Super Types

December 18, 2011

Stay Tooned Sundays: Top 5 Superhero Cartoons of All Time

Welcome back Stay Tooners, sorry we’ve been gone so long. This week is a “special” end of the year Stay Tooned Sundays celebration. As the year starts to wind down and tons of “best of 2011” list start popping up everywhere, I decided it was the right time to follow up on a reader email request. This awesome fan of STS asked me to make a list of my personal top five animated series of all time. Now, this was a bit too broad and way too hard to do, so I narrowed it down to my top 5 Superhero Animated Series of all time (so far). I know not everyone will agree with my picks, so if you have objections feel free to leave them in the comments or post your own top 5 list. I would love to hear what you think! Also, if you have any ideas for future columns or have a show/movie that you would like to see covered here, feel free to hit me up with an email (my email address is at the bottom). With that, let’s start the countdown!

#5) Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (2010- current)

The Skinny: If you haven’t checked out this amazing series from comic book writing mastermind Chris Yost, then you need to get on board and catch up before season 2 begins. Yost and his team have made the Avengers cool again (with help from a few movies). This show reintroduces the Avengers in a more modern sense, and makes even lame characters awesome again or even for the first time. With great plot twists and smart dialog, this show is great for both kids and adults. As someone who has never been a huge Avengers fan, this series has me glued to my seat every time there is a new episode. For more on this series check out my reviews of  Volume 1 and Volume 2, with Volumes 3 & 4 coming soon!

Why it’s #5: The only good reason why it’s number 5 is because it’s too new. With only one season under its belt, I couldn’t put it any higher on the list. It should be noted that it is the only “new” show that made the list, and that’s saying something!

#4) Gargoyles (1994-1997)

The Skinny: Not your traditional superhero show, but a superhero show none the less, Gargoyles broke the mold in what a Disney cartoon could be. With one of the best mythologies that any TV show has ever had, teaming Shakespearean lore with awesome fantasy and modern day police drama. This show could be funny, dark, and deeply emotional, all in the same episode. The original draw for me to this show was the cast. As a huge Star Trek: The Next Generation fan I was ecstatic to discover that so many of the principle cast had reoccurring roles on this show. All the voice talent was great, and you can’t go wrong with Keith David’s wonderful job as Goliath. The writers on this show did an incredible job of unfolding the story using flash backs in a way that fit seamlessly together. I’m not sure how much of the history was planned out before hand, but it works perfectly. Finally, there is Demona, one of the most tragic, well developed antagonists that has ever existed in an animated series. With such top notch work put into every episode, it’s no wonder that Gargoyles still has a strong fan following over a decade later.

Why it’s #4: Due to the fact that Gargoyles doesn’t exactly fit perfectly into this genre and that it wouldn’t have been made in this fashion if not for the success of other shows on this list, is what keeps it at four. Once again, the fact that it beat out other more traditional superhero shows to be on this list, speaks volumes for its quality.

#3) X-Men (1992-1997)

The Skinny: I doubt you could find an X-Men fan today that didn’t watch and love this series. X-Men were already a long time favorite in the comic book world, but they weren’t a household name until this series came out. All the movies, toys, and other cartoons that followed would not have been possible without this animated series. It had the prefect blend of comic book lore without needing to know the entire history of the X-Men to get it. The voice cast on this show will forever be “the voice” of these characters for a generation of comic book readers. During the height of its run, EVERYONE watched and loved X-Men. To comic book fans the X-Men were always cool, but this series let the rest of the world in on the secret. For more, check out the coverage on the First Volume with more to follow in 2012!

Why it’s #3: As great and amazing as this series was, the next two are just plain better. In fact, this series would also not have been possible without the next one on this list, and that’s just a fact. In the world of animated shows and movies, DC has always been a step ahead of Marvel, especially during these early years. And before I get hate mail, I want you all to know that X-Men is my favorite comic book franchise of all time, but I have to “keep it real,” like the kids say.

#2) Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)

The Skinny: It’s the show that started an animation revolution! Batman: TAS changed the way cartoons were thought of and changed what they could be. With the combination of four great talents, Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Andrea Romano, and Kevin Conroy, history was made. The animation on the show was darker than ever seen before, the stories were written for a smart audience, and Batman was given his most definitive version ever! This show launched DC animation and all the shows that followed. It influenced every single show on this list, and so many others. I’ll even go as far to say that it launched the “modern era” of cartoons. To everyone, Kevin Conroy is Batman, and all the other great supporting voice cast members have also become synonymous with their characters. It was a ground breaking show that changed everything, and it’s no wonder many consider it to be the greatest animated show ever! Check out our review of volume 1 as recommended by Kevin Conroy himself, with more volumes to come.

Why it’s #2: How can something so ground breaking, such a game changer, come in at 2? Have I gone mad? No, because as mind blowing as the first car or airplane were, no one would say that they are the best car/plane ever made.  So too with this series has the end product been vastly superior to the original.

#1) Justice League/ Justice League Unlimited (2001-2006)

The Skinny: If Batman The Animated Series laid the groundwork for what an animated series could be, then Justice League is the payoff of that. With the same crew, only now more confidant, more experienced, and with more sophisticated technology, they took what they learned from Batman: TAS, Superman: TAS, and Batman Beyond, and came back with the masterpiece that is Justice League. Built from the same universe as all three of its predecessors, this show set the new standard for animated series. With literally dozens of great episodes, hundreds of great characters, and some of the best League stories ever told (or never told, as the case may be), it doesn’t get any better. Whether you like the Justice League or not, if you are a comic fan, you will find something to love in this series. Taking all the characters back to their iconic heights, and making the perfect selection for the “big seven,” including Jon Stwert as the GL instead of Hal, and Wally West as the Flash in place of Barry, plus adding Hawkgirl in to fill the void of Aquaman, gave the show a much better, much more diverse group to work with. The animation on this show is top notch, and you can tell that everyone involved in this show were huge fans of the Justice League and comics in general. The voice cast for the big seven was perfect, and the show had some truly amazing guest stars. Every character got the chance to have multiple great moments in the spotlight, and we got to see areas of the DCU that you would have never guessed would make it onto the TV. The show had episodes that were fun, funny, serious, dark, emotional, action packed, and some that were just plain awesome. It was the best show of its time and it has yet to be topped.

Nick Zamora



  1. Billy

    I think Spider-Man, and Batman Brave and the Bold deserve honorable mention.

  2. Eli

    Nice list Nick. My all time favorite animated series from any genre is Batman TAS. In my opinion, there’s nothing to touch it. One of the reasons is that I think it fits what Batman is better than other series fit their subjects. That being said, I think I loved the Justice League series almost as much.

    Great call on Gargoyles, I had forgotten how much I loved that show.


    Great top 5 ,but here’s mine:

    4. G.I. JOE
    1. SPIDER-MAN (60’s)


  4. Vishal

    Agree with the final 4 but what about Spiderman and his amazing friends and Phantom 2040, great shows.


      I totally forgot about SMAAF!!! Put the Phantom????? If that’s the case it might as well be The Defenders of the Earth. Still nice pick.

  5. Vishal

    Agree with the top four, JLU is amazing, but I would have Spiderman and his amazing friends or Phantom 2040 in at 5.

  6. Dude, no TMNT 80s cartoon?

    What about Beast Wars?


      The Turtles , YES!!!

      I was half and half with Beast Wars.

  7. @Billy Batman BATB is great, but I’m not so sure about Spider-Man.

    @Eli Yes, the top 2 spots were a hard choice. I know, Gargoyles was great!

    @TheSomke Great list. Transformers and GIJoe are classics and that 60’s Spider-Man one has a strong cult like following.

    @Vishal Spider-man and his amazing friends is a great show but I’m not sure how well it holds up and I haven’t seen the Phantom 2040, I’ll have to check that one out.

    @Andy TMNT was one of my favorite shows but not good enough for this list and Beast Wars? Really?

    Thanks for the comments everyone, I love hearing what you guys have to say.

  8. I agree with Andy. TMNT is obviously legendary, and Beast Wars is without a doubt one of the greatest animated action shows ever.


      Are you serious???? TMNT , I totally agree, but Beast Wars ,”The greatest animated action shows ever!!! Come on , with all the action cartoons including Transfomers G1 you picked Beast Wars?!!! That would be on my list at the very bottom!!!

  9. And I would put Batman Beyond, Batman BATB and Superman TAS well above Gargoyles.

  10. @The Smoke

    Have you ever seen Beast Wars? That show is insane. The second and third season get ridiculously heavy, not just with action, but deep plots going all the way back to G1. It’s amazing.

  11. Moses

    Nick, thanks for the list. All of those are on my top 5, except Gargoyles. I haven’t see it. It’s on my list to watch. I would have to insert “Wolverine and the X-Men”. I was astounding by that show. The further I got into the season, the more I was impressed (and more I was in disbelief that it was not renewed for a second season).

    JLU is my number one also. I think the fact the my wife, who is not an animation fan nor a comic book fan, watched the entire series with me and loved it. The quality of the writing and character development far outpaces any other animated television show I’ve seen thus far (Avatar – The Last Airbender is a close second).

    Anyone want to vote for the worst Superhero Animated program. I’ll give “Avengers – United They Stand” one big vote for the bottom of the list.

  12. @andrewhurst I have to agree with @The Smoke about Beast Wars, I’ve only seen episodes here and there but It was not that great. The OG Transformers is way better. As far as Batman Beyond and Superman TAS, they are ok but Gargoyles was just more interesting than either of those.

    @Moses Thanks for the idea! You should totally check out Gargoyles, it’s a really great show. I’m glad you agree with me on JL, my dad doesn’t watch cartoons at all but he used to watch Justice League all the time too. I thought that Wolverine and the X-Men were great too but since it only lasted one season I put Avengers EMH here instead, it’s made by the same people and even takes place in the same universe! Thanks again.


      Hey Nick, I am NOT a fan of Beast Wars just the G1 Transformers. Beast Wars is a poor man’s Transformers LOL!!

  13. Brock

    I think you have a really great list. I might have swapped Batman for JLU because I’m a fanboy but you bring up valid points. I enjoyed Gargoyles and had forgotten about it. I have to agree with Moses though (although he’s typically wrong), I’d put Wolverine and the X-Men on there probably in exchange for Gargoyles because it was a super hero show and was done really well.

  14. @Smoke I know, that’s why I said that I AGREE with you! lol

    @Brock Thanks. I do like Wolverine and the X-Men! see here ->, but it only lasted one season and Gargoyles is great! lol


      Oh ok LMAO!!!

  15. […] (That is, if the world doesn’t end.) I want to thank everyone who shared and commented on my Top 5 Superhero Cartoons of All Time, I love getting your feedback. Moving on, this year we are starting out with the […]

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