If there is any nostalgia that has the strongest hold on modern fans, it’s for the cartoons of their youth.
We all have memories of watching these action packed series with the catchy theme songs, and consuming hours upon hours of these shows.
There are shows in which the reputation is stronger then actual series itself. (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for example) and sometimes there are shows that shockingly still hold up for me to this day. (Batman: The Animated Series, Exo Squad. etc)
But there is one show that I loved as a kid that get very little notice today. I was such a fan, that I actually still have a VHS of the thing to this day (more on that later.) It was an odd show to say the least, but it’s still got all the fun action, cool looking characters and a goofy theme song like most of the other shows that populated my childhood airwaves.
The show I’m talking about is…..
Yes folks, I’m gonna look back on the very first adventure of the hideously deformed creature of super human size and strength.
Aired on TV in 1990, the show was loosely based on the Troma cult classic film, The Toxic Avenger. The show was about Toxie, formerly a teenage dweeb named Melvin who fell into a vat of toxic waste, and his team of super-sized, toxic mutants who fight to save Tromaville and the entire world from malevolent alien Dr. Killemoff!
Now, I wanted to have a full on experience while doing this Nostalgia-Free Review, so I dug through my old movie collection and found my actual VHS copy of the first episode!
I soon started to set up my good old VHS player. I fiddled around with it for a few minutes (I honestly forgot all the weird tricks I needed to do make my VHS player work)
Once I got everything set, I grabbed the VHS and put it in the player. I saw I needed to rewind the video first (awwww, like the good old days!).
A few seconds into the rewinding the VHS stopped.
“Weird.” I thought. “I’ll just go press rewind again.”
So I did…and then the video stopped again after a few seconds of rewinding.
“Hmmm….let me eject it and put it back in again. That used to always work when I was a kid.”
I pressed the eject button. I started hearing a small and faint clicking like sound.
….I think you already know where this was going to lead too…….
I guess it’s only fitting that this happened for Nostalgia-Free Review. This took me right back to my youth and that fear of the VHS machine screwing up your beloved tape.
Thankfully….the power of the internet has proven to be helpful yet again.
Troma’s official Youtube page has the entire series available to stream for free.
The Kid Review
In that time when everyone wanted that piece of the TMNT Pizza pie (Stone Protectors? Do you even remember that one?), I knew this show was different. Even back when I was 7, I knew this Toxic Crusaders stood out from the rest.
And as a kid, I loved the following elements.
1.) Toxie looked like a friendly Hulk. And his mop could stretch, bend and was alive. All of these things I love.
2.) The show was funny. It’s got the action for sure, but the self aware humor was unique even compared to its contemporaries. I mean, the main bad guy’s name was Dr. Killemoff, need I say more?
3.) Even though I’m not a fan of origin stories now, ironically, I loved seeing them when I was a kid. I’m a big fan of Spider-Man and the Hulk, and Toxie’s origin story was like a weird combo of the two. As a kid I also have a soft spot for heroes that transformed. While Toxie never turned back into Melvin, seeing Melvin change in the first episode was still one of my favorite moments.
The Adult Review
Now this show is packed to the brim with jokes. Constant joking. The jokes won’t stop. Always joking. So much joking.
God, I just wish I could say I was laughing.
The humor was about as simple and juvenile as you can get. The show’s humor clearly worked on me when I was a kid, but now I see a bunch of comedy gags that are just fail in delivery.
Now, I can admit that I could see them really trying to be clever with this show. The approach they wanted for the humor in this series was to make fun of the tropes all the other action/superhero shows. Dr. Killemoff’s second in command pretty much calls out every beat that happens in the episode. Toxie hears when the soundtrack changes from happy music to dangerous music. Toxie calls out how convenient it was that other guys also got turned into hideous deformed creatures of super human size and strength.
It’s not like making this show as a satire on this genre was a bad idea, but most of the humor lays flat due to the writing (Sidenote: The credited screenwriter of this episode was Chuck Lorre, who would later be known for creating The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, Mike and Molly, and pretty much the rest of the CBS comedy line up.)
The animation quality doesn’t help much either. It feels like if the show had a faster pace and stronger animation, then some of the jokes that were written might have had a chance.
The weak animation also affects the enjoyment of the action scenes, as they are awkwardly animated and sluggish. Such was the case with shows like these back then, it’s just that I can notice the problems now.
But you know, despite my disappointments in this, I can still see the charm in the show.
I can still appreciate the attempts on making this kind of humor work, and not many shows were willing to go that far. I’m actually surprised how much of the Troma Movie vibe I still get while watching this cartoon.
Toxie is still kind of a lovable hero. He’s pretty much a squeaky clean, super nice version of Captain America. He’s got this “awwww shucks” attitude that’s still fun to watch and makes him a likable lead in this series. And the mop still rules.
In the end, the only real reason to watch this show is to look back nostalgically. No, it doesn’t really hold up, but it’s got a weird charm to it that I think is worth an episode. And hell, fans of the movies should see it for sure, if only to see how they tweaked the elements from the crazy movies to make it ok to watch as a cartoon show.
Overall, Toxic Crusaders is still pretty watchable…but a good show? It ain’t. Is it a terrible show? No, but it certainly isn’t a great one.
The theme song though? It’s still pretty cool.