Top 5: Comic Book Animated TV Series


5. Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!

This is a latecomer, and one of the many very good modern adaptations available now. It’s continually stunning how they broke these classic characters down to their essences, and did a very good version of the Avengers, including that telltale Marvel character flaw and conflict, always just beneath the surface. They dug deep for great villains as well.


4. Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends

For many of us who grew up in the 80s, this was the introduction to Spider-Man, and the (slightly) modified world where he came from. It was like reading the Spider-Man newspaper strip. Plus it was narrated by Stan Lee! While the later animated series in the 90s would prove more serialized, sticking to classic Spider-Man stories, the Amazing Friends did something different, introducing some mutant characters, and a really amazing rumpus room/control center, not to mention Ms. Lion.


3. Super Friends

Let this sink in. Super Friends ran in one incarnation or another from 1973 to 1986. It brought multiple generations to the characters the DC Comics, and went one further by showing the elasticity  of the characters in its multiple versions in its multiple reboots, setting a precedent that is still happening in comics today. When they switched to the Super Powers version in the mid-80’s, they produced a line of toys that were some of the best we’d seen. A lovely side effect was that they needed villains, and Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters fit perfectly, bringing Darkseid to the forefront, and finally netting Kirby a much deserved and significant royalty check. We’ll never forget those sound effects either.


2. X-Men

Five seasons, and 76 episodes hitting at the height of the 90s boom probably did more to create X-Men fans than the comic books of the time ever did. I’ve met more people who got brought into comics from this show than I ever met who were converted by all the modern blockbuster movies. This show did the classic X-Men stories and relationships, and aside from the unfortunate effect of generating a lot of Gambit fans, it was a great way to show people just what the X-Men was all about. Plus, that music, sounding extremely harsh and electronic these days, will stick with us forever.


1. Batman: The Animated Series

Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, and others brought us this near perfect alchemy of animation and comics to produce Batman: The Animated Series. It wove all the best of the different eras of Batman, mixed with that wonderful animated style they’re still using today, and created what many of us think of as the best versions of Gotham City, Bruce Wayne, Robin, Alfred, and of course, The Joker. For a time, they even moved it to primetime, it was so good. This is the gold standard by which all other animated adaptations are judged.


  1. Great stuff, Josh. My favorite was definitely x-men and that, coupled with the 90’s animates spidey got my dad and I into comic books. I did like batman too, but i was a bit backwards at the time and all the dark scenes with red skies kept me at arms length from it until i was a little older.

  2. Yes, yes, yes (the pre-Wonder Twin years), yes and yes. Unfortunately, I can’t watch Spiderman and his Amazing Friends anymore. I once tried to get my two sons to watch so we all sat down for an episode. It just seems boring now, very uninteresting. Honorable mention goes to Spider-woman. Not a classic compared to the top five above, but at the time pretty darn cool.

  3. Batman the Animated Series is THE REASON why i got into superheroes and Batman as a character. Such an amazingly perfect series. Loved every episode. The Subsequent Timm Justice League series’ need an honorable mention as well.

    I enjoyed the heck out of the Xmen cartoons at the time, even though the animation was kinda wonky for me.

    Love all of these shows and many of them you can still fined aired on cable.

  4. My wife, who has never read an X-Men comic in her life, has a soft spot for the team thanks to that cartoon. Well, that cartoon and Hugh Jackman.

  5. I give Batman: TAS a lot of credit. It’s an amazing show and the only one on the list I’d watch a second time.

    My list:
    5. Batman: TAS
    4. Wolverine and the X-Men
    3. The Batman (an amazing and underrated series)
    2. X-Men Evolution (my favorite X-Men show ever)
    1. Spectacular Spider-Man (RIP)

  6. Effing loved X-Men and Batman as a kid. Surprising how well Batman has held up over the years, and how poorly X-men has. Personally, I would have included Brave and The Bold on the list, not just for the gold and silver age throw backs, but for pretty much being a JLI spotlight in the later episodes.

  7. Being a kid when X-men, Batman, and even the 90’s spider-man was out was such an amazing thing. I’m just glad I got to experience it. Wolverine was so badass in the 90’s cartoon you got to love all the cigars and canada experienced in that show.

  8. Batman TAS & X-Men got me into comics as a kid in the 90s. (You’re all old! Old, I say!) I was going to be “offended” by the Gambit comment, but that’s accurate. My favorite X-Men are Wolverine, Gambit, & Jubilee, specifically because of the cartoon.

    I’ve been rewatching it on Netflix, and I love how Gambit is never not wearing his costume. All the other X-Men are in street clothes, there he is in full dress pinks.

    Been rewatching BTAS, too, and it still holds up. So good.

    • one of the episodes featuring the morlocks wolverine and gambit are playing basketball. Gambit is wearing jeans shorts and a tank top i believe.

    • I may be misremembering that. But the episode that always sticks in my head is the one where Gambit, Storm & Jubilee go to Genosha for whatever reason. Storm says something about being incognito, so her & Jubilee are in normal clothes, and Gambit’s still wearing his head sock and the rest.

    • I can not explain why I still love Gambit ‘s costume. Dress Pinks, Head sock and all… though I could not stop laughing at the apropos description.

      I can not stop replaying the initial emotion and sense of joy when I came across the Xmen final battle in the Season Finale in the Savage Land. The first time I saw so much action all happening on one screen. More than foreground and background battles, there were 5 – 6 separate fights orchestrated on the screen great stuff.

      Then was the first appearance of Lady Deathstrike in the subway tunnels (These are going off of 14 – 15 year old memories). I think a different animation company took over at that time and they wanted to impress. The Frame rate of her movements, the shading, it was all gorgeous. A fitting introduction to a major Wolverine nemesis. The last time I saw such strong use of shadows was The Mighty Max cartoon. Which by the way – Freaking Brilliant.

  9. What about the original Spideman series from the late ’60’s?

  10. I hated that X-Men cartoon as a kid. Couldn’t stand the animation, and didn’t much care for the stories/characterization, either.

    I am in the minority, and I recognize this.

    • As the writer of this piece, I agree with you. It is beloved.

    • I love that pic Race. Is that a melon or an an apple?
      I couldnt stand the Xmen cartoon either… every body seems to like it though… im a marvel fan and i felt that nothing could touch batman… to me the spidey and xmen cartoons had lots of cheese in them. No offense meant. Was spoiled by batman i guess.
      And yes TMNT could easily have been listed on this.

  11. 5. Teen Titans
    4. The X-Men
    3. Spectacular Spider-Man
    2. Justice Leage Unlimited
    1. Batman – The Animated Series

    Honorable Mentions

    The Batman (underrated series)
    Ironman – Anime (Surprisingly one of the better anime adaptations… Wolverine and FF, not-so-much)
    Super Friends
    Static Shock (so much fun to watch, loved the characters and tie-in with JLU)
    X-Men Evolution (I just WISH they could have finished the series)

  12. I’ve always preferred the 90s Spidey series to the X-men one, but I guess that’s a preference thing. Fantastic list.

  13. Oh, and how this list was created and did NOT feature “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” at number one is pretty much beyond me.

    • I would never have put it in my list, but you are correct. It was a great Saturday Morning series. I loved the format and storylines

  14. All right, fine:

    5. Young Justice
    4. The Avengers
    3. Spectacular Spider-Man
    2. BTAS
    1. TMNT

  15. BIG UPS for the inclusion of Avengers: EMH (that’s what the kids on the internet call it). A fantastic show that really captures the spirit of the team. Plus, snarky Hawkeye and badass Ant-Man, now with just a hint of crazy!

    I will concur with Mr. Hymes on Teen Titans, a fun and consistent show with some surprisingly dark character arcs. Seasons 1 and 2 went to places you wouldn’t expect. Also, Ron Perlman.

    Great list all ’round, Josh.

  16. Dude, why has no one mentioned Batman:Brave & the Bold?!?! I know it’s modern, but damn that’s some fine cartooning.

    Also, yeah, Batman TAS & X-Men were the best. (BTAS Ras al Ghul was the MAN!)

    • I was reading through these comments just to see if I was really going to be the first to mention Brave & the Bold. The nostalgia factor on Spiderman and Super Friends is high, but I’m afraid the would not be as good as I remember them being. I never took a shine to the X-men, and haven’t yet seen the Avengers. Batman was good, and they had Batmite once or twice, so that’s even better, but hands the most enjoyable cartoon to me has been Batman: Brave and the Bold. It’s completely lacking in any kind of continuity, which is normally a negative for me, but every episode seems to be a celebration of everything I love about super-hero comics.

      It also does not hurt that the last episode I saw featured ‘Mazing Man. I may or may not have a soft spot for ‘Mazing Man.

      On second thought, maybe it isn’t surprising that this show doesn’t rate on everyone else’s list. It appears to be made just for me.

  17. 5: Superman: tas
    4: Batman: tbatb
    3: Batman Beyond
    2: Justice Leauge (Unlimited)
    1: Batman: tas

    Yeah I know, I’m kinda lame.

  18. I would have to have Justice League Unlimited on my list.
    I’ve really enjoyed SOME episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold and I enjoy Young Justice.
    I loved X-men when I was a youngster.

  19. If the list is based cultural impact, instead of quality, I would say this is fine. Although I would replace Spider-Man with Ninja Turtles (it was a comic book first). I would argue it had more of an impact than Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.

    My list based on quality would be (I know you didn’t ask but here it is!):

    5. Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
    4. Batman Beyond
    3. Young Justice
    2. Batman: Brave and the Bold
    1. Batman: The Animated Series (this is one should always be at the top of the list)

  20. Spider-Man the original cartoon can not be beat in my opinion.

  21. Not sure what the order would be, but my list would involve Batman TAS, JLA/JLU, Batman Beyond, and Max Fleischer’s Superman. Maybe Young Justice in the 5 spot.

  22. Really surprised that JL Unlimited isn’t in there! I really enjoyed that series, they made great use of DC’s huge catalog of characters. Love the way the first season seems like unrelated stories, but it all builds to an amazing climax. So many fantastic episodes.

    Also, the X-Men cartoon from the 90’s played a huge part in getting me into comics, it even got my dad into comics. He started casually watching it when I started, after a few weeks he’d make sure he had his coffee ready by 9(or whenever it was on) so he could sit down and watch it with me…..Oh, and it totally turned me into a Gambit fan……

  23. Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was my introduction to Spider-Man. Every time I hear that intro it brings back all those Saturday morning memories. Wasn’t there an Incredible Hulk short attached to this show?

  24. Wow, looks like the Teen Titans cartoon is quite underrated here. I have all these series on DVD and my 5 year old son and 9 year old daughter are more into Titans than any other series.

    5. Young Justice
    4. Batman Brave & the Bold
    3. Teen Titans
    2. JLU
    1. Batman TAS

    • I like teen titans, but the cyborg is so boring. I call him the cyborganizer from the Simpsons. Cyborg should stay home and pay the bills instead of going on missions.

  25. As I head off to work, again… I’m amazed that there’s been no mention on these boards of TMNT. For, like, 3 years in middle school/junior high, the world of America’s boys WAS “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. Has there ever been a more successful/popular/lucrative comic book adaptation on TV?

  26. For the record, my favorite of all time, Superman: The Animated Series, did not make this list.

  27. you can never make a list that will please everyone. To that end, might I add an Honourable Mentions List:
    1) Justice League (+ Unlimited) – a few years into my comic book sabbatical at this time, and this series made me remember the DCU characters that I have spent a majority of my lifetime up to that point to learn. Stars having reoccurring roles adding substance where before it was Gargoyles (which was basically acted by Star Trek: TNG. Hawkwoman and Green Lantern. Green Arrow and Canary. Hawkwoman’s betrayal, and the Flash has never been as much fun to be around. And kids, before he was Green Lantern, he was Vigilante.
    so many fav episodes that it is impossible to mention without leaving something out. And for that, it is a top 5
    Superman and Vandal Savage in the distant future and their verbal exchanges. Gold, and a little bit POTW

    2) Superman The Animated Series
    you want your Darkseid, here is your Darkseid. This is the power-level of Superman that I was always comfortable with. The 1st season was magical in that bright coloured way of Batman. The perfect accompaniment, but richer as the character and type of story allowed us to focus in more on Superman.
    But Superman and Mr. Mxyzptlk, Darkseid brainwashing Superman and the fallout from that… Outstanding.

    3) The Tick
    One word to describe the gestalt awesomeness that is The Tick Animated Series – SPOON!

    Great call on the Avengers. I would have missed that myself and I absolutely love it.

  28. It almost seems unfair to combine the newer animated shows with some of the classics like superfreinds and Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.
    That being said I think my top 5 would be:

    5. Batman Beyond
    4. Spider-man and his Amazing Friends
    3. Superman: The Animated Series
    2. Avengers
    1. Batman: The Animated Series

  29. Now I’ve got the 90’s X-Men cartoon’s theme song stuck in my head.

  30. Good list, mentioned some that you put on….which would be on my list actually.

    1) Batman: The Animated Series
    2) Superman: The Animated Series
    3) Spider-Man: The Animated Series
    4) X-Men
    5) Justice League

    I have enjoyed the DCAU stuff more then Marvel’s attempts at the cartoon world, it must be said. But Batman and Superman’s animated series are the gold standards of how to do a superhero cartoon series. I remember when it was 1996 and I would turn on FOX to watch Batman and then turn on WB to watch Superman. Never missed an episode.

    By the way, does anyone think the box sets for both series now a days are a bit pricey? It’s a complaint I have with many TV series box-sets. But after a few years you’d think they would go down in price by now….Sorry that’s my old man rant for the day.

  31. So did Avengers EMH bump 60s Aquaman? I thought that Aquaman made an old iFanboy list?

  32. Can I just go ahead and jump to the worst comic book animated tv series? Number one is easy, here’s a clue:

    Thing ring, do your thing!

  33. Um, I agree? With a top list? That must be the first time ever.

    I feel like a lot of people say that the 90s Spider-man sucked, but I loved the hell out of that thing.

  34. No Tick!? You’re all sleeping on the couch tonight.

  35. The best one on right now: Batman – The Brave and The Bold. Hands down.

  36. Can I include DuckTales as an honorable mention?

  37. I can’t believe I forgot the Spider-Woman cartoon!

    Spider-Woman teams up with Spider-Man to battle mummies from space in their pyramid spaceships.
    Defeated by using webs to turn the pyramids into cubes thereby negating thier Pyramid Power.

    Yes this happened.

  38. No Static Shock love? That was my whole reason for getting up early weekend mornings.

  39. Super Friends ran to 1986, not 1976 as I had mis-written it. 13 years!

  40. I really couldn’t stand the X-men cartoon. I was a huge X-men fan, but I was 20 when it came out and I think I wanted something that was more on par with the X-men stories I loved (Days of Future Past, Mutant Massacre, etc). I think if I’d have been younger, I might have loved it. After all, I have a soft spot for Spider-man and his Amazing Friends, and that wasn’t exactly amazing television.

  41. Does anyone else remember the Marvel Superheroes show from the 60’s? Although, calling it animation is a bit of a stretch. 🙂

  42. I like Spectacular Spider-Man, Spider-Man: The Animated Series, The Tick, Static Shock, and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Speaking of which, when should Avengers be returning for season 2? Come on Disney I can’t just keep watching Phineas and Ferb!

  43. TMNT

  44. Even though I have never seen Avengers, I can’t disagree with this list.

    I loved X-Men as a kid but when a friend of mine from college bought the series on DVD, we realized that some things are best left to nostalgia. Although, I will have the X-Men theme song stuck in my heal all day. Not that I’m complaining.

    Batman is still awesome, of course.

  45. Super Friends at number 2? Superfools!

  46. Can’t really disagree with the list; some great stuff in there.

    But I think Justice League Unlimited deserves a shout out. Deep stories (with a season-spanning larger arc beneath the surface). Lots of DC characters getting their chance to shine. Love that show.

    (I even love the old Marvel Super Heroes stuff. Sure it barely qualifies as animation, but the theme songs were awesome – as were the voices!)

  47. Great list…but for me Super Friends wouldn’t make it for three simple reasons:
    That damn Wonder Dog.

    I was offended by it as a kid and still hate it. But the Marvel Super Heroes was GREAT! Horrible animation and all! I would take that over a lot of modern cartoons, especially the Fantastic Four with Herbie the Robot or that Avenger cartoon from the late 90’s I think…terrible.

  48. I typically don’t give a shit about cartoons, but I’m digging the current Avengers series, they’re really capturing that John Byrne/Roger Stern/etc vibe that made the Marvel U such good stuff in the 80’s.

    And agreed on Batman. Phenominal representation of the character, they especially nailed what Bruce Wayne is all about

  49. Good list, though I would slide Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into the 2 spot and replace Super Friends with Spectacular Spider-man.

  50. I’m also surprised JLU isn’t up there. Also………THE TICK!

  51. Marvel’s 60’s cartoons was and always will be the shit for me !!!(did DC have any animated stuff out during this time?)

    BEST INTRO!!!!

  52. I know it’s not pure super hero but I love me some Venture Brothers

  53. Haven’t seen 3-4, but I may give them a try if you suggest they’re good. Right after I catch up on Young Justice.

    Because I’m a huge fan, I’m silently praying someone will make an animated series/animated film/live-action film/something of Birds of Prey. Yes, I saw the TV show (won’t be making any top 5 lists anytime soon). And contrary to my feelings about Dinah then, she’s my favourite superheroine now. The only thing that show got right was Babs (if I’m remembering correctly).

    Speaking of: Top 5 live-action superhero shows? Or aren’t there enough to justify a list?

  54. what was that BTAS intro?

  55. No Justice League Unlimited? No Superman that animated series? No Fleisher Superman shorts?

  56. To this day, whenever I read ANY Batman title, those voice actors are the ones I hear in my head. I honestly (and I’ve tried) can’t think of any character from the original first 3 seasons whose voice was miscast (except for Talia. I always “heard” her as less ethnic, more aristocratic, like Ra’s.). And that’s not just the fond recollections of youth talking. I watched a few episodes on the Hub recently and the animation may not hold up so well, but the voice talent does.

  57. 5. Iron Man-Armored Adventures; seeing teenage versions of Tony, Rhodey, Pepper and the Mandarin is a real kick. Plus, they make use of an underrated rogue’s gallery: Blizzard, Unicorn, Living Laser, Crimson Dynamo.

    4. Young Justice; The characterization is fantastic, and the soap opera aspect doesn’t overshadow the action (often). The dynamic between the young’uns and the Justice League is extremely tense, and big-time villains in the mix adds to the tension.

    3. Teen Titans; This one is my kids’ fave, too. Had me hooked from the moment I realized they were going to do “The Judas Contract” in it’s entirety. Only anime or anime-influence I can stand.

    2. Spectacular Spider-Man; This is THE best version of animated Spidey, combines the Ultimate teenage angst with the storylines of the Wein/JRJR/Andru ’70s.

    1. Avengers: EMH; Other than the slightly irritating RDJ imitation, this is pretty much perfect. Already been to Asgard and fought Kang, next I want Korvac, Yellowjacket, Vision, & the Kree-Skrull war.

    Honorable Mention: Did anyone notice that Super-Hero Squad went all cosmic Starlin on us last season? Seriously, last episode I saw had Adam Warlock & Thanos sleeping in bunk beds inside the Soul Gem. This show is seriously weird & funny in a good way.

  58. Cool list. I think mine would be some mixture of JLU, X-Men: Evolution (after Season 1), Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Teen Titans, and, of course, Spectacular Spider-Man.

    You’ll be surprised to learn that I didn’t watch many of the shows that were on the 90’s. But I will eventually, soon as Batman: TAS goes up on Netflix instant.

  59. My top 5

    5. TMNT (80’s-90’s run)
    4. Spiderman (late 90’s run)
    3. X-Men(late 90’s run)
    2. Superman/Batman the Animated series
    1. Young Justice

    This new Young Justice series is beyond comparison!!!!!!

  60. Batman The Animated Series is certainly top. It gave us Conroy as the ever recognizable voice of Batman and of course who would have thought, Mr Skywalker himself doing the best Joker laugh of all time.

  61. I have to agree with everyone who mentioned The Tick. While my first thought was that Batman: Brave and the Bold would top my list, The Tick may take the top spot. I also agree that TMNT made huge waves, but never for me. I did love that Teen Titans show. Really if you can work in an imp from the 5th dimension, your odds of getting a spot in my list go up dramatically, so the Legion of Superfriends would also merit consideration, and would Superman: The Animated Series, based entirely on Gilbert Godfey’s awesome characterization of the guy who’s name I can neither say nor spell.

    My list:

    Teen Titans
    The New Adventures of Batman
    Batman: Brave and the Bold
    The Tick

    While I don’t consider myself a Batman comic book fan, it does seem that I will follow him anywhere outside of the comic books. I could probably create a list of top five favourite cartoons featuring Batman. And could easily create top five cartoons featuring imps from the 5th dimension (honorable mention to non-5th dimension resident, but kindred spirit, Glomer from Punky Brewster).

  62. 5. The Tick
    4 . Superfriends
    3. TMNT
    2. Batman: TAS
    1. JLA/JLU

    I know Marvel has had the whole movie part wrapped up for about the last 10 years or so, but I honestly cannot think of a Marvel superhero cartoon series that has measured up to these five. Id give an honorable mention to Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, but THESE were the cartoons I remember making time to get up watching, and its these five that always had my friends buzzing.