Auto Pilot: Toxic Crusaders

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Since our commentary on The Toxic Avenger went up this week, we have to check out the Saturday morning cartoon based on the movies, Toxic Crusaders.

Episode Title: The Making of Toxie

Original Air Date: March 1, 1991

Did I Know Anything Going In?: I don’t remember watching the show regularly but I did have some of the toys, specifically I remember having a board game based on the show and really digging the look of the Radiation Rangers, the main henchmen of the evil Dr. Killemoff.

There was a bizarre trend in the late 80’s and early 90’s where properties that had no business being marketed to kids were…marketed to kids.  Police Academy, Rambo, Robocop, Conan and Highlander were just some of the R rated films that got cartoons, action figures, board games, comics and video games and Troma jumped onto that bandwagon, as well as the environmental trend of shows like Captain Planet, and turned the gross, crass and violent Toxic Avenger movies into the kid friendly Toxic Crusaders.

The first episode features a kidified version of Toxie’s origin as nerdy janitor Melvin Junko gets tricked by some of the jerks at the gym he works at into thinking he’s going to have a date with “Bimbette”, which requires him wearing a ballet tutu, and, when he realizes he’s been tricked, accidentally runs into a barrel of toxic waste in his embarrassed fleeing from the scene.  Toxie’s transformation is much goofier than the movie’s horrific sequence and there’s a funny bit where he actually transforms into a school teacher and Hollywood producer before becoming his final, lovably ugly form.  Some additions to the cartoon that aren’t in the movies is that Toxie develops a sort of Spider Sense whenever something evil is happening nearby and his trusty mop also becomes sentient as well and is able to transform and point things out to Toxie.  Also different from the movie is that Toxie has a girlfriend named Yvonne who is just nearsighted and not blind like Sarah in the movie and she’s a ditzy blonde accordion player and one of the bullies at the gym, Bonehead, is transformed after Toxie throws him into a vat of toxic waste and becomes one of Killemoff’s henchmen.

On the villain side of things, we have Dr. Killemoff, who is an alien insect like creature who is working to pollute the entire planet in an order to make the Earth suitable for invasion by his species.  One of the main running jokes of the show is that Dr. Killemoff is kind of an idiot and is constantly bluntly saying what he’s going to do and then his main henchman, Psycho, will kind of break the fourth wall and predict exactly how Toxie will defeat him in that week’s episode.  Tromaville is the only non-polluted town left in New Jersey, so Killemoff is trying to make that his latest dumping site in this first episode and Toxie gradually realizes what’s up and stops him.  Toxie is almost defeated in the episode’s final showdown but in a lucky coincidence, two more “hideously deformed creatures of superhuman size and strength” arrive just in time to join Toxie and save the day.  No-Zone is a pilot who flew into a silo of radioactive pepper and grew a gigantic nose that gives him the ability to produce powerful sneezes and Major Disaster is a soldier who fell into a radioactive swamp and can now control plants a la Swamp Thing.  The two other main Crusaders, Headbanger and Junkyard, don’t appear in this first episode.

The show has a surprisingly fun, self aware attitude that most likely comes from the input of Lloyd Kaufman.  There’s a lot of fourth wall breaking acknowledgement about the background music, plot structure and other cartoon conventions and there’s a lot of humorous asides and commentary from the characters.  The animation is a little rough watching it now but the character designs are fun and you can see a lot of the eventual action figures and vehicle designs at work in the episode.

Toxic Crusaders is a lot smarter than most of the other cartoons that aired in the same area and seems to realize and embrace how ridiculous it is that something the Toxic Avenger is now a kid and eco friendly cartoon.  If you’re a fan of Troma and haven’t checked it out, all the episode are on youtube and it’s definitely worth a look.

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