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Iron Man (1994)
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that fans of the big-screen Iron Man are likely to be disappointed by how different this muddled '90s cartoon version is. There's also a fair bit of animated action violence and some iffy stereotypes connected to a bad guy known as The Mandarin. That said, while some of the characters' motivations are more adult-oriented than you might expect of a kids' show, overall the moral decisions they make provide decent examples for kids.
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What's the story?
The basic premise of this IRON MAN animated series (which originally aired in the mid-'90s) will be familiar to fans of the 2008 film: Billionaire Tony Stark (voiced by Airplane! star Robert Hays) has an iron suit that allows him to function as a superhero. A phalanx of generic villains -- led by an almost-offensive Asian racial caricature called The Mandarin (Ed Gilbert) -- tries to steal each of his new inventions, but the bad guys are invariably thwarted, usually without much regard to logic or the laws of physics.
Is it any good?
In 1994, Marvel Comics introduced The Marvel Action Hour, an animated program hosted by comics superstar Stan Lee, who would introduce a half-hour Fantastic Four cartoon, followed by an Iron Man story. The stories weren't based on existing comic book plots, but were newly written, cheaply produced adventures. Thanks to the massive success of the 2008 film, the Iron Man segments have been dusted off, stripped of their live-action intros, and re-introduced to a generation of kids who frankly deserve better.
The plots don't make much sense, and there are so many characters flying around that it's hard to tell who's who. Many of the characters from the original comic book are here -- including James "Rhodey" Rhoades, MODOK, and even Fin Fang Foom (aka the villain with the goofiest name in all of Marvel comic-dom). Other characters were culled from a now-obscure '90s comic called Force Works or were simply created specifically for this cartoon. Regardless, so little time is spent developing any of these characters that there's no reason to care about them or their conflicts. Kids and parents who were wowed by the Hollywood blockbuster would be far better served to check out the original comic book Tales of Suspense (issues #39-99) to discover how Iron Man was introduced back in 1963 or the many updated Iron Man comics released over the ensuing decades. There's also a far more entertaining animated series from 1966 that uses the amazing original art of comics legends Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role of comic books in learning to appreciate the value of reading. Is reading comic books as "worthwhile" as reading books? Why or why not? How does watching this cartoon compare to the experience of reading a story? How is it similar to and different from the live-action movie?
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