DVD Review: Iron Man: The Animated Series

Following on the successes of the Spider-Man and X-Men animated series, in 1994, Marvel produced an Iron Man animated series featuring the adventures of Tony Stark and a team of heroes loosely based on the West Coast Avengers (later known as Force Works). The show only ran for two seasons, and Disney Home Entertainment has just released the entire series in one 3-disc set, comprising 26 episodes which run for a total of 572 minutes.

The opening episode of the series, And The Sea Shall Give Up Its Dead drops us in running into the world of Iron Man; it’s not an origin tale by any means. In rapid succession, we’re introduced to a whole host of villains, led by Iron Man’s archenemy, the Mandarin. This is an interesting contrast to the Iron Man film franchise, which has rolled out the villains and other characters gradually, and hasn’t even gotten to the Mandarin yet. The Mandarin here has an evil plot to create radioactive zombies to serve him, and Iron Man, along with War Machine and the Force Works heroes must stop the villains.

It’s very interesting to see the difference from the characters in the film; Tony is less of a wiseguy, War Machine/Rhodey is not active-duty military, and they’re accompanied by a passel of superheroes including Hawkeye, Spider-Woman, Century, and Scarlet Witch, where we see only the barest hint of other superheroes in the film version. Whiplash appears here fairly identical to his comic book form, and Justin Hammer is an old man just as he is in the comics. Overall, the animated series is more faithful to the comics, but I suppose that’s to be expected.

We also see in this series some early attempts at computer animation; it was still very expensive at the time, so it’s limited to the sequences where Iron Man suits up, but it’s neat to see the transition between hand-drawn and computer-animated. One other interesting scene has Iron Man working with a physical therapist, which reflects that in the comics of the time, his disability was related to a spinal injury rather than a damaged heart.

Throughout most of the episodes of this season, the Mandarin is the main antagonist. There’s a risk of over-exposure here, where if the Mandarin is present constantly and yet consistently unable to defeat Iron Man, he may not look like much of a threat. But on the plus side, it provides something to tie the episodes of the series together, and there are enough other villains to keep things from getting repetitive.

The next few episodes similarly feature various plots of the Mandarin that are thwarted by Iron Man and friends. Episode 6, Enemy Without, Enemy Within features the origin of giant-headed, tiny-bodied villain MODOK, and Episode 7, Origin of the Mandarin features… well, you know. Towards the end of the season, we get two two-parters; “Iron Man To The Second Power” which has Iron Man battling an evil robotic copy of himself, and The Origin Of Iron Man which… again, you know.

The season closes out with The Wedding Of Iron Man, which strangely has Iron Man marrying Spider-Woman, who has carried a torch for him throughout the series (there was no such relationship in the comics). It’s all explained away at the end though, as a marriage really wouldn’t be a workable situation for the ultimate playboy.

The next season is a vast change and major upgrade; new animation style, new theme song (you may have heard of the line “cool exec with a heart of steel”) and overhauled storytelling. Force Works has a falling out with Tony over a necessary deception in the first episode of this season, The Beast Within, leading most of them to depart and allowing the show to concentrate on just a few main characters. Another major change in this season is that the bulk of the episodes no longer revolve around the Mandarin, as in this first episode, he suffers a crushing defeat that scatters his rings across the world, thus putting him largely out of commission for the time being. This frees the show up to go in other directions.

In the episodes that follow, we meet a host of different characters from the comics. In Not Far From The Tree, we’re introduced to Tony’s father, Walter Stark (Howard Stark in the comics), who has become entangled in some cloak and dagger espionage between the spy agency SHIELD led by Nick Fury, and the terrorist organization AIM. Crimson Dynamo also guest stars here, which should be of interest to fans of the Mickey Rourke character from Iron Man 2.

Beauty Knows No Pain features femme fatale and sometime Iron Man flame Madame Masque, and there’s also a pretty faithful adaptation of the classic Armor Wars comics storyline in a two-parter. There’s even a crossover episode with the Hulk animated series, entitled Hulk Buster, which features, obviously, the Hulk as well as his foe The Leader.

The series closes out with another two-parter, The Hands of the Mandarin. The Mandarin is back, finally reunited with his rings, and Force Works must reunite with Iron Man to take him down. It’s a solid finish for the series, with plenty of action, and no real loose ends left to tie up.

All in all, the series is a bit uneven, which probably accounts for its short run, but it redeems itself in its second season. Still, if you’re hungering for Iron Man action, check this DVD set out; it’s got plenty of familiar faces from the Iron Man universe, a decent number of story connections to the comics, and if you sit down to watch it with some friends, you may get that old nostalgic feeling of watching the Marvel Action Hour as a kid.


I am Iron Man. Alright, I apologize for misleading you. I'm really Matt Adler. But that's almost as good.


  1. i remember this show was paired with Fantastic Four… i remember comparing them to the Spidey and X-men cartoons when i was a kid and i was pretty disappointed. Horrible theme songs and shoddy animation. I think Stan Lee narrated the episodes too…

  2. I just know that the iron man season 2 theme song was the BEST EVER! the one where hes building an armor and theres a crazy guitar riff.

  3. i loved the second season and I owned so many of the toys to this show it wasn’t funny. To this day in the movie when we see downey jr. hammering away I wait for the words I .. AM .. IRON MAN

  4. This is the series that got me into comics, so it holds a very special place in my heart. As a result, I’ve been afraid to go back and see with old man (21-year-old) eyes how ungood the show could potentially be. Glad to see that it weathered the transition out of my childhood memory rather better than expected. Thanks for the review!

  5. this show is how I first fell in love with Iron Man’s world.  I think the first episode I saw was the adaptation of Armor Wars which featured appearances by Hawkeye and the Beetle.

  6. 90’s marvel cartoons<<<<<90’s DC cartoons.

    I actually used to love both as a kid. One aged weel, the others didn’t.