Picture this: it’s 6:30AM on a Saturday. Your parents aren’t up yet, your homework is crumpled and forgotten at the bottom of your bag. You fill a bowl with far too many Weet-Bix because the Socceroo on the box asked how many do you do and you’ve gotta prove you’ve got what it takes.
You sit in front of the TV with your breakfast like you’re not supposed to, flip past Rage and breakfast talk shows, and you find it. Saturday Disney. Rollercoaster. Toasted TV. The hosts are either at Australia Zoo or Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary for no particular reason, or flickering in-and-out of focus in front of a green-screen background. But you’re not here for them. You’re here for the cartoons. It’s 2009 baby, the REAL golden age of television. Life is good.
The Super Hero Squad Show
How do you sell a line of action figures? You make a kids’ cartoon about them. Then a video game. Then another one. Then a board game – anyway. The Super Hero Squad Show piled as many superheroes and villains into Super Hero City as possible to create the biggest intergalactic smackdown your tiny kid-brain could handle.
Being aimed at a younger audience, the show takes the opportunity to parody and poke gentle fun at its source material, trying to coerce a knowing chuckle from the adults forced to watch it. A gauntlet isn’t cool, but you know what is cool? Swords. Kids love swords. The Super Hero Squad Show follows Captain America, Ms. Marvel and the Squaddies in their fight to keep the Infinity Sword out of the hands of Doctor Doom, Galactus, and Thanos.
While the Super Hero Squad MMO was tragically shut down in 2017, the good news is you can find both seasons of the show on Disney+, and both video games priced to clear at your local EB Games.
Wolverine and the X-Men
Wolverine and the X-Men was one of those shows that made you wonder if you were quite old enough to be watching it, with Jean Gray and Professor X being seemingly killed in an explosion in the first episode (seemingly because, come on, it’s the first episode and they’re the two most powerful mutants, come on now).
Tackling themes such as grief and depression, guilt and sacrifice, Wolverine and the X-Men sees Wolvie try to rebuild the scattered X-Men team and their mansion from the rubble of losing Charles and Jean, a world-ending threat looming in the not-too-distant future.
Travelling through time and into different realities, there are way too many mutants in this series to count. If you have an obscure favourite mutant from an obscure X-Men comic, they’ll still probably pop up at some point. The premiere episode had an audience of over 3,500,000, but the show was ultimately cancelled after 26 episodes due to financial difficulties navigating the Disney-owns-Marvel-Fox-owns-X-Men conundrum.
Iron Man: Armored Adventures
Genius, playboy, billionaire, philanthropist. We’ll hold onto the genius part for Iron Man: Armored Adventures, but Tony is 16, his father is presumed dead, and he’s late for school again! The show follows comic story arcs pretty closely, recontextualised and resized so no one’s beating up a child too badly (shout-out to Ghost, who discovers Iron Man’s true identity but refuses to reveal it until Tony turns 18, that’s pretty cool of you actually).
Tony, Pepper and Rhodey are all here, chasing after Mandarin-heir Gene Khan (that’s the kid with the cool sunglasses if you remember the show), fighting baddies, and doing Regular Teen Stuff™️. Armored Adventures went to the weird, cell-shaded, Skyland-esque school of CGI animation, but damn, the Iron Man suit looks cool in it.
The Spectacular Spider-Man
If Spectacular Spider-Man rings a bell even if you’ve never seen the show, that would be because a lot of people are still campaigning for its return. Originally planned to have five seasons, each arc covering a semester of Peter’s high-school years and beyond, The Spectacular Spider-Man was praised for its characters’ steady evolution from regular teenagers into the mythic Spider-Man heroes and villains we know.
It’s witty, it’s poignant, it’s fun, but in the last ten years the show itself has ultimately been eclipsed by the story of its cancellation. The same day Disney announced its acquisition of Marvel, Ultimate Spider-Man was announced to be in development, causing Spectacular showrunner Greg Weisman to state to IGN: “I’ve heard nothing directly from Marvel, but I think the Ultimate Spider-Man announcement makes it fairly clear that The Spectacular Spider-Man is over.” Oof.
While the show’s creators were never able to tell the story they planned for the next three seasons, Spectacular Spider-Man lives on in the hearts of fans… and on Netflix.
It is, of course, no longer 2009. The superhero landscape has changed dramatically, but it speaks to the power of these characters that we’re still so enrapt with stories about them. So much of life is uncertain, but one thing’s for sure: The Hulk shows up in every timeline for no real reason. Wait, that’s not the message here… Superheroes are still cool when you’re not a kid anymore? Perfect. Once you’re caught up on everything here (just kidding, you don’t have to watch Super Hero Squad), the good news is there’s a lot more Marvel television ground to cover.