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Iron Man, also known as Iron Man: The Animated Series, is an American animated television series based on Marvel Comics' superhero Iron Man. The series aired from 1994 to 1996 as part of the Marvel Action Hour, which packaged Iron Man: The Animated Series with another Marvel cartoon, Fantastic Four: The Animated Series. Each series made up one half-hour of the Marvel Action Hour. The series was backed by a toy line that featured many armor variants.

Iron Man: The Animated Series was among the few television series to be re-recorded in THX. This may have been usual at the time for a motion picture, but it is rare for a television series.

Off the heels of the release of the first live-action Iron Man movie in 2008, reruns began airing on the Jetix block on Toon Disney. Additionally, all 26 episodes are currently available for streaming through LoveFilm.

Overview

Although only lasting two seasons, Iron Man: The Animated Series was the subject of a major overhaul between seasons when it's production studio was changed. The result was a massively changed premise, tone, and general approach, which left the disparate seasons scarcely recognizable as being two halves of the same series.

Season 1

The first season of Iron Man featured little more than a Masters of the Universe-style battle of "good against evil", as billionaire industrialist Tony Stark battled the evil forces of the world-conquering Mandarin as the armored superhero, Iron Man. In his evil endeavors to steal Stark's technology and Iron Man's armor, the Mandarin led a group of villains called the Hand consisting of Dreadknight, Blizzard, Blacklash, Grey Gargoyle, Hypnotia (a villain created for the series), Whirlwind, Living Laser, MODOK, Fin Fang Foom, and Justin Hammer. To combat these villains, Iron Man had the help of his own team called Force Works whose members included Iron Man, War Machine, Cetury, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and Spider-Woman.

The season consisted mostly of single-episode open-and-shut-case adventures, with two two-part stories late towards the end. Unlike many other Marvel animated series, despite featuring over-the-top titles that paid homage to the early Stan Lee written Marvel comics of the 1960's (for example, "The Grim Reaper Wears a Teflon Coat", and "Rejoice! I Am Ultimo, Thy Deliver"), almost none of the episodes were adaptations of comic book stories, consisting instead of original stories penned by Ron Friedman, occasionally collaborated on by Stan Lee himself. The closest the season came to adapting a comic book tale was in the two part episode, "The Origin of Iron Man", which recounted a (modified and modernized) version of the character's comic book origin just before the season concluded.

The late-run recounting of the title character's origin is symptomatic of what is generally thought of as the season's greatest weakness - despite (or perhaps because of) having such a large cast of characters, very few of the show's heroes and villains were actually developed in any way, leaving viewers unaware of their personal stories and powers. The show is generally held to have been at it's best when filling in these origin blanks (MODOK in "Enemy Without, Enemy Within," Iron Man and Mandarin in their self-titled "The Origin of..." episodes), but these were rare occasions, with virtually every other plot simply consisting of the Mandarin attempting to steal Stark's newest invention and being bested, often through very strange and illogical means.

A small sub-plot in the first season revolves around Mandarin secretly spying on Force Works. It culminates in "The Wedding of Iron Man" when Stark realizes they have been spied on by reviewing events from previous episodes (and explaining how Mandarin's forces always knew where they would be), realizing that Mandarin had acquired enough information to potentially deduce the true identity of Iron Man. The entire episode's plot is dedicated to resolving the problem, culminating in Iron Man and Force Works setting up an elaborate deception where Mandarin sees Iron Man and Tony Stark in the same place with the intention being to convince him that the two men are not the same person (The "Tony" in this situation was an android).

Season 2

In 1995, Marvel switched the Marvel Action Hour to a new animation studio (as previously mentioned, the animation in season 1 was provided by the Rainbow Animation Group, while the animation in season 2 was provided by Koko Enterprises), and with it came new writers (Ron Friedman was replaced by Tom Tataranowicz for season 2) and new music for each sequence, coupled with a new direction for the series. The first season's subtle keyboard theme music for Iron Man (composed by progressive rock artist Keith Emerson) was replaced in the second season by the intense electric guitar theme (composed by William Kevin Anderson) featuring the repeated refrain "I am Iron Man!", while showing Tony Stark beating red-hot iron plates into shape with a blacksmith's hammer (possibly to mimic the Black Sabbath song "Iron Man"). Tony Stark's longer hair style in the second season was based upon the artist Mark Bright's depiction of Stark from the late 1980's, which is where most of the episodes from season 2 were based upon.

The new story lines spanned multiple episodes ad were no longer "open and shut" cases. They formed a linking narrative, featuring themes of duplicity, consequences, and phobias. Also, the stories were no longer centered on the Mandarin, whose rings had been scattered and whose power had been depleted. While the Mandarin did appear in these episodes, his appearances were reduced to cameos in the cliffhangers at the end of the story, as he tried to retrieve each ring.

Another change was that Force Works was mostly written out of the series, parting ways with Stark after he deceives them in order to work in secret with the Mandarin when Fin Fang Foom and his fellow dragons were plotting to eliminate Earth. When Stark's counter plan plan against Justin Hammer, which includes faking his death without the knowledge of his teammates, leads to a disbanding of Force Works, Julia Carpenter and James Rhodes are the only ones who continue to work with Stark. This split would be revisited with Stark's ensuing conflicts with Hawkeye over the course of several episodes.

Also, War Machine develops a phobia of being trapped inside his armor (also based on a then-current comic storyline), but this is resolved before the final episode. While Rhodes was active as War Machine in season 1, he remained out of the armor for the majority of season 2 due to reliving a tragic drowning experience while being trapped underwater in the War Machine armor in the season 2 episode "Fire and Rain". Rhodes eventually overcomes his fear and dons the War Machine armor once again in "Distant Boundaries".

Prior to finding his last two rings, the Mandarin claimed his eighth ring from MODOK in the episode "Empowered". "Empowered" was the clip show of the season, the purpose being that the Mandarin wanted to learn of Iron Man's recent activities. In the finale, the Mandarin, having regained all of his rings, unleashes a mist using the Heart of Darkness to render everything technological useless. Iron Man reunites with Force Works in order to stop him. The Mandarin unmasks Iron Man before their final showdown ends in his death. More, specifically, Iron Man manages to reflect the power of Mandarin's rings, destroying them, and ultimately leaving the Mandarin with amnesia and helpless before a band of desert bandits who likely kill him, or at least cut off his hands/fingers for the rings. after Mandarin was killed, MODOK and the rest of Mandarin's henchmen were sent to jail.

Cancellation

After disappointing ratings from season two, Iron Man: The Animated Series was cancelled.

In comparison with the comics

Season 1

As described above, the first season of the series based very few stories on the comic books, aside from it's retelling of Iron Man's origin. In modernizing the character's origin story, Tony Stark is not injured in a Vietnamese war zone, but in an act of industrial sabotage plotted by Justin Hammer and the Mandarin. Wounded not by a chunk of shrapnel near his heart, but a slivers by his spine, Stark and Wellington Yinsen (whose name was Ho Yinsen in the comics) were held captive by the Mandarin, rather than Wong-Chu. Yinsen works with Arnold Brock before Arnold became the Mandarin. The Mandarin later captures Wellington Yinsen to use him to help Tony Stark build an invincible armor for his minions. When Tony Stark became Iron Man for the first time, he manages to escape, but Yinsen is killed by the Mandarin.

The Mandarin himself was subject to heavy modification, altered by his rings to a much greater extant than in the comics. He gained green skin (a fate which befell other Asian villains in animation around this time, such as Dr. No in James Bond Jr. and Ming the Merciless in Defenders of the Earth) and an enhanced musculature, but the show did retain the connection between his origin in Fing Fang Foom. As previously mentioned, the Mandarin was once known as Arnold Brock, an archaeologist who falls into an ancient catacomb containing an alien starship (which was previously alluded to, belongs to the series' incarnation of Fing Fang Foom, whom Mandarin forged an uneasy allience with) while fleeing from desert bandits. In this catacomb, he finds a large gem that is the ship's power source with ten gems beneath it. Unfortunately, the bandits slay everyone else, including his fiancée Ilona. All the raiders leave behind are his fiancée's rings with the jewels plucked from them. The Mandarin uses these as the settings for the ten gems which he made into his rings. The Mandarin of this continuity was altered by the power of the ship's power source when he touched it; he developed pointy ears, claw-like fingernails, and enhanced musculature. His skin turned emerald-green, and he became very smart. The cartoon's versions of the rings were much more ambiguous, with no particular power associated with any ring - most frequently, they were used to project force blasts, alter reality, and transmute objects. The eleventh episode of season 2, "Hulkbuster" would reveal the specific abilities of two of the rings:

  • One allows for creating windows through time and space.
  • The other allows for traveling through the windows.

They were both used by the Leader in an attempt to travel back to the time that the Gamma Bomb that transformed Bruce Banner into the Hulk detonated.

As previously mentioned, Fin Fang Foom is shown as an ally to the Mandarin, but in the opening of the second season, it was revealed that this was a ploy to have gained Mandarin's trust, then betrayed him when his Dragon brethren regained their monstrous forms and made a core from their starship which will open up a portal to their world and allow their kind to invade Earth. Mandarin is supposedly killed in the explosion that scatters his rings across the world. Aside from these origin stories, the only episode to draw on a comic book in any way was "Rejoice! I Am Ultimo, Thy Deliverer", which featured the Mandarin;s robotic servant Ultimo from the 1060's, but featured his appearance and alien-born origin from the 1990's.

The Mandarin's minions (with the exception of the original character, Hypnotia) were all solo operators in the comics, most significantly arms-dealing businessman Justin Hammer, who was a criminal mastermind in his own right, rather than a villain who would serve another. a much smaller MODOK appears as a scientist who sought to cure the criminal mind. His boss, Red Ghost, increased his mind by 100 times. He soon fell in love and got married to famous ballet dancer Alana Ulanova (voiced by Sara Douglas), who later became a swimsuit model. The Red Ghost was envious of his relationship with his new wife and turned him into MODOK. He served as Mandarin's second in command so that he could turn him back into a human. However, in the second season MODOK's character became little more than comic relief, with his original back-story forgotten (When asked why he served the Mandarin after all the abuse he took from him, MODOK gushingly replied "He makes me laugh", which may be a reference to Jessica Rabbit). After Mandarin was defeated in the season finale, MODOK (alongside Mandarin's henchmen) was sent to jail.

Force Works, on the other hand, were lifted straight from the comics, but their actual civilian roles (a scene in the episode "Data In, Chaos Out" however, gives Century civilian identity as a mane named Woody, sporting shades and a board-brimmed hat) were never defined in the cartoon, save for Spider-Woman, who was recast as the Chief Operating Officer for Stark Enterprises. Notably, the cartoon's Scarlet Witch owes next to nothing to the comic book character: here, she is a mystical, tarot-reading spiritualist, who speaks with a thick Eastern-European accent and refers to other characters as "pumpkin" and "cupcake". Her power is identified as a "hex sense", but what that means is never explained, and seems to allow her to do anything, from shape-shifting to matter manipulation.

In a sub-plot created solely for the cartoon, Spider-Woman and Scarlet Witch vie for the affections of Iron Man. In the first season, Stark does not appear to reciprocate the feelings of either woman, but in the second season it becomes apparent that he harbors some feelings for Julia, only to have his "lone wolf" attitude complicate their chances of a relationship. Also, Julia Carpenter eventually married Tony Stark. However, this turns out to be a ploy by Tony to draw out the Mandarin and convince him he is not Iron Man. While Tony was at the wedding, someone else took up the Iron Man suit and attacked Mandarin. This convinced Mandarin that Tony Stark was not Iron Man.

Meanwhile, Rachel Carpenter (Spider-Woman's daughter) also appears in the series, though she is older than her comic book incarnation and with a more "rebellious" attitude. In "Silence Companion, Death My Destination", she is shown as a lover of dance music - and arcades - disdaining classical composers (specifically Van Cliburn) but after a piece of Rachmaninov played by Cliburn on a cassette given to Rachel manages to recharge Iron Man's armor (as previously mentioned), she changes her mood and begins to appreciate the classical music.

Season 2

The second season performed a complete turnaround, and began regularly adapting major Iron Man comic book stories including "Dragon Seed" (as "The Beast Within"), "Armor Wars", and "Hands of the Mandarin" and introducing more characters derived from the comic books, including H.O.M.E.R., Firebrand (the Gary Gilbert version), Sunturion, and more. Sunturion's appearance in human form was based on another character named Abner Doolittle, who is a scientist working for Roxxon Brand Corporation. Arthur Dearborn 's origin is altered having suffering from a deadly disease that he wiped out with a unique form of microwave energy. The treatment's side effects included the ability to transform into Sunturion, and and uncontrollable emitting of radiation, deadly to all others around him. The Star Well was created to be his sanctuary. Ultimately, Dearborn/Sunturion sacrifices himself stopping the Star Well station from crashing into New York City.

This version of Firebrand is the son of the late ex-Stark Industries employee Simon Gilber. Firebrand was attacking power sources and demanding a ransom of a million dollars. After a series of arson upon power generators, Iron Man confronted Firebrand and had to use his Inferno Armor to confront him. With the lack of solar energy, Iron Man had a hard time stopping a dam that Firebrand detonated. A fragment of the dam hits Firebrand's jet pack causing him to fall into the flood. With Iron Man low on power, War Machine had to face his fear of water to rescue Iron Man and Firebrand. After diverting the flood, Iron Man and War Machine handed Firebrand over to the police.

In "The Armor Wars" two part episode, Justin Hammer had Ghost steal Tony Stark's armor designs and sold them to each various criminals. For instance, Beetle made a brief appearance during the "Armor Wars", in which he was attacked by Iron Man and had his armor - based on stolen Stark designs - deactivated. He is voiced by John Reilly with a Liverpudian accent that evokes the similarly named band, The Beatles. Stilt-Man's armor was also based on Tony Stark's Iron Man technology when he is seen when he was trying to rob a building from the outside, Iron Man used his drill armor to take out one of the legs and then attached a Negator Pack on him. In "The Armor Wars, Part One", Tony Stark's discovery about Crimson Dynamo using Stark technology as part of his armor ignites the animated version of the Armor Wars. The Controller also appeared as a guest villain in "The Armor Wars, Part One". His slave discs were based on the Iron Man technology which allowed him to mentally control his armor which he used on executives who visited the Center for Achievement and Bliss Spa. Iron Man defeated him and placed a Negator Pack on his armor.

The Mandroids (using the design of the Guardsmen from the comics) appear in "The Armor Wars, Part Two". When Iron Man invaded the Vault (meanwhile, Blizzard, Grey Gargoyle, and Whirlwind where shown as inmates at the Vault) to disable the Mandroids armors, he ended up in a fight with them and Hawkeye. Iron Man used the Negator Packs on them. He later attacked the superhero Stingray, only to discover that Stingray's armor didn't use his designs. When War Machine tried to talk him down, Iron Man negated his armor as well and almost killed his friend.

Justin Hammer also created Firepower, a deadly armored warrior designed to eliminate his competition. Because it was Hammer Industry property, Iron Man's Negator Pack didn't work on it. Iron Man faked his death, but returned in a new armor when it started to attack properties of Stark Industries. After preventing it's missile from going off, Iron Man used his suit to hack into the remains of Firepower to learn that Justin Hammer was behind the villains using the Stark Armor designs. After Firepower was defeated, Iron Man appeared in Justin Hammer's office to confront him. Iron Man then placed a virus-containing disc in Justin's computer that completely wiped out any records of his designs and uploaded it to the internet and Hammer's computers. The same virus completely deleted all of Hammer's files, and presumably left his company bankrupt. It is also implied that he is not aware that Stark and Iron Man are one and the same. He was one of the few first season villains who appeared in season two episodes besides the season premiere and the season finale.

madame Masque appeared in the second season episode "Beauty Knows No Pain". Like in the comics, Whitney Frost was a former love of Tony's but now obsessed with her beauty. She became bitter when she lost her beloved looks and Tony. She then became involved with the Maggia and took the identity of Madame Masque. Upon her discovery of the Golden Sepulcher of Isis which could return her beauty to her, she and her Maggia henchmen kidnapped many workers and Julia Carpenter. Tony Stark arrived at the scene and fought some of the Maggia henchmen until they overwhelmed him upon Madame Masque's arrival. Madame Masque then threatened to kill Julia unless Iron Man retrieved the gem for her. After surviving the deadliest of traps, Iron Man gave Madame Masque the Golden Sepulcher of Isis, and restored her beauty. After becoming Isis due to the artifact's effects, she learned that all she really wanted was Tony. After Madame Masque/Isis' fight with Iron Man, War Machine, and Spider-Woman, the Golden Sepulcher of Isis destroyed by Iron Man, regressing Isis back to a disfigured Madame Masque. Iron Man then told her the love he once felt for her was inside, and it died years ago.

Stark's armor on the show was the Mark XI "Modular Armor", which was the suit he was wearing in the comics at the time. The first season modified his helmet design to add a traditional mouth slit, but the second season restored the "mouthless" comic book design. It should be noted that the season one armor appears in flashbacks in the episode featuring Firebrand.

Cast

Main cast

Actor Role
Robert Hays Iron Man / Tony Stark
Living Laser
James Avery War Machine / James Rhodes
Whirlwind
Blacklash
(Season 1)
Ed Gilbert Mandarin
(Season 1)
Grey Gargoyle
Ultimo
Robert Ito Mandarin
(Season 2)
Jim Cummings MODOK
Century (1 episode)
Stand in vocals for various characters
Dorian Harewood War Machine / James Rhodes
(Season 2)
Whirlwind
Blacklash
Stilt-Man
John Reilly Hawkeye / Clint Barton
Beetle
Katherine Moffat Scarlet Witch / Wanda Maximoff
(Season 1)
Rachel Carpenter
Jennifer Darling Scarlet Witch / Wanda Maximoff
Hypnotia
(Season 2)
Casey DeFranco Spider-Woman / Julia Carpenter
(Season 1)
Jennifer Hale Spider-Woman / Julia Carpenter
(Season 2)
James Warwick Century
(Season 1)
Tom Kane H.O.M.E.R.
Century (Season 2)
Stingray
Sunturion

Recurring cast

Actor Role
Philip Abbott Nick Fury
Neil Dickson Dreadknight
Linda Holdahl Hypnotia
(Season 1)
Chuck McCann Blizzard
Neil Ross Fin Fang Foom
Wellington Yinsen
Howard Walter Stark (Season 1)
Blizzard (1 episode)
Tony Steedman Justin Hammer
(Season 1)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. Justin Hammer
(Season 2)
Firepower

Guest cast

Actor Role
Dimitra Arliss Martha Stark
Sarah Douglas Alana Ulanova
Jeannie Elias Veronica Benning
Matt Frewer Leader
William Hootkins Crimson Dynamo
(1st appearance)
Stu Rosen Crimson Dynamo
(2nd appearance)
Jamie Horton Controller
Julia Kato Dr. Su-Yin
Todd Louiso the Hacker
Gerard Maguire Titanium Man
Neal McDonough Firebrand / Gary Gilbert
Ron Perlman Hulk / Bruce Banner
Peter Renaday Howard Walter Stark
(Season 2)
Marla Rubinoff Elastika
W. Morgan Shepard Dum Dum Dugan
Scott Valentine Dark Aegis
David Warner Arthur Dearborn
Lisa Zane Madame Masque

Reception

As previously mentioned, the first season of Iron Man: The Animated Series was received poorly by critics and fans. Many criticized the first season; saying that it had a campy tone and bad voice acting. After that, the series was revamped for a second season, with a more mature tone and complex storylines. However, ratings still dropped, which led to the show's cancellation.

Episodes

Season 1

  • And the Sea Shall Give Up It's Dead
  • Rejoice! I Am Ultimo, Thy Deliverer
  • Data In, Chaos Out
  • Silence My Companion, Death My Destination
  • The Grim Reaper Wears a Teflon Coat
  • Enemy Without, Enemy Within
  • The Origin of the Mandarin
  • The Defection of Hawkeye
  • Iron Man to the Second Power, Part One
  • Iron Man to the Second Power, Part Two
  • The Origin of Iron Man, Part One
  • The Origin of Iron Man, Part Two
  • The Wedding of Iron Man

Season 2

  • The Beast Within
  • Fire and Rain
  • Cell of Iron
  • Not Far From the Tree
  • Beauty Knows No Pain
  • Iron Man, On the Inside
  • Distant Boundaries
  • The Armor Wars, Part One
  • The Armor Wars, Part Two
  • Empowered
  • Hulk Buster
  • Hands of the Mandarin, Part One
  • Hands of the Mandarin, Part Two

Connections to Spider-Man: The Animated Series

In the episode, Iron Man, On the Inside, H.O.M.E.R. mentioned Peter Parker in a variation of the nursery rhyme, Peter Piper.

James Avery reprized his role as War Machine for the Spider-Man: The Animated Series episodes, Venom Returns and Carnage.

Robert Hays reprized his role as Iron Man for the episodes, The Spot, Venom Returns, Carnage, Secret Wars, Chapter I: Arrival, Secret Wars, Chapter II: The Gauntlet of the Red Skull, and Secret Wars, Chapter III: Doom.

Opening

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