Thundercats and other toons

Cartoon Network's new Thundercats
Thundercats, ho!

On Friday, 29 July 2011, I watched the premieres of a few new animated television shows. I especially liked the latest incarnation of Thundercats, which was among the shows previewed at San Diego Comic-Con, on the Cartoon Network.

As with G.I. Joe: Renegades, Transformers: Prime, and the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, intellectual properties from the 1980s are being revived, with more modern production values and writing. Although I’m a bit too old to have childhood nostalgia for the originals of these series, I applaud this trend, mainly because of the rare improvement in quality.

The one-hour premiere of Thundercats was faithful enough to the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, but it has a lot in common with recent animation as well. Our favorite felines inhabit a more populated Third Earth than their predecessors, and their (over-)reliance on agrarian civilization and royal magic in contrast to the technology of their foes is reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings.

The well-designed city of Thundera, varied character archetypes, and new conflict among the Thundercats also reminded me favorably of Avatar: the Last Airbender, which will soon be getting a sequel of its own in Nickelodeon’s Legend of Korra (also previewed at Comic-Con). I liked how Lion-o’s father the king isn’t infallible, not all reptile folk are evil, and even that sidekick Snarf can’t talk.

Thundercats is worth watching for fans of fantasy and related role-playing games, and I’ll definitely be adding Thundercats to my summer TV viewing schedule! We’ll see whether the Kung-Fu Panda series can keep the eastern-flavored martial arts action going and if it’s faithful to the popular Dreamworks movies, which I liked more than the Shrek franchise (the Puss in Boots spin-off does look amusing).

I wish I could say that the other cartoons were as promising as the fantasy Thundercats, Legend of Korra, or Kung-Fu Panda. It was nice to hear Heroes‘ Adrian Pasdar and Milo Ventimiglia as a smarmy Tony Stark/Iron Man and a youthful Logan/Wolverine in Marvel’s first anime-style series on G4.

As I told Steve M.R., I thought both characters were a good fit for Japanese adventures, with Iron Man‘s technocratic interests and the classic storyline in which Wolverine follows lost love Mariko to Japan. However, I found myself already missing the energy of the computer-animated Iron Man: Armored Adventures and the cleaner lines of X-Men: Evolution, not to mention MTV’s Spider-Man and the fun Spectacular Spider-Man.

I’ll keep watching for a little while in the hope that the latest Iron Man and Wolverine cartoons approach the level of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (not to be confused with the kid-oriented Super Hero Squad). Marvel also has Blade, X-Men, Ultimate Spider-Man (whose print equivalent has replaced Peter Parker in the tights), and Hulk and the Agents of SMASH shows in the works. The direct-to-video Thor: Tales of Asgard was apparently successful enough for a sequel: Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers.

On the DC side of Comic-Con and genre TV news, I’m still looking forward to the return of Young Justice, the premiere of Bruce Timm’s Green Lantern: the Animated Series, and the next inevitable Batman series. I’ve already mentioned the Batman: Year One and Dark Knight Returns releases, and more adaptations are planned, including Justice League: Doom, Superman vs. the Elite, and Batman: the Killing Joke.

Janice and I have been enjoying the Seinfeld-inspired Looney Toons Show, and I hope to catch the dieselpunk War of the Worlds: Goliath, which features the cast of Highlander: the Series, whenever it’s released in the U.S. (thanks to Heavy Metal magazine for the previews).

Coming soon: Toys and games at Comic-Con, Cowboys & Aliens review, and more food and travel!