Somehow after decades of adult orientated cartoons like The Simpsons, Family Guy, and a whole influx of anime cartoons are still often seen as something for children only. More and more however we see shows growing up and changing as kid's tastes differ and former kids still crave the characters from their childhood.
What really makes a good cartoon for adults though? The aforementioned examples often times use violence, sex, and overall adult humor in order to set their tones and set a gap between themselves and children's cartoons. Generally they stand out but also alienate some of the audience that would never think to look at cartoons much above a kid's level. Then you have those that balance something appropriate for kids but actively play to an older audience. Sometimes that audience are just teenagers, as in the case of Yu-Gi-Oh or Batman, and sometimes the show casts a wider net in hopes of serving up solid stories and characters without building too many layers of complexity. Those shows that can find that sweet spot often time capture an invested and dedicated audience.
First up is The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, a Marvel cartoon (obviously) that began before the lucrative Avengers film became the box office behemoth. The show only had 2 seasons and exists streaming out on Netflix and available on Amazon for download before being cancelled in favor of a more movie true version of the Avengers. The show did a great job of giving each member of the team their moments to shine, something difficult to do in a two and a half hour film. Characters like Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, Ant Man, or Wasp are much more key to the group and to story lines.
As with any comic book entity the portion that matters is usually the story. Earth's Mightiest Heroes covers what were entire comic book arc did in a few episodes or even over an entire season. It's a great way to either be introduced Skrulls or Galactus in a more understandable manner that more often than not engages the viewer to want more than just a taste of what was possibly an incomprehensible series of story lines. It manages to simplify the comics while not watering itself down too much to be distasteful to dedicated fans.
Another show that does the same thing, and happens to also be based on a Marvel property, is Ultimate Spider-Man. Ultimate does a good job of both spelling out to kids and the non-initiated just who are the heroes and villains that Spider-Man is running into and fighting against or with. Explaining the powers and adventures of Dr. Strange or why Taskmaster can be a such a difficult foe sometimes is difficult to boil down to a sentence. Ultimate Spider-Man deals them up in a believable way with the typical Spider-Man humor of talking directly to the viewer, sometimes treating fights like a video game, or even pausing the whole story to explain the villain who you might not recognize.
Ultimate is still airing it's second season, season one is on Netflix streaming, on Disney XD but a third season may not be guaranteed. Rumors are abound that Marvel wants to focus on the Avengers with their Earth's Mightiest Heroes replacement Avengers Assemble. The show also gotten heat from fans for being "kiddy" but also because Ultimate itself replaced The Spectacular Spider-Man. Still inspite of the bad blood surrounding the show I personally found it a refreshing balance of action I want from a comic book story but also the humor that sometimes accompanies watching a kid in spandex swinging on spiderwebs.
I hope to continue these articles and am actively looking for new cartoons to check out so I am open for suggestions. I'd prefer them on a streaming service (Netflix is what I currently have) or at least cheap DVD purchase if they're really worth it. It doesn't necessarily have to be comic related that is just how it worked out this time.