Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cartoon Profiles: Silverhawks

Silverhawks was one of a number of '80s era cartoons that people still sometimes talk about. Produced by Rankin/Bass (which made a bunch of old Christmas specials including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman), it was considered more or less the spiritual successor of the slightly earlier cartoon of mostly similar nature, Thundercats, which is a tad more well-known.

The main reason I remember this series, the only reason it made as strong an impression on me as it did, is because I really like the animation. It's nice. (My sister comments that it animates shiny stuff the same way '80s anime does-i.e. the right way. She also says she likes they way they draw hands.)

However, the series itself does bear some discussion, and it'd be really dumb for me to do this post and not talk about how cracky it was.

Silverhawks features a galaxy called Limbo which is most unusual. It has air in the regions between its planets and stars, for instance. (Hmm, I seem to be talking about a lot of nonsensical outer space ideas lately.) The bad guys fly around in what are essentially rocket-powered, wheel-less, convertible Cadillacs. In fact, the only closed spacecraft I can remember are the Mirage (the Silverhawks' jet-like spacecraft) and a craft that was equivalent to an armored car from one episode. Wackier still, when characters fall off of things that are transporting them through space, they fall downward relative to the orientation of the transport. That's not what Einstein meant, dudes!

Of course, it was kind of necessary the way they made the series, especially since one of the badguys had weather powers (SPACE WEATHER! SCIENCE!), and I suppose it was pretty nifty when they did this kind of stuff in Treasure Planet... Although Treasure Planet was more sensical when it did it.

Moving on. As many shows like this do, Silverhawks has a motley crew of colorful and hideous monster/alien/robot guys of indeterminate nature as the villains. (If you remember Skeletor's guys, these guys were pretty much just like that. For that matter, so were these guys.) There was Windhammer, the aforementioned weather guy, who manipulated outer space weather with his, you guessed it, giant tuning fork. There was Melodia, an '80s style rocker gal who used music as a weapon. There was Mumbo Jumbo, a minotaur man who turned into... a larger bullish thing. There was Hardware, obviously the technical guy. There was Mo-Lec-U-Lar, who could turn into anything in a flash of light. (He also, on at least one occasion, seemed to teleport.) And then there was Buzzsaw, whom everyone I've seen the opinion thinks is awesome. Buzzsaw was a robot (gold in the show, green as a toy) armed, as his name suggests, with circular saws. He could throw them, and he could rev them up by pulling on one of the starter cords in his chest. He also just had this air of menace and bulk that the other bad guys couldn't match.

Then there's Mon*Star, who I'll talk about in a moment.

Basically all of the Silverhawks except for the kid character, the Copper Kid, and the pilot of their ship, Bluegrass, had exactly the same basic power set. Even their pet bird Tally Hawk.

Yes, you read that right. Tally Hawk had the same powers they did.

All of the Silverhawks could fly in space except for Bluegrass. (He was always sitting in the cockpit of the Mirage, which could detach as a fighter craft, strumming his guitar. I am so not making this up.) All of the Silverhawks except for Bluegrass and the Copper Kid had built in laser cannons. Yes, even Tally Hawk. Giving a bird laser cannons doesn't seem like that good an idea, does it? (Bluegrass probably used his guitar as a weapon on any occasion where he needed an individual one, which couldn't have been often; it probably shot lasers or something. The Copper Kid threw boomerang discs as weapons. Sure, give the kid character a weapon more likely to backfire on him as well as less effective, why don't you? Apparently it was a traditional weapon from Kid's home planet, though. The planet of Mimes. Yes, the planet of the Mimes.)

What this ultimately means is that the Silverhawks are lightweight Space Knights. I want to say that they're Space Infantry, but that's not right-Space Infantry would only have enough flying power to manage short-distance jaunts, such as a boarding action. Maybe Space Light Cavalry? I dunno. I think I had a phrase coined for it the other day, but it's not coming to me.

What makes this more interesting, though, is that they aren't the only ones. Their archnemesis Mon*Star actually is a fully fledged, 100% genuine Space Knight, with the armor, the strength, the space flight, and the weapons (although sadly he rarely demonstrates this physical power, and there are never really any big spacecraft for him to demonstrate it on). He even has a magical transformation, initiated by exposure to the light of a star called the Moonstar, and in perhaps the most awesome iteration of the concept, Mon*Star's Space Steed is a freaking GIANT SPACE SQUID name Sky-Runner. That totally beats Pegas(us).

And if Rankin/Bass did one thing right with its '80s cartoons, it did the big bads right. Mon*Star was not only a huge and scary guy in general, he had the power to paralyze or mind control almost anyone. Granted, he seemed to have a limit on how long he was able to maintain his Space Knight form and the mind control alike, but still. On one occasion he used his paralysis and mind control powers on three of the six main Silverhawks (Quicksilver, Steelwill, and Steelhot-er, Steelheart), while Bluegrass and Copper Kid were stuck outside and Tally Hawk was attached to a machine that was sucking out his lifeforce. (Yeah, that would be the other reason I remembered the show which I forgot about earlier-Mon*Star was terrifying. He was showing Tally Hawk to the guy he had under his direct control, Quicksilver, just to be a jerk.)

-Signing off.

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