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Top 10 '90s Cartoon Heroes

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Craig Butler
It was a decade that gave us grunge, slap bracelets, rave gear – and some awesome animated heroes. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 90s Cartoon Heroes. For this list, we’re looking at actual heroes – not just protagonists - from cartoons that premiered in the 1990s – so sorry, Turtles. And we’re not including characters from anime on this particular list.
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It was a decade that gave us grunge, slap bracelets, rave gear – and some awesome animated heroes. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 90s Cartoon Heroes.

For this list, we’re looking at actual heroes – not just protagonists - from cartoons that premiered in the 1990s – so sorry, Turtles. And we’re not including characters from anime on this particular list.

#10: Captain Planet
“Captain Planet and the Planeteers” (1990-96)


Environmental awareness was a big part of the 1990s, and Captain Planet and the gang brought home the importance of this issue in an exciting and entertaining fashion. The premise was irresistible: Gaia, Earth’s spirit, gives magic rings to 5 teenagers around the world. These rings give the power of earth, air, fire, water, and heart to the teens and enable them to battle dangers to the environment. And when things get too rough, they combine into the ultra-powerful Captain Planet. A generation of kids learned crucial lessons about ecology – and about their own empowerment. The Captain’s “power is yours” message continues to resonate with its fans today.

#9: Bob
“ReBoot” (1994-2001)


Set in the computer world of Mainframe, “ReBoot” details the adventures of the simply-named Bob. Together with his friends Dot Matrix and Enzo, he is tasked with protecting Mainframe from evils such as Megabyte and Hexadecimal. “ReBoot” is an imaginative adventure series that featured impressive computer-generated animation and tons of pop culture references. And Bob was a great role model, often looking for non-violent solutions and believing that even computer viruses deserved a chance to reform. A badass when needed, he could also be laidback and casual. For someone charged with stomping out viruses, he was really kinda complex.

#8: Kit Cloudkicker
“TaleSpin” (1990-91)


“TaleSpin” took “The Jungle Book’s” Baloo the Bear and made him an air cargo deliverer – because why not? He was aided by a 12-year-old bear cub named Kit Cloudkicker, who in some ways was a typical Disney kid hero – undeniably cute, with plenty of spunk. But Kit came from a darker place than many other Disney kids, having previously been part of an air pirate gang. Though good at heart, he kept vestiges of his air pirate days with him. Most particularly, he could be self-centered on occasion and mule-headed in his distrust of others, especially adults. But he was undeniably heroic and had an enviable skill at cloud surfing, which came in very handy.

#7: Blossom, Bubbles & Buttercup
“The Powerpuff Girls” (1998-2005)


Girl power got a big boost from this tongue-in-cheek, satirical look at super-heroing. Bursting into being when the Professor combines sugar, spice, and everything nice with a little chemical X, the Powerpuff Girls were kindergarten-aged tykes with amazing powers. Blossom was the leader, thanks to her brains and her tendency to think clearly in tough situations. Bubbles, the most childlike of the three, is the sweetest – but that doesn’t keep her from kicking butt. And Buttercup, with a little chip on her shoulder, is ready to scrap at the drop of a hat. They fight among themselves sometimes, but always come together in the end.

#6: Optimus Primal
“Beast Wars: Transformers” (1996-99)


Encompassing both the future and the past of the Transformers universe, the Beast Wars series featured characters descended from the original gang but living in prehistoric times. (It’s complicated). Optimus Primal is the leader of the good Maximals, who are in conflict with the bad Predacons. A robot who can take on a gorilla-like form, Optimus Primal is a peace-loving and honorable being who nevertheless is a fierce fighter. He displays complete loyalty to his friends and would willingly sacrifice himself if necessary. Optimus Primal also understands that sometimes a person has to think outside the box and take chances, making him an invaluable leader. And his entire team is pretty impressive as well!

#5: Wolverine
“X-Men” (1992-97)


Speaking of impressive teams, the X-Men were huge in comics throughout the 90s, thanks in large part to Wolverine and his scrappy intensity. Never one to shy away from a fight, Wolverine sometimes seemed to relish the opportunity to bring out his claws and get slashing. But as hotheaded as he could be, and as intimidating as his powers made him, Logan struck other chords in viewers. They felt the pain that made him act like a loner and loved his willingness to speak his mind. And his willingness to sacrifice his feelings for Jean only endeared him to viewers even more.

#4: Darkwing Duck
“Darkwing Duck” (1991-92)


When there’s a plethora of superheroes running around, someone needs to come along and poke a little fun at them. In the early 1990s, that someone was Darkwing Duck. On the surface, he was a mild-mannered suburban dad. But underneath he was an attention-seeking costumed hero who took bumbling to new heights. Though genuinely courageous and sincere in his desire to do good, he also boasted a super ego that kept undermining his best efforts. At times, his worst enemy wasn’t a nefarious supervillain, but his own arrogance. Many of us laughed at his foibles, but recognized a little of ourselves in Darkwing as well.

#3: Sonic the Hedgehog
“Sonic the Hedgehog” (1993-94)


The immensely popular video game character made a smooth transition to cartoons, to the delight of his legion of fans. Set on a planet of anthropomorphic creatures, the series detailed the efforts of a small band of freedom fighters to defeat the evil Dr. Robotnik. Sonic was the leader, of course, thanks to his super-speed and his access to a set of power rings. But Sonic is more than just the sum of his powers. He has a steely defiance, which means he will never give up without achieving his goal, and he’s a clever strategist as well. Loyalty is crucial to Sonic, so the Freedom Fighters know he always has their back.

#2: Spider-Man
“Spider-Man” (1994-98)


Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man had been on the small screen before, but he came to life as never before in this 90s reboot. Featuring a college-age webslinger, “Spider-Man” benefitted from cool animation and a superb cast of both friends and villains. These helped frame the title character, who managed to act as if he were a lighthearted, carefree wisecracker even when things got dire. Viewers also reacted to his alter ego, Peter Parker, meeting the challenges of college, his photography career, and his love life in ways that we could all relate to.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Goliath
“Gargoyles” (1994-97)

The Tick
“The Tick” (1994-96)

Eliza Thornberry
“The Wild Thornberrys” (1998-2004)

#1: Batman
“Batman: The Animated Series” (1992-95)


“Batman: The Animated Series” is justly hailed for its sleek, neo-art deco design and its impressive animation. But it wouldn’t be the landmark it is without fine writing – and without its captivating central character. Brooding, intimidating, downright scary – yeah, Batman is all those things. And has any voice actor better captured the Dark Knight than Kevin Conroy? But the series also offered a different take on Bruce Wayne. Downplaying his carefree playboy routine, this Bruce is a commanding leader of industry. This assertive Bruce seems more at one with Batman and his single-minded need to seek out the rot that threatens his City - and destroy it.
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