Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ten Greatest Cartoon Terrorists

For no apparent reason, I decided to compile a list of the ten greatest cartoon terrorists. (I would have gone to eleven, but let's face it-the Red Skull just isn't really up to snuff.) Before we get started, I'll set the ground rules of what qualifies someone to be a cartoon terrorist (as opposed to a regular cartoon villain or a supervillain, etc.) so that we can agree on who fits that description.

A cartoon terrorist must:
  1. Have some feature that cannot fit in the real world at all.
  2. Act like a terrorist, i.e. destroy buildings/expensive stuff to inspire fear (or for no good reason) and/or kill large numbers of people for similar reasons. The cartoon terrorist may also seek to take over the world, and most real-life terrorists have imposing their own beliefs on others as part of their mission statement, so that can sort of qualify.

The second point may not fit your definition of terrorist, but it's pretty broad, and I suspect that if you think about it, it'll cover your idea of one.

Without further ado, here are history's ten greatest cartoon terrorists. For once, in a particular order.

10. Baron von Strucker/MODOK/some other guys and Hydra/AIM/Secret Empire (Marvel Comics)

Something of a requirement for cartoon terrorism is large organizations. It usually helps set them apart from the more average cartoon villains. When it comes to the various leaders of Hydra, this qualifies them instantly: Hydra isn't one organization, it's dozens, if not more. The Hydra has many heads, as it were. The main reason they rank low on this list (other than their association with Nazis and the Red Skull, which loses them a few points) is because most of their leaders are relatively generic. Except for MODOK, and everybody loves that guy.

9. Kobra and his death cult (DC Comics)

I confess, I'm not nearly enough of a comic book fan to know much about Kobra beyond the fact that 1) he was created by Jack Kirby, and 2) he's over the top crazy awesome stupid (and yes, that's a good thing). If I recall correctly, his group crossed over with Batman Beyond at one point, too, so that's a plus.

8. Cobra Commander and Cobra (G.I.Joe)

If I say "cartoon terrorist" and you don't think "Cobra Commander" instantly, you are a fool, and I can prove it with math.

7. He-Man and She-ra and the Great Rebellion (She-Ra, the Princess of Power)

Now, I'll grant you, He-Man and She-Ra were never evil or malicious, like most of the characters on this list. But when the two were on the planet Etheria, they were outlaws, along with the rest of the He-Man/She-Ra protagonists.

They didn't do that many things that really qualified as terrorism beyond self defense...

But there was that time when He-Man essentially dropped a mountain on a prison even though he didn't need to do so to escape. That prison presumably only had Horde robots in it (despite the Horde's effectiveness as a regime [and in the early episodes especially, it was effective], they usually had nearly empty prisons-which is creepy for a cartoon in and of itself, but I digress), but Horde robots like pie and slapstick, so they must be people too (a fact that was entirely glossed over throughout most of the She-Ra series).

Then, there's the fact that She-Ra once jumped off her flying horse in order to dive through a Horde prison ship/Q-ship. It was presumably empty of prisoners, as they'd rescued all the people captured in the episode, and it was probably necessary to complete the escape (the Horde commander was locking on with weapons seconds before the sinking), but only two of the crew (named characters) escaped-all the Horde robots drowned.

Perhaps I'm too fixated on the little logic flaw involving the robots, but it really kind of bothers me whenever I think about it... Mostly because the episode of He-Man that was essentially its finale involved a huge, weighty thing where He-Man was upset because he thought he'd accidentally killed somebody. That prison was on purpose, and the pushing over mountains thing was exactly the kind of thing that the accident involved.

6. Shredder and the Foot ('80s/'90s TMNT cartoon)

Well, the Foot didn't pan out so well (they were mostly robots), but the Shredder qualifies handily, if for no other reason than because he had the Technodrome. It filled the purpose of that organization that Shredder so pointedly lacked.

The Shredder from the '00s cartoon was easier to take seriously within the show's context, but amazingly, the Shredder from the old cartoon had the more grandiose goals. Weird.

5. Skeletor and his lackeys (Filmation cartoon)

Skeletor was more of a traditional cartoon/comic book villain in the old Filmation cartoon, but there were times when he attempted acts that Osama bin Laden would have been jealous of.

For instance, the time he tried to ram a giant ship disguised as an island into a dam so large it was holding the ocean back, which would have flooded the majority of Eternia's farmlands and caused most of the population to starve if they refused to bow to Skeletor for his food supplies.

Or the time that Skeletor tried to incite war between two of Eternia's moons, just to be a jerk.

4. Blitzy Zulander and her older brother Ziv, and their household of robots (Bots Master)

One thing that distresses me about my childhood is that there were so many wonderful cartoons that I'll probably never see again. Bots Master is one such show.

It's very difficult to dig up information on the show, and even harder to find pictures, but here's the skinny:

Ziv Zulander was a great inventor. He designed all kinds of robots, most importantly robots with human-level intelligences and personalities. Unfortunately, this caused an evil, Lex Luthoresque villainous CEO, Paradigm (yes, that was his name), to want to kidnap him and/or dissect his robots, whom he thought of as his family, because they kind of were. He was a nice guy, and didn't like the idea of violence, so he went into hiding.

Fortunately for him, his little redheaded sister, Blitzy, was not so good-natured. After she was rescued from her boarding school (apparently, the Zulander kids were orphans), she promptly revealed her own affinity for robot designs-by designing giant killer robots. Jungle Fiver, "the hottest bot on Earth" and a Voltron-like superweapon, was her design.

While her intentions were good (and they were fighting an evil corporation that often veered into cartoon terrorism itself), sometimes she went a leeeetle teeeeny bit overboard.

For instance, once she learned that the evil corporation had provided a trio of lifeguard robots to a beach. (It may have been free of charge as a PR thing; I don't recall. It's been more than ten years...) Anyway, Blitzy was dead sure that they were some kind of sinister killing machines, and decided to mount an assault to destroy them.

As it turns out, she was right-they were perfectly functional lifeguards, but they also had programming to assassinate a major world leader that kept causing the evil corporation problems by drowning him and making it look like an accident-but her response was totally out of proportion.

She sent in a literal army (at least two, probably three, and any non-binary digit number of giant robots qualifies as an army) of giant killer robots to destroy three little lifeguard robots with no weapons or special features (except possibly a cramp inducing beam). This was on a crowded public beach.

And that is how a redheaded little girl outranks Cobra Commander, Skeletor, and the Shredder on a list of the greatest cartoon terrorists.

3. Kane and Nod (various Command and Conquer games)

No discussion of cartoonish villains would be complete without at least giving a nod to computer and video games, which in this case means (heh) Nod and its leader, Kane. If you're not familiar with them, here's a very quick (and epically spoilery) summary: Kane is an immortal from outer space who founded a terrorist organization of epic scale, which regularly went toe-to-toe with the GDI (basically the UN on steroids), was destroyed more or less completely three times and still came back for one more go. Kane himself lived on Earth for thousands of years, and managed to lure aliens called the Scrin to Earth ([inhales] the Scrin had already infected Earth with a radioactive self-propagating material called Tiberium which nearly depopulated the entire planet before being brought under control between the third and fourth games [exhales]) in order to steal their technology and try to use it to ascend the human race into a new species.

Sorry for the density of that paragraph, but relating about sixteen years' worth of story in one paragraph is hard.

Anyway, the games don't explain exactly who Kane is specifically, but I have a theory myself. Apparently, there were at least plans for an in-story reference to a civilization on Mars that was wiped out by the Scrin ages ago, and the Scrin had Kane's abnormal genetic code on record. My theory is that he was one of the Martians.

So, yeah, Kane is an immortal Martian terrorist. Don't tell me that's not awesome.

2. Megatron and his Predacon splinter group (Beast Wars)

I'd been thinking lately of trying to come up with an essay about Beast Wars and its awesomeness, but somebody else beat me to it, and how.

Instead, I'll just briefly touch on why Beast Wars Megatron is an awesome cartoon terrorist. (If I don't rank #1 on Google for searches on "cartoon terrorist," I'll be disappointed.)

Megatron was usually thought of more as a standard criminal (Optimus Primal and the rest of the Maximals) or a well-intentioned loose cannon (the Tripredacus Council and the rest of the Predacons, who had similar goals but intended to bide their time). The crux of the series, though, the point on which the entire conflict ultimately rests, is that Megatron went back in time so he could shoot Abraham Lincoln John F. Kennedy Adolph Hitler Optimus Prime in the head.

It should also be noted that, while he failed at this particular endeavor, he later went on to become far and away the most successful of these characters, managing to conquer his home planet with the rough equivalent of biological warfare. (I don't care for Beast Machines particularly, but you do have to admit that Megatron was very effective as a villain in it. I just don't care for the characterization he received in it. That, and we only get to see the conquesty bits in poorly animated flashbacks.)

1. Syndrome and his goons (The Incredibles)

Syndrome, in a way, is the worst of all cartoon terrorists: He pretty much did what he did-sending a massive killer robot into the middle of a city-just for his own entertainment. Granted, there was the whole revenge plot mixed up in it, but he pretty much was just turning his enormous fortune to making himself look good.

And then, he planned on selling his "superhero power" inventions to the general public, presumably at cutthroat prices-simply to make it so that people with powers, "special" people, weren't special anymore. ("And when everyone's special... no one will be.") Certainly, if everyone had the ability to fly and fire magic tractor/paralysis beams from their fingers, most of the powers the characters had wouldn't have been too impressive.

And that's a list. Feel free to suggest your own ideas, or post your own list; I, for my part, will feel free to ignore your list, because mine is clearly superior even though I haven't seen yours yet. Ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha.

(Just kidding. Really.)

-Signing off.

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