Fanart Friday returns, realizing its math was a little off (I'm Asian, this shouldn't happen). Last week, we snuck around with our favorite spies and assassins, but this week--in place of the six-month recap episode which is actually supposed to be at the end of March--we're taking a trip back in time, to when our cartoon favorites reigned supreme.
From Disney Afternoon to USA's Cartoon Express to, uh... Nickelodeon's entire lineup, cartoons took up the bulk of my TV-watching from the mid-'80s to the late '90s. Hell, even now I like cartoons, and I'm thirty years old. Current favorites? Transformers: Prime and Adventure Time. Let's get started!
...After one more video.
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The Tick was an unusual addition to Fox Kids' Saturday-morning lineup. You had X-Men, you had Spider-Man, you had Batman: The Animated Series (before it migrated to KidsWB), and then you had... The Tick, a hilarious send-up of super heroes that was able to slyly insert adult humor into a kids' show.
Fine, fine, it's really GoLion, and Voltron was severely edited. I still love Voltron and its awful dub, and to this day I can still do a perfect impression of Shirogane/Quiet SVEN. HIS NAME IS SVEN.
Lured you in with that picture of a sexy Smurfette, didn't I? WELL ALL YOU GET IS PAPA SMURF. Seriously, the artist and his awesome name made the kind, Communist leader of the Smurfs into this total badass, and that works just fine for me. I always hated The Smurfs, anyways.
As you can guess by this week's first YouTube (two videos will not be a regular thing), I'm a huge fan of the original ThunderCats. I had most of the toys, and even had a toy Sword of Omens. Okay, it hasn't aged all that well, but beneath its goofy surface is a pretty solid kids' show that teaches some pretty good lessons.
Maple Town might be lost to the ages alongside The Little Bits, Maya the Bee and The Adventures of the Little Koala, but at least my roommate remembers it! Nick Jr. sure had a lot of anime on in those days...
Right from the first episode, I was hooked on The Pirates of Dark Water. It was built with continuity in mind, where the heroes had a quest to find the sacred treasures and stop the Dark Water from spreading across the globe.
We already had Snake Eyes and Stormshadow in last week's installment, so all the G.I. Joe love you're getting this week comes from the Baroness herself. You're welcome. Also, there's no Baroness in the upcoming G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Let that stew for a bit.
With this one, I'm pretty sure I'm digging far enough that most of you won't remember. Centurions was a cartoon tie-in for a toy line where the heroes had interchangeable armor. You had a guy in the air, a guy on land, and a guy in the water, and each of them could have specialized armor and weapons beamed down from a satellite by doing a Genki Dama pose and shouting "POWER EXTREME." It was pure art in animated form. (It really wasn't.)
When it first came out, I was positive I wouldn't like Batman Beyond. "They're deviating from the comics!" I whined, obviously ignoring the fact that the excellent Batman: The Animated Series also deviated from the comics. Terry McGinnis was an excellent Batman, combining all the things we liked about the original Batman with his own unique style.
Exo-Squad is one of those rare shows that was built around a (really awesome) toy line, and yet it ended up being a really good show in the process. Billed as an "American anime" and taking after Gundam and Robotech, it was about a war between humanity and the "Neosapiens," powerful artificial humans created as a source of cheap labor. It was surprisingly dark, with heroes and villains regularly dying--it treated war seriously, even with some questionable character designs and toy-friendly mecha.
Remember how I said that I hated The Smurfs? I still do. I cringed every time I heard the show starting up on USA's Cartoon Express. Even a very, very well-drawn Smurfette will not change my mind.
We never really got to see Baloo take on Don Karnage aside from TaleSpin's aerial showdowns, but one can guess what would happen if you locked the two in a room together. Don Karnage wouldn't stand a chance.
Less a "children's cartoon" and more a "Lovecraftian descent into madness," Bravestarr was about a space cowboy with borderline racist Space Native American super powers, and a horse named 30-30 (after the rifle caliber) that transformed into the horse from Words Worth armed with Elmer Fudd's gun. Even now, I can use the phrase "hey, wanna watch some Bravestarr?" as a threat among some of my friends.
Speaking of crazy-ass shows that took place in the far reaches of the universe, SilverHawks was pretty damn bonkers. It was basically ThunderCats... but bird-themed... and about space cops. What's weird is that the action was top-notch and beautifully-animated, but once it came time for the actual story and character stuff, it went totally off the deep end. At the end of each episode, instead of teaching life lessons like ThunderCats, it had a lot of cool astronomy and physics trivia!
Way back when I first watched Chip 'n Dale's Rescue Rangers, I was honestly thinking it was going to be just as hardcore and brutal as The Secret of NIMH--don't ask me why.
I admit to occasionally watching She-Ra, which usually ran after He-Man. It was a really girly follow-up, but, uh... what was I supposed to do? Not watch cartoons because they were girly?
...okay, yeah, even I have my limits. With the way that cartoons are going now, I can bet that any reboot of Jem and the Holograms will suddenly be popular with 18-25-year-old men. Just watch.
After watching the original Macross, it's hard to go back to Robotech, but at the time, it was a real shock to have a continuing, multi-generational story where characters could very easily die. It was wartime, after all.
For some reason, Nickelodeon's day (and changeover to Nick at Nite) always ended with the dry, often-bleak Count Duckula, so this cartoon always has a strange connection to Mr. Ed and Green Acres in my mind.
I dunno, how many times has Optimus Prime appeared here on Fanart Friday? It hasn't been that many times, but I've already lost count. Who cares, though? Optimus is one of the most enduring, endearing characters in fiction, and as long as fans keep making great art (basically forever), I'll keep finding some way to include him here.
The Noozles starts out so sweet, about a little girl whose stuffed animals come to life and the adorable adventures they have... and then it quickly takes a turn for the apocalyptic. The girl's father is trapped forever in some scary shadow dimension, and then there's some connection to Ayer's Rock that could cause the entire world to be destroyed... yeah, it escalates rather quickly.
What was up with Disney and ducks in the '90s? We had DuckTales, giving us the globetrotting adventures of Uncle Scrooge and his nephews, and then we got a super hero spinoff with Darkwing Duck, which was basically "Batman, but a duck." Then there was The Mighty Ducks, which I promised my roommate I would not include in this installment.
He-Man is such a dork that it's easy to forget how badass you can make him--all it takes is a good artist! Make sure you check out the rest of this artist's work, where he redesigns most of the Masters of the Universe cast for a slick original story!
Many of the shows I've talked about ended pretty gracefully. Lion-O--the boy stuck in a man's body--became king at the end of ThunderCats, and the Space Explorers defeated the evil armies of Planet Doom at the end of Voltron. At the end of David the Gnome, David teaches a final lesson to all the young children watching his show... about death, and how life continues even if our loved ones are no longer there. THEN HE FRICKIN' DIES. AND IT'S GENUINELY SAD.
As the first show on the Disney Afternoon lineup, Gummi Bears was also the first to get canned when it was time to introduce a new show (in this case, Darkwing Duck). Maybe that's why people are so obsessed with it? Because seriously, this show was running on NBC in the mid-'80s, when a lot of the people who won't shut up about it weren't even alive.
What more can be said about Dino-Riders? You take something that children find exciting (FREAKIN' DINOSAURS, MAN) and then you strap lasers and missiles to them. The toys were a hit, the cartoon was not, and later the extremely-detailed dinosaur toys were made into official Smithsonian models--minus the lasers and missiles, of course.
As a fan of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, I've always felt that the early-2000s series best followed the spirit of the original work--the 1987 cartoon always felt too goofy to me. The recent CGI-animated reboot (currently airing on Nickelodeon) combines the best elements of both versions, and is actually pretty good!
Right here at the very end, let me just say that Gargoyles is a cartoon that I will happily rewatch every year or so--it's that damn good. Mostly episodic, it still has a regular continuity and nods to previous episodes, and one of the absolute best villains in anything I've ever seen.
And that's all for this week! There's no way I could have included every title, so what were some of your favorite cartoons from back in the day? Or did I just severely miss my target audience, and I picked stuff that's way before all you guys' times?
Like I say every week, your work is always welcome here on Fanart Friday, regardless of your experience or skill level. Just PM me a link to your work, and I'll definitely include it in a future installment! For those of you wanting to get a piece together for next week, we'll be celebrating the release of Wreck-it Ralph on Blu-ray and DVD with fanart of VIDEO GAME MASCOTS!
Thanks again for checking out Fanart Friday--have a great weekend, and we hope to see you next time!