15
Jan
16

Childhood Regression, a 2001: A Space Odyssey Thing

*****

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*****
A thought came to me last week like a star flash billions of light years away finally reaching Earth. I needed to see the final few episodes of Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys.

It was nineteen ninety something when I had my first VCR recording nearly every episode of that short-lived yet lovable cartoon. It’s a bit corny yet can be quite philosophical/insightful and makes plenty of science fiction/comedy references (usually with the assistance of holographic baboons, or “holo-boons”).

So, that’s what I did. I traveled back in time via an internet wormhole to relive a slice of life that wasn’t great. My life was in limbo. And, anything comical was like life-support. I never partook in “recreational drugs.” So, a cartoon about human predecessors given human intelligence by alien beings who need help saving the universe from destruction at the “hands” of a thinking black hole…was just what Dr. Bones ordered. [I also could have used a few more bananas in my diet.]

After that experience, I craved more. [As Captain Simian would say, “Check. Childhood regression. It’s a space odyssey thing.”]

I flipped through a Rolodex of countless TV shows I have watched in my lifetime thus far and stopped at Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.s (also from nineteen ninety something). If you’ve stopped by my About Me page, you might notice the framed image of a man with yellow hair wearing a red mask, standing next to a woman with white hair and face paint. Those were my two favorite characters from that poorly written and drawn cartoon. I looooved Zealot and imagined I was her Grifter. [It was a rare romance in cartoon history.] Had the majority of animation and dialogue not been so poor, the show might have lasted longer. [The same can be said of Ultraforce.] Little did I know there were changes made from the comic books (which I never read) which might have upset some fans.

I had just dipped my toes in the end of that series when other recommended shows streaming down the screen started tickling my addiction nerve, the same nerve that hums when I get hooked into certain video games. “Remember that one?” I asked myself. “Oh, it’s been eons since I watched that. And, what about that one? I still remember…her!” [Even as I write this, I am hearing the theme song from Ultraforce playing in my head, and I am bopping to it like a complete dork. I used to replay that show’s opening until the VHS tape started to wear.]

I began surrounding myself in virtual windows, traveling to other worlds like bookworms devour stacks of books. Each cartoon transported me back to a different place in my lifetime. These–quantum leaps (ha!)–seeped into my brain, reopening parts that had already been weathered and scarred. And, I am not sure if this is a good thing or not.

Am I healing by traveling back to what was? Or, am I becoming more lost in mental space, detaching from everything that comes with adult life in “the real world?”

I can imagine myself reverting to an infant or fleshy blob with just enough brain to process or be stimulated by the visual “entertainment” I lived upon all those lonely years. Goodbye, paperwork. Goodbye, household chores. Goodbye, laundry and picking out new clothes every day. Goodbye, fears and accidents. I will be just fine in my animated bubble…as long as you keep the fun streaming.

So, while others mourn the passing of a British musician and sing his old tune about “Major Tom,” I say, “This is Major Writingbolt to Ground Control. I’m slipping through the daaark. I’m sitting in a room, fighting back the gloom. I’m thinking without air and am not sure that I care. Yes, this is Major Writingbolt to Ground Control. I’m slipping through the daaark…in a most unusual waaay. And, I don’t know what is todaaay. But, if this is joy, I think I will be okaaaaay.

And, here’s the really important question, the end-all-be-all question of questions that must be asked lest minds explode……

Anyone got a banana?”
===============

For those who did not find the above too lengthy to read, a little trip down cartoon memory lane (the good and bad of past cartoons viewed with a now adult perspective).

One key thing I recall about many of these was the push to sell toys. Quality animation and sensible stories rich in detail didn’t matter. If you got one or both, you were lucky. The primary goal seemed to be selling toys and targeting genders. Thus, if a particular show didn’t have a respectable toy line, it was strangely disappointing (at least, to me). But, in the thick/rough of merchandising nightmares, there were a few gems.

1. Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys (circa 1996-1997, 26 episodes, Hallmark Entertainment/Monkeyshine Productions, Inc./Bohbot Entertainment): A NASA chimp gets lost in space only to be rescued by an advanced alien race in desperate need of help saving the universe from a power-hungry entity that resembles a black hole. The chimp is given “higher intelligence,” a primate crew, a space ship that breaks off into smaller ships and all the technology he needs to win the fight…eventually.

The good: Great voice cast, great characters (both main and cameo), great animation, great opening sequence/instrumental theme music, decent comedy, decent action, a touch of romance, plenty of ponderous moments that make you think about everything from human nature to spiritual purpose, plenty of references to/parodies of other movies/shows, nice use of fudged famous quotes during the end credits of each episode, it’s like Star Trek meets Red Dwarf, safe for most ages (though toddlers may be disturbed by some images and miss some of the “clean” yet adult jokes)…

The bad: It only lasted 26 episodes (I failed to record about 3 of them on VHS), I have yet to find this series on DVD, a Shao Lin action figure was not included in the regular stock sold in stores (and I would be elated for someone to find/send me one to complete my set)…

Personal notes: I initially heard of this show at a toy convention where I found one dealer selling a few of the action figures. When I saw the show on TV and found some of the toys at a local toy store, I was compelled to invest and got most at a decent price. I love most of the characters; some of the (uncertain) villains are a tad creepy. As with many cartoons, I fall in love with the female characters; and Shao Lin is no exception. [I wish Captain Simian would show her more respect in the series, but he is emulating Kirk from Star Trek.]

*****

2. Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.s (based upon the Image comic book series, circa 1994-1995, about 12 episodes aired): A team of unusual heroes fight alongside a ridiculously wealthy businessman for a good alien race’s cause to stop an evil alien race from possessing the people of Earth while gathering limitless power hidden within the planet.

The good: The budding relationship between Grifter and Zealot, Voodoo, Void, Pike, Grifter’s gadgets, good opening sequence/theme music, the plot of the short-lived series reminds me of GI Joe stopping COBRA from building its destructive laser cannon in the early episodes…

The bad: Plot holes, animation goofs/poorly drawn characters (at least one that changes as the series progresses), okay-to-poor explanation of good aliens versus bad aliens, some robotic and plain lousy-if-not-foul-smelling dialogue, a ridiculously wealthy little person who can buy or make whatever he wants yet still needs this odd-lot handful of rebels to defeat a weak army of aliens and robots, not recommended for kids under 10 or deeply religious families…

Personal notes: As I already stated elsewhere, I fell in love with Zealot. [Voodoo and Void have their charms, as well. But, Zealot’s appeal is similar to Wonder Woman without the questionable lasso as a weapon and patriotic costume.] And, I felt Grifter was about as close as you would get to a hero I could portray/emulate without millions of dollars, dead parents and a “swinging bachelor pad.” The coolest toy I have from the series is the 13″? Grifter. [Though the equally large Maul is cool to pair with the smaller figures as he was the only character who could grow to giant size. I wish they had made a 13″ Zealot and Voodoo.]

*****

3. Ultraforce (based upon the Malibu comic book series, circa 1995, 13 episodes, DIC/Bohbot Entertainment): An unusual yet strangely familiar handful of heroes, including a boy who goes through a hormonal transformation to become as strong as Superman, band together to take on a semi-unique lot of villains terrorizing Earth (but particularly one city).

The good: Great opening sequence/theme music, decent heroes (a few unique ones), better villains (Lord Pumpkin is quite awesome), it’s like X-Men and the Avengers thrown into a blender…

The bad: Poorly drawn characters (steroid-enhanced male characters, especially)/Animation goofs, corny/bad dialogue for some characters, questionable team dynamic (why do these heroes need to be a team?)…

Personal notes: I was not too impressed with the toy line. And, this was one show that–at the time–was putting out these stupid “variant”/”chase” figures which contributed to dealer hording and collector sickness. I did notice the striking resemblance between certain Ultraforce and Marvel Comics characters. But, I also noticed Ultraforce trying to give them unique “side effects”/origin stories (which gets a B for effort).

*****

4. Tigersharks (from a weekend feature called “The Comic Strip,” circa 1987?…I thought it came out around 1990-92, Rankin/Bass): In a distant future, a group of research scientists? (who are not all exactly human) rush to a world completely covered by water to stop a band of pirates from destroying a peaceful civilization of aquatic creatures and fish people. Their leader gives them the ability to turn into sea-creature-hybrids so they can fight underwater for long periods of time (though Dolph needs air frequently).

The good: Great characters (Captain Bizzarly, Octavia, Angel, Dragonstein, etc.), great animation, it’s like Silverhawks had a baby with the lost city of Atlantis…

The bad: Poor/Lousy and quite corny dialogue from–I presume–hurried/pressured writers trying to make another Thundercats series, corny opening sequence/theme song, puzzling/corny premise and reactions from certain characters (it’s the sort of cartoon you want to watch with the sound off, just appreciating the visuals…though you would miss Bizzarly’s iconic voice), the action figure line was very limited yet cool (and similar to the look of Thundercats figures), I have yet to find this series on quality DVD…

Personal notes: Admitting to another childhood crush, I adored Octavia slightly more than I liked Angel. I was not a big fan of octopi before I saw this series. For me, this was like an underwater Star Wars (before Waterworld became a movie and after it became a sequel to Atari’s Swordquest: Earthworld) with fewer characters. Following the series on TV was not the easiest as episodes were broken up with the other cartoons featured in the Comic Strip Sunday? mornings when my family would usually be going to church. I may have only seen five complete episodes as a kid. This and Silverhawks were shows I liked to record with an audio cassette recorder and then play back (like books on tape) while taking hot baths. There was something strangely appealing about taking a hot bath and listening to stories of the heroes and villains clashing in icy scenes.

*****

5. Thundercats (circa 1985-1989, 130+ episodes): A group of cat people escape the destruction of their home planet and migrate to Third Earth where they meet an assortment of colorful characters and face a horde of monstrous villains–including a rather scary mummified wizard–while adapting to life with a leader who is not what they expected after losing their previous mentor/leader (who revisits them in spirit like Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars).

The good: Great characters, great animation, great opening sequence/theme music, great music (particularly the music used with Panthro/the Thundertank), one of the greatest vehicles ever designed for a cartoon (the Thundertank), whimsical stories/adventures with hints of mythology/legendary tales (like King Arthur and the lady of the lake), morals for the kids, it merited an animated film spin-off (in which new characters were introduced), many (not all) of the action figures/toys are finely sculpted/crafted…

The bad: Some corny/robotic dialogue (which gets teased about by some, including the cast members), I think there may have been a few animation goofs/voice placement mistakes (actors reading lines for the wrong character and/or mouths moving without voice), Lion-O and Snarf can be a bit whiny (like Luke from Star Wars), Mumm-Ra’s wailing/laughter can get a bit loud/annoying…

Personal notes: This remains one of my all-time favorite cartoons, if not the top of my list here. I was a bit obsessed/infatuated with Cheetara and the female space cop (who I always confuse with Silverhawks). I particularly remember episodes featuring the Driller and a creature who needed gold to stay warm (which he begged Cheetara to bring him until his dark side was revealed). I felt Lion-O and Tigra were semi-gay/whiny. Panthro was my favorite male Thundercat. I particularly enjoyed the “trials” mini-series in which each Thundercat tests Lion-O so he can earn his leadership role. This was a rare show for which I had a sticker book and poster on my bedroom door.

*****

6. Silverhawks (circa 1986, 65 episodes, Rankin/Bass, Lorimar-Telepictures, Pacific Animation Corporation/Japan): The even-more-futuristic-looking follow-up to Thundercats (no relation other than animation quality/company) in which a group of specially selected human (and one alien) space explorers/astronauts are given cybernetic bodies for safe travel to a distant space station where they act as galactic police officers, fighting alien criminals lead by a rather scary red villain who drives a giant squid. The cybernetic bodies also let the heroes fly like birds and fight in space without the need for oxygen tanks.

The good: Great animation, great characters (even the scary one), great opening sequence/theme music, cool settings, cool villain vehicles with a sort of retro gangster (Dick Tracy) vibe, cool visor/mask effect used by the heroes, decent science lessons for kids at the end of many if not all episodes, cool individual pet bird addition/concept for each of the heroes and some villains (not the worst reason for a second round of action figures)…

The bad: The weird use/projection of lasers from the heroes’ bodies, (again) some corny/robotic dialogue (the leader of the heroes is particularly odd in behavior/vocal quality), not the most intelligent plots at all times (villains not achieving much before being dispatched rather quickly), the big bad boss Mon-Star may be a lil scary for some kids (including young me)…

Personal notes: [I already stated some with my Tigersharks notes.] Unlike other cartoons, this one didn’t exactly have the strong female types I usually like. I did like Steelheart. And, Melodia was an okay villainess. But, that’s not saying much. Hardware, Molecular, Mumbo Jumbo and Pokerface were my favorite characters. [I disliked Quicksilver much the same way I grew to dislike Lion-O and Tigra from Thundercats and Leo in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoons (after the origin story).] I enjoyed the episodes that featured the casino and Pokerface’s eyes flipping. I hated Bluegrass’ mohawk (which was a lame 1980s craze) but loved how he fought with music and a guitar that could turn into a robotic bird. The Mirage ship–I suspect–was inspired by the Phoenix from G-Force/Gatchaman and mimicked by Captain Simian’s Primate Avenger.

*****

7. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (circa 1983-1985, Mattel/Filmation): A female astronaut from Earth crashes on a distant alien world where humans also exist. She gives birth to a boy (who we see only as a ridiculously muscular man squeezed into a tight outfit) who is summoned to a mysterious magical castle by a sorceress to become He-Man, the strongest man in this planet’s universe, and to battle an assortment of equally muscular and bizarre villains lead by Skeletor, a wizard whose face was turned into a glowing skull by his quest for power.

The good: A great overall fantasy experience, some great characters and plots, a decent story with greater depth not fully tapped in the initial series (especially Teela’s story), a memorable toy line, it merited a few reincarnations, morals for kids after every episode…

The bad: A substantial amount of “reused content” (animation sequences that repeat though backgrounds may change, the product of rushed animators on a budget), this was one of a number of cartoons pushed with the intent of selling mass quantities of toys during the 1980s toy boom, and the action figures were often poor copies of each other with minor paint changes and different heads, a questionable cartoon for “body image” (namely He-Man himself who is buff and pasty as Adam and then buff, half-naked and ridiculously tan in hero form)…

Personal notes: I participated in an action figure design contest which was REALLY rare at the time. But, sadly, I could not come up with any stellar original designs (which is kinda ironic when you think about how the show reused bodies for different characters) and only won a Sorceress magnet for my effort. I was particularly scared by the two-part “pyramid of doom” episode in which He-Man went underground and was captured by some wizardess (as far as I recall). The most memorable episodes for me were the one in which Orko lost his magic amulet in the back of a tar pit dinosaur while trying to impress a snobbish relative of Prince Adam…the one in which Orko met the female “Orko” and that odd bat creature that drained his people’s magic…the one in which He-Man was trapped in a maze and had to ride a giant arrow to escape…and the one in which the Sorceress was lifting a ball of light between her legs with her mind. [That last one was the first episode I remember seeing.]

It was the cousin series, She-Ra that had me and my sister running home from school one rainy day to catch an episode. [Yes, another crush; I was madly in love with Adora/She-Ra as well as a number of other female characters (including Castaspella, Catra and Frosta). This was one of the first cartoons that made me wonder–even at a young age–why cartoon females were drawn so attractive. There were no “Plain Janes” and very few silly girls like She-Ra’s Madame Razz and a few of the forest people.]

*****

8. Filmation’s Ghostbusters (the animated series, circa 1986): A rather silly cartoon about the sons of the previous generation of ghostbusters (from a live-action TV series) and a rather animated gorilla (who worked with their fathers) keeping the family business of “busting” (or zapping to a parallel world) futuristic ghosts alive. [Not to be confused with “The Real Ghostbusters” which was a parallel 1980s cartoon based upon the Ghostbusters movies featuring four men in overalls zapping ghosts in New York City with proton-beam guns.]

The good: Some great characters, great opening sequence, decent animation, decent/catchy theme song/music (including some good moody music for certain scenes/scenarios), morals for the kids, some good plots, an okay toy line, certain DVD sets included episodes of the original live-action series (and the original cast/dads appear in the cartoon)…

The bad: (As there was with the original He-Man) Some “reused content” (sequences/scenes repeated to fill/kill time), some ridiculous gadgets, a questionable/puzzling HQ (which reminds me of Pee-Wee Herman’s playhouse), some of the acting/voice parts become rather annoying (Eddie is the most annoying)…

Personal notes: I found Prime Evil to be rather scary as a kid. But, his cousin?–who looks like a scary blue knight and has a mask that lifts to reveal some sort of light–was the scariest of them all in one episode. I personally adore Mysteria, Jessica and Futura (who is lovable in a very 1980s way). Tracy, Brat-a-rat, Belfry, Haunter, Airhead (though he uses one line a bit much) and the Ghostbuggy are quite amusing.

*****

9. G-Force (aka Battle of the Planets aka Gatchaman aka Eagle Riders, circa 1978-1985, 85 episodes, Sandy Frank Entertainment): [Pardon my foggy memory; I have not watched an episode of any incarnation in over a decade. This may yet go on my online flashback list.] A team of space explorers? in bird costumes fight aliens disturbing galactic peace with futuristic (and slightly odd/goofy) weapons and vehicles (like Batman).

[I will possibly add the good and bad when/if I view some of the “original” (as I remember it) series.]

Personal notes: This was THE first science fiction cartoon I ever saw as a kid. And, truthfully, all I remember from my first taste was a robotic centipede and a spaceship that broke into pieces and turned into a fire bird. [I can clearly remember the fire bird flying across the screen during the end credits.] I also remember the fat guy and little kid among the heroes who resemble Hunk and Pidge from the original Voltron (“Lion Force”) cast) and the lovely Dove/Princess (my first animated crush). When Voltron came out, I thought someone had copied G-Force but left out the cool spaceship. Many years later, when I learned the series was also called Gatchaman and saw the American reboot “Eagle Riders,” I didn’t feel the same excitement/enthusiasm I had as a kid. Even the phoenix/fire bird ship looked different.
*****

10. Pole Position (circa 1984, 13 episodes, DIC/LBS): An adult man (Dan) and woman (Tess) stunt car team follow in their parents’ footsteps, “fighting crime” with futuristic cars that could turn into other vehicle modes and feature talking computers (Wheels and Rhody) in the dashboards (like KITT from Knight Rider). This was loosely inspired by (not based upon) an arcade game. [If you’ve ever seen Nascar Racers, this is similar with less emphasis on racing and a touch of criminals trying to steal technology seen in Iron Man (Marvel Comics) plots.]

The good: Great opening sequence/theme music, likable characters, very cool cars with witty voices…

The bad: From what I can remember, the show relied heavily on its theme song/opening and cool cars, there’s a lot of shrugging and lucky breaks in hazardous situations that almost make the show a circus or magic show without the warning (not to try this at home) we often see today…

Personal notes: At the time, I recall watching a show called Hunter and thinking the brunette detective (who also liked to sing) resembled the lead female (Tess) from this cartoon. And, I had a slight crush on both women. 🙂 This luckily has come out on DVD; I have yet to get a set, though. I DO have a few old VHS tapes I acquired from a closing video store and eBay.

I just recently watched the first episode (called “The Code”). It was surprisingly heavy in detail for a kids’ show, including a few plot twists and deception not seen in other cartoons of the time. I keep thinking Daisy, the little girl in the show, is the older pair’s daughter. But, apparently, they are all siblings.

[Some years back, a series called Skysurfer Strike Force featured strangely dressed heroes with cars that could turn into rocket sleds. Sliced Ice (what an odd name) reminded me of the woman from Pole Position (and had a hot costume). I visited a eerily vacant and hidden toy store once and found a few Sliced Ice toys there (none of the other Skyforce characters) which seemed odd at the time when female character toys/figures were regularly snatched up by dealers.]

*****

11. Galaxy Rangers (1986, syndicated/rerun until 1989, Gaylord Entertainment/Tokyo Movie Sinsha animation, 65 episodes): A futuristic and rather mature anime-ish cartoon about quartet of specially selected human cowboys/rangers sent out with special powers/weapons to bring down a criminal organization headed by a mysterious Queen who leads the Crown Empire.

[I have yet to look at any old episodes. So, the following assessment is from memory.]

The good: Good animation (if you like anime), cool robotic horses and alien villains, Goose–the “glowing energy man” and speedy gunslinger–is one awesome character, Niko–the telekinetic–is similarly likable, this show was like Bravestarr or the Fantastic Four crossed with the Wild, Wild West…

The bad: [I’ll get back to you on this. But, I didn’t care for the guy with the laser/power arm nor the computer expert guy who was the “token minority” character. Also, a few action figures were made; but, apparently, they were not released in the USA? Only Australia? For some reason, I remember seeing them on store pegs. But, I never had one.]

Personal notes: [Again, my memory is rather foggy.] This has been released in a few DVD formats/collections. While I don’t remember much, I do recall finding Niko attractive. But, Goose was–hands-down–the best character on the show. If he wasn’t purposely pushed to be the star, he was the star to me. He stood out and was quite bad-ass like Grifter in WildC.A.T.S. and Wolverine in the X-Men cartoons. I managed to find an old video warehouse (about a decade ago) that had factory-sealed tapes and acquired one that came with crayons.

IF someone could/would reboot this series, I think Knights of Cydonia by Muse would be a PERFECT music piece to accompany the show/movie. I can just about match the animated footage to the song, visualizing the Rangers riding their robotic horses during a certain portion.

*****

12. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (circa 1983-1986, Hasbro/Sunbow/Marvel): The American cartoon (though it may have been animated/drawn by Japanese artists) about a rather large team of soldiers from various divisions (navy, air force, etc.) with exceptional skills and costumes who fought COBRA, “a ruthless terrorist organization” bent on ruling the world.

The good: The original mini-series involving the assembly of the M.A.S.S device (or death laser cannon) is especially good, some great characters (namely Snake Eyes, Scarlet, Lady Jaye and the Baroness…though Cobra Commander, Storm Shadow, Destro, Zartan, Tomax/Xamot and the Dreadnoks are also quite memorable), great opening sequence/theme music, decent action, cool vehicles, it’s safe for kids because no one ever gets killed or seriously hurt (though Snake Eyes loses the ability to speak and never shows his face and some characters do carry other battle scars), this went on to take various incarnations, including the Sigma Six series (which featured such lovable characters as Jinx and Tunnel Rat)…

The bad: Some corny dialogue, not the greatest animation (though not the worst, either), some plots may strike viewers as weird/disturbing (but not for anything graphic/adult)…

Personal notes: Even if he was strangely handicapped, Snake Eyes remains one of my favorites and probably the one costume I’d don at a GI Joe costume party. [I kinda favored Barbeque, too. I don’t think I could pull off Quickkick, but he was decent and mildly amusing.] I grew tired of Duke, Gung Ho, Flint and Shipwreck rather quick. All of them went mad–I think–at some point during the series which was unsettling to watch. Need I mention my crushes on some of the female characters? [Nah. 🙂 ]

*****

13. Jem and the Holograms (circa 1985, originally featured as part of a cluster of cartoons that included a Big Foot monster truck cartoon and Robotix): An emotionally heavy and fairly mature “cartoon for girls” in which Jerrica Benton takes over her deceased father’s music company and forms a band with some friends and a pair of earrings connected to a hologram-generating super computer…while keeping rivals Eric Raymond and the Misfits at bay, juggling sometimes complex romantic relationships and benefiting sick/orphan kids.

The good: Great characters (even if some are horribly painted in 1980s colors and fashion fads), strong/good music sung by an artist that had her own band/album (Belltower), a respectable toy line which included cassette tapes featuring songs from the show closely related to each 13″ character doll, the whole Jem/Jerrica hologram-costume-change concept was awesome (at the time) and still holds some merit/appeal (competing with Wonder Woman, Sailor Moon, Cutey Honey, etc.), secondary characters were more involved than in other shows (and had their own special episodes to deal with family issues), serious topics like the loss of a family member, war times and relationship disagreements were featured in thought-provoking ways, this is definitely a show for inspiring fashion design/designers…

The bad: Some of the episodes/plots just make you laugh when you’re supposed to be shocked/crying, a few characters can be rather annoying at times, the animation isn’t the best, this show might make you cringe at the thought of painted-on eyebrows and horrible eye shadow color choices, and a horribly different movie was just made [I have yet to actually view more than a few trailer seconds of it; so I can’t fully judge. But, I know a number of changes were made.]…

Personal notes: Of all the characters, I thought Pizazz was the most hideous but probably the best of the “villains.” She’s the female equivalent of Starscream from Transformers. Actually, Stormer is the best of the Misfits/villains because she rarely does anything cruel and actually shows a softer side a few times during the series. [Although, I liked Clash, too.] Yes, this is a “chick cartoon,” and I am a guy who liked it immensely. Needless to say, I had a HUGE crush on Jerrica (and Kimber…and Video…and Synergy). As a kid, I liked almost every female character. Again, I was not a fan of Pizazz. Nor did I care for Roxy, Raya and Jetta. I remember–even as a kid–thinking this show was unusually heavy emotionally and different from other cartoons. It was a huge source of inspiration, rivaling Thundercats. Being a boy, the show was not something I discussed casually around other boys. But, there were a few in my class who secretly admitted to liking the show.

*****

14. Dungeons and Dragons (circa 1983-1985, Marvel Productions/Toei Animation, 27+ episodes): A group of kids visit a theme park and ride a roller coaster that magically transports them to the world of Dungeons and Dragons (a fantasy role-playing game that inspired a whole slew of similar projects and a cult following) where they are given special roles and powerful weapons to battle villains and find a way back home with the dungeon master’s mysterious assistance.

The good: This was a decent splash of 1980s stereotypes with a wholesome outlook and a fantasy backdrop, decent (though dated) animation, good characters (each with their own strengths and weaknesses, the latter typically emphasized over the former), some intense battles/plots with quests for magic items and rescues of creatures in peril, Tiamat (the five-headed dragon) and Venger are exceptionally cool characters, the series was released on DVD in a nice (and–last I checked–very affordable) box set with a colorful and detailed book)…

The bad: [I honestly can’t remember much that was bad other than the occasional whiny or slightly scary episode. The baby unicorn is probably the worst character as it is frequently in peril and whining/wailing.]

Personal notes: I often confused this cartoon with a creepy live-action movie (which I vaguely remember featuring some evil rock that gets stuck in a microwave oven before destroying a family home in the end). Don’t ask me why. But, the villain in the movie reminds me of Venger. I was drawn to the Tiamat character as it also appears in “The Real Ghostbusters” with the mythical counterpart that brings the dragon down. [I remember the guy having orange-ish skin and four? eyes and being able to disguise himself as a private investigator.] This show may have sparked my interest in redheads, including Scarlet from G.I. Joe, Kimber from Jem and the Holograms and the evil army woman from the movie Willow (who later joins the heroes to stop the dark witch). [Just as She-Ra and, later, Jerrica/Jem sparked my interest in blondes.] I was a bit scared of the cult talk surrounding the game books but a big fan of pretending to be the characters from the cartoon. I recall an old game which–I think–was called Dark Tower and looking through some of the game books for monster/character ideas for my own projects/art. I remember reading about Kobolds and drawing pictures of “yellow mold” and “black pudding” with warriors using long metal poles to slip by without harm. Before Mighty Max (which was a lame toy line but a great cartoon that wrapped itself into a perfect loop, returning to the first episode from the last), this show touched on the concept of struggling to return home from a fantasy land and thus became a valuable source of inspiration. Hank’s (the archer) light bow was the coolest weapon at the time; better than any lightsaber or laser pistol, in my opinion.

*****

15. The Thing Cartoon (circa 1979, part of the Fred and Barney Show): A teenage red-haired boy named Benji possesses a pair of magic rings which–when combined–attract the magic rocks that turn him into the Thing (from the Fantastic Four) and reverse the process when the Thing joins his two fists. Benji uses this power to stop bullies and other thieves from causing trouble.  Kelly, the little blonde sister of his classmate? Betty is the only one who knows his secret.

The good: It features the Thing…well, some incarnation of the character, the animation is decent (for the time), most of the characters are likable (dated stereotypes)…

The bad: This is a really corny, silly hero cartoon which exploits a Marvel Comics character, in the first episode the Thing uproots a tree and small building among moving other things just to let a motorbike run out of gas instead of catching the bike himself, in another one magic ring is crushed by a steamroller and then returned to use by rolling the steamroller backwards…

Personal notes: This was one of the first superhero cartoons I ever saw and has been a very faint memory until now. It contributed to my interest in the Thing (over the other members of the Fantastic Four) though it makes little to no sense. It also probably inspired many of the transformation concepts I have envisioned since that time or started a chain reaction that carried over to Spider-Man’s symbiotic suit and Witchblade.

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