Posts Tagged ‘Animaniacs’

Top 11 Favorite 90s Characters

February 17, 2018

Top 11


11. Bob (ReBoot)

When I played my first video game on the Atari, I was hooked. Even though the games of my youth were next to impossible, I loved trying each and every game I could get my hands on. Computers were also becoming more and more of a thing as I entered my teen years. I spent a lot of time playing computer games and video games with my friends and we bonded over them. So when Reboot first premiered, I was instantly in love. The show is about the programs that live inside a computer city called Mainframe. The show’s main hero is Bob who is a guardian. Being a guardian means that Bob would enter the games the user played and would “reboot” himself as an enemy character and try to beat the user at the game. If he succeeded, he protected Mainframe and if he failed, that section of Mainframe was destroyed. So it set up most gamers as unintentional villains opposed by guardians like Bob. Bob was always level-headed and did not let fear override his thoughts as he could not afford to get distracted. Bob also had a multitool that could transform into a lot of gadgets he might need to save the day both in the games and out of them. Even with the danger, I envied Bob’s life of basically living in video games.


10. Freakazoid

As I was growing up, my sense of humor started to evolve and animation started to move beyond the laugh track humor of past cartoons. Instead of corny humor of shows like The Flintstones or He-Man, family shows started to really figure out humor. Just because you are putting out a PG product, does not mean that your humor has to insult even its youngest audience members. The makers of Freakazoid obviously embraced a lot of different types of humor. Most of all, they seemed to embrace smarter forms of humor like Monty Python or Bugs Bunny. Combining the silly and the surreal was what that sort of humor was about. Dexter Douglas is a young nerdy teen (like I was!) who got zapped by his home computer and was transported into the Internet. Let’s pause there because I would have loved to be able to be zapped into the Internet. That would have been a geek’s dream. The experience turned Dexter into Freakazoid, a manic but enthusiastic superhero. Freakazoid is always out for a good time but, like Bugs Bunny, he often has to take care of villains just to get back to the fun. Freakazoid was also the defender of Washington, DC which is close enough to my hometown for me to get a little excited. This show had the same humor as The Animaniacs (more on that later) with low humor blended with high humor. Freakazoid was impossible not to root for too.


9. Mega Man

I was an early adopter when it came to video games even though I have always been kind of in the middle of the pack when it comes to skill. Still, I have always loved the aesthetics that video game developers come up with. Even a lot of the worst games at least look interesting. When I was young, I immediately glommed onto Mega Man 2. It was an incredibly difficult game but I loved the franchise’s idea of having elemental-themed enemies with a high degree of character. The show combines the concepts from the video games with anime. Rock is a robot who gets redesigned for battle and uses an energy blaster to fight evil robots. He also had an onboard computer feature that could copy his enemy’s abilities when he touched them which was similar enough to the games. I just remember Mega Man being so cool and confident and I liked the idea of not being stuck with one power but being able to use your enemies’ powers against them. The cartoon was short lived but it included a lot of stuff from the franchise and Mega Man eventually teamed up with his future counterpart Mega Man X as well. What kid didn’t want to be a robot with a robot dog?


8. Xena: Warrior Princess

Before I discovered the Evil Dead franchise, I discovered something else that Sam Raimi and his gang produced. That something was Hercules: The Legendary Journeys but, while it was a good show, Hercules was kind of a bland show compared to its spinoff. Xena was supposed to be a one-off character on Hercules, a brutal female villain for Hercules to contend with. At the end of her turn on Hercules, the audiences loved her so the decision was made for her to reform and to start her own legendary journey to right wrongs. Basically, she was fighting the patriarchy before most people were even using that term. She was also one of the first lesbian characters on television and even gawky preteen me understood that subtext. Xena was a total badass and she never met a situation she couldn’t fight, intimidate, or trick her way out of. She was also funny in the same way that Batman was funny which is funny without trying to be. She also fought a lot of the mythology that I had fallen in love with after reading The Oddysey, The Iliad, and other Greek/Roman tales. She also is one of three characters to get stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque scenario that ended up funny and interesting. (The other two are Sam Winchester and Phil Connors himself, of course). I also often have a soft spot for tough people who secretly have a heart of gold.


7. The Blue Ranger (Billy Cranston)

Power Rangers was a show that I was a huge fan of. I had no idea at all that it was edited from footage from a similar Japanese show. However, Saban was able to turn that into an unstoppable franchise that became its own animal. For me, Power Rangers was something I watched before leaving for school at one point. I remember being really interested in the idea of normal teenage kids becoming superheroes. It also scratched the same itch that magical girl shows would later also scratch. Billy, in particular, was my favorite because he had abilities beyond being a Power Ranger. He was yet another example of blue characters being the smart ones. He was an inventor who came up with a lot of the extra gadgets the original Rangers used and a lot of those gadgets continued into later series. He was also the awkward one, a little insecure about being among other people. When it came to actual Power Ranger powers, he was on par with everybody else. Episodes focusing on him often dealt with more real issues like rescuing a new girlfriend, phobias, or science.


6. Gambit (Remy Lebeau)

When I was a kid, I hated the Boy Scouts of America. I was briefly part of the Indian Guides (now thankfully called Y-Guides) and the Scouts were our rivals. Even today, I do not put much faith in the organization. But when I was a kid, I was kind of averse to “boy scout” characters like Superman and especially Cyclops. I much preferred to see more subversive characters like Wolverine, Rogue, and especially Gambit. Gambit was a thief from New Orleans who had the mutant power to replace an object’s kinetic energy with explosive energy. Anything he touched basically turned into a grenade. He did not wear a team uniform and instead wore a custom costume with a big trench coat. This was at a time when I was very tired of wearing uniforms for sports. While Gambit did not get nearly enough time on the animated series during the nineties, they meted out just enough of him to keep people wanting more. On top of that, I always wished I had his confidence growing up.


5. Darkwing Duck

This was officially my first experience with the combination of Disney and superheroes which would end up often being a very satisfying combination. Drake Mallard is a duck living in the DuckTales universe and he dresses up and fights crime as Darkwing Duck. He is basically Batman, James Bond, and The Green Hornet combined into one hero. He is a serious hero but the show was both a serious superhero show and a parody superhero show. The character of Darkwing Duck is a superhero who fell in love with being a detective and fighting crime. However, he also had a huge ego and tended to be rather clumsy at times. He often only saved the day when he managed to get serious and get out of his own way. He fought alongside Disney-fied versions of popular superheroes and fought Disney-fied versions of popular comic book villains and James Bond-esque villains. Unlike annoying heroes like Inspector Gadget, the humor did not come from him being incompetent but from Darkwing’s quips and physical humor. The character was also a good father to a little girl he had adopted who often helped to fight crime along with DW and his sidekick Launchpad (from DuckTales). As the show continued, Darkwing’s history was added to and there was a lot of great world-building.


4. Yakko Warner

The Animaniacs was a cartoon variety show that focused on a whole cast of zany Warner Brothers style characters updated for the nineties. The main focus of the show was the Warner Brothers and their sister Dot. They were cartoons deemed too zany and disruptive and were sealed in the water tower on the Warner Brothers lot. At the beginning of the series, they finally made their escape and the studio spent the entire series trying to acclimate them to polite society with no success. The kids were not evil, though. They were rambunctious and sarcastic but, like Bugs Bunny, they really only caused malicious chaos when somebody crossed the line and upset them. Their revenge was out of proportion but justified. Out of the three, Yakko Warner was my favorite. His form of comedy was mostly wordplay. He employed puns, sarcasm, and just good old-fashioned tricks with words. He was basically a cartoon form of Groucho Marx. He always seemed to be the smartest guy in the room and he leveraged that to make mean or rude people pay for their behavior. He also sang quite a few of the show’s most memorable songs including the highly educational Yakko’s World and Yakko’s Universe. Like Groucho, he usually ended up as the leader of his siblings and their spokesman. Inside my head, the words always flowed like Yakko but outside, especially as a kid, I was never as glib.


3. Sailor Mercury (Ami)

When I was sitting on my bed, watching episodes of Sailor Moon from Cartoon Network’s line up, I always loved Sailor Mercury the most. She never had the coolest power but in retrospect, her abilities usually gave the Scouts a tactical advantage such as fog or freezing the enemy. I mean, Sailor Jupiter obviously had the coolest powers. However, Ami was present from the fifth episode and it is a good thing that she was. She is by far the smartest of all of the Scouts and was the only Scout to be granted a magical supercomputer. There is only one episode of the original anime when she pulls out her Mercury Goggles which was basically a VR overlay visor for scanning things. That blew my mind because the combination of technology and magic was amazing. I identified with Ami because she was the “smart one” and my teachers kept claiming I was intelligent. I was also interested in the emerging technology of computers just as Ami was. Also, I was probably drawn to Ami because she was the shy and timid one and that was how I felt as well.


2. Spider-Man

In the middle of the decade, Marvel finally got its crap together and started to put out really good animation. Spider-Man is a character who I have always loved. His origins are as a nerdy and shy high schooler who got to magically transform into a superhero after being bitten by a radioactive spider. As a kid, I dreamed of finding my own radioactive spider (figuratively, of course). He also got to work for a newspaper in a sort of creative job all while studying cool science in college. That cool science enhanced his gear with gadgets but his main deal was his brain, his strength, and his speed. The cartoon in the 90s was great. It really captured a lot of what I loved about reading Spider-Man comics and it included pretty much his entire rogue’s gallery. They really captured both Peter’s internal monologue and the quips that Spider-man uses to disarm his foes mid-battle. The show also explored a lot of the angst that a young superhero felt while also trying to juggle a career, school, and a girlfriend. The show and the comics made me feel at the time that I could be Spider-Man which is one of the main strengths of the character. Anybody can be under that mask as long as they have radioactive spider blood too.


1. Batman

When I was a little kid, reruns of the 1966 Batman show came on and, while I enjoyed it, I never really engaged with it. It was better than I Dream of Jeannie reruns because it had superheroes even though Adam West was never really super. My relationship with Batman drastically improved when Bruce Timm and Warner Brothers released Batman: The Animated Series. B:TAS was everything that I wanted Batman to be and it became the bar by which I measured future Batman stories. The Animated Series was an amazing mix of both light and dark. I welcomed the darkness which was so sorely lacking from the campy Adam West series. I realized that Adam West was never really Batman. This was Batman. Kevin Conroy’s strong voice matched the shadowy, adventurous character on screen. His voice could be scary, brave, warm, vulnerable, and even funny at times without losing the character of Batman. The writing made it clear that Batman was not perfect but he lived in a world that believed he was. He put the weight of the world on his shoulders and then still saved the day the best way he knew how.

The Cure For What Ailed Me Pt. 3

May 22, 2017

When we last left off, I had finally received a confirmed diagnosis of Double Aortic Arch. To this day, doctors still do not know exactly what causes the condition but they think it may be genetic. Whatever caused it, I was born with a congenital heart defect. This was an amazing find because it is a very rare defect. It was also an amazing find because, like Cystic Fibrosis, it usually kills babies fairly quickly after birth. I was born with it but I survived over ten years without it being detected. I am so lucky that I did not die. I could have easily keeled over and they would have diagnosed me in an autopsy. The thought both makes me feel good and it also terrifies me.

Wow, that was dark. Let me remind you that this has a happy ending and I am not a ghost.

The doctors told my mom that not only did things look bad but with each passing day, they were getting worse. My body was slowly strangling me from the inside and there was no chance of it healing on its own. Medical intervention was absolutely necessary and that means that I had to go into surgery and soon. My mother, knowing that Halloween is my favorite holiday, asked if the surgery could wait. The doctors told her in no uncertain terms that the surgery could not wait. They told her why. One night, my parents sat me down at the dinner table that I had grown to dread. They told me what was wrong with me and they told me that I had to go into surgery.


I would be going as a sick kid for Halloween.

I sobbed and begged for it not to be true. I remember being on my mother’s lap, my heart seized with fear like never before or since. I cried and cried but tears do not change reality. They told me that if I did not have the surgery I would lose the ability to walk and then I would die. I had to be in surgery soon and I had to learn to accept that. I told my friends and my mother told the school and they were all behind me. I wish I could say that this made anything better. I remember going into the hospital for a consultation with the surgeon. He sat me down and drew simple little pictures and told me what he was going in to do. He was kind and although it did not make me any less scared, I know I appreciated at least knowing what was happening. Knowing is almost always better.


Nothing funny here. This was the inspiration for my character Lennon Clarke.

The day of the surgery came in almost no time at all. The night before, I was given the usual order to not eat or drink anything. This had to be enforced by my folks because I get cranky when I do not eat. As a concession to my young age, they allowed me to drink apple juice but only a little bit to keep my blood sugar up. They brought me into the hospital. Having been briefed on my fear of needles, they numbed my arms before they injected me. At some point, a troll doll from the school store was put into my hands and I clutched it tightly. As the drugs started to take effect, I cursed at whoever would listen and I told them that my parents were lawyers and they better take good care of me. They pumped enough drugs in me to put down a horse. I started singing the Animaniacs theme on loop and then I blacked out.


I was quickly getting zany to the max…

It was hours later when I awoke in the Intensive Care Unit. I was still alive. Not only that, but I was told that the operation was successful. I was in pain but happy that the scariest event of my life was all over except for the healing. As a reward, I got to watch Disney’s Aladdin on heavy drugs. It remains one of my favorite films to this day. I do not remember much else from the ICU except for fading in and out of consciousness and the occasional sponge bath. They had deflated one of my lungs to get at my heart and there would be a lot of healing. Eventually, they decided that I was out of danger and moved me up to a room to recuperate. Once there, I became a more difficult patient.


I had my own fight going on so I felt for Link.

I happily ate applesauce and watched television. However, it took me a while to kind of learn how to go to the bathroom again. I insisted I could do it and I would struggle my way to the bathroom and then nada. I was stuck with a catheter for a while. As they decreased the drugs they gave me, I hurt more but hurting is part of healing. While in the hospital, I got the entire set of Aliens action figures including the Alien Queen. There was a hospital visit from Captain Planet and I got Wheeler’s fire ring and also Linka’s wind ring. When I got a little better, I would make the long and painful journey to the game room to play Legend of Zelda on the NES. I never had enough time to get anywhere in the game but controlling Link made me happy.

Stay tuned next week for part 4 which will probably be the epilogue!


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