Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Villain Retrospect - Lady Diabolyn

When I went looking for new cartoons to watch for the Villain Retrospectives series, most of the shows I found were ones I'd at least heard of.  I remember their toylines, or I'd seen a skit about them on Robot Chicken. But there were a few that I'd never heard of before, from the early 80s that never had an action figure tie-in. Most of them were at least similar to other shows, like Galtar and the Golden Lance and Blackstar being almost the same style as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe or Thundarr the Barabarian. The odd man (or should I say odd girl) out was definitely Wildfire.

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Wildfire looks like a strange crossover between Barbie and She-Ra, a cartoon made for girls that love horses and princesses, but is much more complicated than it first seems. Princess Sara is born to the queen (who immediately dies, which is the first thing you seen in the intro!) and is transported by Wildfire, a talking horse, to Earth to save her from the queen's evil step-sister, Lady Diabolyn. Sara has to split her time between Earth and the land of Dar-Shan, thwarting her aunt's schemes.

The depth of the show comes from the backstory introduced in episode 5.  Sara is lost in the portal between Dar-Shan and Earth and falls out in the past of Dar-Shan, on the day before her parents were to be wed. Lady Diabolyn, who isn't quite evil yet, has plans to stop the wedding, which some day would allow her to be queen... somehow.  It's not spelled out too well.  Her Goons (yes that's their name) dig up an urn containing the evil Specters and she summons them to ruin the wedding by kidnapping the groom.  Sara stops them with Wildfire's help and finds out that her adopted father in Earth is her real father in Dar-Shan.  It's a pretty cool twist considering even he didn't know he's from there.  It even explained why her Goons are so stupid looking, having been normal humans before opening the urn, something she warned them not to do.

Unfortunately, the depth of their backstory doesn't translate well to the rest of Diabolyn's schemes. Her ambition is to become the undisputed queen of Dar-Shan, one time just trying to snatch the crown off her step-sister's head.  There's no ultimate power behind her schemes, which makes me wonder if the Specters that granted her her magic would be happy with her just gaining the throne.  Her other schemes include stealing baby butterfly cocoons to make a dress with them and ruining another couple's wedding to gain a magic cup.  The end of which episode she cried her eyes out because "weddings always make me cry."
It's a shame that when the writers came up with the story for Wildfire that they skimped out on making a truly evil villain.  Lady Diabolyn has moments of real evil, but most of them are mired in shallow plans or the ineptitude of her Goons.  It really feels like this cartoon has parts that are holdovers from earlier Hanna-Barbera cartoon bad guys like Dirk Dastardly. I could see her being a real villain if the cartoon ever got remade, but right now, she's just a low-rent Maleficent. Don't believe me?  She turns into a dragon just like her too.
Let's get to the ratings:
Coolness - 4. I know I was just harping on her for being too much like the Sleeping Beauty villain, but that's almost all she has going for her.  She's got a similar, yet not as distinguished look and the generic evil lady voice, sounding like Evil Lyn but a little more whiny. And she can turn into a fire-breathing dragon, that's pretty awesome, even though she changed back because a horse grabbed her by the tail and threw her in a puddle.
Effectiveness - 2. She has a lot of trouble balancing out her evil schemes. Yes one of her plans was to make a dress, but she did succeed in stealing the cocoons and trapping Sara in a burning building.  On the other hand, she kidnapped all four of the Shinti, the source of Dar-Shan's powers, but couldn't figure out that only when they were together that they could do anything.  She's short-sighted and shallow and could really use a trade-in for her goons.

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