2006 saw the birth of a new toy line from Marvel Comics called The Super Hero Squad. These toys were small replicas of the heroes and villains of the Marvel U presented in a kid friendly fashion. These toys not only became a huge hit with Marvel collectors but also the child audience. The initial wave of figures included well known Marvel icons such as Captain America and Wolverine. Larger figures like Galactus, Ultimate Giant Man, and even the obscure, dragon character Fin Fang Foom. Vehicles and multi-figure sets were added to the line, as well as playsets including a Gamma Lab and a Bank Heist play set. Soon the figures were offered in four packs and Mega packs featuring team sets like The Defenders (with Nighthawk and Gargoyle), a new Fantastic Four consisting of The Black Panther, Storm, The Thing, and the Human Torch, and an X-men set. The line has expanded so deeply into the Marvel Universe now, that even characters like Nova the Human Rocket, M.O.D.O.K, and Iron Fist have action figures.
With the success of the toy line by Hasbro, Marvel took the Hero Squad to the next level. On September 19th, 2009, the first episode of The Super Hero Squad cartoon aired on the Cartoon Network. The premise of the show is centered around Marvel’s best known and coolest villain, Dr. Doom. Doom had found an infinite sword which will allow him to rule the world and bend it to his will unopposed, but Iron Man managed to stop him before he can use this new weapon, shattering it in the process. Its pieces, called Infinite Fractals, were scattered across Super Hero City where the show is set, and Iron Man formed a team of heroes to defend the city, as well as keep Doom from regaining the shards of the sword. His team consists of The Mighty Thor, The Hulk, Red Falcon, Silver Surfer, and Wolverine. They are the Super Hero Squad. Iron Man is the Squad’s leader but he in turn answers to Captain America and Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. who appear regularly in the show along with Ms. Marvel as allies of the Squad.
Dr. Doom has his own team called The Lethal Legion, with a mission to help the Infinite Fractals and and assist him with his dark plans for Super Hero City. M.O.D.O.K. (the mobile organism designed only for killing) becomes his second in command. Abomination is their most trusted lackey and always appears with his two superiors. The rest of Doom’s team features a revolving cast of villains from throughout the Marvel Universe, ranging from The Wrecking Team and Screaming Mimi to The Mole Man, Klaw, The Juggernaut, and Whirlwind.
Much of the Marvel Universe is represented in the show just as with the toy line. The show usually contains guest appearances in the each episode ranging from the likes of Odin and the residents of Asgard to Thanos, and its title sequence features such high profile characters as The Fantastic Four (along with a shot of the actual Baxter Building itself), The X-men, Magneto, as well as Marvel cult characters like Fin Fang Foom and Doctor Strange.
Some of the best episodes to date include one featuring Mystique in which she poses as the Black Widow, infiltrates the Hero Squad and causes all its male members to fall head over heels for her. Another excellent episode is the one withThanos that brings The Fantastic Four and their long time enemies, the shape shifting Skrulls, to the forefront. The episode “A Brat Walks Among Us” features one of the cartoon’s largest team ups to date, bringing together The Hero Squad, their S.H.I.E.L.D. allies,The Fantastic Four, The X-men, and all of Dr. Doom’s Lethal Legion to face off against a young girl who has accidentally gained control of one of the infinite fractals and now has the power of a god.
The most amazing thing about the show to this long time Marvel fan and reader is that the cartoon has taken M.O.D.O.K., a Z list villain, and made him not only cool but the show’s primary source of humor. M.O.D.O.K has been given entire episodes such as “The Might of M.O.D.O.K” and “Mobile Organism Designed Only for Kissing”. The show, however inconsistent with true Marvel lore, seems to imply that M.O.D.O.K. is just as smart as Dr. Doom but lacks his willpower and leadership skills. Some impressive and hilarious M.O.D.O.K. moments include a “Big Head” convention that he attends along side the likes of The Leader and Egghead, being taunted by The Watcher himself, hacking the Baxter Building’s security systems (not an easy feat), defeating the Hero Squad with the use of a fractal, and forcing Dr. Doom to make him crust-less, PB&J sandwiches.
In the cartoon, the Abomination is portrayed at times more as M.O.D.O.K.’s sidekick than Dr. Doom’s servant, and it is clear the two have an underlying friendship. The Abomination has been severely dumbed down for the show and given the intelligence level of the original Hulk in order to serve as a foil to M.O.D.O.K.’s upgraded abilities.
At the time of the writing of this article, I have greatly enjoyed the cartoon, and both myself and my four year old son get excited over seeing characters like The Super Skrull and Mole Man come to life on the small screen. The Super Hero Squad show is family oriented and kid friendly, perhaps even more so than DC’s new Brave and the Bold cartoon which premiered last year. Its sole shortcoming is the lack of Spider-Man. While the Super Hero Squad doesn’t completely Marvel lore and creates much lore of its own, the show is an excellent introduction to comic books that adult fans can share with their children.
One other thing that makes The Super Hero Squad fun is that at the end of the opening title sequence, The Hulk always picks up an infinite fractal and is changed into one of his alter incarnations or into off the wall things like a Hulk/M.O.D.O.K. Hybrid. This is very similar to, and I am sure inspired by, the ever-changing end bit to the Simpsons intro.
As a fan, I can only hope that we will continue to see more Marvel characters added to the show. I would love to see a cosmic episode featuring the likes of Nova the Human Rocket and Captain Mar-vell or a Canada episode featuring the original line up of Alpha Flight. Who knows? It could happen right? Let’s hope so!
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