Growing up in the 80’s cartoons were very much a big part of my childhood and with local TV being limited to four channels, I used to look forward to the weekend morning cartoons, even if it did involve getting up way earlier than everyone else in the house just so I could catch up with all my favourite characters. Even as I got older I still remember running around my paper round just so I could get back in time to watch “Gargoyles” with these cartoons seemingly holding so much importance back then. A feeling perfectly captured in the “Z-Trip” track “Breakfast Club”.
While my fellow bloggers taking part in this blogathon will be covering some of my all-time favourites like “Dungeons and Dragons” and the epic “Swat Katz”, I wanted to instead look back at a show which has seemingly all but been forgotten, despite blowing my mind back when I was a kid. Usually this is a setup for disappointment in these situations, more so when the nostalgia goggles have the tendency to make things seem a lot better than they actually were.
Originally released in 1985 “Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors” much like “Transformers” and “He-man” was a cartoon series designed with the purpose of supporting a toy line, in this case Mattel’s “Wheeled Warriors”though honestly until I started researching for this piece I never knew there was even a toy line. The show itself plays kind of like “Mad Max” but you know for kids as the good guys known as “The Lightning League” battled against the plant based monsters “The Monster Minds” in cool looking vehicles against these foes who could also turn themselves into various vehicles.
The Lightning League were your usual mishmash of character tropes led by teenager Jayce, whose father Audric created the monster minds after his experiment to end world hunger got hit by cosmic rays (that classic writer cheat) and spawned the Monster Minds. The series over the course of its 65 episode run seeing Jayce and his team trying to find Audric so they could combine the two halves of the magic root which would ultimate destroy the leader of the Monster Minds “Saw Boss” and his followers.
As I said the characters which made up the Lightening League were a real mishmash which strangely worked while seemingly drawing heavy influence from Star Wars as we had the Obi-Wan style tech-mage Gillian, Herc Stormsailor, the Han Solo styled mercenary who cares mainly about finding great fortune and usually spends his time being conned by Gillian’s tricks. Flora who I always assumed to be Jayce’s sister but apparently was supposed to be a cyborg while she also flies around on a giant fish aswell as being able to telepathically communicate with plants and animals. The R2D2 and C3PO (who randomly showed up on a junk pile in the second episode) role finally is filled by Oon a minute robot knight complete with lance, who despite being loyal to Jayce spends most of every episode in a blind panic.
Looking at the show now the animation does look dated, yet being produced by a number of Japanese animation studios means that it has a lot of the same charm that a lot of the early anime I saw has. This being said whenever anything is required to break or be thrown, the animation tends to strangely grind to an almost halt as these events look like it was shot in slow motion. As a result I can’t help but feel that kids today may not like the show especially now they are so used to everything being computer generated. That being said the monster designs equally have that 80’s carefree attitude that allowed them to get away with so much and as such means the Monster Mind creatures look frequently like demons with their misshapen “Swamp Thing” styled plant bodies let alone the exposed brain of Saw Boss which are a far cry from the more colourfully styled villains the kids cartoons tend to favour now.
While the animation might have dated the writing still holds up well with its planet hopping format and the crew seemingly only just missing Jayce’s father. Something which might have a lot to do with “Babylon 5” creator and Marvel writer J. Michael Straczynski writing around a quarter of the episodes in his attempts to make something of what he considered to be a dopey format. Sadly the show would be axed (like so many shows of this era) without a final episode thanks to the falling toy sales and while a movie had originally been set to wrap up the series it would sadly fail to go into production even though Straczynski wrote a finished script which he still has in his archive. True it might have been great to have a final episode but back then I don’t think I really concerned myself about a show ending, more about it being on and what the adventure was that week and unlike the death of Optimus Prime this show ending hardly left me with that kind of gap in my life, perhaps due to the quantity of good shows on at the time ensuring there was always something to watch, but now revisiting the show, it’s reassuring to know that something always stay as awesome as you remember them being.