Saturday, February 7, 2015

SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS: The Inhumanoids




By JONATHAN M. CHAFFIN

While we're on the subject of action cartoons that anchor a time slot, anyone else out there in TV land who loved the cartoon THE INHUMANOIDS?  It came on alongside JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS, ROBITIX, and BIGFOOT AND THE MUSCLE MACHINES on Saturday mornings. I loved that show.  I mean, LOVED it.

Wikipedia tells me the cartoon was basically 13 twenty-two minute episodes, later released as a few movies (I think there were 4 volumes on VHS).  It was a rollicking team-up produced by Marvel and Sunbow, with some Marvel/Star comics as tie in material.  Like many cartoons of that era, Inhumanoids was really a long serialized toy commercial for Hasbro...even as kids we knew it, but no one cared, because the toys were AWESOME. I'll get more to the awesome toys in a minute. Let me tell you a little about the cartoon.

Inhumanoids had a nice linear plot, which made the fact it shared a timeslot a game of hellish russian roulette.  Ok, TV Guide says it's time for "Bigfoot Hour"...am I going to get Inhumanoids, or Jem and the Holograms? (guilty pleasure...I love Jem and the Holograms)  Will I see a shiny new episode in sequence, or the same one I always seem to see with Sandra Blackthorne getting turned into a zombie?  Or no Inhumanoids at all?

The tagline for Inhumanoids was, "The Evil the Lies Within."  Fitting, as everything (rocks, trees, statues, corpses ... everything) in this world was animated, reanimated, or mutated. Many of them were deadly, possibly horrific, monsters.  This show had literally everything a kid could want.  Giant monsters, zombies, corporate espionage, evil scientists who were also politicians, do-gooder eco-scientists who were also mechasuit wearing bad-assess, Lovecraftian beasties, and an extensive mythology.  What was not to love?

Basically, you start with the good guys, Earth Corps, versus the evil corporate leader Blackthorne.  Blackthore wants it all and is willing to bribe, steal, murder, destroy the environment, and make deals with giant evil monsters in order to get power. Earth Corps wants to stop him. Next you throw in a long-running war between ancient tree and rock people versus the aforementioned Giant Evil Monsters.  The tree and rock people don't trust the good guys, Blackthorne keeps making then breaking deals with the Big Bad (named Metlar), somewhere the bad guy get a cyclops-dragon with a transparent acid-belly....this show is just great.  I just re watched some....still great. 

Earth Corp. (pronounce Earth Core) is everything we needed from our 1980's good guy team; just imagine they are the more familiar Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Blackthorne's sister as April O'Neil and they are fairly well sketched in. They are assisted by some rock people and some tree people.  The real fun begins with the bad guys (doesn't it always?).  Let's meet the main Inhumaniods (plus the aforementioned cyclops dragon).

One was a giant human/T-rex hybrid lich called D-Compose.  His raspy shriek will be very familiar to fans my age; he was voiced by the incomparable Chris Latta,who also voiced Starscream (Transformers) and Cobra Commander (GI Joe).

Another Inhumanoid was a behemoth called Metlar (he kinda defies description, but I tend to conflate him with Bowser and Ganon as a big burly burning- eyed baddie).  A big focus of the show is containing Metlar; there is a character named Magnokor who basically exists to keep Metlar contained in a magnetic field. 

Tendril.
My favorite of the Inhumanoids, perhaps obviously to folks who know the show, is the monster from the Earth’s mantle named Tendril.  Tendril is a big shambling green thing bedecked with tentacles.  Inspired by Cthulhu, needless to say. Unfortunately, Tendril is Low Man on the Totem Pole, because, as his name might suggest, he is dumb as a stump. He is not bright. He is hard to kill though (see below).

All of the monsters call different strata of the planet home, and each has a power that help them create armies and wreck havoc; D-Compose raises corpses, Metlar animates statues (and once got it on with the Statue of Liberty). Tendril...well,...let's just say, "Cut off the head and two grow back".

It'd just be mean to tease you about the cyclops dragon with a transparent acid-belly and not give up the goods, so let me tell you about Gargoyle.  He's more like a ravening animal than the rest of the Inhumanoids, and Gargoyle was never made as a toy, which is a shame because TRANSPARENT ACID BELLY.  I can imagine filling it up with that glowing slime from He-Man's Slime Pit.  Woulda been great! Gargoyle give a younger me wicked nightmares. Why? Because A) he ate all his siblings, and B) because when Gargoyle opens his toothy maw and swallows you down, probably inflicting hideous gashes with his teeth, you land in the pool of acid that is his tummy tum and then, YOU DON'T DIE. No, you lie there, in acid, able to see out through his membranous belly, and suffer until your bones fall apart. How freaking terrible is that?

Why were the toys so awesome?  First, they were freaking huge; unlike most of the other toys at the time, the Inhumanoids toy line was to scale and the monsters TOWERED over the good guys.  Giant tentacle monster toy beloved and embedded in my brain – check.  That’s why I wanted to learn more about Cthulhu. The human scientists were bigger than most other toys lying around, and you could take the helmets off which was cool, but the real gems were the Inhumanoids. They weighed in at around 14 inches tall.  Let me tell you; the fun thing was pitting those guys against GI Joe and Cobra ... 3.75 inch figures against giant monsters? Hours of fun.

Second, the toys were also clever if not actually innovative; they used translucent red plastic in the top of the figures head to make the eyes and fangs glow.  Tendril had rubbery tentacles. D-Compose had a ribcage you could open and trap the good guys in. The packaging was also great...these guys OWNED the toy isle at Christmas.  All in all, they were really fun bits of toy.  I really wish I could buy one cheaper on ebay, because one day I WILL OWN ONE AGAIN.  (If anyone has an old Tendril figure they want to mail me, let me know.  Ditto if you have a Boglin, Mint In Box).

SO. I love the show. You should watch the show. It's worth dusting off your VCR for and tracking down a VHS if you can't find it on DVD to watch the show.

An interesting wrinkle; a few years ago, Kevin Smith expressed interest in the series and mentioned someone should really pic it up.  Marvel was vaguely involved in the old days. Open letter to the internet: Marvel Cinematic Universe, you need to make an Inhumanoids movie.  Or at least a revival toy line and re-release box set of the show.  Something.

JONATHAN M. CHAFFIN is an Atlanta-based graphic designer and art director and a lifetime fan of horror stories and film. His current project is www.HorrorInClay.com where he uses artifacts and ephemera to tell stories... he also produces horror-themed tiki mugs and barware like the Horror In Clay Cthulhu Tiki Mug. In addition, Jonathan occasionally does voice-over and podcasting work and appears on panels at sci-fi fantasy and pop culture conventions on a variety of topics. You can follow him @CthulhuMug on twitter or by friending HorrorInClay on Facebook and G+

1 comment:

Cousin Barnabas said...

We have Tendril (and Box)...
and my G-mail account is screwed...

Really enjoyed the "London After Midnight" post....!!!!
and posted a "shout-out post on your wonderful Blog and that post...

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