Firstly, I should explain that this is a pretty expanded comment I left on a recent Screened article about the Marvel shows before the 90's. Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, and... other bizarre pieces of animation. But as far as positive memories go, people keep going back to the same few shows from their childhood, and place them on a mantle that is simply insurmountable. .As someone who has kind of a negative view on nostalgia, I really view this as unhealthy. What if the people saying this stuff are the same people who end up having creative power one day? What if it's their turn to make the next big budget movie, animated series, or whatever? Do they just ape the dated and problematic shows of their childhood, or do they see where the issues were in the programs that they watched? Having fond memories of something is fine, certainly. But people tend to completely disregard that these shows had any faults or issues. Sure, maybe they made some reference to some character, and that was enough to make you shoot blood from your nose and declare it the best show ever, but that doesn't make it so. It's like someone looking back at his old relationship, and seeing nothing wrong with it, comparing all his recent girlfriends to his ex. All the while, he seems to disregard the simple fact that she's his EX for a reason... and he doesn't seem to question, or wonder why.
First example? The 90's X-Men series is given too much credit
nowadays. Yes it was mature for its time, and even if only because it
was such a contrarian piece against everything else we watched at that
time, that makes it kinda special. But memories of a show you
watched when you were like 7 don't mean they hold up, and that series
most certainly doesn't. It's cheesy, overdramatic, completely lacking
in subtlety, and plays host to so many "wtf" moments that you can
practically make a drinking game out of it, and be completely hammered
before the fourth episode starts.
X-Men Evolution may have turned a lot of the main cast into teenagers (again with the lacking subtlety thing...), and Wolverine and the X-Men
may have perpetuated the tired feelings of Marvel fans who feel Logan
was getting too much of the spotlight in comparison to other characters
(which is true, but atleast he's still well done), but they still were
well executed, despite their own problems. And atleast the animation
doesn't look completely awful... bleh....
Evolution tried over its run to really start delving into the X-Men mythology more and more, and it did so to reasonable success. It managed to distance itself from the Sentinal storylines, Pheonix Saga, and other rather redundant tales while still doing its own thing, and that's something worth commending. And it, at the very least, pays homage to those events in a prophetic vision of Xavier's at the end of the series, including a flying Rogue, Magneto teaching some young mutants at the academy, etc.
Wolverine and the X-Men had its own troubles. Mainly, it had far too many filler episodes of Logan out on his own missions, or similar stories that broke any narrative flow built up over multiple episodes. But regardless, it still was entertaining, and it treated alot of its characters with respect, including Nightcrawler who appeared as the most matured and practices as he ever has. Not as preachy as the 90's version, and not a naive kid as in Evolution. He had learned from Xavier about appreciating one's gifts, and using it to benefit mankind, and he was ready to teach others to do the same. He didn't question himself or have any self-doubts. He, as well as other characters, truly felt like the heroic X-Men they were.
The same can be said for the 90's Spider-Man
show. Then, it was cool, flashy, funny (I guess...), and action-packed. Now? It's
unrelatable, cheesy, and... very, very not funny. The majority of its
cast that are intended to be sympathetic are annoying, and it's hard to
care about anyone. Mary Jane and Aunt May, two of the most important people in Peter's life, are moreso obnoxious obstacles in the series, blocking the interesting stuff, than the are human beings. Fox's own censorship guidelines kept Spider-Man from
even throwing a punch, and the show follows the "bad comic book show"
formula to a tee. Having a good premise, then needing to add villains
to up the ante, then making them team up, then adding a sidekick, crossing over with other heroes, then
adding aliens, otherworldy bullshit, and then running out of ideas and
cancelling the show outright. Animation cycles and clips were reused
(and even reversed) repeatedly, and the same 4 or 5 music tracks for the
entire show SERIOUSLY drain on you. The show had positive moments, but looking back, there weren't many. For a lot of kids, this was their introduction to characters like Venom, or Carnage. But even those characters are given far too much fandom than they really warrant. Especially Carnage, who is the epitome of the trend in the 90's to make everything EXTREME and SCARY-looking. Now? It's a tired cliche.
was written by Greg Weisman, a man who can write good drama, while
still capitalizing on the superhero element of similar shows. There, he
realizes the most interesting story to tell with the character wasn't
"Who will Spider-Man beat up this week?" but rather the life of Peter
Parker, and the struggles he goes through to pull off this double life.
It focuses on the people in his life, his drama, and his relationship
with his loved ones. It's some of the best emotional development I've
seen in an animated series, with an UNBELIEVABLY relatable cast of
characters, an AMAZING second season, and it's an absolute tragedy it
got cut short after the merger with Disney.
Now here's where we come to the big one. The mother of all nostalgia; Batman: The Animated Series. This show cemented a lot of peoples' perceptions of Batman, atleast outside of the theatregoers who were treated to such classics as Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. However the cartoon had a great look and style to it. Its writing could be dark when it wanted, and the whole art-deco look was incredibly unique, with character designs very reminiscent of the classic Superman cartoon from decades earlier. It examined multiple facets of the character, including his desire for a normal life, how Gotham views its caped vigilante, and more. Some of the most memorable episodes, like Mad Love, Boiling Point, Over The Edge, or Mr. Freeze's re-introduction were incredible pieces of work thanks to Bruce Timm's artistic design and Paul Dini and crew's fantastic writing staff.
But it wasn't always at top game. For its fourth season, the show was transferred to the WB network. As a result, the show's artistic approach was redesigned, streamlined, while still keeping true to the original seasons. It was for the best, and the show really benefited from the update. But this was really where the show started becoming genuinely good. Before this, there were a lot of aspects that just lacked polish. Timing was off, animation was too loose, and the show just didn't feel as lively as it could. A lot of overly lengthy pauses etc. kept it from becoming truly a classic piece of animation. Again, there were still great episodes, and very influential ones at that. But people seem to ignore the disparity in quality, and its something that should be addressed. I should iterate again that the changes made were for the better, and they show got much better on a consistent basis than before. But it just wasn't always THAT good.
WB's The Batman was certainly an underappreciated gem. While it did fall victim to the "bad superhero show fomula", it still brought a lot of interesting ideas to the table. A fresh take on a lot of existing characters and villains like The Joker, The Riddler, Hugo Strange were all well done, and in the grand scheme of things, were all necessary in order to keep them from getting stale. The show took risks with the license, and a lot of them certainly did pay off. The handling of Batgirl, Robin, and other characters were done with class and creativity, and while it certainly wasn't as dark as the Bruce Timm series, it was still an excellent show.
The point is,
having fond memories of these old shows is one thing, but they're just
memories. Screened has some smart, informed people among its userbase.
Cut the "THE 90'S SHOW WAS THE BEST" crap and actually look back on
those old shows objectively. They're really not all that good, and
you'd have to have pretty low expectations or standards for animation to
really argue otherwise.