Oct 6, 2014

Battle for the 80s, Part 2: Not Even Close

Battle for the 80s
Part 2 – Not Even Close

One decade, eight legendary franchises. Eight franchises that endure to this very day, in various different iterations and revamps with varying levels of success. I made the foolhardy decision to decide which of these dominated the overall decade, which of course is impossible since they all dominated their own specific time period within the decade. I'm going to do this, once again, using my own ill-defined discriminating factors, and my own questionable judgement.

The following matchups were determined at random, as far as you know.



Primary Heroic Character: Snake Eyes (GI Joe) – He-Man (He-Man)

He-Man is the physical embodiment of heroic perfection, as only magic and swords can produce. He was the first role model for an entire generation of kids, and the first in a line of wildly successful action-adventure cartoon and toy franchises for the decade. Snake Eyes was clearly the prominent character in the GI Joe comic series, and in the hearts of the people, but Duke or Flint were the lead characters in the cartoons. Snake Eyes had a bigger role in the early episodes of the cartoon (before being cast aside for the likes of Shipwreck) which probably averages out to the lead guy between the two mediums. However you slice it, it would be a tough choice between Snake Eyes and Optimus Prime for the top hero of the entire decade, so he takes the crown here.

Winner: GI Joe

Primary Villain: Cobra Commander (GI Joe) – Skeletor (He-Man)

Cobra Commander is one of the great villains of the decade, with a cool faceplate, and the best voice actor in the business. Much like his vocal twin Starscream, he was a huge coward, adding an extra layer of comedy to the proceedings. Yet, Skeletor had a skull for a face and lived in a mountain shaped like a snake.

Winner: He-Man

Primary Female Hero: Scarlett (GI Joe) – Teela (He-Man)

I added this category because GI Joe and He-Man were fairly progressive (for the time) in supplying butt-kicking female characters in properties primarily aimed at boys. Teela started the process, but Scarlett is arguably the top female character of the decade. (Cranky Editor Man: I would give this one to She-Ra, but to my best knowledge, she never actually showed up in He-Man's cartoon, so yeah, Scarlett.)

Winner: GI Joe

Primary Female Villain: Baroness (GI Joe) – Evil-Lyn (He-Man)

On the same token, both franchises offered deliciously evil women as counterpoints to their heroic opponents. Again, Evil-Lyn was the protype, but Baroness left an indelible mark on the minds of an entire generation of boys. (I was completely oblivious to the appeal of the evil librarian in a black leather bodysuit with an exotic accent until around the time of the first live action GI Joe movie, which incidentally was awful, but Sienna Miller sure was smoking hot.)

Winner: GI Joe

Supporting Heroic Cast: Duke, Flint, Roadblock, Quick Kick (GI Joe) – Man-at-Arms, Orko, Sorceress, Battle Cat (He-Man)

GI Joe offered the most diverse assortment of entertaining characters of the entire decade. He-Man had Orko.

Winner: GI Joe

Supporting Villainous Cast: Destro, Storm Shadow, Zartan, Tomax, Xamot (GI Joe) – Beast Man, Mer-Man, Stinkor, Trap-Jaw (He-Man)

As amused as I am by characters like Beast Man and Mer-Man, Destro and Zartan were great villains, and that’s before you even get to the insanely popular Storm Shadow. (Cranky Editor Man: The villains were arguably the best part of the GI Joe cartoon.)

Winner: GI Joe

Animated Series

He-Man has aged the least well out of any of the franchises in the contest, but it definitely had the potential to be kickass, as evidenced by the short-lived 2002 reboot. The GI Joe cartoon was a bit of a mess beyond the first two 5-part epics, with too much of an emphasis on sci-fi concepts and way too much Shipwreck. Still, it wins by default.

Winner: GI Joe

Theme Song

“GI joe is theeere.”

Winner: GI Joe

Comic Book Series

He-Man broke some ground by including mini comics in the package with each action figure, but didn’t make much of a splash as a comic series under the guidance of DC comics. The GI Joe comic was a landmark series by legend Larry Hama, who wrote most of the original 155 Marvel issues, and was the artist on a fair bit of them as well, including the famous silent issue (Cranky Editor Man: Reissued recently with recoloring.). GI Joe was the definition of a gateway comic, introducing an entire generation of kids to the medium.

Winner: GI Joe


He-Man cornered the market in the early part of the decade with wave after wave of toys and vehicles based on a never-ending stream of new characters. Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain were landmarks in the field of action playsets. GI Joe did all of that, and had an aircraft carrier that filled up an entire room, making anyone that owned it the envy of every single child of the decade.

Winner: GI Joe



Primary Heroic Character: Raphael (TMNT) – Lion-O (Thundercats)

I went with Raphael since he seems to be the most enduringly popular of the turtles, being the sarcastic bad boy, and primary focus of the 1990 live-action movie, and the TMNT CGI animated movie, so I think he qualifies as the lead. Unfortunately, the four turtles were all pretty much the same in the 80s cartoon. Lion-O was really cool at the time of the cartoon, if you were a child, but if you watch that cartoon now you’ll want to strangle him within the first 60 seconds.

Winner: TMNT

Primary Villain: Shredder (TMNT) – Mumm-Ra (Thundercats)

Shredder is a villain on the level of Megatron and Magneto, the type of character that can appear regularly as the bad guy without wearing out his welcome. Nearly every single version of the turtles has had a Shredder to fight against, to the point, that I was somewhat surprised there was no Shredder in the aforementioned CGI movie. He’s a bit of an idiot in the original ‘80s series though. On the other side, Mumm-Ra is a spindly little mummy that uses magic to explode into a giant professional wrestler-type with teal skin.

Winner: Mumm-Ra

Primary Female Hero: April O’Neil (TMNT) – Cheetara (Thundercats)

If I can be a guy for a moment, ‘80s April was pretty stacked. Longtime readers should know how much I love girl reporters (not named Lois). Wait, that’s detectives, never mind. I should really just erase that whole thing. Cheetara is yet another important landmark on a young boy’s confusing journey into puberty. She’s like Tigra, except with the added bonus of super speed, which is a trait highly coveted by adolescent boys.

Winner: Thundercats

Supporting Heroic Cast: Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo, Splinter, Casey Jones (TMNT) – Panthro, Tigra, Wiley Kat, Wiley Kit, Snarf (Thundercats)

Putting the turtles aside, because it’s kind of unfair to include them, even Splinter and Casey Jones alone put the turtles over any group that includes a character named Snarf.

Winner: TMNT

Supporting Villainous Cast: Baxter Stockman, Krang, Rat King (TMNT) – Rataro, Slithe, Monkian, Jackalman, Vultureman (Thundercats)

Normally anything boasting a character named Monkian would cruise to an early victory, but Krang is a bodiless brain with the voice of a Jewish mom (watch the documentary Turtle Power) in a giant android body that looks like Sloth from The Goonies.

Winner: TMNT

Animated Series

I still very much remember the 5-part Thundercats series where Lion-O had to defeat each Thundercat to earn his place as leader and King of the ‘cats. Having since seen those episodes again, they were far more epic in my memory than they are in actuality. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started out strong with their own 5-part opener (remember when you were a kid and you saw on Monday that there was going to be a multi-part epic of your favorite cartoon that week, good times) but got progressively worse besides an episode here or there (usually with Usagi Yojimbo).

Winner: TMNT sucked less

Theme Song

"Heroes in a half shell, turtle power!"

Winner: No Contest

Comic Book Series

It’s funny to think of the Ninja Turtles as starting as a comic book, since I don’t think many people discovered them in that medium first. The comic is quite good, especially being an independent effort on the parts of Eastman and Laird (and a bit of a joke) and many of the elements that would become a part of the framework of every version of the turtles were there from the very beginning. The cartoon’s primary contribution was an important one, changing them from all having red bandanas, something I don’t think you can understate in terms of their ongoing appeal. Thundercats had a short-lived run as part of the Star Comics line.

Winner: TMNT


Thundercats had its own brief shining moment in the sun of being the most prized toy on the playground, but it was very brief. Ninja Turtles not only had the four main turtles, which could spark a discussion at school just by which one you convinced mom to buy for you (unless you were fortunate enough to get all of them) but they had a never-ending assortment of oddball mutants and strange looking monsters that few toylines this side of Star Wars has ever been able to match.

Winner: TMNT

ADVANCING TO NEXT ROUND: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

These matchups were a little bit closer than the first half, but still not much of a contest. So far, this has been an exercise in pointless masturbation, which is incidentally my screen name for a lot of online message boards.

Next time, we’ve pushed past the pretenders to the second round, a final four consisting of Transformers, GI Joe, Ducktales, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I could argue my way into any one of those being the top franchise of the ‘80s, so I really don’t have any idea how I’m going to choose between four of them. I’ve made a huge mistake.

Remember these 80s cartoons by watching them on DVD or digitally!

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