In case you didn’t know and were a bad bad fan boy, Saturday March 19th was Ninja Turtles day. To celebrate the four heroes in a half shell, I compiled a list of my five favorite TMNT wannabes. Remember in the mid to late eighties when every studio wanted their own Transformers, GI Joe, and TMNT series to collect the sweet sweet dollarydoos from kids? Then suddenly the mid-nineties came and everyone wanted their own Power Rangers? Well, once the nineties popped around every studio or company had heroes that were either created by mysterious ooze or were anthropomorphic talking animals with attitude.
Here are five of the best in a decade filled with some pretty awful ones, altogether.
5. Toxic Crusaders
Who better to bank on the heroes created from ooze craze than Troma’s own Toxie? Adapted from the brutally gory and violent superhero horror comedies of the same name, “Toxic Crusaders” is a PG spin off featuring Toxic Avengers fighting crime in Tromaville. He makes friends with a small group of mutant freaks all of whom have their own unique powers. I remember fondly enjoying “Toxic Crusaders” as a child (I also must have read this comic a thousand times) having no idea it was a series of adult movies with a massive cult audience. Years later as I’ve grown to appreciate Troma so much more, I love “Toxic Crusaders” so much more, as well. Did you know I interviewed Lloyd Kaufman?
4. Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars!
I have a special connection to this series since when I was a kid my little brother loved this show and everything involved with the concept. The comic books are excellent, the video game is one of the greatest platformers ever made, and the animated series is fun nineties nostalgia with a bang up theme song. Bucky O’Hare is a green rabbit and pilot of the Righteous Indignation. He leads his crew of anthropomorphic animal warriors and pilots in a war against the Toad Empire, all of whom have taken over his home world. Bucky is a unique character of the nineties that sadly has come and gone with the decade, which is a shame since, like many of its ilk, the merchandise was top drawer and considerably valuable today. I’d love to see a re-invention of the series somewhere down the line.
3. Street Sharks
They’re jawsome! They’re the antithesis to the TMNT. Not only are they purposely created, but sharks trump turtles any old time. Not to mention that it’s explicitly stated in the series that they hate pizza and prefer hamburgers and fries. I do, too, but “Street Sharks” fall a tad short of being on the level of heroes in a half shell. “Street Sharks” had an excellent marketing campaign, a bang up animated series, amazing toys that are incredibly valuable today, and were even fondled by a very young geeky Vin Diesel. It’s a testament to the creation of Eastman and Laird that despite all of that, they’re still pretty obscure in modern pop culture. That said, watching the series today, they’re a fun group of mutant superhero animal human hybrids with some excellent animation. I wouldn’t mind a “Street Sharks” resurgence.
2. Swat Kats
Swat Kats were talking anthropomorphic kats who lived in an alternate reality where the world is populated by talking cats of all kinds. T-Bone and Razor were once noble members of Megakat City’s paramilitary law enforcement agency. Known as the Enforcers, they were discharged and became bonafide pariahs. Forced to work in the military scrap yard, T-Bone and Razor use their expertise to rebuild an entirely new arsenal including a jet of their own and become the Swat Kats, vigilantes riding around in a brutally cool and armored fighter jet that aides them in battles. Taking on various enemies of the feline kind, the Swat Kats defy local authorities and are constantly saving Megakat City which is always at jeopardy from a megalomaniacal villain of some kind. The series was creative, fun, action packed, and has lived on thanks to the loyal fan base. I wish someone would reboot this series for a new generation.
1. Road Rovers
Road Rovers is hilarious and it’s a damn shame Warner may never release it on DVD. For one the show barely lasted a season and may not sell well even with nostalgia geeks, and two there probably isn’t demand for it. That’s heartbreaking because the first time I sat down to watch “Road Rovers” I laughed a lot. To this day if I’m lucky enough to catch an episode, it’s just a crack up. The plot involves the pet dogs of many of the world’s most important leaders recruited by a mysterious scientist to become globe trotting superheroes. With a special machine they become anthropomorphic talking dogs with special powers. “Road Rovers” has a real knack for sharp comedy and just raucously funny one liners. To boot the voice work is excellent and the animation is classic nineties Warner in the vein of “Freakazoid.” It’s a shame the series never actually took off and was quickly cancelled. I think the series deserves a much bigger fan base and should be appreciated for its smart concept and edgy humor. In a perfect world this series was a hit.