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Come and Take a Trip on the Comic Strip
posted by B on 2/28/01


Before you read this, make SURE you check out WD's newest addition, Mel. His post, Sociopath, is pretty much the best thing we're ever going to produce. He's a great guy and a great writer, let's give him a big welcome and a hug. Then when we've used him to get hits we'll fire him. I mean, wait, no! Haha, remember GI Joe? On with the post.


The "variety show" is a bad idea to begin with, but making "variety shows" for children is a crime against humanity. Either we're sitting through the "Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbara" with it's "Flintstone Kids" sacrilege, or we're forced to watch the Brady Bunch swing their 70's jew-fros around like wrecking balls, crashing through the previously sturdy walls of entertainment and good taste. Far be it from me to judge what is and is not "funtastic," but waking up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning and finding bastardized Richie Rich cartoon on your television is not my idea of "funtastic." OMG HE IS SO RICH IT IS ENTERTAINING OR SOME JUNK.

That's why I'm skeptical of children's variety shows, or, more specifically, cartoon shows that cannot exist on the power of a single idea, and therefore must package several half-assed ideas together. Just like the Super Mario Brothers Power Hour, where you had to wait until Friday to see "Legend of Zelda."

If 1987 gave us nothing else, it gave us the exception to this idealism, a cartoon variety show that, though high in crap and completely mindless, could satiate our desire for television that breaks boundaries in bizarre. Though the show only lasted one season and was quickly washed from our minds by a sea of Ninja Turtles, it's strong characters, to THIS VERY DAY, stand out as complete and shameless rip-offs that warm our hearts and send us into the Gadzooks looking for nostalgic T-shirts.


"C-O-M-I-C....S-T-R-I-P, Come and take a trip on the comic strip."

The show was "The Comic Strip," a compilation tape of nonsense created by proven hacks Rankin-Bass, famed creators of "Silverhawks" and "Thundercats," a show that only poser children of the 80's claim to enjoy. Seriously, watching an episode of "Thundercats" is like slowly scraping away at your eyeballs with an orange peeler. "He-Man" wore a pair of furry underoos when he fought evil, and that's about as much inappropriate fur I can handle on children's television.

The show was an hour long and consisted of four money cartoons: "Tigersharks," "Karate Kat," "Street Frogs," and "The Mini-Monsters." It's the only show I can think of that fewer people remember than "Noozles." Except for maybe "Free Spirit," that sitcom about a witch named Wendy who became a housekeeper, but I digress.



Tigersharks

Rankin and Bass decided that the most creative thing they could do to headline their new show would be to completely rip themselves the fuck off and create "Tigersharks," which was just "Thundercats" for people with obsessively religious parents that found "Thundercats" a little too pro-bestiality for their tastes. After all, only Troy McClure and people who piss of gangsters sleep with the fishes.

The story revolved around a team of do-gooders who's big thing is that they could jump in a fish tank and turn themselves into men-fish. It's like taking the uselessness of Aquaman and tacking on the fact that they had to be in a big fish tank to make their powers work. Thankfully, most of the bad stuff that happened to the Tigersharks happened in the water. SHEW that was a close one.

When something bad happens, the Tigersharks flop around on the ground trying to breathe (ha ha) right into the "SARK," a big spaceship shaped like a manta ray, which is why it's not called the "SHARK," because that would just be too God damned ridiculous. The SARK can become a spacecruiser, submarine, above-water ship, plane, sushi bar, topless aerobic studio, time-travelling telephone booth, or just a place for the Tigersharks to chill and smoke sea-weed.

The Tigersharks protect the cleverly named planet of "Water-O" (which means "water" in Spanish) from the DASTARDLY FORCES of Captain Bizzarly and his minions, who were all pretty inconsequential. Unlike Captain Bizzarly, though, who was a CAPTAIN, so you know he means business. His big deal is that he wanted to enslave the people of Water-O (in the Planets-O galaxy) and make them all stand around in a fish tank or something. I don't really remember the details.



Karate Kat

Did Hong Kong Phooey give you sweat-soaked nightmares with it's mature themes and violence? Then "Karate Kat" is the "The Comic Strip" show for you. From the first lines of it's theme song ("I'm lean... I'm mean.... a karate machine") to Karate Kat's battle cry ("keeeeeee-yow!"), you just knew something really queer and unexciting was going to happen. Plus, Karate Kat looks like Michael J. Fox stumbled into another half-assed Teen Wolf sequel.



An employee of the McClaw detective agency, Karate Kat considered himself an expert in martial arts, but, much like Corky Thatcher before him, was completely inept. And he pooped his pants a lot and forgot his toothbrush on his honeymoon. Haha, just kidding. Luckily, he had an assortment of coworkers to help him out, including weapons expert Katmandu, slowwitted Cat Gut, and his sister Becca, who would've been hot if she wasn't so dorky.

His boss was “Big Mama” Katie McClaw, the ex-wife of the town's main gangster the only animated cat lesbian that comes to mind. Karate Kat also worked closely with colleague Meow Baby, who was completely blind to the fact that her name was an onomatopoeia and a sexual condescension. Karate Kat did NOT, however, work with Hector, Riff Raff, Steve "Mongo" McMichael, or Wordsworth, that fucking cat who talked in beat poetry. Heathcliff should've just slit their throats and ended it right there in the junkyard.

Whenever "Karate Kat's" theme started to open "The Comic Strip" I fondly remember going "gaaah" and changing the channel. I think I probably enjoyed watching that homo "Kissyfur" show more than "Karate Kat." Cat's can't even DO karate, DUH!



The Mini-Monsters

"The Mini-Monsters," better known to my grey matter as "Camp Mini-Mon," featured what I assume to be a summer camp where the Universal Monsters send their troubled or homosexual kids. The camp is run by a giant head that lives in the woods or something, from what I can remember...nobody has ever seen it, but they obey the camp's rules. Except for Budnick, he has to be a big dick about it just because he's got a red haired mullet.

Dracky (son of Dracula), Wolfie (son of Wolfman), Mumm-O (the guy from Thundercats), Blank-O (the green guy from Street Fighter), and Franklin (son of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman) were gentle offspring of their hideous parents. While away at Camp Mini-Mon for the summer, the young horrors befriended two human children, Sherman and Melissa, who delighted in showing the miniature monstrosities the wonders of their “normal” world, like folk singer Jewel's breasts or the movie "Roadhouse." Franklin liked Patrick Swayze's performance, but Dracky felt that it was a little too gratuitous.

The kids always end up going on "adventures," where one of the mini-monsters does something stupid or wacky and the rest get crapped on for it. For instance, one episode involves the entire cast of the show switching genders...you know how I found that out? Because doing a 'net search for "Mini Monsters" lead me to a gay and lesbian site about gender transfusion in popular culture. At least this children's show was good for the boys who played with Barbie, and the girls who played with Barbie's crotch.

"The Mini-Monsters" was actually one of the better "The Comic Strip" cartoons, because it didn't involve fish super-heroes. There were lots of moments of sexual tension between the characters, especially Melvin and Jinx, and shocking moments, like when Blank-O the invisible kid sneaks into that model's apartment and fondles her boobs. Great special effects.



The Street Frogs

"Who can do Hip-hop better than a frog can...?" Nobody, motherfucker.

Ah, the beloved "The Street Frogs," the most infrequently seen portion of "The Comic Strip," possibly because the idea of frogs that rap is not nearly as appealing as people who turn into fish. There are standards these shows have to keep up, dammit, and a cartoon about "hip" frogs from the "streets" who record "rap music" that they call "Wrib-Ribbit" is neither fantastic nor funtastic.

The bastard love child of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "What's Happening," the Street Frogs was a very simple show: There are these frogs that dress like the Fat Boys and do a lot of dancing and rapping about friendship. Being a syndicated cartoon show, I'm sure many of the shows most dire inner-city messages were lost on us seven-year olds, save for the controversial "Fly Killer" episode. Some shady shit, man. FOR REAL.

Members of the controversial group included smooth-talking "Doctor Slick," flame-broiled "Big Mac," homophobic "Spider," devout-Christian-but-still-gets-naked-in-videos "Honey Love Loretta," Neolithic samurai "Moose the Loose," and "Snappy," who's legs taste great accompanied by hush puppies and tartar sauce.

The Street Frogs made sure that they told you they were "hip-hoppin" four-thousand times an episode, often while breakdancing and setting race relations back a few decades. Do you think Rankin or Bass is from "the hood?" Of course not, or the show would've been about frogs who drink malt liquor and "smack bitches." You can't have a show about rappers without bitches getting smacked, or you're never going to get taken seriously. That's what kept "Who's the Boss?" from being legendary, that whore Mona never got Tony's backhand across the yap.


I hope you've enjoyed this drag down memory lane. Video tapes of "The Comic Strip" can be found by individual cartoon on Amazon.com still, if you can wade through their attempts to sell you "Charlie's Angels" on DVD to get there.

This cartoon variety show if nothing else captured our childhood imaginations, and gave them the Olympic Slam through a table. Now, whenever I try to figure out my tax returns all I hear are frogs rapping about friendship. I can't take in a picturesque mountain landscape without wondering who REALLY ran the camp. I can't dropkick my cat upside her head without remember Karate Kat, and I can't walk by a fish tank without wanting to stand in it and turn into a scallop...

Wait, yes I can. I can't think of a good reason to remember Tigersharks. And it was probably the best one.

Hey...you think they've got a Tigersharks shirt on sale at Hot Topic yet? I could wear it with my neon yellow camouflage pants and knee-high leather studded boots. I'm so glad we don't live in 1987 anymore. Long live depeche mode.

Don't say you love me. It's understood.
b