Back in the mid-90s, long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe came to dominate the movie industry, there was actually a different shared universe of Marvel properties.
It was an animated Marvel universe, and it was phenomenal. From Spider-Man to The Fantastic Four, from X-Men to The Silver Surfer, the Marvel animated universe was a huge source of joy for those who loved the Marvel comic books.
Today, all of those Marvel animated series can be streamed on Disney+. If you haven’t seen them yet and you want to dive into Marvel history, those series are ready to bedazzle a new generation.
Not sure where to start? Here are the best 90s Marvel cartoon series ranked in increasingly better order for your enjoyment. (We skipped Spider-Man: Unlimited and The Avengers: United They Stand, which were uncharacteristically terrible.)
Forget about Robert Downey Jr.’s iteration of the character. For a lot of Marvel fans, the Tony Stark in the 90s cartoon series was the first and truest Tony Stark on screen.
There’s none of Downey’s trademark swagger or quips here. This version of Iron Man was incredibly humble most of the time.
Sadly, the 90s cartoon series was canceled after just two seasons due to poor ratings. The problem with Iron Man (Series) was that it lacked the special personality that other Marvel animated series had, so it was a bit forgettable by comparison.
But for most of its run, Iron Man (Series) was actually a great show. The animation and sound were fantastic, as were the voice cast who brought the characters to life. The show’s suit-up sequences are pure 90s, with heavy metal music hammering home the era’s style.
For the intro alone, The Incredible Hulk was great. While the eponymous hero himself had less of his trademark aggression here than he did in other iterations of the character, his feelings for Betty Ross were always at the center—and that humanized him.
Bruce Banner had a wickedly fun personality in the animated Marvel series and none of the awkwardness that Mark Ruffalo brought to the role. His constant attempts to find a way to cure himself of the Hulk drove the series forward.
The Incredible Hulk was also noteworthy for its inclusion of She-Hulk, who evolved from series regular to co-star. The Incredible Hulk lasted for two seasons and packed in a lot during that short time.
Back before the MCU popularized Tony Stark and Captain America, Fantastic Four (Series) existed as one of Marvel’s biggest draws. While the movies of the 2000s were surprisingly bad, the animated series is still the best iteration of the characters outside the comics.
The show had a real sense of style, and the four main heroes even ended up crossing over with The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man series. Not to mention many fun cameos along the way, including Silver Surfer and Daredevil and others.
Fantastic Four (Series) is a brilliant representation of the original comic books, which is why it was so popular with hardcore fans of the team at the time. The only downside is that the adaptation was a bit too faithful, making the storylines a tad predictable.
Brutally cancelled after just one season—allegedly due to a dispute between production companies—Silver Surfer represents the most ambitious 90s Marvel cartoon series.
The show left Earth behind and told the story of Norrin Radd, an inhabitant of Zenn-La who offers himself in servitude to Galactus to save his homeworld from destruction. Galactus obliges and wipes Radd’s memory, remolding him as Silver Surfer.
The show was tons of fun and the animation team achieved fantastic results. And while the first season had an epic ending with many questions left unanswered, the show is still one of the best Marvel animated series ever made to this day.
The original 90s Marvel animated series is still iconic to this day. X-Men is where a whole generation of soon-to-be fans got to meet Wolverine and Co. for the first time.
The show was gritty in its stories, bold in its animation, and adapted some of the greatest X-Men plotlines, including “Days of Future Past.” It not only kicked off the 90s Marvel animated series, but was so successful that it got the live-action X-Men movie rolling in 2000.
This series ran for five seasons and—alongside Batman: The Animated Series—is responsible for the popularity of animated TV heroes that came along in the next decade.
First place was always going to be Spider-Man. Spider-Man is the world’s most popular superhero, and a large part of that is due to the successes of all the animated TV series he starred in.
Back in the 90s, long before Miles Morales was even an inkling of a thought, Marvel rebooted Spider-Man after the success of X-Men—and much like X-Men, Spider-Man was an animated masterpiece.
The main difference between X-Men and Spider-Man was the fact that Spider-Man focused on Peter Parker just trying to live a normal life. Spider-Man has always been a hero of the people, and the 90s cartoon series made that wonderfully clear.
The show was ultimately canceled after five seasons—due to a production dispute—but its success eventually led to the creation of the Spider-Man live-action movies. The rest is history.