Sunday, May 22, 2016

Old School Evil

"Tell me what's on your mind, or I'll splatter it on the wall and see for myself!"
Blitzwing, Transformers

I love cartoons. I have no problem admitting that. I watched cartoons as a child and I still watch them now thirty years later. One of the very best things about all of them – Transformers, Thundercats, He-Man, every one of them - is the villains. There’s something innately special about the bad guys in cartoons. Whether it’s their insanely complicated yet simple machinations, their hilarious ridicule of each other, or their over-the-top evil ambitions, they were easily more memorable than the heroes. Only in cartoons could their plans be so weird and still threatening and their maniacal laughter could haunt a kid.

As I grew up and continued watching them, I think cartoons grew up with me. Transformers was my favorite show and to watch it evolve from Megatron’s ridiculous plans for world conquest that included building a giant purple griffin robot to seeing a new Megatron in Beast Wars actually succeed in killing his rival Optimus Primal and the Autobot leader Optimus Prime was fascinating. The shows all grew more complex as each new generation appeared. He-man’s nemesis Skeletor gained an origin in his reboot, the GI Joe’s rival Cobra took over American commercialism in Renegades. It seemed that every cartoon was returning with deeper storylines full of actual consequences and overarching plots, leaving behind the status quo that was maintained from one episode to the next back in the 80s. As much as I enjoyed the more complicated shows, I still could not forget the glory days of these characters, the ones I ran home after school or woke up early on Saturdays mornings to watch.

That feeling of nostalgia for the old and the evolution of the new inspired me in many ways. I wrote my own stories for them, ones that evolved in depth the same way that the reboots had. Over time, I moved away from established stories and began creating my own world, one that focused on villains like the ones I loved watching. Instead of the Decepticons trying to steal the world’s energy or Miles Mayhem trying to steal a priceless heirloom from a museum, I now had Sidewinder, the Old West ghost, robbing banks, and Chairman Brain, the psychic crime boss, stealing powerful weapons to sell to the highest bidder. My world was full of bad guys like this, teams full of mutant soldiers and dinosaur thugs, robotic henchmen of every caliber. It became a world gone mad with power-hungry psychopaths, just like my mornings and afternoons were. The way they should be for every kid growing up, and the kid still inside grown-ups today – just like me.

This is the world where high-tech meets sorcery, where outrageous bad guys battle the courageous good guys. This is the world of Old School Evil.