There's no way to talk about the various cartoons from the 80s (and up to current times) without bringing up the toy manufacturers behind them. Back then there were five primary companies producing toys that had accompanying shows - Hasbro (Transformers, GI Joe), Mattel (He-man, She-ra), Kenner (M.A.S.K.), Tonka (GoBots), and LJN (Thundercats, Silverhawks). I may be ignoring or neglecting some others, but the majority of the cartoons I watched had figures and playsets produced by these five companies. As time went on and lines fizzled out so did the companies that made them. Kenner and Tonka were bought out by Hasbro and LJN... maybe they went back to making shitty games. That leaves us with just two major toy companies - Hasbro and Mattel. The full list of toylines that falls under either company is staggering, but outside of cartoon-driven lines were such great names as Barbie, Star Wars, Hot Wheels, and Marvel.
While researching the history of the cartoons, I found a number of books based on the competition between the various toy companies. I haven't read any of them yet, so I'm not sure how much they delve into the cartoons themselves. The most popular one I have found (and it's on my read list) is Toy Wars: The Epic Struggle Between G.I. Joe, Barbie, and the Companies that Make Them. I swear I'll get around to reading it someday, even though I ran across some news today that might make me hurry to read it.
Amazon is currently working on a mini-series based on the book. With some top-notch talent attached to the movie, including a screen-writer whose father played a part in getting the original book written, it's sure to be an interesting watch. Here's hoping it will show some of the cartoon writing and how they created some of the most iconic villains around.