James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 11: Kermit

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Day 11 of the A-Z challenge and we’re up to ‘K’. I like ‘K’, it’s not a letter that likes to show off too much. There’d be no ‘knowledge’ without ‘K’ but rather than boasting about this, ‘K’ just stays silent. But don’t mistake this silence as weakness. That’s a mistake that could result in ‘K’ giving you a bit of kicking.

But which cartoon character is going to represent this most komplex of letters?

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K is for Kermit

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I’ve always been a fan of Kermit the Frog. I first came across his work through Sesame Street, where he performed admirably alongside the likes of Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and, of course, the Cookie Monster. But while the majority of the aforementioned characters earned their living on that famous street, Kermit was merely moonlighting. His main job was as de facto leader of the Muppets. I discovered The Muppet Show when I was a bit older, and of course I spent many a happy hour watching the various Muppet movies (including The Muppet Movie). But one of my earliest memories of the Muppets was not in their guise as puppets, but rather the cartoon version of their junior selves in The Muppet Babies.

From what I can recall, the show was absolutely bonkers, but relentlessly feelgood. I know I continued to enjoy it when I was older than the specified target audience, which is generally the hallmark of a good cartoon in my humble opinion.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 10: Joker

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It’s day 10 of the A-Z challenge, which brings us up to the letter ‘J’, I had to resist my natural urges to go with a cartoon character called James. There is no shortage of them either, and I kind of did like a lot of them. Indeed, it would be remiss of me not to at least give some of them a nostalgic nod, so before we move on to the main focus of today’s post, let’s hear it for all of the cartoon Jameses out there. In no particular order, here are a few of the best:

James the Cat

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James the Red Engine off of Thomas the Tank Engine (I’m not sure if stop-motion animation counts as a cartoon but it’s close enough for my purposes)

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Jimbo  off of Jimbo and the Jet Set

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Jimbo off of The Simpsons

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Jamie off of Jamie and the Magic Torch

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And, lest we forget, the inimitable James T Kirk off of Star Trek: the Animated Series.

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The cartoon, which is the focus of today’s entry, also had a character called James, who was reasonably important – Commissioner James Gordon.

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But there was another ‘J’ character who was a touch more memorable:

J

‘J’ is for Joker

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I touched upon the high quality of superhero cartoons in the 1990s in yesterday’s post, but even by the high standards of the era, Batman: The Animated Series was particularly strong. Partially inspired by the Tim Burton movies that preceded it, Batman: The Animated Series was darker in tone that your average cartoon, and dealt with more complex themes and ideas. It was visually very stylish, noiresque and slightly offbeat – the animated Gotham City was a skewed, surreal reflection of reality, which served the narrative well. The stories, were for the most part, pretty well written, but it was the vocal talent that gave the show it’s edge over other animated shows. Listen to Kevin Conroy as Batman, and every other actor who has ever portrayed him just sounds wrong. However it’s the episodes which feature the Joker which really elevate the show above pretty much every other superhero cartoon, and the majority of live-action movies. Voiced by none-other than Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, the Joker is beyond superlatives. Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the villain is often seen as the definitive version of Batman’s arch-nemesis, Jack Nicholson’s performance has its advocates, and I’ve always had a soft spot for Cesar Romero’s incarnation in the sixties TV show. But though he only lends his voice to the character, Hamill’s performance has to be considered among the best. He’s just so unhinged and manic, and it’s never really clear why he does any of the things he does, which is, I suppose, the essence of the character.

Without Hamill’s performance as the Joker, Batman: The Animated Series would probably still be virtually peerless as animated series go,  but with it, the bar is raised considerably higher.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 9: Iceman

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Day 9 of the A-Z Challenge, and this is where I come into my own. Sorry, this is where ‘I’ comes into its own. ‘I’ can be confusing at times. So can I, but for different reasons. ‘I’ is a first person nominative singular pronoun, whereas I am definitely not a first person nominative singular pronoun. I am just inclined to write confusing paragraphs like this one, whereas ‘I’, being a letter, is unable to write anything as all, though is frequently used in the written form by people like me to write confusing paragraphs like this one.

But enough of this letter-based fun and onto some other letter-based fun involving my love of cartoons.

I

I is for Iceman

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There have been many Spiderman cartoons over the years. I’ve enjoyed quite a few of them. Probably my favourite was the cartoon from the 1990s, which was a vintage period for superhero-based animation. Alongside Spiderman, there were other Marvel offerings such as The X-Men, The Incredible Hulk and The Fantastic Four, which were all pretty great. DC, meanwhile, gave us Batman: The Animated series, which spawned Superman: The Animated Series and subsequently The Justice League, and The Justice League Unlimited cartoons. There have been multiple animated offerings from both DC and Marvel over the years, but the 1990s was a particularly golden time, when the animation was of a high standard and was, crucially, matched by the narratives for the most part.

However, the cartoon I’m focusing on today is from the early 1980s. It was called Spiderman and his Amazing Friends. The ‘amazing friends’ were the aforementioned Iceman and another character called Firestar.

Iceman, AKA Bobby Drake, was originally an ‘X-man’, but there has always been plenty of crossover between Marvel’s various franchises and so it’s reasonable that he was requisitioned for this particular cartoon. Firestar was created specifically for Spiderman and his Amazing Friends, but has subsequently joined the X-Men in the world of comic books. If I speak as something of an authority on the subject of Marvel comics then don’t be fooled, I’ve never read a comic book in my life. I’m pretty handy with a Google search though. Having said I’ve never read a comic book is in no way meant to detract from the fact that I absolutely love superhero cartoons and movies. That I’ve never really explored the source material, doesn’t mean I’m not grateful that it exists – I just prefer my superheroes to be on screen rather than in print.

I loved Spiderman and his Amazing Friends when I was a child. Indeed, it’s something of a testament to how much I was enthused by it that, even though Spiderman was pretty much my favourite superhero growing up, I actually might’ve had a slight preference for Iceman in this particular series. He was both figuratively and, I suppose, literally cool. I loved the way he transformed by freezing himself in a block of ice and then breaking out of it. All Spiderman did, by comparison, was put on a costume. I also liked the way that Iceman travelled around, by creating his own ice-travelator. Firestar, who completed the trio, was also great. I re-watched a few episodes in preparation for writing this post and the show held up surprisingly well. It is a little dated and doesn’t really hit the standards set by the 1990s Spiderman series, but it was really quite watchable. Also there is a surprising amount of sexual tension between the characters for what was, essentially, a children’s cartoon.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 8: He-Man and Hordak

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Right, this is the point when it all gets a bit confusing with the whole A-Z Challenge malarkey. Yesterday, being a Sunday, was an officially designated day off. That’s why I posted a poem instead of piece about my choice of cartoon character to represent the letter ‘H’. I’ll be doing ‘H’ today instead. Which is where the confusion comes in, because previously the numerical position of the letters in the alphabet corresponded with the date. But today is the 9th April and ‘H’ is only the 8th letter. We’re all intelligent people, I’m sure we’ll all be able to work with the situation, but it feels like we may have descended into anarchy a little here…

H

H is for He-Man

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Star Wars figures made up the bulk of my toys as a child, but if there was one franchise that came close to shifting Luke Skywalker et al. from their coveted status as the greatest  thing ever, then it was He-Man and The Masters of the Universe. Predominantly this was within the sphere of action figures. But I did love the cartoon series too. A lot. As far as after-school cartoon shows went, He-Man was my absolute favourite. I watched it again recently and while it has, in no way, stood the test of time particularly well, I can definitely see why I liked it. Obviously it’s all a bit stupid, and frankly it’s not as if Prince Adam doesn’t already have enough going for him (what with being the heir to throne of Eternia) without being given the additional privileges of becoming ‘the most powerful man in the universe’ (Apparently Donald Trump has taken issue with that claim and is currently engaged in a Twitter war with He-Man). Also, why can’t any of the other characters work out that He-Man and Prince Adam are the same person? Literally all he does is remove most of his clothing, and don some kind of strange fetish gear. He doesn’t even change his hairstyle. And that is quite a hairstyle, even by the dubious standards of the 1980s.

On the plus side, Skeletor is possibly the greatest antagonist of all time.

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He’s genuinely hilarious and for a skeleton, he’s in pretty good shape – we know this because he adopts a similar fashion strategy to He-Man and wears next to nothing. In fact a lot of the characters prefer to conduct most of their business wearing very little. Eternia is obviously quite an open-minded community,

The animation was pretty poor in truth, if a lot of the action looks repetitive then it’s because the same animations were used in multiple sequences to save money. Drawings of characters that appear in one-off episodes, are reused as different characters in later episodes. It’s obvious when re-watching the series as an adult but to be fair to the animators I’m certain I never really noticed this as a kid.

One thing that has always puzzled me though, is why, in the opening credits, after He-Man has explained to the viewer who he is, (and he is talking directly to the ‘camera’), does he then seemingly punch the viewer in the face? Seriously, watch the video below – it’s at 50 seconds in.

‘H’ is also for Hordak

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Hordak was the primary antagonist in She-Ra: Princess of Power, a spin-off of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, in which we meet He-Man’s twin sister, She-Ra. Quite why we had never heard of He-Man’s sister in the original series is explained in the opening episodes of the series. Indeed the first five episodes of the show were combined and released as a feature length animation called The Secret of the Sword. I was so excited when that movie came out. It’s not brilliant, but it’s still a billion times better than the live action Masters of the Universe movie which starred Dolph Lundgren as He-Man (and also features a young, pre-Friends Courtney Cox, who, alas, does nothing to redeem the film).

Hordak was nowhere near as good a villain as Skeletor, but, in the main, She-Ra: Princess of Power  was every bit as good a cartoon as it’s precursor, and She-Ra herself, dare I say it, might even have been a bit better than He-Man. Certainly she seemed to have a lot more powers than He-Man. His main power was being really strong, whereas she was just as strong and could talk to animals, and her sword could turn into basically anything she wanted it to (including an ‘ice-making machine’ at one point…)

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If my last entry, the Care Bears, was a show predominantly marketed towards girls then I’m not sure who She-Ra: Princess of Power was aimed at. It seemed to be aimed at girls but I definitely watched She-Ra and so did all of my male friends, and in a much less secretive way than we might all have watched Care Bears. The toys were marketed in a strange way, with all the female characters sold almost as if they were Barbie Dolls, but all the male characters were packaged differently and actually sold as He-Man toys, even though they weren’t ever in He-Man. It was all very confusing, Thank goodness that toys don’t come with such obvious gender-marketing  bias these days.

Oh wait…

Where Did All The Chocolate Go?

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Where did all the chocolate go?
I had so much last week
But now I cannot find it
No matter where I seek?

It seems strange that it is gone
There was a plentiful supply
But it’s nowhere to be seen
And I really don’t know why

Ok I did eat some of it
Back on Easter Sunday
And I consumed a little more
During Bank Holiday Monday

And yes I might have had some
On Tuesday after lunch
And a delightful bit of Easter Egg
On Wednesday I did munch

But on Thursday there was plenty left
I know because I had some
And though I tried hard to abstain
On Friday I did succumb

But I hadn’t finished all of it
As Saturday was dawning
So I might have had a smidgen
To see me through the morning

But now it seems to have all gone
What has become of it?
And here’s another mystery
My trousers don’t now fit!

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 7: Grumpy Bear

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Can it already be the 7th April? Why, that must mean that we’re up to ‘G’ in my mawkish retrospective of the cartoons of my youth. And today doubles as something of a confessional, as I reveal one of my guiltier pleasures from back in the day.

G

G is for Grumpy Bear

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The Care Bears were really aimed at girls and I was very much a boy. Add to this the fact that it was the 1980s, when it was generally considered ‘not ok’ for a boy to like stuff that was aimed at girls (I’d like to imagine that today we live in more enlightened times, but I expect I’m wrong about that) and I wasn’t really supposed to like the Care Bears. But I did quite like the Care Bears. Perhaps I’ve always been a sensitive soul and the notion that all the world’s problems could be solved by just ‘caring a bit more’ appealed to me on some level. Or maybe I just liked the bright colours. I was a small child back then – who knows what was going on in my head?

Obviously the makers of Care Bears didn’t really care about making the world a better place, they really only cared about selling lots of overpriced stuffed toys to children.

The cartoon massively fails the test of time. It’s overly saccharine and hard to watch. But, for whatever reason, I did really like it at the time. Especially the 1985 movie, which might have been a tiny bit better than the TV series, (but probably not much better). I was far from the only kid (male or female) that liked Care Bears though – they were hugely popular.

My sister had a Care Bear.

I didn’t.

You can get them again now. If my mum is reading this, then I need to point out that she is in no way obliged to make up for me not having a Care Bear as a child by getting me one now…

I had loads of toys as a kid. Mostly He Man and Star Wars figures, but also some ThunderCats thrown in for good measure. I didn’t need a Care Bear. I’m not even sure that I especially wanted a Care Bear. I’m just saying that if I had wanted one, there would have been nothing wrong with me wanting one.

If, by chance, I had owned a Care Bear, it would definitely have been Grumpy Bear…

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 6: Ferocious Ness

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Well if it isn’t Friday and, moreover the 6th of April. But who really gives an ‘F’?

Well I do as a matter of fact, because ‘F’ is very much the letter I’m on in my quest to write about the beloved cartoons of my youth in this year’s A-Z blogging challenge.

F

‘F’ is for Ferocious Ness

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The Family Ness was a cartoon all about a family of Loch Ness monsters. They all had names that made the most of the word ‘Ness’ by using is as a suffix to nominalise adjectives in order to create their names, although rather than creating an actual noun, the adjective was used as the character’s forename and ‘Ness’ became the surname. It was grammar lesson and a cartoon all in one.

Some examples of Nessie characters were:

Lovely Ness

Sporty Ness

Forgetful Ness

Clever Ness

Ferocious Ness was the main one and he appeared in the most episodes. He wasn’t particularly ferocious, although he was, perhaps, a little curmudgeonly at times.

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 5: Evil Edna

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It’s the fifth day of April and, if all is going according to plan, then I should be on to ‘E’ in my quest to come up with an alphabetic guide to the cartoon characters that made me the man I am today.

And, as luck would have it, I appear to be very much on schedule, which is fantastic news.

But before I get on with all that, I’d just like to say a huge thanks to everyone who sent me birthday wishes yesterday. I was genuinely touched to know that so many people care.

I assume I was anyway. I’m writing this a few days in advance so as I type these words, I have no idea if anyone did bother to wish me happy birthday. Frankly I’m going to look pretty stupid if nobody actually did.

But let’s set aside my troubles and the ignorance of all those people who failed to acknowledge my birthday and get on with the matter at hand.

Although would it have killed you to wish me happy birthday? Really. All it would have taken was a few seconds out of your day and you could have made a real difference…

No, it’s too late now…

No, it’s fine, let’s just get on with it…

No, I’m not crying, there’s something in my eye…

Look, I’ll be fine, it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t even a big birthday. It’s just I thought, y’know, what with everything we’ve been through…

Hmmm, I seem to have written myself into a cul de sac with my mock self-pity. How to move on? I could pretend that everything I’ve written above isn’t there and just get on with the A-Z Challenge malarkey. What letter was I on? Oh yes. Today’s letter du jour is ‘E’:

E

‘E’ is for Evil Edna

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I remember watching Willo the Wisp as a kid, but I couldn’t tell you what it was about. Indeed so vague was I about the whole thing that I was genuinely surprised to discover, a number of years ago, that Willo the Wisp and The Magic Roundabout were completely different things. Although, they both were utterly bonkers so maybe that’s why I got confused.

One thing I do recall about Willo the Wisp was that there an evil magic television set called Evil Edna. An evil television set? In the woods? I really must watch Willo the Wisp again soon.

In fact, lets watch an episode together now…

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 4: Danger Mouse

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It’s the fourth day of April and that can only mean that in my quest to alphabetise the cartoon characters of my youth, we must have arrived at the letter ‘D’.

What’s that you say?

Isn’t the fourth of April also my birthday?

Well I wasn’t going to bring it up but now that you mention it, it is indeed my birthday today.

There’s no need to make a fuss. It’s just a day like any other. No, there’s no need to give me lots of really expensive presents.

Well, ok if you insist.

But there’s plenty of time for all of that. For now let us return to the matter at hand. And that matter is ‘D’

D

‘D’ is for Danger Mouse.

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There were a lot of 1980s rodent heroes as I recall. The Rescue Rangers had a whole team of them, Basil was a Great Mouse Detective, Fievel had his fair share of adventures in An American Tail and if Speedy Gonzales and Mighty Mouse pre-date the 80s, then that’s the time period in which I discovered them so they absolutely still count.

The greatest of them all was, without a shadow of a doubt, Danger Mouse. Seriously, just listen to his theme tune – it literally opens with the line “He’s the greatest…”

I loved Danger Mouse as a kid. I love Danger Mouse now. I own a Danger Mouse t-shirt. I literally would be Danger Mouse if it were at all possible.

But, alas, when asked the question “are you a man or a mouse?” I reluctantly have to concede that I am a man.

And Danger Man just isn’t the same thing at all.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 3: Chip

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It’s the third day of the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2018, and, having dispatched the letters ‘A’ and ‘B’ with ease, let us see what I can do with ‘C’

C

‘C’ is for Chip

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Chip ‘n’ Dale were cartoon chipmunks, but not the ones who sang with Alvin. They were the ones who annoyed Donald Duck in classic Disney cartoons.  They were revamped in 1989’s Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers. In this show they were given a team and an awesome theme tune and they tackled crime and helped people. I’m not sure why anyone thought this was a good idea. It doesn’t sound like a good idea. And it wasn’t a good idea.

It was an AWESOME idea!

Crime fighting chipmunks? How cool is that?

Unlike in their original incarnations as duck-botherers, during which time they were largely interchangeable, in this series Chip and Dale had distinct characteristics from each other. Chip was very much the adventurous Indiana-Jones-esque leader of the Rescue Rangers and Dale was more comic relief in the main. It was all entertaining, though ultimately forgettable stuff for the most part. I can’t ever forget that theme tune though…