27 January 2014

Cartoon Villains

When I was a kid I LIVED for after school and Saturday morning cartoons.

Is anyone with me on this?

Each weekday I came home from school and settled down in front of the TV with my favorite heroes—Thundercats, He-Man, She-Ra, Transformers, Rainbow Bright, Voltron and Jem just to name a few. Loved them. Back then I would sometimes actually put physical effort into running so I didn’t miss the beginning of the first show on after school.

I need to find a similar motivation today.

Anyway, I’m going to use He-Man as an example. Poor Skelator. I mean really, he’s stuck in that horrible “castle” surrounded by idiots thinking of new and inventive ways he could thwart He-Man and the Castle Grayskull lady so he could get whatever he thought was his that really wasn’t.

As a kid I totally dug it. Each episode, Skelator would hatch an evil plan. It would start out with promise, and when the commercial break came, there could be a flicker of concern for He-Man and friends.  BUT, just as soon as we returned from toy and fruit by the foot commercials, He-Man took control. Skelator and his band of not so awesome helpers would be beaten, they’d play the exact same shot of Beastman (whatever his name was) running away from the fight as He-Man stopped and looked back and forth in the exact same way he did every episode and then, poof, bad guys lose and good guys win.

Bad guys slink back to their ugly castle to lick their wounds and get yelled at while the good guys expressed thanks to those who had helped, spit out what was supposed to be a humorous line (I totally laughed every time), and gave the kids some advice before the credits rolled.

I remember one time thinking, Good thing these bad guys aren’t very bright, because He-Man and his friends don’t usually get smarter very fast.

That may have been the day I stopped enjoying my after school cartoons so much.

This kind of a villain—only there to give the good guy something to fight against each episode or step of the story—works, but not for long. And even now-a-days kid’s cartoons employ more intricate villains.

In general, if you’re writing, you should probably stay away from this type of bad guy. No one really progresses, including your good guy—because he/she doesn’t have to—which makes for a dull story.

Unless you’re just there for the plucky humor. Then you’re totally in the right place.


Crystal R. Martin said...

Can you say Scooby Doo? Same thing here...great post. :D

Jonathan Stringer said...

As a kid I was amazed at the GI Joe move because Commander Cobra actually gets punished for doing a bad job. Even worse is the bad guys got smarter and the good guys had some serious problem adapting to it. I kept thinking, "You can't do this to the Joes, they always defeat the bad guys"

The Transformers movie was even better (or worse if you were the heroes), (spoilers ahead) they kill Optimus Prime in the first act and it goes down hill from there. The enemies were clever and dangerous and there was real consequences to failure.