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Marvel superheroes power up for Nicktoons

| Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Marvel superheroes are working overtime.

Iron Man and Wolverine, each the lead in an upcoming feature film, will be doing double duty in two new Nicktoons Network cartoons, "Iron Man: The Animated Series" and "Wolverine and the X-Men".

The two TV series, which premiere in early 2009, are designed to play off the big-screen popularity of the Marvel comic-book characters. "Iron Man," which stars Robert Downey Jr. as a rich inventor transformed by his high-tech armor suit, premieres May 2, while Hugh Jackman's Wolverine returns to the screen next spring in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine".

The new series match up well with Nicktoons' core audience, boys ages 6 to 14, general manager Keith Dawkins says. Boys make up 65 percent of the audience for the Nickelodeon property. "Our audience loves superheroes and animation," he says. The Marvel characters also will help raise the profile of the digital cable network, which reaches 50 million homes.

Other big-screen films are spawning TV animation, too. Nicktoons' animated "Speed Racer: The Next Generation "premieres May 2, a week before the live-action, big-screen "Speed Racer". The computer-animated" Star Wars: The Clone Wars "opens in theaters in August, leading into a new fall cartoon series on Cartoon Network and TNT.

The two Nicktoons-Marvel shows, each consisting of 26 half-hour episodes, will enjoy higher profiles because of the big-screen productions, which include three previous "X-Men" films. "We're trying to create synergy with the brand by having a continual awareness of different interpretations of the characters in the marketplace," says Eric Rollman of Marvel Studios, which has another animated series, "The Spectacular Spider-Man", on the CW's Kids WB lineup.

For Nicktoons, the interpretation translates into a teen Iron Man, a superhero closer in age to the network's young viewers. The "X-Men" cartoon sees Wolverine thrust into the role of reluctant leader, as the beaten-down heroes must try to prevent a future world ruled by destructive robots.

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