"IRON MAN" GETS ANIMATED -- AND SO DOES BILL CLINTON? @ 10 May 2010 08:28 PM
The second time Marvel's Iron Man was adapted for a TV cartoon (the first being the kind of cheesy 1966 version), was in this two-season syndicated series that premiered in 1994 as part of The Marvel Action Hour. Stan Lee appeared onscreen as host, and though these intros are not included on the new DVD, Iron Man: The Complete Animated Series, the end credits mention it.



This is actually, in effect, two series with the same actor, Robert Hays, as the voice of Iron Man. The first season was produced by Rainbow Animation with scripts largely by Ron Friedman. The animation is a sort of lower budget ThunderCats, with recycled action and somewhat limited scope. The stories are a bit overloaded with characters so numerous they weigh down the chance to develop them.

There are also plenty of pop culture references (David Letterman?) and Bill Clinton himself is depicted rather than a generic President (voiced by none other than Jim Cummings, the voice of Tigger, Pooh, Darkwing Duck and many more including Ray, the beloved firefly in The Princess and the Frog). This set of episodes also allows you to see the origins of Iron Man and his arch nemesis, Mandarin and his henchman, MODOK (also Cummings).

Once you hit episode 14, there is a distinct difference in style and a totally different theme song. This season was produced by Koko Animation and written by such comic book veterans as Len Wein. The animation is more elaborate but what is particularly noticeable is the dialogue. While there is a lot of action, an effort seems to have been made to flesh out the personalities, conflicts and, most of all the inner turmoils that are the Marvel trademark.

The cast, by and large, provides outstanding performances of what could potentially be campy. Robert Hays is given the opportunity as the voice of Iron Man to deliver more depth and complexity than many of his best-known characters in TV shows like Angie and the movie Airplane!

Most of the voices were recast in the two series. James Rhodes (aka War Machine) is played by James Avery in season 1 and by Dorian Harewood in season 2. Ed Gilbert (Baloo in Disney's TaleSpin) as Mandarin is recast with Robert Ito (Quincy).

In season 2, when the Incredible Hulk appears in an episode, Ron Perlman (of the Bill Bixby live action series), voices the Hulk and Dr. Banner. Also this season, Wanda/Spider Woman is voiced by Jennifer Hale, who is the current voice of Disney's Cinderella.

The episodes look and sound great on the three discs. It would be nice if there was a printed episode guide in the package. I know budgets are an issue, but surely one panel of the enclosed Blu-Ray flyer could be used. That way, it's less likely to be tossed away!

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