From time to time Outright Geekery brings you a slanted and biased opinion on some trivially specific topic of geekery. We call it Outright Geekery’s Top o’ the Lot.
For the last month or so I’ve been delving into my two most favorite cartoons from the 1980’s, G.I. Joe and Transformers, running down my favorite characters from each side of each of those great teams that made up the shows. And I could probably go on for months on end just creating lists based on those two shows. I never even cracked into my favorite G.I. Joe and Cobra vehicles (and they have enough of those to fill 4 lists each!), my favorite episodes of each show (another two lists), my favorite crossovers between these two shows, and plenty of other trivial minutia I could turn into something (kind of) substantial. But, eventually, I have to get to other subjects, like The Top o’ the Lot: Wielders of Mjolnir Not Named Thor, or Top o’ the Lot: Girls Who Dated Captain Picard, among many others. But, I figured I had room for one more list from the animated 1980’s, and what better way then to highlight the rest? And, boy, are there a lot of the rest! This is going to be a Giant-Sized issue of Top o’ the Lot, and there’s no better topic for it! So, without further ado, we go back in time and run down a slanted and biased list of cartoon craziness; it’s Top o’ the Lot: The Rest of the Animated ’80’s.
Honorable Mention: Shirt Tales
The Shirt Tales wasn’t the most popular cartoon of the 1980’s but it was something completely different, and I think it deserves some attention. The show was kind of like The Avengers meets Wild Kingdom, as a team of anthropomorphic beasts lived dual lives. One, as a group of park animals (but not quite a zoo) where they puled the Yogi Bear treatment on the oblivious Mr. Dinkle the Park Ranger. Their other life, however, was a super-hero team that flew around in a jet/car/boat thing and saved the world! It was weird, and pretty interesting. The oddness doesn’t stop there either, as each beastly member of this team wore different colored shirts, and, every now and again, the shirts would change to show what the character wearing it was thinking. WTF!? Yeah it was strange, and, just as crazy, based on a line of greeting cards. They get a mention for being cool and crazy, a big attribute of the entire list, and this was one my little sister and I could agree on, even though I never admitted it. Saturday mornings, some Cap’n Crunch, and Cartoons! Oh yeah, here we go!
Yes, an Eleven! If I’m expanding my biased and slanted views, I’m slanting the whole damn thing!
TAALLYYHAAWWK!! Silverhawks may have been copying another animated show from the 1980’s, but it had an appeal all it’s own. Just because it was “Thundercats in space” didn’t mean that wasn’t an awesome concept. The “partly metal/partly real” team of heroes lead by Commander Stargazer and filled with larger than life characters, like the cowboy with a weaponized guitar Lt. Colonel Bluegrass, fought the good fight against the Mon*Star, Yes-Man (great name!), and an equally creative group of assorted villains. A fun little action show, but it makes the list for having some really great characters that were the typical 1980’s fair. Silverhawks makes the Top o’ this Lot despite the main villain Mon*Star growing to immense size, when everyone know what 80’s toon had the best, biggest monsters.
Voltron may have been the name of the biggest, baddest robot in all the universe, but the show based on that bot was nothing short of excellent, in all of it’s wonderful versions. The 5-man team with the lions, known as Lion Force or Voltron of the Far Universe, is by far the best known of the teams, and probably the most popular, but I was always partial to the Voltron of the Near Universe, Vehicle Voltron, because of the search and discover nature of the series. It felt like Star Trek with a huge robot! Lion Force Voltron was just easier to follow than the 15 member strong Vehicle Force, and was probably the better of the two shows, as well. Either way, no matter how you like your flavor of the guy, Voltron was a really cool take on everything going on in animation during the 80’s, and the Japanese elements in this series was some of my first introductions to the style. “And I’ll form the head!” Man, it’s funny hearing that now that I’m older.
9. The Littles
The Littles was another one of those quirky little shows from the 80’s that was just outright entertaining. And it should have been! The books the show was based on continue to be mandatory reading for the early reader. This show, again, had great characters, but The Littles was all about the odd relationship between this family of strange, tiny beings living inside the walls of a house, and the Bigg family, the residents of said house. It was also cool to see how The Littles using “borrowed” Bigg items and using them in Little fashion. Sure the source material may have been ripped off from The Borrowers series of children’s books, and the 1997 film adaption of the same name was really cool, but it takes absolutely nothing away from how quaint this show was. And that gets The Littles into the Top, but the rest of the list is all out action!
8. Danger Mouse
Among the great many shows I watched on Nickelodeon back in the day, my favorite had to have been the Brit import Danger Mouse. Along with his sidekick Penfold, DM was a rodent version of the super-spy James Bond, at it was hugely entertaining. He had a fire hydrant (plug?) secret base, a fast car, and was a pretty good driver despite having the bad eye. This was almost the perfect British cartoon for American kids in the 1980’s, and for good reason. It was smart, funny, never took itself too serious, but didn’t let that stop them from being serious about it. I have nothing to say about today’s current batch of Nicktoons, but back in the day, but Danger Mouse was original. I can’t say the same for the next member of this Lot, but it didn’t take away any of the awesome.
7. The Real Ghostbusters
The film made so much money and reached such high levels of success in inserting itself firmly into popular culture, a Ghostbusters cartoon was bound to be a thing eventually, and I’m so thankful that it was. The movie might as well have been an animated flick, so the translation worked nicely. My favorite thing about this show, and probably the reason it beats out some other shows missing from this Top, is the work of one J. Michael Straczynski. His written some of the best things I’ve ever seen in comics and TV, and this was better because of him.
6. Adventures of the Gummi Bears
It cannot be ignored. I know. There were a ton of great Disney shows in 1980’s. It was the heyday for Disney’s entire 30-minute series efforts. But only three of the great The Disney Afternoon series, including Talespin, Darkwing Duck, and Goof Troop, all premiered in the 90’s, with only Duck Tales, Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers, and, my personal favorite, and the first in the string, Gummi Bears.
The Adventures of the Gummi Bears was a fantasy cartoon that followed the adventures of mystical magical bears, that lived deep in a forest hidden from man, and drank a weird potion that would make them bounce around like Superballs. Oh, and it was loosely based on a gummy bear-shaped candy. No matter how terrible that premise sounds, Gummi Bears was a great show. I loved the fantasy universe, and the characters were quintessential Disney Afternoon Animation characters, before those characters were even cemented. Gummi Bears was the original! And it started an historical run of animation. I’ve included the show’s theme, but THIS version is by far my favorite.
5. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Oh yeah! He-Man! I loved He-Man and the Masters of the Universe for one plain and simple reason: Jealousy. I was kind of a spoiled kid when it came to toys. I had too many G.I. Joe and Transformers to count at some points, and I was always able to fill in a Thundercats action figure or some other bits from other toylines, but my mom, for some crazy reason, was set on not buying me ANY He-Man! It was absurd. Maybe I should have this chat with my therapist, but a friend at my baby-sitters house had them all. He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Beast Man, Skeletor, even Stinkor, and action figure that smelled like a skunk. He had the Castle Greyskull and Skeletor’s Snake Mountain playsets, and Snake Mountain had a voice-changing microphone! Jealousy and toys made this show unforgettable for me, but it was fun watching, placing He-Man in the dead center of the Top, toys, again, helps the next spot, but creativity puts it a spot from the Top three.
Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, because acronyms are hard, was another odd one, and another thief, but that is exactly what made it cool. M.A.S.K. was a strike-team formed to combat one specific enemy, V.E.N.O.M. (because acronyms are awesome), just like G.I. Joe. Both sides of this conflict drove or piloted (or sometimes both!) cars or other vehicles that would change somehow. For example, a ordinary looking ’57 Chevy transforms, oh, I mean CHANGES, into a tank. Hmm, reminds me of another show from the 80’s. But M.A.S.K. also incorporated some weird helmets worn by the characters, each having some kind of crazy power. It added a whole X-Men elements to the whole thing and, for the 80’s, they pulled it off. But it wasn’t quite able to break into the tippy Top o’ this Lot, but it’s full of familiar names.
HOOOOO!! Maybe it was that triumphant theme song, that great chant that Lion-O used to call his friends, or the way my younger self could relate to Lion-O’s plight. Mutant cats from outer space landing on Earth…Third Earth, excuse me, and setting up shop and building a new home. And what a home?! The Cat’s Lair was so cool! And that tank? Whoa! Each Thundercat had his or her own certain appeal, and Mumm-ra and Slithe and his bunch were fun villains. Even better was the huge cast of characters that filled Third Earth, including the Robear Berbils, Wolos, and Brute-Men, and even better than that were the new Thundercats they added, like the blind Lynx-O, and addition of new villains, like Hammerhand and his Berserkers. What a great frekain’ show! It doesn’t quite stand the test of time, but none of these shows really do, and the recent new treatment of the franchise left me wanting, but Thundercats was a special thing, that will never be duplicated.
2. Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
I’m not absolutely sure, but it’s a safe but that this show was a big part of my adoration for comics, and if you know anything else about me, that is a huge adoration; it’s borderline obsessive! So this is a really important show for me. I would have just old enough to watch what was going on, but not remember watching it, but I know for a fact that I did. Either way, this was a good one, and an early addition to the more modern and sophisticated Marvel Animation that would follow decade after decade. Seeing Spidey hanging out with Iceman and Firestar was a great trio to see in action and, noteworthy, Firestar was created just for this show, and has appeared in many comics since and currently in Amazing X-Men, which is quite amazing BTW, but don’t get me started. I did have a problem with Peter’s transforming HQ with a flipping sofa and spinning TV stand, but oh well. It didn’t keep this nostalgic and super important toon from almost taking the Top spot o’ this Lot. That was saved for a show that I simply could not wait to see when I was a kid, because it was based on the very first thing I ever did that made me feel like a geek.
1. Dungeons & Dragons
I’ll admit without hesitating that I missed the first run of this show. I’m not that damned old! But I firmly remember a 5th or 6th grade sleepover and playing my first game of Dungeons & Dragons with some friends. I was hooked, and I’ve played many pen and paper RPG’s since and currently, but it was this show that helped me keep a passion for the game going during years of moving from city to city, and leaving game after game. I had at least 30 different characters of differing class, race, and level pre-made just waiting for a game to come my way, and I couldn’t help but add my own creations to the magic items, many of those being based on the classic magical weapons from that cartoon. Six friends take a trip on an amusement park ride and are teleported to the world of Dungeons & Dragons where they take on the persona of the classic player classes available in the role-playing game. Another character, The Dungeon Master, appears as a mysterious wizard and gives the gang a bunch of enchanted items. And the dragon Tiamat was amazing to see animated, and being voiced by Frank Welker didn’t hurt, either. Couldn’t get enough of this when I was a kid, because of the way it reminded me of playing a game I instantly fell in love with. That’s enough to put Dungeons & Dragons and the very tippy Top o’ the teller than usual Lot.
See a mistake? Disagree with the choices? Tell us what you think about this installment of Top o’ Lot, join in the discussion and share your opinion.