Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

HAWK TALK – Attack of the Franchise Cartoons

This would usually be a skip week, but the world is still being a jerk, so we made you a bonus, entirely unedited, and almost entirely off-topic episode. This time, we talked about the television shows we grew up on (and a few current ones)!

Topics, roughly:

  • Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood
  • Masters of the Universe
  • She-Ra
  • The Real (vs. non-Real) Ghostbusters
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Little Shop of Horrors
  • Beetlejuice
  • Toxic Crusaders
  • Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
  • The Adventures of Pete & Pete (and the not-so-secret origin of this podcast)
  • Les Schtroumpfs (and the time they maybe fought Satan)
  • Batman: The Animated Series
  • X-Men: The Animated Series
  • X-Men: Evolution
  • Wolverine & the X-Men
  • The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
  • The X-Files
  • Star Trek: Voyager
  • Earth 2
  • VR5
  • M.A.N.T.I.S.
  • The Simpsons
  • Daria
  • Tuca & Bertie
  • Gravity Falls
  • Over the Garden Wall

You can check out Waiting for October, our zine based on The Adventures of Pete & Pete, on Gumroad!


  1. Miles, I feel like we had such a similar childhood in someways. My god I never hear anyone else talk about Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea.

  2. VR5! Now that is a show that really doesn’t come up very often. Miles seems to remember way more of it than I do, I pretty much just remember it involved some iteration of VR that would most definitely seem ridiculous as an adult/person no longer living in the 90s, and that I got super into it as the first season was ending. I was so psyched by the season finale in particular and its cliffhanger that I decided it was my favorite show (I think… I was at least very, very excited about it), and spent the whole summer eagerly awaiting the season premiere, and then… nothing.

    (Also, shout out to Pirates of Dark Water! I watched that one pretty regularly, even though I think I eventually lost some enthusiasm at the fact that it didn’t seem like they were ever going to make any headway in their goal. I mean, they wouldn’t have had a show any longer if they managed to rid their planet of the dark water that was taking over, but it still felt like the initial episodes promised a trajectory that, IIRC, I think got somewhat lost down the line.)

  3. I was a Leonardo for the same reason I was a cyclops. As the eldest cousin / brother / fill in the blank I was always tasked with keeping the peace and enforcing the rules, and therefore had to play the stick in the mud, so Leonardo and Scott Summers were my spirit animal no matter how badly I wanted to be Deadpool or Raphael.

    My fever dream was Wheeled Warriors & my cartoons I was too young to watch the source material was RoboCop (I talked my way into A-Team.

  4. While the original TMNT show is over, I think there’s pretty much constantly been a Ninja Turtles show being produced up till today.

    1. The only X-files episode I really remember was the one where they’re investigating a monster that enforces the neighborhood’s Home Owner’s Association rules. Was kind of fun.

      Loved Earth 2, from what I saw of it, but could never manage to remember when it was on. The same with Seaquest, which was like Star Trek on a sub.

  5. A favorite live-action show when I was a kid in the ’80s was Misfits of Science. It only lasted one season and featured Courteney Cox with telekinetic powers. There was also a guy that could shrink down to roughly the size of a doll, and I think the other guy had electricity powers, though my memory is fuzzy on that.

    1. I saw the pilot for that when it came out on videotape over here! 🙂

      Courtney Cox was indeed a telekinetic, though not a very controlled one.

      Johnny Bee was a rock star with electrical zapping powers (Him blowing up military vehicles whilst singing Johnny B Goode was more fun than I expected).

      The shrinking guy (who was played by Kevin Peter Hall, the guy in the Predator suit in the first two movies) only planned on trying to shrink a little because he found being 7’4″ to be awkward, but could only either be full height or 11 inches tall.

      There was a fourth “Misfit” in the pilot, nicknamed “Ice Man” who absorbed all the heat around him, but who had to be dropped before the series because Marvel legally complained about him being a character called Iceman with freezing powers.

      1. It was also at least rumored (it’s been a long time, and I do not know if this was ever based on anything solid) that Misfits of Science was why Marvel changed the title of Jo Duffy’s Fallen Angels from The Misfits.

        Misfits of Science was definitely broadcast on RTE in Ireland, so I saw a number of episodes. (RTE had no money at the time, and bought loads of minor American television — the sort of thing that might have appeared on ITV in Britain, but more of it, so that sometimes one could see things that weren’t on British television).

        I had a friend who adored the show, in that way that we did as children in the ‘80s when if something was recognizably a show about the sort of thing that we liked at all, one loved it merely for being that. (I still *have* this friend – we haven’t violently fallen out or anything -, but as we have not discussed this exact topic in over three decades, I don’t know what his current opinion on Misfits of Science would be. His tastes nowadays run more to prestige television drama, oddly enough.). It never quite did it for me the same way, but I watched it.

  6. Deep breath time, becasue this is a LONG spiel!

    Back when I was watching cartoons, colour TV was still a pretty new idea. The first cartoon I can still remember now from the ealy 70’s was “Marine Boy”, an anime translation.

    There were also short cartoons just before the news, many of them stop motion animation, like “The Wombles”, “Bagpuss”, or “The Clangers”, or more traditional animation like “Ivor the Engine” and “Roobarb”, which are still fondly regarded today.

    Gerry Anderson’s puppet shows like “Thunderbirds” was nearly always on repeat or, if you were lucky, “Captain Scarlet” (Which I preferred for it’s much darker storylines). 1966 Batman reruns, or newer shows like “Space: 1999” and “Doctor Who” were a given of course, along with shows like “The incredible Hulk” (Bill Bixby and that end theme!), “Wonder Woman” and even “The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries”. Sigh… so much hair conditioner, so much flared denim! 🙂

    “The Tomorrow People” was a favourite of mine, a live action series from the mid-70’s about kids discovering that they were actually representatives of the next stage of human evolution, with telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation and a hardwired inability to kill. They had to deal with threats both alien and domestic. (And unlike the US remake of a few years ago, the kids were definitely kids, with the “breaking out” into their new powers at age 12 to 14 being a not very subtle metaphor, but a welcome one.). Much like the X-Men, which I had still to discover, the idea that anyone, even you, could potentially be a Tomorrow Person too, was a nifty hook.

    He-Man was always a little simplistic for my tastes (and Orko was like the Batmite he seemed based on, pretty much anathema to me), but it’s heart was in the right place (and the recent “He-Man and the Masters of the Multiverse” comic was a lot better than it had any right to be, with He-Man from the 80’s cartoon, the live action movie, and the 2003 cartoon reboot (Which like the Thundercats reboot looked SO much better than the original) all meeting up with various others!)

    In the 80’s the UK also had “The Trapdoor” and “Dangermouse” to ensure it’s kids grew up suitably eccentric and imported “The Mysterious Cities of Gold” and the gorgeous looking “Ulysses 31” from France (though we never got “Les Chevaliers Du Zodiaque, which seemed unfair)

    Though it exists because of it, Little Shop isn’t really based on the stageshow/movie per se. Essentially, the cartoon is the “Junior High AU” version, with Seymour and Audrey being vaguely adolescent, Mushnik is Audrey’s actual Dad, and the Orin Scrivello expy (Paine Driller) is the schooly bully wearing one of those big dental brace things. “Junior” (Audrey 2’s name in the cartoon) tended to be more inclined to rap than the soul of the original musical.

    In the late 80’s (When I was too old to watch cartoons, yet too bloody minded to care, a trend that continues to this day) I enjoyed “Jem” a lot (Thanks to The Misfits, of course) and also was very partial to “Visionaries”, another terrific series designed to sell toys (though toys and cartoons only lasted one season and the tie in comic ended 6 issues in, halfway through a plot!). Allegedly the studio knew they were folding, so just had more fun with Visionaries than anything else, with lot’s of in-jokes and sly humour. Merklynn was the best morally dubious version of Merlin I’d seen in years too, dealign with the good guys and the bad guys alike. He didn’t care how you used the magic he gave you, he just wanted it used!

    Though I was never a fan (it was just SO American cartoon-y, I’ve liked a couple of the later iterations) the TMNT are fascinating, especially because of the changes made to the characters from comic to screen. A chap by the name of David Wise, who died earlier this year, was responsible for giving them the individual personalities they’re known for rather than the kinda uniform outlook thing they’d had under Eastman and Laird. Wise literally said he’d be unable to write them as was, and so he assigned each of them a personaity based on one aspect of the title. Michelangelo was “Teenage” (being the party animal), Donatello was “Mutant” (being the weird, geeky one), Leonardo was “Ninja” (since he was the leader) and Raphael was “Turtle” (which is a bit vague, but was all that was left) (Or possibly Leo and Raph are the other way around, since Raph is the warrior, and Leo is the repsonsible one).

    “Gargoyles” was a revelation, more worldbuilding, history and exquisitely detailed chronology (including time travel and temporal loops) than anything I’d seen in a “kids” cartoon, and tighly plotted you could SING it.

    Lovely to hear “Pirates of Dark Water” get a mention.

    And IIRC you guys made a cartoon based on “Rambo”, so “Toxic Crusaders” seems less of a leap.

    I also have to throw in a word for “ReBoot”, the UK dub of “Insektors” and “Samurai Pizza Cats” just because they were all awesome in their own way.

    Now I’m going to be quiet…

    1. No I’m not, because I forgot “Tiny Toon Adventures”, “Animaniacs” and “Pinky and the Brain” (but no “Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain” because I have my limits)

      NOW I’ll be quiet!

    2. There were also short cartoons just before the news, many of them stop motion animation, like “The Wombles”, “Bagpuss”, or “The Clangers”, or more traditional animation like “Ivor the Engine” and “Roobarb”, which are still fondly regarded today.

      This phrasing had better not mean that The Wombles are not fondly regarded today, because if you’re saying that, I am going to come round to your house, go through your rubbish, and show you things that you have just thrown out when you could have put them to good use.

      Although I was a book snob, and looked down on the TV show for not being the *real* Wombles.

      1. Also, if we’re talking stop-motion, you didn’t mention the bizarre fever-dream that was The Magic Roundabout.

        (For people unfamiliar with The Magic Roundabout: it was a very long-running British children’s show that was made by taking a French show. The French show was full of surreal characters who were strange creations in themselves. But the British version added an extra layer of weird. It only used the French visuals, without any element of translating other aspects of the stories. Instead, when it added English-speaking voices, it did so to create new and different stories with different characters, unrelated to the stories told by the French original.)

        I’m sure it’s on YouTube, but I’m scared to find out, for fear of provoking flashbacks.

        1. Oh the five minute slot before the news had some classics.

          “The Magic Roundabout” was amazing, I’ve already mentioned “Ivor the Engine”. Also there was “Captain Pugwash” and “Noah and Nelly in the SkylArk” (about an eccentric sailor named Noah with an ark full of two-headed pushmi-pullyu versions of ordinary animals, and his wife Nelly, whose knitting prowess rivalled a Green Lantern’s power ring)

          There was also the surreal “Ludwig” in the late 70’s, about some sort of alien entity that looked like a crystal egg which could extrude limbs or accessories and which had a fondness for Beethoven.

          Hmmm, between Ludwig and the adventures of the amorphous shapeshifter, “Barbapapa” (and his family) I begin to understand why I bonded with Warlock the way I did….

          Ooh, and “Sapphire and Steel” was a proper grown up, creepy science fiction series!

      2. I’m not sure the Wombles are remembered much at all these days, except by old fogey’s like us, but they remain VERY fondly remembered by me, esepcially thanks to Bernard Cribbins’ voicework.

        That and I can still remember a worryingly large number of Mike Batt’s Womble’s oeuvre, from “The Wombling Song” to “Minuetto Allegretto”

        Oh, and on a non-Womble note, I’m embarassed I didn’t mention “The Muppet Show”, as the UK version of “Fraggle Rock” with Fulton MacKay as the Captain.

        1. I’m not sure the Wombles are remembered much at all these days, except by old fogey’s like us…

          Hey, the Wombles played Glastonbury in 2011.

          Although that might prove your point.

          (Still, it gives me an excuse to… https://youtu.be/JsmdFfJ1voo )

  7. Oh, also a shout out to weird 1970’s shows like “Big John, Little Jhn”, about a 40 year old High School teacher who accidentally took a sip from the Fountain of Youth and thereafter starts yo-yoing beyween the ages of 45 and 12 at random, which is a bit of a stressor for his wife and son

    Also the seemingly literally neverending parade of Hanna Barbera shows, like “Scooby Doo”, “Speed Buggy”, “Jeannie” (with a theme song sung by, of all people, Mark Hamill), “It’s the Wolf!”, “Yogi’s Gang”, “Motormouse and Autocat”, “Wacky Races”, Yogi’s Laff-a-Lympics” and “Bailey’s Comets”, some were good, some were dull and some were just awful.

    And then there was “Wait Till your Father gets Home”, which was aired in a slot usually reserved for “The Flintstones”, and clearly put there by people who’d never watched an episode of it.

    A sort of 1970’s version of “Family Guy” which left even very, very young Icon_UK frankly flabbergasted as to how it got on TV uncut.

  8. Weirdly, although I watched plenty of cartoons as a child, I can’t really think of any that I would describe as formative. That possibly means that they were on some subconscious level that I am repressing…

    But I think a lot of it’s because cartoons were sort of interchangeable – I watched cartoons at a certain age as part of the BBC children’s television block that started at 4 o’clock, at a time when there were very few channels and you watched what was on. So I didn’t have to seek out a particular cartoon. I do however remember being frustrated that there was never a real ghost on Scooby-Doo, that it was always someone dressed up. I am apparently one of very few people who preferred the Scrappy-Doo era, because the monsters were actually real. Same way, in live-action, that I was frustrated that The Incredible Hulk only ever encountered unpleasant but normal people in the small town of the week, so that he might as well have been the Littlest Hobo.

    On the subject of animated X-Men, though, one should never forget that episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. As someone who was a very devoted X-Men fan at that point, it was a big deal that the X-Men, superheroes that were at that time quite obscure in my particular context as distinct from the likes of well, Spider-Man, were on television.

    1. Oh, man – how could I have forgotten Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends? I only had about half a dozen episodes taped off TV, but I watched them religiously – including Firestar’s origin episode with its kinda-sorta-accurate version of the X-Men! God, I loved that show (and its excellently 70s soundtrack).

      1. Yeah, that episode is great–when I rewatched it on Netflix a few years back, adult me was surprised at how many lines I could recite, and how much of the soundtrack I could sing along to…!

        I wasn’t aware of it playing on TV when I was growing up (at least definitely not on any station I had access to), so I just had 2 episodes on VHS, back when you paid I think $15 or $20 for one whopping episode per tape. Though, from how firmly imprinted the Firestar episode is on my psyche, maybe I did get my money’s worth after all.

  9. There were a lot of FOX shows in the 90s that were cancelled early. They threw a lot at the wall and only cared about what stuck.

    Spartakus is called “Les Mondes Engloutis” in french. Was a classic.

    For french cartoons, there’s also “Ulysses 31” which I rewatched as an adult and it is extremely bleak. The gods screw over someone every episode, and at the end of the series, Ulysses manages to return home by begging forgiveness of the gods for killing the Cyclops. Very Mythy Greek, but a terrible lesson for kids.

    In regards to cartoons that existed for weird reasons, there was a Conan cartoon. Had a great theme tune that new exactly how bonkers it was that it existed and loved it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HT3cl4GJIDs

    There was also a “Mutant League” children’s cartoon. And you might not have heard of it, but it did allow characters to get regularly dismembered and decapitated on screen for laughs.

    And . . . “Aeon Flux”. A cartoon that I watched when I was too young or too innocent. Loved it then, love it now. “Reign the Conqueror” wasn’t as enjoyable, but it might have been more interesting. I need to rewatch that.

    Anyway, I’m interested in seeing that Daria spin-off. I think it’s when they’re adults? It should be interesting to explore the barriers that Jodie, the smart and popular ambitious black girl, will have to deal with. Or they’ll mess it up badly.

    1. Oh no, I can’t stop running my mouth!

      “The Pirates of Dark Water” had interesting designs by Floro Dery who also designed a lot of the Transformers (all the ones in the movie, I think he claimed). The concept of the show was really cool, but I don’t think it was actually very interesting in its execution.

      And I forgot to bring up “Exosquad” which was a serialised cartoon back in the day dealing with all sorts of topics from slavery and exploitation, to war and war profiteering. For the time, it was really, really good. Could use one less sexist drunk who somehow still has his job and is a “good guy” though. To clarify, he wasn’t textually drunk, because that wouldn’t have been allowed in a cartoon, but he was coded drunk, if that’s a thing.

  10. Can you elaborate, please, on your comment of My Little Pony being racist? Not trying to be arbitrary, but this really mystifies me.

    1. As a comment it baffled me too (a long illness a few years ago meant I was stuck at home and with limited channels available could choose either home renovation programs or My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I have never regretted my choice to spend time in Equestria)

      I suspect it might be due to Zecora, who was introduced as a mysterious, exotic outsider, who spoke in a strange way and who nobody trusted or made friends with.

      But since “learning to make friends with outsiders and not jump to conclusions” was the plot of her introductory episode, I’m not sure I ever saw it as being an ongoing issue, but I’m possibly blithely overlooking something horribly obvious.

    2. And then I remembered the Buffalo people, who seem to be broad-brush Native American stereotypes, though I believe the show did use a Native Consultant for the episodes they showed up in, so maybe not as much as they might have been?

  11. I loved Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea. I never understood it, but I had the feeling that once I did it would be the greatest thing ever.

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