Iron Man (TV series)

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For the 2009 television series, see Iron Man: Armored Adventures.
Iron Man
1994 Iron Man Cartoon Season 1 Title.jpg
The title design for Season 1 of Iron Man.
Genre Action/Adventure
Superhero
Science fiction
Format Animated series
Starring Robert Hays
James Avery
John Reilly
(see below)
Narrated by George Johnson
Opening theme Iron Man (by Rock)
Ending theme Iron Man (by Rock)
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 26 (List of episodes)
Production
Camera setup Setup
Running time 26 minutes
Production company(s) Marvel Entertainment Group
Marvel Films
Distributor Genesis Entertainment (1994-1995)
New World Entertainment (1995-1996)
Saban Entertainment (1999-2002)
Broadcast
Original channel First-run syndication
Picture format 480i
Audio format Dolby Surround
Original run September 24, 1994 (1994-09-24) – February 24, 1996 (1996-02-24)
Chronology
Followed by The Avengers: United They Stand

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 in syndication as part of The Marvel Action Hour, which packaged Iron Man with another animated series based on Marvel properties, the Fantastic Four, with one half-hour episode from each series airing back-to-back. The show was backed by a toy line that featured many armor variants.[1][2]

This series of Iron Man 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 live-action Iron Man film in 2008, reruns began airing on the Jetix block on Toon Disney. Additionally, all 26 episodes are currently available for streaming through LoveFilm.

Series overview[edit]

Although only lasting two seasons, Iron Man was the subject of a major overhaul between seasons when its 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.[1]

First season[edit]

Iron Man's design on the first season of his 1990s animated series.

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 consisting of Dreadknight, Blizzard, Blacklash, Grey Gargoyle (when it comes to fighting Iron Man and his team, he has a tendency to accidentally turn his fellow villains to stone), Hypnotia (Dreadknight and Blacklash were rivals for the affections of Hypnotia), Whirlwind, Living Laser, MODOK, Fin Fang Foom and Justin Hammer. To combat these villains, Iron Man had the help of his own team (based on Force Works, a then-current comic book team which has since faded into obscurity), including Century, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye (replacing U.S. Agent from the comics) 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 1960s (for example, "The Grim Reaper Wears a Teflon Coat", and "Rejoice, I am Ultimo, Thy Deliverer"), 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 "The Origin of Iron Man", which recounted a (modified and modernized) version of the character's comic book origin (see below) just before the season concluded.

This 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.[3] The show is generally held to have been at its best when filling in these origin blanks (MODOK in "Enemy Without, Enemy Within,"[4] Iron Man and the Mandarin in their self-titled "The Origin of..." episodes[5]), 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 (with the nadir perhaps being Iron Man somehow using the energy of a small tape-player to restore his armor to full power in "Silence My Companion, Death My Destination").[6]

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), realising that Mandarin has 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 his team 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 the situation was an android).

Second season[edit]

The title design for 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[7] 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 by an intense electric guitar theme featuring the repeated refrain of "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").[8] Tony Stark's longer hair style in the second season was based upon the artist Mark Bright's depiction of Stark from the late 1980s, which is where most of the episodes from Season 2 were based upon.

The new story lines spanned multiple episodes and were no longer "open and shut" cases. They formed a linking narrative, featuring themes of duplicity, consequence, 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.

Iron Man's second season design.

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 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 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 the episode "Distant Boundaries".

Prior to finding his last two rings, the Mandarin claims 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,[9][10] 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 killed him, or at least cut off his hand/fingers for the rings. After Mandarin was killed, MODOK and the rest of Mandarin's henchmen were sent to jail.

After disappointing ratings, the series was canceled.

The Incredible Hulk (1996 TV series) and Spider-Man (1994 TV series) crossovers[edit]

Dorian Harewood reprises his role of War Machine from the solo Iron Man animated series in the episode "Helping Hand, Iron Fist". He originally stops Rick Jones from seeing Tony Stark (voiced by Robert Hays, who was also reprising his Iron Man role) at Stark Enterprises, but takes him to Stark after Jones explained that he needed Stark's help to find Bruce Banner. He later alerts Stark of the arrival of General Ross, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Gabriel Jones, and a squad of Hulkbusters. War Machine fights some of the Hulkbusters alongside Jones and Iron Man.

Iron Man was once again voiced by Robert Hays and War Machine was voiced by James Avery (reprising their parts from the Iron Man animated series around the same period; Dorian Harewood, who replaced Avery as War Machine, voiced Tombstone instead) on Spider-Man: The Animated Series.[11] They first appeared in the episodes "Venom Returns" and "Carnage" in which Dormammu orders Venom to steal the Time Dilation Accelerator from Stark Enterprises, which is capable of releasing Dormammu from his own far-off dimension. Venom is quickly defeated by Spider-Man and War Machine. However, Venom gets help from Cletus Kasady, his cellmate who has bonded with another symbiote, Carnage. After the Symbiotes steal the machine, War Machine is too wounded to continue fighting, so Iron Man teams up with Spider-Man and stops the Symbiotes and prevent Dormammu from leaving his dimension. Iron Man also makes a cameo in the episode called "The Spot, in which Tony Stark fires Dr. Jonathon Ohn from the Time Dilation Accelerator project because Stark knows the project is dangerous after Carnage almost released Dormammu to Earth using Accelerator machinery. Iron Man later appears in the three-part episode Secret Wars in which the Beyonder creates a war between good and evil to see who is better. In the end, the heroes win and everyone, except for Spider-Man who has to stop the evil Spider-Carnage from destroying all of reality in the following series finale, is sent back to Earth without any memory.

In comparison with the comics[edit]

Season 1[edit]

As described above, the first season of the series bases very few of its stories on the comic books, aside from its 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 (who also orchestrated the death of Tony's father, which was later revealed to be a cover-up by S.H.I.E.L.D. in "Not Far From the Tree") and the Mandarin. Wounded not by a chunk of shrapnel near his heart, but by slivers near his spine, Stark and Ho Yinsen (whose first name is changed to Wellington) were held captive by the Mandarin, rather than Wong-Chu. Yinsen works with Arnold Brock before Arnold becomes 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 becomes 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 extent than in the comics. He gained green skin (a fate which befell other Asian villains in animation around the time, such as Doctor No in James Bond Junior and Ming the Merciless in Defenders of the Earth) and an enhanced musculature, but the show did retain the connection between his origin and Fin Fang Foom. As previously mentioned, The Mandarin once was known as Arnold Brock, an archaeologist who falls into an ancient catacomb containing an alien starship (which as previously alluded to, belongs to this series' incarnation of Fin Fang Foom, whom Mandarin forged an uneasy alliance with) while fleeing from deserts 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 of 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. He is supposedly killed in the explosion that scatters Mandarin's 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 1960s, but featured his appearance and alien-born origin from the 1990s.

The Mandarin's minions (with the exception of the original character, Hypnotia) were all solo operators in the comics, most significantly arms-dealing business man 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 the Red Ghost increased his mind by 100 times. He soon fell in love and got married to famous ballet dancer Alana Ulanova (voiced by Sarah 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 a civilian identity as a man named Woody, sporting shades and a broad-brimmed hat) were never defined in the cartoon, save for Spider-Woman, who was recast as the vice president of research and development 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 identified in the closing credits as "Wanda Frank" (an alias by her in the comics, in which her real name is "Wanda Maximoff"), who speaks with a thick Eastern-European (or according to the closed captioning, German) 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-changing to matter manipulation.

In a sub-plot crafted solely for the cartoon, Spider-Woman and the 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 simply 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 My 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[edit]

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 "The Hands of the Mandarin" and introducing more characters derived from the comic books, including HOMER, 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 the Roxxon Brand Corporation. Arthyr 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 an uncontrollable emitting of radiation, deadly to all others around him. The Star Well station 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 Gilbert. 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-parter, Justin Hammer had Ghost steal the Stark Armor designs and sold them to each of the armored criminals. For instance, The Beetle made a brief appearance during the "Armor Wars" two-parter, 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 Liverpudlian accent that evokes the similarly named band. 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 1)", Tony Stark's discovery about Crimson Dynamo (who first appeared in "Not Far From the Tree", where he worked with an A.I.M.-made clone of Howard Stark) using Stark technology as part of his armor ignites the animated version of the Armor Wars. He wore the Crimson Dynamo armor associated with Valentin Shatalov; however, Stark referred him as "Yuri" in the episode. The Controller also appeared as a guest villain in "Armor Wars (Part 1)". 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 appear in "Armor Wars (Part 2)". When Iron Man invaded the Vault (meanwhile, Blizzard, Grey Gargoyle, and Whirlwind were shown as inmates at the Vault) to disable the Guardsman armors, he ended up in a fight with them and Hawkeye. Iron Man used the Negator Packs on them. He later attacked the super hero Stringray, 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 fellow hero.

Justin Hammer also created Fire Power, a deadly armored warrior designed to eliminate his competition. Because it was Hammer Industry Property, Iron Man's Negator Pack doesn't work on it. Iron Man faked his death, but returned in a new armor when it started to attack properties of Stark Industry. 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 his 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 2 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 own beauty. She became bitter when she lost her beloved looks and Tony. She then became involved with the Maggia and took on 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 is 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 1 armor appears in flashback in the episode featuring Firebrand.

Iron Man's armor[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Iron Man's armor.

As noted above, Iron Man's modular armor was his standard suit for his appearance in the animated series, but with a slightly modified face plate to give it the traditional mouth-slit. The suit was redesigned in the second season of the show, most significantly by restoring the "mouthless" appearance of the armor. The Season 1 armor appeared in flashback early on.

The trademark of a changing armor remained a constant in the animated series, with the first season featuring the hydro-armor and deep space armor, straight from the comics. The second season, however, was when the variant armors became a focal point of the series; the new modifications Stark made to his suit allowed it to shape-shift into different forms with specialized capabilities that could be called upon for the assorted situations he found himself in. The hydro-armor and space armors were incorporated into this mechanism, and more armors from the comics such as the stealth armor and Hulkbuster armor were introduced. The series also introduced an array of original situational armor designs, including:

  • Subterranean drill armor - Brown and gold, with an arm-mounted pneumatic drill for underground burrowing.
  • Inferno armor - Red and gold with pink highlights, this armor was resistant to extreme temperatures and outfitting with fire-extinguishing foam, which proved helpful in combat with Firebrand.
  • Samurai armor - Never actually used in combat, this highly stylized armor was blue and grey.
  • Radiation armor - Blue and silver armor to shield against radioactive danger, capable of firing x-ray blasts.
  • Lava armor - Red and silver armor that can resist submergence in magma, which proved helpful when Iron Man had to recover one of the Mandarin's rings from within a volcano.
  • Magnetic armor - Purple and silver, with the ability to generate electromagnetic pulses, once used by a microscopically reduced Iron Man to fibrilate Hawkeye's heart.
  • Bio-energy armor - DNA-powered red and gold armor, used against the Mandarin's anti-technology field in the two-part series finale "Hands of the Mandarin".
  • Hydro armor - Yellow with a glass-domed helmet, is used for underwater situations.
  • Space armor - Used to break through the Earth's atmosphere, the only thing that appears to be different is that it has a jet pack.
  • Stealth armor - Dark gray, is used to stay silent and is unable to be traced by radar.

The toyline also featured two armors which did not appear in the series; an entirely silver Arctic armor (used very briefly in the comics) and the Silver Centurion suit, dubbed hologram armor.

List of episodes[edit]

Cast[edit]

Recurring cast[edit]

Guest cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

As previously mentioned, the first season of Iron Man was received poorly by critics and fans. Many criticized the first season for its campy tone and bad voice acting in the show. After that, the series was revamped for a second season, with a more mature tone and complex storylines. Unfortunately, ratings still dropped, which led to the show's cancellation.

DVD release[edit]

On October 8, 2007, both seasons were released together in a Region 2 three-disc set from Maximum Entertainment in 2007, when Disney had the rights to the Marvel shows and before they brought the rights back, all before the 2009 take over of Marvel by Disney. The 3 disk set had no features and just included all 26 episodes. UK company Clear Vision released two sets exclusive to their website on April 19, 2010. One contains all 26 episodes over 4 disks while the other - which includes the 1960s Iron Man animated series - is a six disk box set entitled Iron Man: The Ultimate Collection. Buena Vista Home Entertainment released the entire series on Region 4 DVD - which spans 3 separate volumes - on March 30, 2010[12] and later released the series on Region 1 DVD on May 4, 2010 to coincide with Iron Man 2, which opened in theaters a few days later, on May 7.

Alternate versions[edit]

Japan[edit]

When the show had aired in Japanese television stations, the opening sequence was changed, featuring a new J-Pop theme song called "Eien ga Ai ni Kawaru Toki (永遠が愛に変わるとき lit. When Eternity Becomes Love)" by the J-Pop group Pretty Cast, and splicing in scenes from various episodes alongside the original opening animation, a similar change was made to the ending credits sequence.

References[edit]

External links[edit]