Friday, January 9, 2009


Above: He-Man - Gone, but not "Forgotten".

Almost eleven years ago, while my son's mother was pregnant with the little guy, I made a decision on his behalf. I had seen the crappy cartoons that were being forced on the youth of 1998, and I didn't want MY child to be subject to such garbage. Hence I began my weekly visits to Old Town Video in Eureka, a magical place where you could rent any episode of just about any cartoon from the late 70's to the late 80's (they had a huge porn selection, too, and, as a result of their unsavory location, little booths that perverts could go into and jerk off in... Ewwwww.), including, but by no means limited to, Masters of The Universe, Transformers, Go-Bots, Voltron, and Defenders of The Earth. I would dutifully rent and record these tapes on behalf of my unborn, and still keep a good-sized library of 80's cartoons to this day. As a result, young Calvyn has grown up with knowledge of the Thundercats, the ORIGINAL adventures of Optimus Prime and Co., and even Robotech. Nice.
I certainly can't deny the amount of pleasure that watching all these cartoons from my youth has also provided ME. I like the better known stuff (G.I. Joe, TMNT, etc.), but the TRUE treasures are the lesser-known series, the ones that time has obscured but lie hidden just beneath the surface, awaiting rediscovery by grown-up nerds like me. Here's my list of THE TOP 5 FORGOTTEN CARTOON SHOWS OF THE 1980'S, stuff that's probably old hat for internet collector geeks, but might just trigger a quick stroll down memory lane for anyone else.

PS: Last time I passed through Eureka, Old Town Video was still open, one last holdout against corporate conglomeration, a testament to Mom and Pop businesses everywhere. If you're ever passing through Eureka and looking for somewhere to masturbate to He-Man cartoons in a private room, THIS is the place.


Everyone was familiar with ALF the live-action TV show, but the animated spin-off series was a whole different animal altogether. Focusing on Gordon Shumway's (ALF's birth name) adventures on his home planet, Melmac, the show (which aired from 1987 to 1989) was successful enough to spawn it's own spinoff, "Alf Tales", which featured characters from the show acting out different fairy tales.

The appeal for the Alf cartoon was that it depicted what life was like on another planet, sometimes similar to our own but sometimes outrageously, well, alien. The planetary sport on Melmac was Bouilliabasse-ball, a game almost the same as baseball but played with seafood instead of a ball and bat. Got that? And workers toiled in mayonnaise mines to support the Melmackian economy (as mayonnaise was their primary planetary export). Also, the denizens of Melmac ate cats. Just putting that out there.

Below: the cast of "Alf: The Animated Series"

I always found the theme song kind of depressing (in a Bobby McFerrin kind of way). Somewhere between "Cheers" and "M*A*S*H" on the Bummer Theme Song scale.


Never has product placement been so much fun! "Captain N" was just a vehicle for Nintendo to peddle their goodies, but to NES-addicted kids everywhere, this show was all their wildest dreams come to life, some of the best 8-bit characters springing to life and cavorting about in an orgy of fantastical adventure.

The title character was actually transported to Nintendo-land (via "The Ultimate Warp Zone") from his home in real-world Southern California, the realization of what I'm sure was a very common fantasy at the time. We all wanted to live inside our Nintendo, right? Right?
Captain N also had an awesome belt with an NES controller built into it (see example) and an NES blaster at his hip. I would SO rock that look, modern day. PS: this show ran from 1989-1991, hence putting it just outside the "80's" realm. So what? Fuckers.

Below: The cast of "Captain N: The Game Master".

Please note how Mother Brain sounds vaguely like Little Richard. Weird, huh?


"COPS" took place in the amazing year 2020, in the bustling metropolis of Empire City. Running from 1988-1989, "COPS" pre-dated the FOX reality show of the same name, while exploring similar themes. Some would even claim that the latter "COPS" was a rip-off. I am one of those people.

"COPS" followed the adventures of a group of valiant, technologically-advanced police officers in their quest to thwart the criminal activities of the nefarious Big Boss and his legion of underlings. The villains were the best part of the show, such as Dr. BadVibes (a mad scientist who ran around with his brain exposed under a glass dome), Bullets McBoomBoom (who had sweet machine guns that came out of his chest - action figure too!), and assorted other freaks, with names like Nightmare The Android, Ms. Demeanor, Berserko, and Turbo Tu-tone.

The toy line tie-in was great too, as the action figures came with cool weapons and the like, and, curiously enough, certain characters were identified on their filecards as descendents of G.I. Joe characters. Weird.
Overall, cool vehicles, cool villains, cool gadgets, interesting plots. A solid 'A'.


"Visionaries" was a totally epic medieval/futuristic crossover show that only ran for 13 episodes in 1987. Like Captain Power or Air Raiders, the show was too good to last long, although it was a conceptual gem.

"Visionaries" told the mystical story of The Spectral Knights and the Darkling Lords, two opposing factions who were both ruled by the morally ambivalent wizard Merlynn. Both groups had magical holograms both on their chest and mounted on a staff, which represented a different animal power. By using a magical phrase, they could bring their animal spirits to life to do battle with each other.
A couple examples of these brutal rhymes: "Flay the flesh, lay bare the bone. Upon this field, let grief be sown!", "Oh mist-filled pits, dark, dank, unclear, Touch all before me with frost-fingered fear!", "Wind of sickness, illness most vile, Strike down my enemy, with disease revile!". Sooo metal.
Also, all-around awesome dude Chris Latta voiced several villainous characters. For an article about this amazing man, click here. "Visionaries" had almost TOO much going for it, and it's failure stands as a shrine to Americans' poor taste. Way to go, morons.

Below: The Spectral Knights and The Darkling Lords face off in a Magical Smooch-Fest.


Another flash-in-the-pan classic, "Silverhawks" only aired for 3 months in 1986, although 65 episodes were produced. It was created by the same good people who brought us the Thundercats, and in many ways was superior to its fore-runner. Like "Thundercats", the 'Hawks were are a group of quasi-anthropomorphic space warriors who did battle with an evil entity named Mon*Star (left) and his minions. The outer space setting added a new dimension of coolness, and the 'Hawks ability to sprout wings and soar through space didn't hurt, either.

"Silverhawks" also had a really sweet toy line, with weird little built-in features (cyborg cop Commander Stargazer had a telescope built into his action figure's head), and cool vehicles (Mon*Star's giant squid/spaceship was a particularly amazing specimen). But possibly the coolest feature on the show was the villain Melodia (above), who used a rad keytar/lazer gun to do battle with her nemesis, country singer Colonel Bluegrass (below). The Silverhawks were unique and fascinating (not to mention their many strange, evil counterparts), and hold the #1 spot on this list due to their mind-blowing sci-fi storyline and killer artwork. Radness.

BONUS FEATURE: Youtube video featuring "The Top 10 Cartoon Intros of the 80's". Super INTENSE:


James said...

Oh man, that reminds me of weird 80s cartoons. Do you remember Rude Dog and the Dweebs? That was weird stuff.

Shelby Cobras said...

Rude Dog was RAD! I had forgotten that one. I even had a Rude Dog T-shirt.

Anonymous said...

The first time I got suspended from school I was wearing a "Rude Dog: Repeat Offender" shirt. They didn't go easy on me!