I’ve really been waiting for Hulu, which currently “airs” the Bravestarr series on their site, to put up this particular episode. However, I think I’ve waited long enough. Maybe when Hulu gets on the ball, I’ll switch these YouTube videos out for this episode, but feel free to watch the other episodes on Hulu.
Bravestarr was an animated series put out by Filmation, a cartoon studio known for weak animation, but often hard stories, or at least hard for kids TV. There was a toy line put out by Mattel, who had worked with Filmation on cartoons based on their Masters of the Universe/Princess of Power series. In addition to the action figures, there was also the “Neutra-Laser“, which kids used, via infra-red, to score “hits” on each other. Sort of like the Laser Tag/Photon/Captain Power figures. (There was also a back pack accessory for the action figures to use.)
Some years ago I found a VHS tape of this series with two or three episodes. I haven’t watched it in a while. I fully enjoyed the show in my youth (wasn’t really drawn to the action figures, but I’m sure I wanted a Neutra-Laser) so I was happy to get it and fully prepared to rediscover my youth of…OK, maybe only 5 or 6 years at the time, but this was long before box sets and the recent influx of 80’s cartoons on DVD.
However, there was one thing that surprised me in the episode “Fallen Idol” that I couldn’t have expected. Something that never happens in a kids show. The episode was about Bravestarr’s idol turning to the dark side. OK, that’s been known to happen, but this was different. Way different. There was no mind control. No frame-up. No remembering that he was one of the good guys. He was evil because he fell from grace, not redeeming himself in any way. But Filmation took one step further. It wasn’t just that Bravestarr’s former mentor was a criminal, but the crime he committed.
(Attention “Jestro”, designer(s) of WordPress’s “Vigilance” theme: in a future version, please ensure that the “H1” tag ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE A BLOODY HEADER IN THE FINAL HTML! That would have looked so much more dramatic if you had this time!)
Remember, this is a kids show from the 1980’s, AD (or CE, whatever, you heathens!). Granted, syndicated cartoons didn’t bow to the parents groups as easily as their Saturday Morning network counterparts, but still, that never happens. We’re told that kids can’t handle things like murderers, and good guys who turn and stay evil of their own free will. Heck, even Hal Jordan in the comics has his turn to evil blamed on a space parasite, and DC’s “Earth-1.1” is hardly kid-friendly as of late.
And yet, there it is. Bravestarr’s idol is a murderer, and over something rather trivial. But why not let the show tell you. One of the nice things about the opening is that Mr. Narrator Man even gives you a quick history of New Texas, the Kerium rush, and a quick list of Bravestarr’s powers. This is a two-part clip (YouTube being YouTube, but it’s the only place I could find this episode), so I’ll put part two after the “jump”.
Bravestarr certain pushed their limits. Besides this episode, there’s another one about drug use, that actually ends with a kid dieing. Odd for a series where everyone carries the equivalent of stun blasters to not shy away from the subject of death. However, there’s a difference between an anti-drug story and a story about believing in yourself rather than an “idol”.
As I said above, usually the fallen hero repents of what he’s done, even if it’s fanaticism for a good cause. Not here. Jingles goes nuts over a lost competition–a friendly one at that–with the future version of the Army vs. Navy football game because “I never lose”. It’s a bit more violent than being found with a hooker, or learning he took steroids. And another rare moment is that we actually see the murder take place (as do about 500 witnesses–I wonder if that shoe-polishing bet was dropped under the circumstances). Of course being a kids show we see the shot fired, but not hit. I wonder if the show had an older target than I used to think, like Batman: The Animated Series in the 90’s?
The background characters are also used well. Sure, Deputy Fuzz (one of the natives of New Texas) can be annoying. And he does pick the wrong time to tell Bravestarr how he still Fuzz’s idol (perhaps Bravestarr is thinking that if his idol can go bad, what does that say about himself?), but you have to love the digging scene with Thirty-Thirty. (At some point I’ll have to review the episode that tells how Bravestarr and Thirty-Thirty first teamed up.) And eventually, when the Marshal realizes that he’s nothing like what Jingles is now, but more like he remembers the now twig-snapped mentor, it does make for a decent ending.
Bravestarr was one of the better animated sci-fi shows, although only one other show was set in an old-west style scenerio, Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. (I supposed you could count Wild West C.O.W.boys of Moo Mesa, since there is a sci-fi bend to their origin story instead of just being a “funny talking animal” series.) Both of those series are available on DVD, and worth a viewing. Bravestarr may well be one of Filmation’s best work.
Of course, I haven’t seen that Sherlock Holmes two-parter in a long time. That could turn out bad.