Friday, July 25, 2014

Best Cartoon Ever (of the Month) - Swamp Thing by Kalan

Picture it friends – it's the early 1990s, deep in the swamps of the New Orleans bayou. There you are, just a scientist mixing some liquids - just discovering some stuff about some things - when all of a sudden, in strolls this evil villain with a few of his cohorts. He starts muckin' up the place and as they're all escaping, your experiments explode! What would you do!?! Hop into the chemical shower you should have had in your lab? NO, that's too busy being exploded. Your only option now is to dive into the swamps so conveniently located near the exit of your lab! Luckily for you, since you're covered in chemical burns, that swamp mud is especially rich and fortified with slime and ooze! Right about now, you're all reinforced with swampy goodness and you rise from the swamp renewed! You realize you've got all these fucking awesome mutant-y plant powers so, what the hell, why not be the next big thing that fights off evil mutant villains who are hell-bent on immortality and deforestation?
By now (hopefully) you've caught on that this month's Best Cartoon Ever (of the Month) is Dic's Swamp Thing. Based on the DC comic series, this cartoon made its pilot debut is 1990, the other 4 episodes aired in the spring of 1991. To say that this show was short-lived is possibly the understatement of the century. Only 5 episodes total, but they're each a gem of animation. Swamp Thing aired on Fox Kids after being rejected by CBS. The series was released on DVD but it is currently out of print. If you happen upon a copy of it, definitely acquire it, you'll thank me.
Much like Captain Planet and other contemporaries, the main focus of this show was environmental preservation. What with Swamp Thing being made of plants, why wouldn't he have a vested interest in the health of the planet, right? Just makes sense. It's not overly-preachy though and to be quite honest, I miss seeing environmental messages in cartoons. I shake my fist at recent cartoons....downfall of future generations... good old days... grumble, grumble, grumble... you get the idea.
Our hero this month, Swamp Thing (voiced by the amazing Len Carlson) is joined by his Native American friend, Tomahawk (Harvey Atkin) and Vietnam veteran buddy Bayou Jack (Phillip Akin), as well as two rather annoying children, JT and Delbert. This merry band of do-gooders traipse about the New Orleans swamps - and the South American rainforest in one episode – keeping evil at bay. There isn't much of a storyline with any of the characters, though we do get a nice little segment on Swamp Thing's creation, which more closely follows the original creation of the character.

Anton Arcane and a Transduced Dr. Deemo, Skin Man, and Weedkiller

Yet again, I'm more enthralled by the bad guys of this series than the good guys. Evil rears its head as the magnificent Anton Arcane (Don Francks) in this series. He and his Un-Men - Skin Man, Weedkiller and Dr. Deemo - are after Swampy's secret of immortality (which is basically the first paragraph of this review) and they'll stop at nothing to get it! One venture takes him to the rainforest in search of a type of tree that never dies. Wherein, he basically starts cutting down every tree in the rainforest until he finds it. In another attempt to fend of the impending doom of aging, Arcane desecrates an ancient Native American holy ground with a fountain of youth. Unfortunately, one must drink from it every day in order to maintain one's youth. If he'd have just listened to the guy guarding the fountain, he'd have known to at least grab a water bottle or something and again, his plans are foiled.


Mutation is the key to this series. Primarily, Swamp Thing, then Arcane's Un-Men (a bat man, a snake man and a Centipede creature) and Arcane himself (spider creature). At one point Bayou Jack is transformed into a Mantis. Interestingly enough, only Swamp Thing's mutation is permanent. Arcane and his troop are only temporarily transduced. Another aspect of Arcane's pursuit of Swamp Thing – apparently he has all the right mutation-retention juices flowing through his vines (haha).
I'd LOVE to find some of the toys and play sets from this show, I can't remember if Phantom has some or not, but they're definitely on my “if I ever find them and am not completely broke I'm going to buy them” list. This show was another one of those 30-minute toy commercials and those seem to always be my favorites. The toy line was released by Kenner Products and they just look awesome. Eyes glowed in the dark, transformation accessories, bitchin' vehicles, the works! I'd also love to happen upon the Battle for the Bayou board game, cause it just looks incredible.
The theme song for this show is beyond a rockin' jam. An awesomely modified version of “Wild Thing”, it is 1990s widdly-wah guitar goodness. Like many shows of the early 90s, instrumental versions of the theme are played during the episode at different tempos. I absolutely love when shows do this (but no show did it better than X-Men).
The best part of this show though has got to be all the sciencey unwords Arcane uses. His Un-Men are mutated by some Geno-Fluid and this wonderful machine called a Transducer. In the third episode - “Falling Red Star” - (my favorite episode of the series and possibly my favorite segment that has ever been animated - ever) preceded by what we'll call an “acceptable” evil laugh, the Transducer becomes nuclearized. If I had this series on VHS, that particular part would be worn out from how many times I've watched it. I've frequently turned on this episode when I have visitors, then sat and stared at them with an unsettling smile on my face until this part came on, saying “Just wait. Don't worry, it's..... just perfect.” I've also recorded this segment when watching the show by myself and shared it with anyone I could imagine would appreciate it, complete with my uncontrollable chuckles.

As I mentioned, this show might be difficult to obtain physically, but there are copies of it floating around on the internet. It's probably on YouTube, but I don't know for sure. Since it's featured as Best Cartoon Ever (of the Month) I obviously highly recommend it.

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