In this edition of Cartoon Country, we’ll be looking back at one of my favorite super hero shows in recent years, Marvel Animation’s The Super Hero Squad Show.
The Super Hero Squad Show was based on the Marvel Super Hero Squad action figure line from Hasbro, which portray the Avengers, the X-Men, and various other characters of the Marvel Universe in a cartoonish super-deformed-style. It is also a self-aware parody of the Marvel characters, with influences taken from on the comedic Mini Marvels series of parody comic books, in that the heroes tend to find themselves in comedic situations, and have cartoonish bents in comparison to their usually serious personalities (such as The Incredible Hulk being jovial and good-natured but with “major anger issues”), and is an overall comedic take on the Avengers. The series’ animation was produced by Film Roman and Marvel Animation.
Before I start, let me just say that this isn’t a review of the show. I won’t be going into the overall story arcs or any specific details of the story lines, season arcs or anything like that. If you haven’t seen all of the episodes, I’m sure you can find them floating around on the internet somewhere. I’m just going to be geeking out over the elements that I particularly liked about the series. It’s going to get nerdy…
The Super Hero Squad Show was a parody of the Marvel universe and it wasn’t canon to the comics or to any of the previous Marvel animated series. For that reason a lot of Marvel enthusiasts hated the show with a passion.
Call me what you will, but the fact that SHS was a comedy and a parody never bothered me in the slightest. Admittedly, I’ve always been more of a comedy cartoon person than a serious action cartoon person. I thought that SHS was cool and had a good concept. SHS was like the Marvel Universe collided with Looney Tunes and I loved it.
One thing that I’ve always liked about SHS were the central characters, the Super Hero Squad members themselves, hereinafter referred to as “Squaddies”. They were an assemblage of several iconic Marvel characters, but they weren’t The Avengers. One bit that I liked was how each Squaddie had a special talent or “factor” that made for an ideal team. This was very much a toyetic gimmick, but I liked it anyway. They were:
IRON MAN – Technology Factor
- Iron Man was chosen to be leader of the Squad due to the popularity of the Iron man live action movies starring Robert Downey Jr.
- Iron Man was voiced by Tom Kenny, who also voiced Captain America and M.O.D.O.K.
- Iron Man was never seen not wearing his signature armor on the show. He even slept with it on. We only see Tony Stark’s face for a minute in the series pilot.
HULK – Strength Factor
- Hulk was voiced by Travis Wllingham.
- On the show, Hulk never turned back into Bruce Banner, although Dr. Banner was mentioned by Dr. Doom in one episode, there was no mention of any connection between Banner and the Hulk.
THOR – Elemental Factor
Thor was voiced by Dave Boat, who also voiced The Thing, The Watcher, and Doc Samson. Boat was hilarious as Thor! Nearly every line that came out of that guy’s mouth was a stitch!
WOLVERINE – Animal Factor
This is the 2nd Marvel animated series in which Wolverine was voiced by Steve Blum. The first being Wolverine and the X-Men. Mr. Blum also voiced the Abomination on the show.
SILVER SURFER – Energy Factor
- Silver Surfer was voiced by Mikey Kelly, who used a surfer dude type voice for the character.
- Silver Surfer leaves the Squad at the end of season 1 and in season 2, Scarlet Witch takes his place on the team.
FALCON – Speed Factor
Since this series debuted before Falcon’s live action debut in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I’m guessing that the reason why Falcon was as the team’s Speed Factor chosen over say, Quicksilver (a much more obvious choice) was so there’d be a non-white among the Super Hero Squad (OK, technically Hulk is green and Silver Surfer is an alien, but you get the idea).
In addition, there was also a “Squaddie” in training; a relatively new Marvel character named Reptil. And unlike many teen sidekicks, I didn’t hate this character.
Another thing that I liked was the show’s main setting, Superhero City. A metropolis in which nearly all of the Marvel super heroes and their respective Rogue’s Galleries resided. Actually, Dr. Doom and the Lethal Legion resided in neighboring Villainville, which was separated from Superhero City by a huge wall in the shows’ 1st episode, but Villainville was destroyed by Galactus while on a feeding frenzy in the 2 part season finale.
You had the Xavier Academy (the X-Men’s home base), the Baxter Building (home of the Fantastic Four), and also featured Stan Lee himself as the voice the Mayor. I love how Asgard and Bifrost bridge are just sitting there floating above the city in plain sight, although only Adgardians can cross the bridge without getting hassled by security.
Unfortunately, one character who was notable by his absence was Spider Man and his Rogue’s Gallery. Spidey was unable to appear on the show due to Sony having the broadcasting rights to the character, although he was able to appear in the Super Hero Squad Online game. Spider Man was rumored to make a guest appearance in season 2, but it never happened.
I also loved the Helicarrier on the show, which served as the Squad headquarters. I want to live in this shows’ version of the Helicarrier.
In the shows’ first season, the Squad was battling Dr. Doom (voiced by Charles Adler) over possession of the Infinity Sword, which was shattered in a scuffle and broken into multiple Infinity Fractals prior to the first episode. Doom wanted to find all of the fractals so he reform the sword and rule the world, and wacky hyjinks ensued!
Here’s the shows’ season 1 intro:
As an added treat, in each episode of season 1’s intro, Hulk would grab an Infinity Fractal which would transform him into a different version of himself each week, the transformations being completely random. They were:
- Baby Hulk
- Gray Hulk
- Joe Fixit
- Wolverine Hulk
- Saturday Night Fever Hulk
- Simpsons Hulk
- M.O.D.O.H. (Mobile Organism Designed Only for Hulking)
- Bruce Banner (his only appearance in the series)
In the show’s 2nd (and last) season, the focus was on the Squad saving the universe from Thanos of Titan (voiced by Jim Cummings) in a race to retrieve the Infinity Gems (called Infinity Stones on the show, like in the live action movies, but unlike in the Capcom video game Marvel Super Heroes, the show got all of the Gems’ colors correct).
The Super Hero Squad Show didn’t last last long. Only 2 seasons. Any plans for a 3rd season flew out the window when Disney purchased Marvel in 2009. I wasn’t too upset about that, though. a 3rd season of SHS would have been nice, but in season 2, they saved the entire universe. Where do you go from there?
The Super Hero Squad Show may not have been loved by comic book purists, but I don’t mind it at all when super hero franchises show a sense of humor. In fact, I’d like to see DC animation attempt something along these lines. The serious action-y stuff is still out there for anyone who wants to see it, but as for me, I welcome the idea of comic book superheroes getting their ridiculous on!
2 thoughts on “Cartoon Country: The Super Hero Squad Show”
“The Super Hero Squad Show” was fun. The right kind of superhero show for someone like me, who doesn’t like his cartoons to get too grim and serious. As Erod (the Blockbuster Buster) put it, SHS was a “gateway drug” to introduce kids to the Marvel Universe.The show’s only real hiccup was that it would occasionally re-use the same animations and voice clips.
After Iron Man, Wolverine was probably my favorite character on the show; as near-impossible a task to make a character like Wolverine kid-friendly, they somehow managed to pull it off. Steve Blum even altered his voicing of the character to fit the show’s style, while retaining the Logan sound. And yeah, Falcon was mainly there for racial balance, but I liked his character so I could look past that. Falcon was funny, and actually thought those wing-blade projectiles were kind of cool. I also liked Reptil; he had a unique power set, and I’m into “off the beaten path” super powers. True story: when SHS debuted, at first I thought Reptil was created specifically for the show, but upon research, I discovered he was in fact from the comics, having made his debut not too long before SHS premiered.
I fell in love with Superhero City. I loved the look of the structures and architecture, particularly those of the Baxter Building, the Xavier Academy and Asgard. That’s one reason why overall I preferred season 1 over season 2; the show’s 2nd season was still good, but much of it took place in space and whatnot; it largely discarded Superhero City as a backdrop, which I felt was one of the most fun elements of the show. I wished they could have done another X-Men episode so we could have seen some of the mutant characters who never appeared on SHS, like Rogue, Gambit, Emma Frost, Nightcrawler and Beast (the latter was referred to in “And Lo, a Pilot Shall Come!” but he never appeared on screen.)
SHS came along around the time of “Iron Man 2”, before the Thor and Captain America movies, and before The Avengers. One can imagine what SHS would have been like had it come out in the wake of the MCU: Cap would’ve been the leader instead of Iron Man, Hawkeye and Black Widow would’ve been Squaddies (Widow only appeared in a single episode, “Deadly is the Black Widow’s Bite!”, and even then it wasn’t actually her–it was Mystique in disguise!), there would have been no Wolverine nor any appearances by or mentions of the X-Men or the Fantastic Four (since by the time the MCU was established 20th Century Fox was and as of this writing still is holding the TV and movie rights to those characters) and Loki would have been a more prominent villain, if not the main one, and he would have looked, talked and acted like Tom Hiddleston. Basically, SHS would have just been a chibi Avengers cartoon.
Yes, it was weird that Spider-Man never appeared on SHS; I know it was due to legal restrictions, but a Marvel cartoon which features nearly every major franchise in one program except Spidey is like a Justice league show without Superman. It would have been interesting to see SHS’ take on Spider-Man and his villains.
Speaking of DC, I agree yet again that a DC-fied Super Hero Squad Show would be fun to see. Maybe we’ll get that with DC Super Hero Girls. Which reminds me: I may type a future article which combines Superhero City with DCSHG’s version of Metropolis. Stay tooned.