Photo Credit: Courtesy Marvel
I know my 3-year-old son is not the first little boy to ever come home from preschool excitedly chattering about this really cool new character he saw, named Spider-Man. I am reasonably sure that I am also not the first dad to have at first been a little excited (yes, I am a former comic book geek who stored all of his back issues in Mylar bags, but that is not a prerequisite for liking Spider-Man), and then a bit worried, thinking, “Ooh, he’s not old enough for superheroes.”
And what a ludicrous thought that is: A child not being old enough for superheroes. Weren’t these characters created to fulfill childhood fantasies? Weren’t comic books and cartoons originally aimed at little kids? But with the darker turn that almost all superhero media has taken, a lot of parents feel the need to shield their little ones from the exploits of caped crusaders. The movies are non-starters: on celluloid, most heroes spend more time wrestling their inner demons than they do wrestling bad guys. Modern comic books can be just as adult in their themes. Even many of the animated superhero series on the air today, while intended for kids, are squarely aimed at older children, the ones who appreciate teen angst intermingled with their superpowered brawls.
That is why I was thrilled to discover The Super Hero Squad Show on Cartoon Network. It’s a new cartoon (it feels right to refer to it as a “cartoon,” not the more highfalutin “animated series”), featuring a host of popular Marvel Comics heroes—Iron Man, Hulk, Wolverine, etc.—battling to save the world from supervillain domination. Only here, the heroes are depicted in bright-colored, youthful, smiling—dare I say it?—cute incarnations. They laugh a lot, they make jokes, they behave nobly, and they don’t kill anyone. Could it be? Somebody went and made a superhero show aimed at little kids. Sure, these more-adorable-than-usual heroes still throw punches with the bad guys. And, yes, the occasional laser gun or energy sword will be used. But the violence here is more akin to the violence I used to see, myself, on the old Superfriends shows from the '70s.
Can anyone seriously be scared of evildoers who hail from a town called Villainville? So now my son can know that Spider-Man is more than just a cool-looking guy in Spandex. And that’s pretty super.