A lot of people don't remember that, back when Rhino put out the very first season sets of Transformers and G.I. Joe, they also released a pair of single disc releases for another Hasbro/Sunbow production called Inhumanoids. Only 9 of the show's 13 episodes were included on the discs, and the production quality was awful, with a sound mix that made the background music so faint as to be invisible, even during the opening sequence. Nonetheless, their rarity has made the discs rather pricey collectibles here in the States as, unlike in the UK, they have yet to be replaced by a full series set.
I still have my copies of the discs lying around here somewhere and did give the show a try back when they were released. I only made it part way through the opening miniseries before giving up, partially due to the awful sound mix, partially because this is a really, really ugly show.
Now, I don't mean ugly in terms of poor animation or design, neither of which was any worse than a typical 80s show. I mean ugly in terms of grimy unpleasantness, where monsters are rotting, filthy things modelled after disease and decay, and the heroes wear industrialized power suits that look more like bipedal bulldozers than something a brave warrior would wear in a battle of good vs. evil.
I also remember being a bit put off at the way dark themes were explored with a light sense of humor, but I was still new to Flint Dille's storytelling style at the time. This was before I fell in love with the work of he and frequent collaborator Buzz Dixon when they took over as story editors on Transformers part way through its second season and, now that I've finally watched Visionaries, where they absolutely charmed me with a mix of authentic fantasy world-building and tongue-in-cheek parodies of traditional knight ballads, I think I'm better prepared for Inhumanoids. I know it was done a year earlier and, like Visionaries, was designed by both the toymakers and the animation studio in conjunction with each other instead of one basing their take on the other, with Dille supervising the development from the very start. I've seen an interview where he says he'd just quit smoking cold turkey at the time, and a lot of his misery and resentment were channelled through the show. If nothing else makes me curious to see it, that does. :)
The opening sequence certainly promises a lot going on. Massive, ugly beasts ripping the Earth asunder, inflicting peril upon innocent bystanders. Heroes plowing into them with bulky mecha and what appear to be some creatures of their own. The song is really uninspiring, though. Bland background music, then some croaky voice belching out "INHUMANOIDS!" a few times, then a choir coming in and trying to save it. It's weak, but the imagery is memorable. Especially the gnarled, six-fingered hand wrapped around the show's title.
So, yeah, I'm looking forward to it. Even if it's not good, it at least promises to be something outside the norm for an 80s toon.
And I want to end this by pointing out that this series originally premiered as a series of 15 7-minute shorts that aired during the anthology show Super Week, later Super Sunday, and, in some markets, Super Saturday (no relation to our blog name). This was a pilot feature of sorts that also included Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines, Robotix, and Jem and the Holograms. Jem, of course, was the only other short alongside Inhumanoids to be expanded to a full series. Before that expansion, the Inhumanoids shorts were first edited into a movie that was released on VHS (and can still be tracked down if you're looking for it, Tony, you crazy video tape collector you), and was then broken up again and used as the opening 5-episode miniseries of the short-lived television show, which debuted in 1986. For this blog, we'll be reviewing it in the 5 episode format, since that's the version more readily available, and will more smoothly transition to the continuing series. From what I hear, there aren't any significant editorial differences between the versions, just cosmetic snips like bumpers and bookends, and maybe a few seconds altered here and there to accommodate running time differences.
Inhumanoids is the first Showcase that we've done where I'm coming in totally blind. I've definitely heard of it before, but that's about it. I can't conjure up one image, name a single character, or hum the theme. I'm not even familiar with the toy line, which is a rarity for me. Leading up to our first episode, I've tried to maintain that mystery. Now, for the first time, I'm about to watch the Inhumanoids intro. Reaction to follow...
...80s cartoons are known to have the most kick-ass themes and intros of all-time. That... wasn't one of them. The theme, if you can call it that, kinda sounds like someone just put a tape recorder up against the outside wall as a really bad garage band jammed freestyle. The voice over for the plot just sort of rushes past you in that "Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!" monster truck radio ad sort of way. But a bad intro doesn't make for a bad cartoon any more than a good intro makes for a good cartoon (Silverhawks, Noel?).
Inhumanoids pre-dates Visionaries by one year, so I'm interested to see how many of the themes and ideas that we saw in the latter were actually recycled from the former. A writer is always loathe to give up on a good idea, especially when the first vehicle was, well, short-lived. If Dille’s body of work is any indication, we’re in for an 80s cartoon that doesn’t play by 80s cartoon rules. I’m definitely looking forward to it and I hope you all come along with us.
Tune in this Saturday when we go down into the firey depths of the Earth, where nightmares begin, with Inhumanoids in "The Evil That Lies Within, Part 1".