The Fantastic 10: Nerdy Cartoons

Greetings, Nerdosphere, and welcome to the first ever Fantastic Ten. A column to satisfy the gratuitous need to arbitrarily rank things according to gut feeling, and pretend that I am in fact an expert. For some, these top ten lists will be a source of validation and agreement, and for others they will be a cause for anger and trolling. I, for one, can’t wait.

10. Gargoyles

Admittedly, this show may chart higher on this list had I been swept up in it in my youth as others were. Then again with so many strong contenders maybe it would have landed right here all along. At any rate it is a sad admission that I missed the boat on this show in my youth, but I am aware that it garnered a huge following, and remains a favorite of so many in the Nerdosphere. And why wouldn’t it be with great story lines and an amazing group of voice actors like Keith David, Jonathan Frakes, and even Clancy Brown!


9. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

And we have the first of the ’80s classics to make the list! He-Man broke a lot of ground, and set the tone for several cartoons to follow it. It was in fact the first syndicated cartoon to be based around a toy, but as we all know it would not be the last. He-Man ran for two seasons, but was prolific in its original run with 130 episodes! He-Man was a great lead character with a great signature phrase: “BY THE POWER OF GRAY SKULL I HAVE THE POWER!!”, but I think what makes He-Man still stand out for me is the great supporting characters both good and evil. He-Man featured a great set of allies with the likes of Man at Arms, Man-E-Faces, and Teela. Skeletor is an amazing villain along with Evil-Lyn, Trapjaw and a personal favorite because of his action figure, Clawful.

8. Beast Wars

And we have come to the last truly great incarnation of Transformers with Beast Wars! Now I will shoot straight with you, I was never much of a fan of Optimus Primal’s beast mode in any form. Something about him being a gorilla just kinda felt lame to me. I didn’t hold out much hope for this show when it was starting, in part because I felt the Transformers concept but with animals instead just didn’t hit me as a winner right off the bat. That coupled with my natural suspicion of reboots and remakes, even at a very young age, I felt as though it would not be able to maintain the standard set with the original Transformers. I was happy to be wrong on all counts. Every reference to the previous Transformers series inspired nergasms galore for myself. Beast Wars featured tremendous CGI animation, incredible action, great voice acting, but most importantly a cohesive and gripping story. I encourage everyone to go on YouTube and watch the episode “Code of Hero” to see how truly great this show was. For my money Dinobot was one of the greatest additions to the Transformers mythos.

7. Spider-Man the Animated Series

Spider-Man is a worldwide icon, and this series definitely did him justice. Voice actor Christopher Barnes captured perfectly the wise cracking quick wit of Spider-Man better than any adaptation I have seen. The series featured so many of Spidey’s best villains and even made some of the also rans household names. To wit the Shocker is still a favorite of mine because of this show. The show also was memorable for featuring team ups with other great marvel heroes like Daredevil, Blade, The Punisher and Captain America. The series captured the soul of one of comics greatest creations, and it still stands up today.

6. ThunderCats

Thunder!..Thunder! Thunder!! ThunderCats HO!!! Checking in just outside the top five is one of my personal favorites. ThunderCats had everything you could want in an animated series. Great heroes each with their own specialty, my personal favorite being Tygra of course. tremendous villains led by Mumm-Ra the ever living. Great catch phrases; I mean what kid who watched 80′s cartoons at some point has not uttered “Eye of Thundera give me sight beyond sight!”? And last but certainly not least it features one of the greatest intro themes ever produced. I still get chills listening to it. The common denominator with ThunderCats is how well it has stood the test of time, and remains as memorable as any animated series. It struck all the right chords with its audience which refused to let it be forgotten.

5. X-Men

Cracking the top 5 is a favorite of many, and possibly the best marvel adaptation ever produced. When this cartoon hit it created an X-Men boom no doubt about it. I know because I was there in the middle of it. This series brought so many of the X-Men characters and story lines to life, and for many it was either their first or most in depth exposure to the mutants of Professor Xavier’s school. Not many of us had the attention span or the finances to keep up with every comic issue at the time, but this show stayed true enough to the source material that you could hang with any conversation by recalling back to one of these episodes. The structure of the show was fantastic and during the course of any season you would have an ongoing story arch or side stories for each member so you could get to know your favorites. Now, a few years back I poked fun of a clip about the voice acting in this show, and led me to believe that the greatness of this show wouldn’t stand up. I am happy to report I was dead wrong. In going back and re-watching the series I am astonished by how complex or adult much of the storytelling is. I mentioned above about how listening to the ThunderCats theme still gives me chills, and you can bet I have the same sentiments here for the X-Men.

4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Here we arrive to what I suspect will be the most controversial placement on this list, and decry me for not giving the Turtles their proper due. I was and still am a huge Turtlemaniac. I had pretty much every toy as a kid, and watched this cartoon religiously. You can make the argument that with the launch of the cartoon and toy line the TMNT craze was as big as any of the cartoons on this list. Every kid had a favorite turtle growing up because sadly not everyone can be Leonardo. Damn you Jeff!! And it wasn’t just Splinter and the turtles; this cartoon had amazing support heroes like Casey Jones, April and Yojimbo, and villains like The Shredder, Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady. I have of course not done the financial break downs, but I would venture to guess that this show was so monumental that the pizza industry experienced its greatest years while this show was on. Maybe that was the secret to the Turtles gaining their way into so many hearts; Ninjas+Pizza is a winning formula for kids. I pity the mothers out there that undoubtedly had to suffer kids like me singing the theme song non-stop. Nothing more I can add other than COWABUNGA Turtle Power!

3. GI Joe

If you were wondering where this would end up on my list, well, now you know! And knowing is half the battle. It’s difficult to compete with a cartoon that literally has two armies worth of awesome characters. Ninjas? Check. Twin acrobats who feel each others pain? Check. Squeaky bumbling mastermind villain? Check. Squeaky clean bad asses with a perfect jaw? Check. Jive talking soul brother with a big gun? Check. I could do top ten lists about the coolest Joe, and Cobra characters respectively. Hmmm, not such a bad idea. People often forget the original G.I. Joe toy was created in 1964, but when the cartoon hit everything else before it was overshadowed. This show provided high octane adventure with some heavy handed patriotism and moralizing, and kids everywhere ate it up and love it to this day. YO JOE!!

2. Transformers

With as much offense meant to Michael Bay as possible, this cartoon is why you see people sporting Autobot or Decepticon symbols on their cars or t-shirts and what have you. Not those abominations he calls films. Sure this cartoon was about selling toys, but have you looked at the rest of this list? I can best sum up how Transformers edged out G.I. Joe with two words: Optimus Prime. He is the greatest and most iconic cartoon hero of all time. He was a hero to so many growing up that when they killed him off in the cartoon movie it damn near created an international incident. Beyond Optimus you had scores of other great heroes and villains like Megatron, Soundwave, Bumblee, Jazz, Ironhide and many many more. I am forever grateful for this show, and the bar of success it set for others to follow it.

1. Batman The Animated Series

As if anything else could top this list. This was the only easy call I had to make. Everything else was only competing for second billing. The writing, animation and voice acting in this series are second to none. In fact I will be revisiting this series when I do a top ten list of its episodes. Batman The Animated Series is not only the greatest cartoon I have seen, but it is the single best adaptation of anything Batman related. Better than any movie, and quite frankly it probably is better than a vast amount of the Batman comics themselves. This series not only brought the Caped Crusader and his rogues gallery to life while remaining true to the comics. The changes they did make in most cases were improvements. In this Batman The Animated Series is unique that it added and improved upon an existing comic book mythos, and I think you would be hard pressed to find another adaptation that could make the same claim.