Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Hasbroverse: Connecting The Cartoons Of The 1980s

The Hasbroverse:
Greatest Kept Secret Of The 1980s
Or Just Geekdom Gone Into Overdrive?

Its been said many times over, and will be said many times over again in the future, the 1980s was probably the best time to have been of cartoon watching age, we had so many things that you just don't find in modern cartoons, actual indepth and detailed storytelling, adventure, conflict, good vs. evil, all of this sort of stuff that you just don't find in today's world of sloppily dubbed anime about 14 year old kids with overly spikey hair on motorcycles playing some modern version of Mille Bornes but with monsters, or kids playing with tops or pogs whatever stupid goofy things kids are into these days. You see, back then, it was a whole other ballgame, oh sure 90% of cartoons back in the 1980s were to sell toys, but they weren't so blatant about it, we never let the infomercial aspect of it all get past the ability to tell a story, sure it wasn't always the greatest story, infact most of the time the stories weren't really much more then a little rascals style plot of two rival clubhouses playing jokes on each other, but we didn't care, they were, and still are very awesome, even with a sarcastic tint to the glasses we look at them through today.

And its through those aged all be it sarcastic glasses, that afew years ago, it started to become clear to a very few, that there was a pattern that none of us in our youth had even noticed, and when word started to spread, it just amazed us all how deep this pattern went. See, in the 1980s, the king of toy companies was Hasbro/Takara (now Hasbro/TakaraTomy), they had the top selling toylines for boys in The Transformers and G.I Joe: A Real American Hero, and the second and third top selling toys for girls in My Little Pony and Jem And the Holograms. All iconic toy lines, three of which are still in production today, and in the case of The Transformers, has been in constant production sense 1983. Now thats all impressive enough, but, what if I told you, that these four toy lines turned iconic classic cartoons, along with three other lesser known lines also by the same company; Inhumaniods, Battle Beasts and C.O.P.S, were all set in the same universe, much like how comic book characters all interact with each other in a shared world? And what if I told you that thanks to them all being written by the same handful of people who went on to become well known comic book writers, and that they and Hasbro intended it to be that way from the very start? Kind of hard to believe isn't it? That such girl aimed things as Jem and My Little Pony would actually be in the same world and be happening at the same time as the autobots were fighting the decepticons, and the joes were fighting cobra, but believe me, its completely true. And though you can argue that its because Hasbro marketed their shows as blocks, and bought a lot of the add time during said blocks of airtime, which would fill the airwaves with adverts for its products, but that wasn't really enough for the writers, being comic book writers to the core, they set about dropping subtle little hints here and there connecting all of these shows together, some of the hints were pretty obvious, some were momentary and if you missed them you wouldn't get them, but be sure, they are all infact there, and they are infact all intentional, and have been from the concept stages.

So the question must be asked, how exactly do I have proof positive that The Transformers, G.I Joe: A Real American Hero, Jem And The Holograms, Inhumaniods, Battle Beasts, C.O.P.S, and My Little Pony all happened in the same universe at the same time? Well to answer that, lets play connect the dots (lala lala lala), starting from the same point that I started at, and then we'll go from there...

My trip into this wonderful world started with a quote from long time comic book and cartoon writer Buzz Dixon, who when asked about his involvement with, of all things, My Little Pony: The Movie, stated the following:

“Funny story about an early draft of the My Little Pony movie: I was asked to punch up the original treatment. Basically this consisted of indicating where various music scenes could go, adding more magic and gee-whiz to otherwise pedestrian talking head scenes, etc. At one point one of the Little Ponies had to go looking for...something or someone, I forget. I suggested she encounter some of the Transformers and Joes in her search, specifically, a scene where she flies up to Shipwreck who is drinking some amber fluid from a bottle. Shipwreck would just stare at her in bug-eyed disbelief and she’d fly on, then Shipwreck would smash the bottle, take his cap off his head, put his left hand over his heart and raise his right hand in an oath, muttering frantically under his breath. Hasbro said, ‘Very funny. No.’”

This is what had me thinking at first, if they could just casually drop such a key character as Shipwreck, a fan favorite member of the G.I Joe team who was prominently featured in the first two seasons of the G.I Joe: A Real American Hero series, and consider dropping in various Transformers for a cameo in a series about magic ponies that fly about and sing and whatever other stuff they did on that show, then that obviously means they thought maybe cross promotion would be pretty normal for the course. This is what set me on a fact finding mission to see just how, or if, this idea had gone past just a silly drawing board idea to keep writers from getting bored, or if there was more meat to it. And soon after my quest started, I found what I think is possibly the biggest piece in this puzzle, thats where I found Hector Ramirez, the most traveled character in the entire Hasbroverse.

Hector Ramirez is ment to be the animated version of still credible in 1984 journalist Geraldo Rivera, who had yet to lose his credibly by not really opening up Al Capone's vault on live television. Much like this real world counterpart, Hector is known for his hard hitting ambush style investigative reporting, slanting his facts in whatever direction he feels the public should go. His trademark mustache and brown coat are how you recognize him in each of his appearances, appearing in four of the seven series, first appearing in three episodes of G.I Joe, one episode of Jem and one episode of The Transformers, before appearing atleast once per episode in all 13 episodes of Inhumaniods, though it should be noted that only in his G.I Joe and Inhumaniods appearances were the only ones where he is directly called by name, in the other two, he is voiced by the same man each time he's appeared, and looks relatively the same. Hector is listed in the script and series bibles of each of the shows as a “Crossover Character” again, implying from the start that from the start, it was all intended to be connected.

From Hector Ramirez, my drip took me to a character by the name of Brad J. Armbruster, a character who first appeared on G.I Joe: A Real American Hero as the master pilot called “Ace”, he was featured prominently in the first two years of G.I Joe, and then was never really seen again on the show, around this time, a character called Brad J. Armbruster, who happens to be a master pilot appears in the first episode of The Inhumaniods, where he is shot down by one of the main villains of the series, his legs are greatly damaged and he is no longer able to walk under his own power, he is then given a special suit by a group called The Earth Corps, that allows him to walk and fly, he takes on the name Sabre Jet and transfers from his elite combat unit, to the Earth Corps where he joins their ranks full time. This is the first time that a major character from one show has been transferred to another, Ace retains his same look he does in G.I Joe, he retains the same voice actor and personality as well. Oddly though, once becomes Sabre Jet, Brad never mentions his former team or what they do, but thats kind of customary, even though all of these shows are going on at the same time, and you see glimpses and stuff, but there is no real official direct references, which is, ofcourse why I had to write this article in the first place.

From researching the whole Ace/Sabre Jet connection, I ofcourse was drawn to the plethora of characters that was the cast of G.I Joe, because, you know, when you're looking for a central hub for your toy line universe, where better then a show that by definition is about a giant unit of military personnel thats whole job is to shoot one type of gun or rocket drive a certain vehicle or one certain type of specialist job no matter how obscure? And in two cases, thats just what Hasbro's writing troop did!

In the second season of G.I Joe, we were introduced to a character named Beachhead, he was kind of a jerk and all we really knew of him other then this was that he was number 5 in line of command of the Joe Team, and that his name was Wayne R. Sneeden Jr, which kind of explains why he's such a jerk. Now when you take a look at probably the most obscure line of these seven, C.O.P.S, which is basically just G.I Joe set in the future with a different lead villain, you notice there is a character there by the codename Checkpoint, and when you check his file card, his name happens to be, Wayne R. Sneeden III, and it states his father “was part of an elite anti-terrorist military unit that fought a ruthless terrorist organization bent on world domination during the 1980s and 1990s.”, which would indicate that Checkpoint is infact Beachhead's son. In a similar situation, the C.O.P.S K-9 unit, called “Bowser and Blitz” who, share an almost telepathic connection, are in look, design, and voice actor, exactly the same to G.I Joe military police K-9 unit “Mutt and Junkyard”, with statement on their profile card that they come from a long line of MP Officers specializing in K-9 use. There is more stuff connection G.I Joe, but I'll get to that in a minute....

For now, we'll do the simple and easy one, all of the music (except for three tracks “cold slither”, “the cobra who got away” and a rock and roll version of the G.I Joe theme which were written for G.I Joe) used in The Transformers, G.I Joe and The Inhumaniods, came from the series Jem And The Holograms, they just didn't use the lyrics, but if you take the time, you can connect every single instrumental to each song used in the Jem series, either preformed by Jem And The Holograms, The Misfits, The Stingers, or any of the other bands that appeared on that show. This one is the one that makes logical sense really, you have a bunch of cartoons all for toys by the same company, all drawn by the same company, all dubbed by the same company, it makes logical sense that you'd use the music thats already right there and isn't gonna cost you anything. But still, given how often Jazz and Blaster would use music to drive off the Decepticons and various other evil doers, its pretty hilarious to realize they were driving them off with songs by a pop band.

The Jem series also had one prominent scene in the episode “Broadway Magic” that featured a television screen that had a news broadcast on featuring Inhumaniod monster D’Compose fighting off some Earth Corps officers. Jem also featured an episode with a hard hitting interview by Hector Ramirez, which we mentioned earlier. The main “villains” on Jem, an all punk girl band The Misfits, were often shown in the company of three men that most will recognize as Torch, Buzzer and Ripper, collectively known as The Dreadnoks, the mercenaries who with their leader Zartan, were prominent members of Cobra in the first two seasons of G.I Joe, you also see The Misfits afew times in G.I Joe when you see The Dreadnoks during their down time at their home, an abandoned amusement park in the florida everglades, its believed that The Misfits met The Dreadnoks when they were posing as the rock band Cold Slither (You'll read about that more in a minute).

I'll get this last one out of the way before the big finish to this, most people aren't aware, but the short lived series and toy line Battle Beasts, sort of a 1980s attempt Pokemon for those that don't remember, were infact an offshoot of The Transformers, and featured heavily into their history and Japanese comic book appearance. They first appeared in a cartoon we did not get here in america called Transformers: Headmasters, featuring transformers thats heads detached and become smaller robots while the body transformed as well. They appeared in (If I recall correctly) three episodes of the show, and were then launched into their own line, their rubsigns, which here in america had elemental symbols, in japan, had either autobot for good or decepticon for bad symbols, and the line was called “Beastformers” over there. When the short lived tv series was created and aired here in the states, there were very few hints of any that they were connected to the transformers, but rest assured, they are deeply entrenched in the history of that franchise, though had The Transformers franchise in america had been given a forth season instead of the series ender “Rebirth”, and if the short lived battlebeast series had lasted more then 13 episodes mostly aired at like 6am on a sunday morning, we were told there would have been a bigger connection between the two.

And now the final part of this article, the connections between Hasbro's too flagship lines, and flagship programs, the overwelming connections between The Transformers and G.I Joe: A Real American Hero. I'll start with the most obvious ones, in the third season of The Transformers, set in the year 2006, much like the series C.O.P.S, as apposed to 1986 or so like the other shows were, there is a character by the name of Marissa Faireborn, an officer of an organization called the Earth Defense Corps, or EDC for short, given its logo its implied to be a large scale future version of the Earth Corps from The Inhumaniods, Marissa Faireborn is an interesting character because she looks like, and shares a voice with, popular G.I Joe character Lady Jaye, who was implied to be dating fellow Joe team member Flint, who's name was Dashiell Faireborn, in one episode, Marissa is shown a hologram of her father, who is dressed like and voiced by the same voice actor as Flint, and much like with Checkpoint and Bowser and Blitz, we're to believe that Marissa is the daughter of, not one, but two members of the G.I Joe Team.

The Transformers season three actually makes no attempt to hide the connection with G.I Joe, and makes it actually more blatant later on, in an episode where a mobster hires a mysterious scientist by the name of “old snake” who has a machine that can swap a robot's mind into a human body, and a human's mind into a robot's body. Whats interesting is that Old Snake wears a big fedora hat and a long trench coat, and a distinctive blue suit and metal mask that looks unmistakeably like the suit and mask worn by Cobra Commander, they drop several blatant implications through the entire episode that he is infact Cobra Commander, even his final statement of the episode, where he's walking off into the night, Old Snake says “They just don't make terrorists like they used too...” followed by Old Snake yelling the distinctive “COOOBRRAAA!!” battlecry as he walks off with a hand raised. If we're to believe that was implied in the profile card of Checkpoint from C.O.P.S, then it stands to reason that G.I Joe finally defeated Cobra, or atleast splintered it into other smaller groups, which would explain shows like C.O.P.S and later futuristic incarnations of G.I Joe.

There are more, less obvious connections between the two shows, in the second season of The Transformers episode “Prime Target”, the episode starts out with Red Star of the Oktober Guard, the USSR's version of G.I Joe (haha love that cold war wackyness), testing an experimental top secret version of what looks like a MIG fighter jet called Red Oktober One, which is then stolen by the episode's one time villain, as a set up to introduce and explain said villain as a big game hunter/collector of rare things, as well as his feeling the need to hunt Optimus Prime for sport, believing him the ultimate in big game hunting. This episode was pretty horrible over all, but did allow for the greatest Optimus Prime line ever said, “Amazing, a booby trap that actually catches boobies”.

Another less obvious connections happened in the episode “Autobop”, which was intended as a homage to the whole urban meets kung fu genre of blaxploitation films of the 1970s, where in you find the Decepticons actually recycle a COBRA plot, taking the COBRA plot to use subliminal messages to control the population of the world, they hid said subliminal messages in a song they wrote and produced called “Cold Slither” and had The Dreadnoks pose as a rock band of the same name. Autobop finds The Decepticons actually using the exact same instrumental as Cold Slither to enslave those who go to a dance club called Danceatron into building an energy station for them. Autobop really was only ment to showcase a fight between both tapedecks Soundwave and Blaster, but it ended up becoming more known for just how hilariously the episode was written with tons of forced in 1980s pop music references, but thats a story for another time.

Another connection between The Transformers and G.I Joe: A Real American Hero happened in two separate episodes that don't at first seem connected, but at closer explanation, they are. In the G.I Joe episode “The Primordial Plot”, COBRA creates an army of cloned dinosaurs on an uncharted island for the means of using them as weapons of terroristic nature, in the end of the episode, as per normal course of action, COBRA has been defeated by the Joe team, and sense no one really has any place to keep giant dinosaurs, you know, because they're giant dinosaurs and they need room to stomp about and do dinosaury things, the Joes decide to just leave the cloned dinosaurs on not Jurassic Park, leaving the island uncharted as to keep others from happening across Denver The Last Dinosaur and all his cartoon pals, or so you think! In The Transformers two part episode “Dinobot Island”, while exploring the planet earth on a day when they weren't beating up Decepticons, the autobots came across an island that isn't on any maps and is, much to their surprise, populated with dinosaurs, which they figure is a good way to keep the dinobots, the dinosaur based Autobot heavy weapons team, when they aren't needed and as well as giving them a place all of their own, naming it Dinobot Island, the Dinobots kind of move in and proceed to get their dinosaur on. What is interesting is, when the autobots find the island, its surrounded by a forcefield of some kind, and though it wasn't shown during the primordial plot, it is possible that the Joe team left a giant forcefield around the island to not only protect it from invaders, but protect the rest of the world from the dinosaurs, after all, if a flyer got off the island and made it to civilization, then bad stuff would happen, the reason the transformers could pass through said forcefield could be explained simply with belief that transformers, being built out of a metal called “cybertronium” and having many other non-earth material and wiring and the like, could simply pass through a forcefield aimed at earth based people and machines sense they're on different wavelengths as it were.

In truth there are many other things connecting all seven of these series together, but they're small things you'd need to dig deep into the histories to find, and though I am aware of them through research, I feel I've made my point here, there was, and is, a connection between seven distinct cartoons and toylines in the 1980s, and recently it was confirmed, and stated that all of hasbro's properties happen in the same universe, which makes things a lot more confusing given that in recent years Hasbro has bought out rival companies Kenner, Tonka, and Galubob, its been implied that other 1980s lines like M.A.S.K, The Visionaries, The Go-Bots, The Rock Lords, and many more are now part of that same universe, this concept seems in recent years to be having some weight, given that in a recent comic book set in the Transformers: Animated continuity, the team encountered, and more importantly called by name, a Rock Lord, from the shortlived 1980s Go-Bot spin off line, as well as recently G.I Joe added Matt Tracker, leader of M.A.S.K, complete with mask “spectrum” and his accessories were what made up the popular mask “adventure pack” set, Matt's bio even mentions the organizations M.A.S.K and V.E.N.O.M which were the main focus of the cartoon M.A.S.K., adding them both into the Hasbroverse, much to the protest of hardcore Joefans, but really no one cares what they think because G.I Joe fans can't seem to write a proper wiki.

So there you have it, in a short as can be version, the connections that link together, possibly the most popular toylines and cartoons of the 1980s, well except He-Man and Thundercats, but thats a whole other matter, but for now, I hope you've enjoyed reading my latest attempts at bringing you all into the geek forest, and maybe its made you think, or maybe learn something you didn't know before. Either way, I hope you all enjoyed it...



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