Friday, September 20, 2013

Best Cartoon Ever (of the Month) – The Centurions by Kalan

Hey! You there! You look like the kind of person who could really appreciate turning anything and everything into a cyborg and who may (or may not) be bent on world domination utilizing said cyborgs.
“Why, madam, you're absolutely correct,” you say?
HOW COULD I HAVE KNOWN?!?!?!
Oh, you must be joining me for the awesomeness that is The Centurions because there is no other way you could share such an affinity for cyborgs, legendary monsters, mythology, and, well - like I said, world domination. These reasons, plus so many more are why this Ruby-Spears cartoon with a DC comic spin-off is the Best Cartoon Ever (of the Month).

Left - The Good Guys – Max Ray, Jake Rockwell and Ace McCloud Right – The MEGA BABELY Crystal Kane (who I totally want to cosplay)

We are joined predominantly by three heroes – Max Ray our dude of the ocean blue, Ace McCloud our guy in the sky, and Jake Rockwell our man on land. Out of the three of them, I have to say that Ace McCloud is by far my favorite. I'm not one to usually develop some sort of unnatural affection for a cartoon character, well, okay, at least a male character, but this time I'll allow myself the opportunity to lust. He's the ladies man of the group and shares an affinity for pick-up lines and double entendré. Granted it's not to the extreme that I myself revel in, but this is a kids show.
The main Centurions are supported by Crystal Kane - a knock-out babe with an Orangutan - who runs Sky Vault. The Centurions are governed by the Science Council which sounds more awesome than it actually is. Yes, they formed and fund the Centurions to protect the Earth, but beyond that they're just like any other politicians. We have a great cast of voice actors backing the show with Pat Fraley (of TMNT fame), Neil Ross (Voltron, Transformers, and GI Joe) and Ed Gilbert (Bravestarr and Transformers) among others.
From a toy marketing standpoint the smart thing about this show are the Exo-Frames and how conveniently they accommodate the “sold separately” components. One wonders while watching the show initially “what could those holes be for?” and then it hits you, “OH! THE ACCESSORIES! DUH!!!!” Every time they are outfitted on the show it’s basically an instructional segment so you know where stuff goes once you get all the goods. 


By the way, this is exactly how I would look upon getting any of these toys! HOOORAYYY!!!!

Each Centurion has his own unique Assault Weapons System that is controlled by some sort of cerebral link within their Exo-Frames. For Ace we get Sky Knight - his basic system that has some arm missiles, laser blasters and a chest-mounted bomb, Orbital Interceptor for combat in space and underwater when necessary, Sky Bolt - which is essentially a mini fighter jet, Strato Strike, and Air Assault. For Max we have Cruiser - his basic set up which is a scuba suit with a gun and some projectiles, Tidal Blast - which is like a mini-sub surrounding his upper body, Depth Charger - a submarine with all essential submarine armaments, Aqua-Blazer and Fathom Fan. Jake's basic equipment is Fireforce, Detonator - which for whatever usefulness has a freeze ray, Wild Weasel (which makes me laugh every time it is mentioned) - a full-body motorcycle, Hornet - a helicopter (I guess they were limited for his accessories so they needed something air-related to beef it up), Swingshot, Awesome Auger - which had significantly limited usefulness, and Land Laser.

Two additional Centurions are added towards the end of the series. Rex Charger - an energy specialist - and John Thunder, an Apache “infiltration” specialist who just happens to be a “direct descendant of Geronimo”. Much like many other cartoons of the 80s, the Centurions felt it necessary to create some racial diversity by adding a Native American to the crew. They each get two vehicles. Charger gets Electro-Charger and Gatling Guard and Thunder gets Silent Arrow and Thunder Knife, which is less of a vehicle and more of just a damn knife. For me they're trivial characters even though they do take up a few specific episodes; it's not like the show really benefited from them being there.


Left – John Thunder Right – Rex Charger

In all honesty, my affinity for a cartoon has a rather significant correlation to it having something awesome to yell while watching it. Like how Captain Planet has the whole “earth, fire, wind, water, heart” deal or He-Man has “by the power of Grayskull...I HAVE THE POWER!” It's one of those things that is pretty gratifying as a kid (and also enjoyable to holler when drinking). It's like you're helping the hero(es). Considering the social skills of most cartoon aficionados, let's face it, it's nice to feel included. Well, the power cheer (for lack of a better description) for Centurions is “Power Extreme!” and that's fun to yell for any reason, just try it. Maybe not in the bedroom. Well, hey - it's worth a shot even there I suppose, so long as all parties involved have a sense of humor and a mutual point of reference so it's not just you being a weirdo.
Like many other 80s cartoons, there is a post-episode PSA. Since it's 2013, the ones where they talk about technology are especially hysterical. There is one in particular where we are shown one of those whole-room computers from the 70s and it is mentioned that “now a computer can fit on a desktop. Ah, the 80s.
Doc Terror – I'd be grinning too if I were this maniacal of a genius

The Centurions have a most formidable foe – Doc Terror and his main minion Hacker. These two fellas are self-made cyborgs. Their design is really awesome – very intimidating if you're a civilian and not outfitted in an Exo-Frame. Interestingly, the cyborg halves of them have their own artificial intelligence and act as a memory bank for their human halves. This is one of Doc Terror's designs and only backfires on him twice, haha. The first instance is in “Hacker Must Be Destroyed”, wherein the Centurions finally capture Hacker and his memory is played back in the courtroom. Secondly, in “The Better Half” parts 1 and 2, the cyborg halves break free from the human halves and team up into an uberborg.
Now, like most super villains, Doc Terror wants but one thing – world domination. But his methods are what really knock him up there on my list of all-time villains because – and get this – he turns E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G into a cyborg! Basically, here's his thought process:

“Hey, look! Dinosaurs! Now they're Dinoborgs! Oh, and these bats? Now they're cyborg bats! Wow, those sharks are pretty cool. Shazam! Now they're even cooler because they're cyborg sharks! This towel here? Well, my friends, now it's a towelborg!”

Okay, so I have a flair for exaggeration which contributed to the last one there, but the others actually happened. Yes, I'm serious and I know, that's kickass. It's pretty admirable that he has the technical capability to cyborgify everything in his path and that instead of using it to, I don't know; do something good, he wants to take over the world and rule forever. I can't say that's not a damn good plan if one has access to the same machinery.
Doc Terror has designed some wicked machinery beyond the “cyborg-ifyer”. He has comparable robots to combat each Centurion. Strafers are mini fighter jets, Groundborgs and Traumatizers (which kind of remind me of the ED units from Robocop) are for land attacks.
Speaking of villains, the show has a pretty expansive evil-doer line up. We get a Creature from the Black Lagoon look-alike with Doc Terror's creation Mako, Dracula, mutant piranha men, mutant plant creatures, mutant space viruses, a chick that controls whales with an organ, a guy that controls the weather - the list goes on and like any great cartoon, keeps you coming back for more. Some of my favorites of the bad guys Doc Terror employs are the Road Devils. Of course that's probably because their leader is voiced by Frank Welker and the entire gang looks like the audience of a Village People concert decided to stand-in as extras in Road Warrior.


Frank Welker's appearance ALWAYS makes the show a winner!!!

Along with the sub-villains we welcome Merlin in a King Arthur centered episode (in “Merlin”) wherein Merlin is entombed beneath Stonehenge, the lost city of Atlantis is discovered, we have ancient Egyptian and Mayan ruins and corresponding curses/alien visitation references. There's a lot of very peculiar content in this show and that is mostly because there were several awesome science-fiction writers who contributed to the show – Michael Reaves and Larry DiTillio among others – I mean, it COULDN'T be boring.
From what I understand, this gem of a show had/has a relatively large fan-base, but for those of you who haven't seen it, I highly recommend spending the 30 hours or so that it will take you to watch all 65 episodes. Then do it a few more times because it is worth it! Trust me, I know a good cartoon when I see one - if I didn't, the Masked One wouldn't let me waste your time every month!
-Kalan

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