While fans might be more familiar with the big-budget live-action Avengers that have appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Avengers have been appearing on TV in animation since 1966, and have continued to appear in various forms and series over the decades. But what’s the best Avengers cartoon?
Thanks to the launch of the Disney+ streaming service, fans can watch quite a few animated series starring the Avengers, but some are definitely more deserving of fans’ time than others. So today let’s explore the animated history of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to see which series did the team justice. See how these animated rosters Assemble in some of the best Avengers cartoons!
Updated on September 2nd, 2021 by George Chrysostomou Although no additional animated series have made their way to the screen just yet it’s important to highlight those of the past ahead of the Avengers debut on Marvel’s What If…? which will showcase the MCU iteration of the team in a way that fans have never seen before.
10 THE AVENGERS: UNITED THEY STAND (1999-2000)
The 90s saw quite a few successful comic book cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men: The Animated Series,but there were just as many failures which included The Avengers: United They Stand, which ran for one thirteen-episode season before being canceled.
The series featured a team led by Hank Pym/Ant-Man/Giant-Man and included members Wasp, Tigra, Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Vision, and Falcon, with half the team wearing toy-friendly battle armor that they didn’t really need. As it turns out, this was the series that fans didn’t really need, working more as a commercial than anything containing legitimate character arcs. What’s more, the animation style wasn’t exactly inspiring in its interpretation of the characters leading it to be ranked poorly by most fans.
9 IRON MAN: ARMORED ADVENTURES (2009-2012)
Inspired by the success of the 2008 live-action Iron Manfilm, Iron Man: Armored Adventures debuted with a different focus as it featured a teenage Tony Stark/Iron Man and friends Rhodey and Pepper as they dealt with growing up and supervillains.
While the earlier Iron Man animated series from the ’90s featured characters from the Avengers, the team itself didn’t appear until Armored Adventures gathered characters like Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow, War Machine, and Rescue alongside the teenage Iron Man for the finale. Despite all of this it’s still considered one of the worst animated superhero shows, with the focus of the team itself being put on the armored heroes on the roster. None of the characters were given time to be fully fleshed out, almost acting as sidekicks to the likes of Iron Man and War Machine resulting in the poor ranking.
8 MARVEL DISK WARS: THE AVENGERS (2014-2015)
Marvel has released a few anime series over the years, though they don’t often fit into the same mold as the other Avengers series. Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers is the best example of this, as it featured the Avengers with a Pokémon twist. The premise may seem odd at first, but the series is actually fairly enjoyable.
The series saw Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Wasp, and other Avengers were trapped in Digital Identity Securement Kit/DISKs that were made to imprison criminals, and they can only be released for a few minutes at a time by a group of children as they take on the villains of the Marvel Universe. It’s definitely a fun concept with stunning animation, but not one that conveyed the narratives comic book fans might be familiar with. It can still be appreciated though as a unique take, although may not appeal to purists resulting in a lower ranking.
7 AVENGERS CONFIDENTIAL: BLACK WIDOW & PUNISHER (2014)
Marvel has released a few different anime series and films over the years that featured Avengers characters like Iron Man, though the only official Avengers anime film was Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher, which focused on the two titular heroes as their paths crossed on a S.H.I.E.L.D. mission.
As the pair entered into a final battle against a team of super-soldiers, they were assisted by one of the best Avengers team rosters that included Iron Man, Hulk, Hawkeye, Thor, Captain Marvel, and War Machine, though their involvement in the finale of the film was minimal. Ultimately, the focus was placed upon the two gun-wielding warriors, with very little room to set up a proper team dynamic; but the action sequences were absolutely stellar leading to its higher ranking.
6 NEXT AVENGERS: HEROES OF TOMORROW (2008)
A series of stand-alone feature-length animated films were released by Marvel Animation which included a look into a dark future of the Marvel Universe with Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow. The film introduced an incredibly creative team made up of the children of the fallen Avengers that had been raised in isolation by Tony Stark.
James Rogers (Captain America/Black Widow), Torunn (Thor/Sif), Azari (Black Panther/Storm), Henry Pym Jr. (Giant-Man/Wasp), and Francis Barton (Hawkeye/Mockingbird) worked together with Hulk, Iron Man, and the head of Vision to take down Ultron. The team would briefly appear in the comics, with different origins as the group felt like early members of a new Young Avengers. It’s a genuinely memorable installment to Marvel’s animated history and one that introduced new, dynamic characters that made their impact on the source material leading to its ranking.
5 MARVEL FUTURE AVENGERS (2020)
Marvel Future Avengers is the most recent anime featuring the team, and the first season of the series recently dropped on Disney+ for those fans looking for something new to watch. The series follows the adventures of three young friends who were raised by Hydra and given powers through experimentation.
The trio joined with the Avengers and began training alongside Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, and Wasp to become Future Avengers while they investigated the mysterious project that gave them their abilities. While the series focus is on the new characters, the Avengers still play a huge role and feel very authentic compared to some other anime versions of Marvel characters. The debuting characters also hold their own against the heavy hitters, but perhaps won’t be remembered by Marvel fans in years to come, partially due to their uninspired design resulting in it not being more highly ranked.
4 THE MARVEL SUPER HEROES (1966)
1966 saw the premiere of The Marvel Super Heroes TV series, which featured short segments of various characters like Captain America, Thor, Namor, Hulk, and Iron Man that were basically lightly-animated reproductions of the comics themselves, which viewers would now call a type of motion comics.
As the stories told came straight from the comics, the Avengers appeared in a few of the Captain America and The Incredible Hulk segments. As the series didn’t really have an animation style of its own, the art was from the original creators like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Looking back on it now it’s a classic Avengers cartoon in every way and should be remembered as such despite its two-dimensional storytelling. This is the equivalent of reading a retro comic in all its glory resulting in its ranking.
3 AVENGERS ASSEMBLE (2013-2019)
The longest-running animated series to feature the team began in 2013 with the first season of Avengers Assemble, which was geared towards younger audiences like Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man series. Avengers Assemble was also based on the MCU version of the team, though it was loosely connected to The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series that preceded it.
After two seasons of Avengers Assemble, the series would return each season with a new team and series title to reflect the season’s storyline. Avengers: Ultron Revolution, Avengers: Secret Wars, and Avengers: Panther’s Quest introduced many different Avengers, though the kid-friendly focus of the series turned off some fans of the previous series in spite of it being one of the best Avengers animated series. Its penchant for reinvention is what makes it stand out and garnered its ranking though as it honors the continuity of well-known screen portrayals while finding its own fun twist.
2 ULTIMATE AVENGERS (2006)
Marvel Animation hasn’t released as many animated feature-length films as DC’s ongoing yearly offerings that fuelled an impressive cinematic multiverse, but they did attempt to create their own animated universe of films with Doctor Strange, The Invincible Iron Man, and the aforementioned Next Avengers.
Ultimate Avengers was based on the successful The Ultimates line of comics, though the feature length-film combined elements from the Ultimate and mainstream Marvel comic universes. The film also received an animated sequel, Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther with both installments telling stories that capitalized on the ultimate comics but boasted a unique flavor for each character as well as beautiful costume design. It’s a perfect ensemble piece leading to its ranking.
1 THE AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES (2010-2013)
The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes featured amazing animation and writing that updated the classic origins of the Avengers while faithfully introducing members like Captain America, Ant-Man, Wasp, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Vision.
The series was unfortunately cut short after two seasons to make way for the more MCU-friendly Avengers Assemble. Thankfully, two seasons of EMH still gave fans the best take on Marvel’s premiere superhero team that was both comic-accurate and entertaining, complete with an incredibly catchy theme song resulting in the creation of a perfect Avengers cartoon.