head writer Christopher Yost. While Talking with Tim, Yost said:
I love comics so much, I honestly try to put the love of them into every show I work on, hoping that kids will see these characters, these stories, and look to their parents and say ‘I want more.’
The cynical among us might think the idea of a kid seeing something on television and then settling for something as low-tech as a comic book is a bit far-fetched. The truth is, that happens. In fact, some of you from a certain generation might remember an X-Men animated series from the 1990s and know exactly how much of an affect that kind of marketing can have on the rest of your life. I was in seventh grade when that show debuted, and it did indeed prompt me to go down to my local comic shop and buy a copy of X-Men #24. Despite it being a weird in-between story with no direct relation to the animated series, I knew who all the characters were, and their general motivations, and I picked up the next issue. And the one after that. And so on and so on …
If I could put a G.I. Joe-esque ad in the last 30 seconds of each episode, with an Avenger pushing comic books, I would. Because knowing about comic books is half the battle! Kids won’t know unless someone shows them.
The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes loves comic books. The producers love the rich origins and backgrounds their characters have enough to bring the best adaptation of the Black Panther and Wakanda to the small screen. They love weird comic stories, from Incredible Hulk’s Gamma World storyline to Secret Invasion. They can show a dynamic between the Wasp and Hank Pym that leaves out the abuse, but still depicts them as troubled. They can add in S.W.O.R.D. and use them as a resource when leading up to a war between the Skrull and the Kree. There is so much comic-book love packed into each episode that it’s hard for me to understand why anyone would cancel the series.
Okay, that’s a bit overly dramatic. I do know why they would cancel the series, and it’s plain and simple numbers. With a movie grossing so much in the theaters, having a Sunday-morning cartoon — See? It’s just weird — aimed at kids should do phenomenally. The new show being hinted at (more to come in San Diego for sure) is called Avengers Assemble and the roster looks a lot more movie-friendly. This new series (and the upcoming Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.) could make for a bigger block in the Disney XD lineup, perhaps coaxing them out of Sunday-morning limbo and into a more accessible time slot, like Saturday evenings. Little is known right now, but maybe the same animation studio will be in charge, perhaps some of the same writers and concept designers? Maybe Mark Bagley will handle everything, and we’ll have a show that matches the current comics image for image. As a property and a marketing tool, this new series could reach a lot of new consumers and cross promote better with the live property on the shelves.
But that wouldn’t be heart. That wouldn’t be the blatant and unabashed love this show puts on the screen for fans of all ages. It might make more money, though.