From the archives: Considerations of Laser-based Weaponry

August 20, 2008

Contributed by Russell P.

I’ve noticed quite a bit of talking about laser weaponry being used in cartoons where it quite obviously isn’t apt. It’s already been pointed out that G.I. Joe used hand-held laser weaponry in a late 20th century setting. Yet the rest of the Cobra/G.I. Joe armory is more conventional Tanks, boats and jets! The ability to create hand-held laser weapons is more in keeping with a civilisation capable of short-range space travel, and hypersonic Ramjet craft, and even then they’d be specialist weapons and not frontline rifles.

So why are they used? I have a theory that it’s something to do with making shows a little less violent. The guns don’t sound like machine guns, but lasers, which is something much more acceptable (for whatever reason) to the censors. (Star Wars has a U rating, despite people getting killed through out, yet The A-Team (on video) I believe gets a PG, because there are fist fights and real guns)

A really good example of this, is in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or Hero Turtles in the UK- “ninja” was deemed too violent. Yet the Samurai Pizza Cats escaped this rampant Political Correctness, perhaps owing to the honouristic nature of the Samurai in old Edo Dynasty Japan, whereas the Ninja was an Assassin for hire, a reprehensible character in Ancient Japan.) In the very first episode of TMNT, after Rocksteady and Bebop have been mutated into rhino and boar respectively (both traditional “brute” animals) they are given guns by Shredder and Krang and told to smash up the Town to lure the turtles out of hiding.

Aha, Krang is an advanced sentient from another dimension, you say? That would explain why they use laser weapons? Wrong! Rocksteady and Bebop quite clearly use contemporary automatic weapons, despite the fact that Krang could probably supply them with energy weapons! Aside from the sound the guns made, they left bullet holes in the sides of cars and walls, as opposed to “splashing” as cartoon lasers tend to (obviously it is easier to draw the blast evaporating and leaving no damage). A pretty rare thing in cartoons!

In all other episodes of TMNT everybody uses laser weapons (including those gangsters who pop up every now and again, although they may have obtained them via their deal with Shredder).

Machine guns are to closer to real life weapons, and real violence; lasers are a fantasy weapon, and one that can “stun” as opposed to kill. This part becomes clear in Transformers, where in the The Movie, one blast from Galvatron’s gun is enough to disintegrate Starscream at his coronation, yet in subsequent episodes of Transformers, Galvatron’s gun at best can knock someone over and make them a little dazed.

The exact power of the laser gun is flexible, where as if you have guns that correspond to conventional weapons it becomes harder to avoid violence.

All this said, I notice that G.I. Joe, Transformers and other similar cartoons are never hesitant to use missile technology. Many Transformers had missile launchers strapped to their sides (Tracks, Ultra Magnus, Hound, to name but three) and many tanks and planes in G.I Joe had missiles. What tended to happen  would be that the missiles would miss, but the resultant explosion would be enough fling the target to safety, or collapse the entrance to a cave.

The usage of laser weapons fueled the techno-dreams of the 80’s youth and avoided over-violence. It also allowed for colour-coding of fire (orange for Autobot, purple for Decepticon, red for G.I. Joe blue for Cobra and so on) which made things clearer. Even Star Wars did this! (red Rebels, green Imperial, and blue for Ion cannon)

This still happens today in things like the revamped Marvel shows (X-Men, Spiderman, Ironman, etc.). I can’t think of many exceptions to the rule, I think maybe Batman the Animated Series may use conventional guns. The only one I know that did for sure is G-Force (AKA Battle of the Planets) where Galactor’s troopers had machines gun that were always easily dodged by the G-Force team.

Ex Situ: Activate

June 29, 2008

Nowadays, it is certain that the Super Friends would be labeled as an educational/informative show. It’s full of over half the knowing as a typical episode of G.I. Joe: Gravity works like a magnet? Check. Things are made of atoms called “electrons?” Got it. A Native American man pushes the Earth out of orbit in order to fight a giant Viking? I think NOVA had a whole episode devoted to that.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s really hard to write a graceful segue.

In this classic Penny Arcade comic, webcomic auteurs par excellences Gabe and Tycho have written a surprisingly nuanced deconstruction of the entire Wonder Twins canon. I think it might even explain why Bizarro had better grammar than Wonderdog.

Penny Arcade! – Activate >Catena Ex Situ


June 8, 2008

  • Inspector Gadget is the epitome of the 80’s in one cartoon. You have a police department that isn’t corrupted in the media yet, you have references to old 70’s tv shows (this message will self-destruct), you have the fascination with computers (Penny’s laptop that’s thicker than today’s printers) and robotic stuff (the wonderful Inspector himself), and the fear of a huge, crazy, foreign power (MAD-obviously he’s supposed to represent Russia — look at all of the “agents of MAD” — they’re Russian spies in cartoon format). It’s the 80’s. Not to mention the music.
    -Contributed by Bryn D.
  • If you will notice in the Disney movie DuckTales: Secret of the Lost Lamp, the animation quality is fantastic at the beginning, but quickly degrades into merely tolerable. Then, at the very end of the movie, the animation quality is quickly back to its original level. Presumably this was an attempt to cut costs and production time while trying to prevent the audience from realizing it.
    -Contributed by The Editor
  • Ever notice that in G.I. Joe, the shots from Cobra’s lasers are always blue, and the Joes’ are always red? Even if one of the Joes picks up a Cobra laser, the color is still red. Could these colors hold some inner meaning?
    -Contributed by Paul J.
  • The main characters on Ed, Edd n Eddy on Cartoon Network could represent the ID, Ego, and Superego. Ed is a free spirit who always wants to have fun. Edd “Double-D” is more reserved and nervous and makes the perfect super-ego. Finally, Eddy is the ego, which balances out the other other two.
    -Contributed by SDOG1028

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May 24, 2008

  • A discovery while viewing Underdog- It’s rather baffling to observe that Underdog, his alter-ego Shoeshine Boy, Sweet Polly Purebred, Riff Raff & Tap Tap the Chisler (an evil Underdog look-alike) are the only anthropomorphic dogs in an otherwise all-human city. And no one bats an eye over this!
    -Contributed by Brendan S.
  • There was one major exception to the “nobody dies” rule in G.I. Joe. I refer to, of course, the memorably haunting two-part “alternate universe” episode. A group of Joes went through a dimensional portal to a world where Cobra had taken over. This episode contained several shocking scenes (like a Cobra Commander statue replacing the Statue of Liberty), but none more so than scenes of the Joes coming across their own skeletons, or rather those of their counterparts from that dimension. In that universe, the entire Joe team had been killed, and we saw the remains to prove it. One other note: being an 80’s cartoon, that episode’s obvious underlying message was, “this is what will happen if the Commies ever take over the U.S.” A similar theme, with aliens replacing terrorists, was later taken up in Exo-Squad (easily the most disturbing “children’s” cartoon I’ve ever encountered.)
    -Contributed by Christopher H.
  • One thing that always bothered me was that back when Scooby‘s villains were just people in scary costumes: why did they have super strength? I mean, you would see them pick up insanely heavy objects like sofas or filing cabinets and throw them like they were pillows, or they would smash through wood or metal doors, or even walls with their bare hands. They should have been very seriously injured, but they just kept on going like it was nothing.
    -Contributed by Tim M.
  • The only problem I have here is the origin of Sancho Panda. I understand he’s a parody of Sancho Panza from Don Quixote but Pandas have never been found in Spain where the show takes place. Plus, I’m not too sure of this, but Coyotes aren’t exactly numerous in Spain either.
    -Contributed by Dante W.

Ex Situ: Journal of a New COBRA Recruit

May 13, 2008

Keith Pille, via the always aeolipilic McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, gives us two looks into the personal journey of a rank-and-file COBRA recruit. Here’s an excerpt:

June 21, 1986
Awful exciting day today. First we got to do our airborne training. They loaded us up into a plane, and we flew up and then jumped out. Our chutes had the big, scary COBRA symbol on them. It was awesome. But it was hard, because we were supposed to keep yelling “COBRA!” all the way down. It was tough to get enough breath to yell right at first. Sarge says it just takes practice.

Journal of a New COBRA Recruit >Catena Ex Situ

Journal of a Seasoned COBRA Veteran >Catena Ex Situ

Ex Situ: The 10 Most Insane, Child-Warping Moments of 80s Cartoons

April 8, 2008



Most of the staff here at J. Cart. Overanal. spent their childhoods basking in the Rubik’s cube-colored glow of the 1980s. When we weren’t playing Burgertime on our Intellivisions, we were plopped in front of the TV, enjoying the most toyetic entertainment DiC had to offer.

Let me remind you that we are talking about the 1980s: Thriller. Ronald Reagan. Trapper Keepers. ALF ran for four seasons.

So this Ex Situ is what we consider a warning. When all of the young white boys who were watching cartoons of the 1980s become old white men in charge of our nation’s government and economic infrastructure, humanity is surely doomed.

Without further ado,

The 10 Most Insane, Child-Warping Moments of 80s Cartoons
>Catena Ex Situ

From the archives: The Cobra Paradox

February 11, 2008


Contributed by “Summusdeus”

gijoe12.jpgAh, the late 80s. I have fond memories of getting up in the morning before school and running downstairs quickly to the room with the television to watch my favorite show at the time: G.I. Joe. I loved that show and still have fond recollections of it. I always considered myself more of a fan of Cobra than the Joes, but I’ve always had a predisposition the side of evil and to villains. Having said that, one thing keeps bugging me about the show. In all the episodes (unless you count that alternate universe one), Cobra always loses despite having the best technology and an advantage in terms of sheer number when compared to the Joes.

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