The funny thing about nostalgia is that it’s mostly horseshit. For instance, popular wisdom tells us that the ‘90s were a terrific time for rock music! That’s because three new Kurt Cobain documentaries get released every year, thus preventing anyone from forgetting about Nirvana. Meanwhile, no one ever talks about Blues Traveler, Live or any Perry Farrell band, enabling us all to mercifully forget they exist.
No sane person will ever attempt to forge a superior “Run-Around” or “Lightning Crashes.” But if songs were transferable to a medium where retcons and do-overs thrive—like comics books—perhaps they would. As demonstrated by BOOM! Studio’s Power Rangers relaunch last week, a concept once mashed and spoonfed to particularly stupid children can always be repurposed into comparatively sophisticated entertainment for less stupid, much older children.
BOOM!’s Rangers inspired the following list of bygone children’s TV franchises—plus one that’s closer to a soft PG-13 than a G, but nonetheless warrants inclusion—with the potential for equally spiffy revisits via comic books. I should emphasize that I will totally sue anyone who steals my idea for a dark ’n gritty Captain Planet. [Editorial: too late]
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On the one hand, BoJack Horseman covers the ongoing adventures of a non-human, brown-hair-covered has-been sitcom star, which renders any ongoing real-life adventures of Gordon Shumway, or ALF, gratuitous. But now that history has outed the once beloved Alien Life Form as a belligerent bigot who openly harassed underaged female actors and was, surprise surprise, a Donald Trump BFF —isn't it high time for a series that exposes ALF for the nasty asshole he is?
Chuck Palahniuk revitalized his career by crossing over into comics, and as soon as Bret Easton Ellis inevitably follows suit, an ALF reboot would make a flawless fit for his decisively anti-PC sensibilities.
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Biker Mice From Mars
Of all the shameful attempts to siphon a few bucks away from Eastman and Laird's genius bonanza of feckless over-merchandising, Biker Mice From Mars is the only one I could remember without Googling "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ripoffs." But should an intrepid satirist decide to gaze back at the '90s without the customary rose-colored glasses, Biker Mice would make a spiffy vehicle to do so.
For instance, The New Adventures of the Biker Mice From Mars could begin with Vinnie helping Kurt Cobain fake his own suicide, then planting evidence to cast suspicions on his wife who nobody likes anyway. In a later issue, the Biker Mice could read the Starr Report, and wind up feeling an overall sense that they had done something invasive and wrong. Other tales could include The Biker Mice winning a Grammy for a song they lip-synched, starring in a Viagra commercial alongside Bob Dole and inventing the Macarena.
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When Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, can "no longer stand the terrible destruction plaguing" her giant space rock, why does she bother fracturing and disseminating the elemental powers of Captain Planet to the "five special young people" she taps to be Planeteers? Couldn't Captain Planet right environmental wrongs more efficiently if he remained indefinitely intact?
Yup! Without the Planeteers, Captain Planet would be way more efficient!
Earthquakes, fires, tornados, hurricanes and tidal waves all kill people in droves, and while Ma-Ti generally uses his telepathy ring to inspire compassion and benign tendencies of the sort, it stands to reason that The Power of Heart could trigger fear and rage just as easily.
Captain Planet's powers are not inherently protective, and his allegiance is to the preservation of the Earth, not humanity. So once he notes that humans have pumped catastrophic quantities of crap into the atmosphere, annihilated the rainforests, hunted countless species of animal life into extinction, used the oceans as a global toilet, etc. etc. etc., wouldn't a swift and unflinching mass slaughter of mankind look like the most obvious way to go about his job?
It never gets mentioned in the old show, but a new Captain Planet comic book could single-handedly address Captain Planet's impulse to murder literally everyone, plus explain that Planeteers make no sense after all. Without any dweeby teenagers keeping him in check, Captain Planet would make Krishna from Warren Ellis' Supergod look like a preachy and not-terribly intimidating C-lister superhero by comparison.
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The gang from Care-a-Lot propagated a message of universal togetherness, understanding and hugs. But whenever they found an excuse to deploy the lethal "Care Bear Stare," all that hippie bullshit immediately went flying out the window.
I recall the vicious toddler version of myself sitting through criminally bland Care Bears cartoons just to see the endings, in which the onetime greeting card mascots dutifully barrage a "bad guy" to smithereens with laser beams blasted forth from their irresistibly tickle-able tummies. Without the malice and hypocrisy rotting the core of Funshine Bear's niceness manifesto, I don't know if I ever would've watched the show.
The toxic duality of the Care Bears begs for a philosophical reexamination. To what extent is violence acceptable when it aims to further a noble cause? Why must children vicariously fulfill belligerent impulses through entertainment? Since children are (or should be) unsullied by the ways of the world, where do their destructive tendencies come from? And how can the Care Bears' mission of spreading kindness ever succeed when their own commercial success demonstrates humanity's undying, fundamental lust for each other's misery?
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With the entire industry attempting to compensate for decades of systemic sexism by producing more books aimed at female readers, and enough years gone by for '00s content to be considered retro-cool, how is it that Daria comics aren't already a thing? Well, if she's anything like the real-world liberal arts casualties we know, an early-30-something Ms. Morgendorffer navigates an unfulfilling, potential-squandering office gig, and doesn't that sound like a woefully drab premise for a comic book? It sure does.
Of the old Lawndale crew, the Lane siblings appeared headed for the most interesting adulthoods, so maybe we're not quite advocating for Daria comics per se, so much as something along the lines of Mystik Spiral or Something-Something Explosion: Reunion Tour '16 in comic form.
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In Nickelodeon's old second-tier Sesame Street substitute, an aspiring sorceress lives, presumably by way of banishment, in a castle that also contains a dragon who can destroy the world with a sneeze and is in an emotionally-abusive relationship with his own tail. There's also a half-man, half-bat with a cryptic, possibly malicious agenda, kleptomaniac bog monsters and a mad inventor of ambiguous Western European descent who, being the only other human on the premises, Eureeka's pretty much stuck with, love interest-wise. In a vacuum, the premise of Eureeka's Castle scans as the type of dark fantasy Neil Gaiman might've thought up, then never bothered finishing because he had a better idea.