Robert kicks off our 31 Days Of Horror by taking us back to the place where many of us started our own personal horror journeys – sat in front of the TV on a Saturday morning to watch the adventures of a group of crime-solving teens with a comedy companion!
A team of teenage heroes accompanied by a lovable sidekick, no I am not talking about Fred, Wilma Daphne, Shaggy and of course Scooby but rather the selection of other 1970s and 80s cartoons that used the same formula of abandoned theme parks, monsters and disgruntled janitors as a way to get into hijinks and wacky adventures.
While no other cartoon contained a Scrappy Doo the late 70s animated incarnation may well win the award for the most annoying sidekick with the introduction of Godzuki. Of course based on the Toho legend this animated adventure saw the 30 story high dragon/dinosaur assist Captain Carl Majors and his crew (Dr Darien, Brock and of course plucky teen Pete) in defeating various giant-sized problems such as Stone Eating Caterpillars, mythical monsters, giant creatures, lost dinosaur and even a cyborg whale (who and why would you cybernetically enhance a whale?). With a catchy theme tune and kid-friendly creatures this Scooby gang may well have the biggest sidekick but honestly, I think by the look of him a few more hours in the gym might help with the ‘dadbod’ Godzilla has going on.
The Funky Phantom Show (1971)
Ghosts, (Check), Teenagers (Check), Crazy Vehicle (Check), Whacky Antics (Check)… This short-lived (17 episodes!) pastiche of Scooby Doo featured three teenagers (April, Augie and Skip) and their dog Elmo who accidentally release two ghosts from an ancient clock. Now with Boo the cat and Mudsey the American Revolutionary ghost the team fight crime, save people and generally get forgotten about for the best part of 45 years.
Clue Club (1976)
Can you remember Larry, Pepper, DD and Dotty – nope I would guess most people won’t and the reason for that is that their canine assistants were normal dogs. Whereas Goober could turn invisible, Scooby could eat snacks like they were going out of fashion Woofer and Wimper had no discernible skills at all. While talking to each other and the viewer could be seen as a skill their actual crime-fighting, detective skills or general usefulness is really questioned and that is really why there were only ever 16 episodes made and no one has yet ventured to option a live-action remake of this show.
Speed Buggy (1973)
If you think that teens teamed up with a pair of ghosts to fight monsters and other ghosts and such was bad then this long forgotten stinker makes Funky Phantom look an animated masterpiece – yes, Speed Buggy didn’t even make it to 17 episodes coming in at a pathetic 16 and its no wonder if you look at the intro – which is essentially focused around a Dune buggy that seems to make farting noises. Joining this flatulent vehicle was Tinker (I guess not his real name), Mark and Debbie. An obvious take on Scooby Doo this also seems to have been heavily influenced by Disney’s Herbie films which were obviously much more successful by not making the loveable Beetle not sound like he is passing wind all the time.
Captain Caveman (1977)
Now here is a player. Not only did Cavey solve mysteries much in the same way as his cartoon counterparts by driving around the country in a camper van he managed to ‘one-up’ Scooby and Shaggy by having his house on the roof and also being ferried here and there by three cartoon hotties, Brenda, Dee Dee and Taffy.
A proto-hipster Cavey had both the facial hair and gadget fixation down to a tee and in-between snacking on obscure objects and (be honest) flirting with his Teen Angels would bash, smash and clumsily solve kooky cases on a weekly basis. As with every cartoon at the time the balance was ruined by the show catching ‘Scrappy Syndrome’ eventually adding an outrageous annoying sidekick in the form of Cavey Jnr – although the less said about him the better.
The New Shmoo (1979)
Following the adventures of Mickey, Billy Joe and Nita this amorphous blob with a moustache assisted the teens in solving mysteries and fighting crime. However, unlike his animated counterparts, the Shmoo has actually a longer and more interesting history first appearing in comic books in the late 1940s. Originally created by illustrator Al Capp the Shmoo was a satirical creation that poked fun at greed and social issues – and apparently, if you eat one they taste very much like chicken.
Not to be confused with the ‘real’ Ghostbusters(You know Egon, Ray, Slimer and co) or indeed the live action 70 show ‘The Ghost Busters’ on which this animated team was based this batch of paranormal investigators didn’t have proton packs and positron gliders but rather a talking Gorilla (no not Amy) and a Bat. Based in their creatively titled ‘Ghost-Command’ – a stereotype haunted house situated in the middle of New York Jake and Eddie used their Ghost-Buggy to rid the world of mad guys such as Prime-Evil. While some might say that this entire show was created just to sell toys (and they would be right) the show of course was overlooked in the early 80s obviously by the film, the legalities between Filmation and Columbia (all about the use of the name Ghostbusters) and the fact that the Real Ghostbusters was actually a much better cartoon.
Goober And The Ghost Chasers (1973)
Our second supernatural set of teens who with the help of their dog have mysteries, chase down bad guys and wait a minute this is an exact copy of Scooby Doo apart from the dog is green and has better elocution… oh he can turn invisible too (yes he really can). Accompanying him is Tina, Gilly and Ted, three forgettable teen sidekicks who on occasion were joined by the members of the American institution the Partridge family. At no point, however, did they investigate any strange goings-on at an Owl sanctuary or a Linton Travel Tavern.
Ruby-Spears attempt to cash in on Scoobies popularity this short-lived and more than likely forgotten cartoon had the team of Biff, Kim, Puggsy and Sherman Fangsworth teaming together in a Dune Buggy to battle monsters, find lost treasure and stop evil scientists. So what made this team have a selling point well it was the fact that Sherman Fangsworth could turn into a Werewolf called Fangface (ha! See what they did there…) whenever he saw a moon (be it the real moon, picture or somebody pulling their pants down). Much like Teen-Wolf Fangface was a party-loving frat-boy who while actually having lupine skills was actually not that good in using them and instead preferring to use the Scooby method of eating and running away from trouble. Again failing to gain the popularity of the original Scoobs you can never guess what they did in the second series… yes, they introduced a smaller side-kick character Fang-Puss for comedy relief as we all know that’s the best way to improve a cartoon show.
Drak Pac (1980)
While Fangface had a frightened lycanthrope as their selling point this Drak Pack took it one stage further by having each of the plucky teens on their team be the actual creatures themselves. So while other teams may have had to rely on a hair caveman, talking dog or blob to assist them this group had all the skills of classic literature/Hollywood monsters on their side. As descendants of these ‘classic’ monsters Drak -the Vampire, Frankie the Frankenstein monster and Howler (go on…guess what he was) could transmogrify from their normal teen selves to monster form to try and take down the evil organisation OGRE which consisted of a Mummy, a female vampire a mutant fly and a sycophantic toad-man. Assisted in their adventures by Big D – Draks uncle Dracula and having at their disposal a great looking gothic dragster this was actually one of the derivative cartoons that took the teen—fighting crime scenarios and added a little more than just running down corridors, having some sort of multiple door opening sequence and a ‘it was the scary caretaker’ reveal at the end.