I was inspired, as I so often am, by Wifefish today. One of her recent birthday presents was a DVD of the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon from the ‘80s. Oh, how the nostalgia rolled on. The eyes and minds of children are very forgiving, it seems.
Like many 80’s cartoons, there were cheesy plots and cheesier sound effects. What really stands out in those cartoons, though, are the villains. There’s a reason that we refer to silly villains as “cartoonish”, and I’d like to take a closer look at a few of them here in Dangerboy’s Hall of Silly Villains.
We’ll start with a villain from He-Man, Masters of the Universe. In a cast of exceedingly silly characters, Trap Jaw stood out as imminently ridiculous. Basically an overgrown smurf on steroids with a primitive bionic arm, he displayed the same propensity as all He-Man characters to run around doing battle in his Underoos.
Granted, having interchangeable attachments for a right arm can come in very handy, but other than his laser gun thing he really missed out on possibilities. Anybody remember the tiny hook attachment on the action figure? Useless for anything beyond towing Skeletor’s ATV out of a mudhole, or maybe opening a can of beer without a churchkey, or perhaps for Skull Mountain Peter Pan cosplay night.
Trap Jaw’s helmet featured a loop on the top, which for the life of me I cannot remember if that tiny circle of plastic served any purpose beyond cranial hood ornament. If you remember, please, say something in the comments!
But the thing that really stood out, and of course earned him the name, was the big iron jaw. Woe to the poor bastard on soup day at the Skull Mountain Kitchen, though surely he’d have an advantage tackling overdone roast beef. I always found it odd that he wasn’t voiced with a giant lisp.
Pro tip: Dude, start your own gig. Skeletor’s a damn loser.
The antagonist of the Thundercats, Mumm-ra has the honor of being the villain on this list that by all rights should have whipped the everloving shit out of the heroes. He is like unto an evil god, embodying the Ancient Spirits of Evil. His knowledge of magic rivals the worst D&D nerd you’ve ever met blended with Criss Angel and motherfuckin’ Merlin.
He can disguise himself perfectly, just happens to be immortal, and can even walk in your damn dreams. Luckily for Lion-O and the rest of the gang, he has two big ol’ Achilles’ Heels.
Mumm-ra is allergic to his own reflection, and just showing the big daddy of all evil on Third Earth a funhouse mirror will dump his ass right back in his Black Pyramid, there to drink the bitter wine of defeat. He also has very limited stamina, and the more cans of Whoopass Cola he opens up, the sooner he ends up right back in the arms of the Ancients, where they rub his nose in it, looking down their giant statue noses at his perpetual failure to a freaking teenager with a pet Snarf. It’s a wonder he’s not an alcoholic.
Pro tip: Stop with the subtle shit. Use the disguise to just stick a knife in Lion-O’s throat.
Starscream makes the silly list on the merits of his being a robotic whiny bitch. Look, if you happen to be a freaking robot who turns into a fighter jet and shoots missiles and lasers, perhaps you can whine a little less about your lot in life than the poor robot who has to live as a freaking cassette tape.
Starscream always wanted Megatron’s job as supreme evil leader of the evil Decepticons, but he always seemed to fail quite spectacularly. In fact, some of Starscream’s plots may have been the first use of the phrase “Epic Fail.” It’s exceptionally difficult to run any villainous organization while running away at the first chest shot you take from an Autobot. Starscream was a coward, a liar, and a suck-up, and those are just his good qualities. In his ridiculousness, he served as the perfect foil for Megatron, who admitted that keeping Starscream around only proved he was an idiot.
Pro tip: Stop. Whining. Start. Shooting.
Venger is the biggest weenie on the list so far. Here’s a villain with fangs, wings, a modulated voice, the ability to toss beams of magic about like freaking Mardi Gras beads, and yet he can’t overcome a pack of kids from the ‘burbs.
Let’s face it, the kids should be a pushover. They each have one magical item, true, but they carry no other gear. (Cavalier, buy a damn sword, please. There’s just something ridiculous about rolling around with nothing but a shield.) Their movements are hampered by a tag-along baby unicorn. And yet, Venger just can’t hit them with the coup de grace. Hell, he can’t even tag any of them for significant damage.
And what the hell is up with Venger’s one big horn? That thing just hangs off the side of his head like he’s a damn Vegas showgirl, which is likely a better gig for him after all. He’s less evil overlord and more boogeyman under the bed, as he never really follows through against the kids, even when he has them on the ropes. He goes and waffles on about Tiamat instead, facing the five headed dragon in a replay of Napoleon’s war-on-two-fronts fiasco writ small.
Pro tip: No matter how obsessed you are with looting the bodies, always use your most destructive magics first. If you destroy their all powerful items, then you by default become all powerful.
Lotor was one leg of the trifecta of villains from Voltron. Like many 80’s cartoon villains, Prince Lotor had the benefit of a well-named home, in this case, a planet. Planet Doom. It’s hard not to sound evil when you’re running a planet with Doom in the name.
Lotor suffered from crippling hubris, though to be fair, it’s hard not to when you spend most of your time sucking down wine in the harem. And yet, in true villainous fashion, the man with a whole harem of chicks became obsessed with one of the heroes, princess Allura.
Beyond his obsession with Allura, he shared a trait with Starscream: naked ambition. He just couldn’t wait to have the throne for himself, and kept getting distracted trying to knock off his father. How can you rule the universe when you’re busy resolving your Oedipal conflicts?
Pro tip: When attempting to rule the universe and crush resistance with 80-foot tall Robeasts, spend less time trying to seduce one of the heroes and just wipe them all out as quick as you can. Then you can pine for what might have been, while being tended to by all the women in your harem. Idiot. Also, get over the daddy issues.
The Doc gets an honorable mention here, representing the villains of GI Joe. Possibly one of the most visibly ridiculous villains ever, Dr. Mindbender manages to be a one-man Pride Parade while still proving a thorn in the side of the Real American Heroes.
Bald but with a fabulous Freddie Mercury moustache? Check.
Purple pants? Check.
Fucking monocle? Check.
Cape, even with no shirt? Check, check, checkity check.
And yet, despite his mental powers and his ability to harness science like a deranged Bill Nye, Dr. Mindbender remains largely ineffective. In fact, his number one contribution to the list of villains is to create the cheesiest ‘80s villain ever.
Pro tip: Dude. If Cobra Commander won’t respect your uniqueness, don’t go jumping out of the closet and creating new villains. Just move to San Francisco, they will love you there.
Those of you familiar with both foreshadowing and the GI Joe cartoons already know what’s coming. Here it is, the reveal of the absolute cheesiest villain from any 80’s cartoon, the Sultan of Swiss, the Champion of Cheddar, the Vessel of Velveeta!
In a hideous plot, Dr. Mindbender creates Serpentor from the DNA of (deep breath), Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Attila the Hun, Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great, Ivan the Terrible, Vlad the Impaler, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, Rasputin, and Sgt. Slaughter. Wait, what? Um…one of these things is not like the others.
There is, in fan-fiction (and the term has been mainstreamed of late), a concept called the Mary Sue. This is a character that is nothing but wish-fulfillment of the author, a ridiculously powerful or popular character that strains credulity. Let’s just take a look at Serpentor Sue, shall we?
Serpentor was portrayed as a military genius with courage, charisma, political acumen, and all-around badassishness that was unsurpassed in all of the world. The troops of Cobra, much to Cobra Commander’s chagrin, all think he is the coolest and join hands around him singing Kumbaya. Metaphorically, of course. This guy is too cool to be believed, and even gets Destro to join in the love-fest at Cobra HQ.
Still, Serpentor is not perfect. Even though Serpentor is made of several DNA strands, none of them are actually a snake…so how in the Sam Hill is he scaled all over? Either something went wrong with the lab work, or Serpentor is not-so-secretly a “furry" dressing in a mascot suit. Either way, it means something hideous.
Of course, Serpentor also suffers from one fatal flaw, rendering him incapable of world conquest, unable to defeat the heroes that he has so obviously outclassed. That flaw is simply this: he’s a bad guy, and in the world of ‘80s cartoons, that means he just can’t win.
Pro tip: Convince the audience that in your spectacularness, you’re actually a good guy. It’s the only way to win.
So, who is your favorite cheesy 80's Villain?