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Staff member
May 28, 2010
Temecula California
Does anyone remember the series of Marvel Direct-to-DVD feature films that were released several years ago, in partnership with Lionsgate?

They've never seemed to have as much impact or be as well-remembered remembered as the DC Animated Features (despite predating that series), but for what they were I thought it would be nice to take a look back at each film and other notable elements revolving around them:
  • Ultimate Avengers 1 and 2 - Adapting Mark Millar's Ultimates run and predating the first live-action Avengers movie by six years, chronicling the team-up of several disparate heroes by SHIELD to combat the Chitauri. Notably the first instance of Fred Tatasciore playing The Hulk in animation.
  • Invincible Iron Man - An Iron Man animated solo film predating the live-action version by one year saw the familiar origin of Tony Stark re-conceptualized to have a more direct connection to the legend of the Mandarin and to have his armored alter ego's suits ready-made to combat the Mandarin and his four elementals. Notably the Iron Man armors were animated with CGI, two years before the all-CGI Iron Man cartoon Iron Man: Armored Adventures would come out.
  • Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme - A Dr. Strange solo film predating the Marvel Studios film by almost a decade, the film saw the classic origin of Stephen Strange depicted alongside a more comic-accurate Ancient One, a more antagonistic Mordo, and a more traditional depiction of Strange's deadliest foe Dormammu.
  • Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow - Focusing on a slew of original characters designed as the children of the original Avengers as they battle to reclaim the world from Ultron, the foe that defeated their parents. Notably the first time Tom Kane would portray Ultron, a role he would go on to play again in Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and Adrian Petriw (Francis Barton) would go on to play a teen Iron Man in Iron Man: Armored Adventures.
  • Hulk Versus - A double-feature focusing on the Hulk's deadly brawls with marquee Marvel heroes Wolverine and Hulk, this action-packed feature also included Weapon X and a heavy dose of the Thor mythos as well as the first time Steve Blum, Nolan North, Kari Wahlgren, and Graham McTavish would play Wolverine, Deadpool, Enchantress, and Loki in animation.
  • Planet Hulk - Adapting the iconic Planet Hulk storyline as a feature film, the movie saw The Hulk exiled into the savage planet Sakarr where he leads a rebellion against the tyrannical Red King. Rick Wasserman, the voice of Hulk in the film, would go on to voice Thor in Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
  • Thor: Tales of Asgard - Set during the younger years of the God of Thunder, the film chronicles a pre-Mjolnir Thor as he dares for a heroic adventure and sets off a chain of events that puts Asgard and all he holds dear in jeopardy.
Overall I felt the films had a good variety and solid production values, and creators like Craig Kyle, Chris Yost, and Greg Johnson went on to have further impact on Marvel Animation for a time with Wolverine and the X-Men and Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

Would you like to see a return of this line or a similar series of animated movies based around different Marvel characters/teams? Maybe movies adapting more iconic storylines and arcs directly or focusing on characters who, like at the time the features were coming out, didn't seem destined for the silver screen?
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Rick Jones

Staff member
Feb 27, 2008
177A Bleecker Street
Has it been long enough that I should have forgotten them? I was a big fan of the line, and trying to support each movie and get the home release kind of led to my animation dvd collecting. I was clueless about the line initially. I think I had heard that there was an Ultimate Avengers movie and I just had to see if there really was an animated adaptation on The Ultimates. I got my hands on it and thought it was pretty cool, and then was surprised again when a sequel was released. This was when I started looking out for more movies, and started keeping up with Marvel Animation again and DC Animated stuff as well. It's been pretty cool to see how many people that were working on these moved on to the DC movies or other great endeavors ( Sam Liu, Lauren Montgomery, Jay Oliva, Phil Bourassa , etc)

I really liked Ultimate Avengers though it didn't quite have the edginess of The Ultimates, which was one of the reasons my curiosity was initially piqued. I wasn't even that huge of an Ultimates fan but I did like it, and I was looking to see if they were going all out and capturing the same tone. For better or worse, Marvel didn't. There were parts where they tried to be somewhat faithful but this wasn't going to be the irreverent, vulgar, and offensive story that Millar made. I think this kind of set the precedent for most of the line. While Warner Bros. went all in on keeping their movies aimed at the teen and adult demographic, Marvel still kept their movies safe. There might have been a PG-13 swear here or there, or some brutal bloodless violence, but I do think they still felt like safe movie pilots. This isn't meant to be a criticism from me though I do think that keeping the kid gloves on might have caused some of the fans looking for adult animation to step away. I like all of the first four movies ( especially Doctor Strange) but I do think that was room for improvement. I really admire that they worked on improving the movies.

If the previous movies didn't feel a little non-committal to the idea of a PG-13 line of movies, Next Avengers definitely did. When I first heard about the original movie with original characters, I wasn't too sure that it was a good choice but the more that I saw designs and learned about the concept, I got on board. It did make a big fan out of me. Having grown up on those 80s kids movies that had kids getting into these adventures that really threw them into dangerous and outrageous situations ( Goonies, E.T., Explorers, Monster Squad, etc), that side of it really appealed to me. I'd always been a What If? fan as well, so I was sold on that angle. I loved the quick pace of the action, the scenery and settings, and it was also great to have this bright, colorful movie after four that felt a bit muted in comparison. I don't think it was absolutely perfect and there were some story issues that I wished could be resolved in a sequel but sadly it wasn't meant to be. Still a solid movie IMO.

Hulk Vs. was where they really let loose and it was such a treat. This was the purest fanservice in the movie line, and it was done so well. It was funny, brutal, colorful and it felt directly ripped off of comic pages. The movie packed in all of the edge of the previous efforts without really getting disgustingly gratuitous. This might be some of the best animation that Marvel was ever behind.

I think Planet Hulk is a gem. It really works as a mostly faithful adaptation and it is such a well done movie. It still stings that production on the line ended after Marvel Animation had worked out all of the learning kinks of the previous movies and put this together (I recognize this as the end since Tales of Asgard was produced prior to it and had its release stalled for the Hemsworth film). Planet Hulk and Avengers EMH should have been the beginning of a great Marvel Animation era and not the end of a really good one.

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Active Member
Aug 1, 2012
It has been awhile since I rewatched any of these movies, but I did watch all of them as they came out and enjoyed them. I think that, at the time, there was certain novelty to them, since they got started before MCU, so it was just cool to see characters who rarely got any love outside of the comics finally getting major focus in adaptations. Looking back, I think two major things were kinda holding them back.

First, I don't think Marvel knew who their main target demographic was with these movies. The non-fans, who could potentially be hooked with these movies, or the hardcore fans, who want to see their favorite stories and characters outside of the comics? On the one hand, a lot of them were origin stories that kinda felt more like pilot movies for potential animated shows, rather than 100% satifying stories on their own, but then there were the likes of Hulk vs. and Planet Hulk, which either were pure fanservice or adaptations of stories that would be hard to follow without any comic knowlege. And then there was Next Avengers, which I don't think appealed to anyone.

Second, the average quality of them was kinda all over the place. Ultimate Avengers 1-2 weren't masterpieces, but they were decent for what they were and good start for the line, but then they flush down all their goodwill with the terrible Invincible Iron Man movie. Doctor Strange was an improvement, but then they follow that one with the worst movie of the entire line, Next Avengers. Hulk vs. was kinda a mixed bag (Hulk vs. Wolverine rocks, but Hulk vs. Thor kinda blows), but was enough to get fans back on board and then Planet Hulk turned out to be the best movie of the entire line. Unfortunately they finished the line with Tales of Asgard, which wasn't necessarily an awful movie, but kinda like Next Avengers, had a premise that excited no one (give us a badass action movie with adult Thor, not some dopey fantasy quest story with teen Thor!), leaving people with underwhelming taste in their mouths.

I still cherish the memories of watching these movies and excitedly waiting to find out what the next one was going to be, before finding out Marvel and Lionsgate always had only 8 movie deal (making projects like NA and ToA all the more baffling). Would I like to see Marvel making movies like these again someday? Eh, yes and no.

On the one hand, MCU is adapting even the most obscure characters and some of the most iconic storylines, and doing mostly better job than the animated movies ever did (can anyone else believe that the animated Doctor Strange movie was more restrained, toned down and visually less interesting than the live-action one?), so they are filling the niche left by them quite nicely. On the other hand, there are few comic book stories that MCU either already kinda did or will probably never do, and I would love to see more faithful adaptations of them (I will never forgive MCU for screwing over Walter Simonson's Surtur Saga).

But, I doubt that will ever happen. We'll see how Hulu's The Offenders and some of the Disney+ projects turn out, but for few years now the quality of Marvel Animation has been "meh" at best and absolutely atrocious at worst, and their attitude to the medium as a whole seems to be pretty apathetic.

Random side-note, these movies had quite interesting voice casts, didn't they? Unlike DC, which uses quite a lot of on-camera talent in their animated movies, these mostly went for professional voice actors, but they were a random mix of the more well-known L.A. talent pool and the non-union Canadian actors. Sure, I know that mixing the two isn't unheard of, but it's usually a case of mostly Canadian voiced show having L.A. based actor as the main character, while these movies spread them more or less evenly.


Well-Known Member
Jan 5, 2014
My guess is that the reason why they didn't take off that much is because of how Marvel Animation, outside of a few exceptions like Spectacular Spiderman and Avenger's Earth's Mightiest Heroes, doesn't always have a long lasting impact. I mean, most (but not all) major DC cartoons, regardless of quality, always manage to get some kind of major fanbase or generate some kind of discussion even after they've ended or are close to ending, like Teen Titans, Young Justice, Batman The Brave And The Bold, even Green Lantern The Animated Series . Marvel has very few cartoons that still have a fanbase even after they ended, to the point you can count them on one hand .
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