Friday, 28 December 2012

The Greatest Cartoon Rivalries Of All Time

Every cartoon has good guys and bad guys. Some bad guys wanted to cut down trees (Cyril Sneer) and others wanted to dress up as ghosts and make women sell their theatre (every Scooby Doo villain).

But to make this list the villains had to demand nothing less than the death of their rival. After all, torture, intimidation and murder are some of the worst things in the world, so why not make them the basis for stories aimed at six year olds?

Tom / Jerry

The quintessential battle. Tom and Jerry were cute characters that loved to inflict mind blowing violence on each other.

Tom wanted to eat Jerry and Jerry didn't want to be eaten. Rather than move out of the house (therefore escaping constant harrasment and a racially unacceptable maid) Jerry opted to set constant traps which usually resulted in Tom having his brain sliced out.

Quite a few times. The episodes Tom won in had some very important lessons for kids. In Million Dollar Cat he gives up a million bucks to beat Jerry to death. Not 'light' enough for you? Well then check out Blue Cat Blues where the pair commit joint suicide. I'm not even joking.

Dungeon Master / Venger

In the 80's, cartoons didn't demand much in the way of plot substantiation. Dungeons & Dragons just took this to a whole new may remember the interesting take on exposition they had: none. Things just happened in an episode and you either got on board or fucked off. The only constant in this show was a devil man called Venger that hated the hero kids and a weird old dwarf called Dungeon Master who chose to help the children through watching them, smiling.

As one of the rules of old cartoons was that everyone had to finally be revealed to be each other’s fathers or brothers, Dungeon Master turns out to be Venger's Dad. How that little goblin managed to procreate is beyond me. Maybe he met Debbie McGee – she famously has a penchant for balding wizard gnomes.
Anyway, Venger hated his dad. In a couple of episodes he also bellowed something about wanting the children's totems to make him more powerful, but this was possibly just the shows typist accidentally transcribing something the writer happened to be screaming out of the window.

Quite the opposite. Famously (among intelligent cultural historians) there is a lost episode called REQUIEM. In it, Venger gets transformed back into his original noble self, before he looked wicked (both meanings). It was never broadcast or even animated, but it ends with the kids being given the choice of whether to go back to the theme park or stay in the D&D realm and fight monsters forever. Even in the script, we never get to know what they decided, but based on everything I know about the writers of this series I imagine the answer was "MushroomCrocodileJesus THERE ARE SPIDERS IN MY EYES!!!!!"

 He-Man / Skeletor

When I was young my parents decided to go back to work early. I guess making sure a baby felt loved just never seemed like a big deal to them. Due to the fact that I'd cry every time they left me at the baby sitters' house, they started bringing me Masters Of The Universe figures to hold onto my affections. What they didn't count on was me starting to secretly love the figures more than them.
Something about this show just captured my imagination. Maybe it was the barbarian/futuristic fusion. Maybe it was that the amount of flashing in the intro sequence invented epilepsy. But probably it was because the main villain was a blue wrestler with webbed feet and a cackling skull for a head.

This one is a bit confusing. Skeletor never actually seems to want anything. He has no real goals and never makes actual plans; as far as I can tell he just fucking loves pissing people off.

No way in hell. This show didn’t even need He-Man for Skeletor to fail. His plans made ZERO SENSE. In one episode (The Shaping Staff), he creates a clone of He-Man. It's identical in every way, except it has glowing eyes, a different voice and it’s fucking blue. Skeletors plans have all the strategic acumen of opening a dogfood shop in Cat Village.  

 Wile. E Coyote / Road Runner

I hate this cartoon. I really hate it. I don't understand how any of it works or what logic it functions on. Wile draws a tunnel on a rock. Roadrunner runs through the tunnel that doesn't exist. Wile tries to run after him and smashes into the rock. What?
And what is the Roadrunner anyway apart from a running blue pile of horse shit?

Wile E Coyote was hungry and wanted to eat the Road Runner. But in half the episodes he just wills costumes, weapons and entire buildings into existence…why not a ham sandwich?

In a way. In Spring is Busting Out All Over the Coyote does actually catch the Roadrunner but due to some nonsense he's the size of an insect. He holds up a sign saying "OK wiseguys, you've always wanted me to catch what do I do?"
How about stop wasting my fucking time?

 Jaga / Grune

Thundercats combined some of the best characters ever made with the gayest costumes outside of Tom Cruise’s secret wardrobe. Every element of this show was high art; I like the theme tune better than anything that’s been in the charts in the last 15 years.
The most clashes took part between Liono and Mumm-Ra, but the most epic ones took part between Liono’s mentor, Jaga and his long dead arch rival, Grune.

On Thundera, Grune was a military commander. As he was awesome he found peace boring and wanted more wars. 
Jaga the wise thought that was a great idea, except for all of it, and beat him senseless.
Years later on third earth, Mumm-Ra resurects Grune leads to another battle between him and Jaga…AS GIANT GHOSTS! 
During the part where Liono offers up his own strength, allowing Jaga to rain blows down on Grune's snaggle-toothed head, I remember both crying and laughing at the same time: It was the most wonderful thing I'd ever seen, but I also knew that life had already peaked.
They also fought twice more but I’m too drained to write about them now.

Although Thundercats was radulous it was still made during an era when cartoons needed to have a moral appended to them, meaning that evil could never be allowed to win. The problem was that it was a show about anthropomorphic cat warriors so frames of reference for morals tended to be confusing. 
Take this episode; after saving the world, Jaga turns to Liono and says “Better an honest enemy than a false friend” and disappears. Cheers Jaga.

 Splinter / Shredder

One of the best things to do in the 90s (if you weren't old enough to ruin your mind through recreational drugs) was Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. Symbolising order and tranquility was Master Splinter. Symbolising chaos and friggin' awesome costumes was The Shredder. This may seem like a far out concept to us, but in Japanese culture almost every argument ends with a battle between a ninja in a metal helmet and a giant karate-rat. That's actually how they decide laws.

Hamato Yoshi was a martial art instructor for the Foot Clan, based in Japan. One day he was framed by his rival, Oroku Saki for murdering their master. He moved away to New York City, where he lived as a hermit in its sewers. Later, he found four turtles lying in a pile of pink slime and did what all of us would do; plunged his hands into it, probably laughing his head off. They became the turtles and he became Splinter.
The rest of the story is much more formulaic: Oroku Saki follows him to New York, becomes The Shredder and starts hanging out with an inter-dimensional brain in a robot suit. 

Sort of. I mean, The Shredder gets beaten every single episode. But Splinter is still a stinking rat that lives in the sewer.

Bugs Bunny / Elmer Fudd

Let's start with a fact; Elmer Fudd was trying to kill Bugs Bunny. He was trying to shoot him to death with a gun. Having fun yet kids?

Because Bugs Bunny was a fucking annoying bastard. In their first few encounters Elmer started the episode sitting at home, then Bugs would turn up and make his house fall down. After a few cartoons it was decided that having the protagonist of the piece hound another character was not a good message, and so it became that Elmer was a hunter and bugs would retaliate. Unfortunately the creators of this show were morally schizophrenic meaning that throwing throwing your enemy off a cliff, crushing their balls in bear traps and dressing in drag to sexually confuse them became normalised in a generation of children's minds.

Three times. Hare Brush (Bugs goes to Alcatraz), Rabbit Rampage (Bugs tormented by an off screen animator that turns out to be Fudd) and What's Opera Doc (Bugs Dead).

Optimus Prime / Megatron

Transformers was a brilliant cartoon, great toys and culminated in an animated 80's film with an all star cast.
After Transformers: The Animated Movie came out it was widely believed that nothing could possibly spoil the franchise. "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED" screamed God and Michael Bay appeared in a glowing crater in the middle of the desert.

It's a long and detailed tale with over twenty years of retcons, multimedia fiction and international storytelling. The short version is that one is a good robot and one is a bad robot.

In the biggest way possible. The start of the 80's movie has Prime arriving at the scene of devastation and smouldering autobots, grimly stating: ‘Megatron must be stopped, no matter what the cost’ and launching into one of the most epic battle scenes in animated history, which climaxed in the death of two of the most iconic characters ever. The creators of the film have stated that they wanted to try something new, to treat kids like adults and show character mortality. Definitely a superb idea; after all, if there's one thing kids are great at, it's taking the news that their favourite person is dead.

Of course it was a disaster that brought scores of complaints from parent; how DARE the film upset their children by showing consequence of action?! It's much safer to show somebody get their ears cut off with sheers and have them grow back by the next scene.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Real Life Super Hero Top trumps

At around the age of ten I stopped pouring battery acid on spiders and forcing them to bite me, as I realised that except for Bruce Lee's secret crime-solving ghost, super heroes don't actually exist.

But...THEY DO.

Imagine my sheer joy when costumed crime fighters started appearing around the world. It was finally happening! Others didn't seem as excited and I'll agree that in most cases it was an unusual choice to go down the route of having no riches, powers, secret identities or abdominal muscles. But it didn't matter to me then and it doesn't now. As long as there are people dressing up like maniacs and 'fighting crime', the world I live in is a step closer to being the world I want to live in.

Obviously, this phenomenon will come to a grinding halt as soon as someone is beaten to death, but for now let's both enjoy it.

As an introduction to anyone that doesn't read important news, I thought I'd run down a couple of the main players on the 'Real Superhero' scene and feed them into my top trumps generator. The results were interesting, not least as I had no idea that machinery could commit suicide.

I've provided the top trumps in a 'cut out and keep' form, so Christmas presents can be a no-brainer this year.

Phoenix Jones

Phoenix Jones was the first Real Life Superhero to hit the news and still remains one of the best. He has an awesome costume, is a real-life cage fighter, and is not afraid to pepper spray arguing strangers in the eyes. Also, there's a video of him kicking the crap out of an aggressive drunk while cops watch and (don't) high five.

He loses points for revealing his identity so early on, but retains a few bonus points for actually having a believable superhero alter-ego.

Phoenix scores high in the sidekick desirability factor (whether or not I want to be his sidekick), but gets an average score for a name that could feasibly be a detective in a novel about sexual vampires.

His suit cost ten grand and absolutely looks the part but...accenting body armour with trainers?! The police might be big fans...but the FASHION POLICE SURE AREN'T! OH ZING PHOENIX!

The Statesman:

One of the first in Britain, The Statesman was a banker who decided to 'give something back to the people'. This came in the form of exterminating crime in Birmingham, a task just slightly less achievable than teaching your stomach to digest gravel.

After The Statesman's identity was revealed, his girlfriend confessed to having suspicions, due to 'odd items of clothing'. If my girlfriend found pieces of body-shaped latex lying around I'd have just pretended I was in a sex club with her sister (possibly the only time when this is less awkward than the truth).

His costume is good, though he loses points for instantly revealing his identity, having the name of a boring newspaper and for doing interviews sat next to his mum.

Knight Warrior and Knight Maiden

The snaggle-toothed Knight Warrior's costume was bought for him by his mum and his face was bought for him by a wholly inadequate hygiene regime. However in defiance of all natural rules, Knight Warrior attracted a mate.

This pleases me, though I admit to being jealous of them  My girlfriend is incredibly understanding, but that's partly as she has no idea about the extent of my illness. She's pretty convinced that my comic collection is limited to three boxes. If she ever decides to investigate why our mattress feels like four thousand compressed issues of Spider-man I'm FUCKED.


Thanatos takes an immediate nosedive in points for his costume. For a start he's wearing a Watchmen badge and a Batman belt. That's the super hero equivalent of wearing socks with sandals! Also he's 66. That's the Superhero equivalent of being 66.

He has kept his identity secret so gains points, but nobody really gives a crap so he loses most of them again.

Basically what we have in Thanatos is a creepy old man that hides is identity and feels most comfortable 'amongst the dead'. Check Savilles grave. CHECK. SAVILLES. GRAVE.

Phantom Zero

According to his official biography 'while others focus on the end result, Phantom Zero is more interested in the journey.' The other thing Phantom Zero is more interested in is sprinkling bacon on his donuts.

I'm not saying that keeping in shape is a must, but it's probably not a good sign when rockets can't take off anymore due to your gravitational pull. While phoenix Jones was treating a copy of Punisher as his instruction booklet, Phantom zero accidentally picked up a Waffle House menu.

In terms of career successes, Phantom Zero says 'Trying my hardest to keep my promises to people who have trusted me. '
Hmm. OK I'll admit that I want my superheroes to be less 'mentoring upset girls' and more 'throwing a robot lizard into the sun', but I guess it's a start. In terms of being a lovely chap, Phantom Zero is the top trump. Sadly the top trump generator never made a 'being a nice man' category, mainly because it likes to focus on things people give a shit about.

Phantom Zero has kept his identity pretty safely under wraps, so he gets points for that. But if you ever go to New Jersey, hear a police siren and then see a three hundred kilogram man bolt into a public urinal and start to panic-apply makeup then you've probably cracked the code.


“Like the night, I cannot be proven or disproven to certain degrees; and also much like the night, when morning comes, there will be no trace of me.”

Although Nyx sets out to prove that women shouldn't be allowed to be superheros by coming out with this kind of nonsense, she is attractive.

Nyx worries about her female counterparts not being take seriously in the Super Hero community: “We can do just as good a job,” she points out, “so it’s important to be viewed as a person, not just some chick.”
I'd find it easier to take her comments to heart if the top half of her costume couldn't best be described as 'a tit window'.

She scores highly for costume and keeping her identity a secret, but she loses points for talking about herself the whole time. I mean, I do that, but at least I have the good manners to be frigging hilarious.

The Shadow:

A genuine contender. When others on this list were putting an emphasis on having the best eyeliner, The Shadow was taking the time to powerlift and silently seeth.
A man who describes a childhood of bullying and misunderstandings has grown up to dress in an armoured ninja outfit and own semi-legal weapons. This just screams Batman at me.

Then there was the testimony of a witness about the shadow seeing a Scottish man breaking into a car and 'headbutting him to the ground'. This just screams First Murder on YouTube at me.

The Shadow's main downfall is his family life. By all accounts he appears to have a very nice wife and two children. This is against the rules. You can be a happy brightly-coloured superhero and have a nice wife, sure. You absolutely cannot be a post 1990's gritty-reboot superhero without your family being wiped out. However, there is still time for a horrific series of events to set this man on a path to becoming my greatest hero.

The Shadow is the top trump. Partly because he ticks the most boxes, and partly because if he ever learns to read and sees this I'm worried he'll perceive me as a nemesis.


There are literally bajillions of Real Life Superheroes out there and choosing which to review was a complex process with many criteria, the most important being whether or not they had a full body picture on Google images.

I thought I'd quickly run down a couple of my other favourites for you in case you wanted to further study their teachings.

Torquay's premier superhero, The Dark Spartan boasts one of the best costumes. Unfortunately he also boasts being a bit prone to mental breakdowns. Still, seems like a nice chap.

There are so many of these guys names with black in them. Black Void, The Black, Black Stranger, Black Noir (this means 'Black Black' for blacks sake...).
Black void makes the list for, in his first ever interview, instantly admitting he has Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

It takes balls to name yourself after a dildo. Welcome aboard, kid.