July 7, 2012

Our Final Thoughts on Inhumanoids


There's something about this odd little monkey of a show that I just can't help but love. It started out as absolute dreck, with awful designs, a flat concept, lousy animation, an indistinct vocal cast, and monsters that shriek and shriek and shriek. But instead of making it into a good show, they kicked this messy mess of a mess until it became a funny show, a gonzo show, a glorious tribute to just how awful it can be as it revels in every little bizarre notion that pops up in the creators' heads.

Where else would you have a show where the giant monster makes out with the Statue of Liberty, kidnaps her, then brings her to life as the nagging wife he never wanted, who wants him to cast aside his henchgoons and nefarious apocalyptic plots so he can do important things like shed some weight off his gut and make her a hottub. Where else would you have a young boy join a cult that turns him into a zombie, which allows him to finally get revenge on the brutal nerds of the Centerville Debate Team and finally ask out the girl he's been pining for. Where else would the most distinct member of the heroic team have his primary distinction be that he hurls his shoe through television sets that are the bearers of bad tidings, a joke that escalates to the point where the rest of the heroes permanently erect a net in front of their tv. Where else would you have a gorgeous movie star rolling her eyes as she operate the controls of a massive puppet being poorly hit on by a horny moron made out of plant tentacles. Where else would Hector Ramirez, a one-off Geraldo Rivera parody who made brief appearances in three past Sunbow properties, be so prominently featured and essential to several plots as to be worthy of the role of recurring guest star.

This show figured out pretty early on that it was a miserable production incapable of delivering quality entertainment, so they just threw their hands in the air and said "Fine, let's just make it as nuts as we can!"

It's that quality alone that made this an enjoyable experience for me, that reckless abandon of intelligence as they instead embraced absurdity and started hitting me left and right with twists and ideas so far out of left field that I was rolling in my seat at both the hilarity of their sarcastic wink and the astonishment that they did what they actually did. The Gagoyle episode is a prime example of this, where they conceived of the most vile, repellent, garish monstrosity they could, who gobbles and vomits and gurgles and squishes, and milked (almost literally) every second of it to the jaw dropped audience who was left stumped that such a thing made it to tv.

So, yes, if you like garish, absurdist humor along the lines of Daniel Waters, John Waters, Terry Gilliam, Lloyd Kaufman, or early Peter Jackson, then yes, I absolutely recommend tracking this show down. It's truly unlike any other toy-driven action cartoon the 80s ever produced.

For everyone else, however... no. No, I ultimately can't recommend this show to the broader audience out there. Not only is the opening pilot almost unwatchable for the vast majority of its choppy running time, but the show never overcame the ugliness that it established. The villains are so loosely drawn that what should be scary instead looks silly, particularly Metlar with his potbelly and unitard. The heroes' armor is a bulky mess of odd shapes and ugly colors and looks more uncomfortable than heroic and powerful. Especially Liquidator with his beach ball legs and a helmet like a box of Valentine chocolates.

And Liquidator brings us to the biggest problem the series never overcame, that of heroes who are as boring as Scotch tape. Herc is supposed to be the stalwart leader, but he's such a boring square that you forget he's there half the time and Sandra essentially takes over the head position. Dr. Bright is the brains... and that's it. He's such a useless member of the team that he actually sits out several episodes in a row. They try to give him some distinction with the overnight marriage between him and a Hollywood starlet, but - as much as I thought it was cute - it never had a chance to go anywhere before things came to a close. And then there's Liquidator. He's supposed to be all charm and swagger, with a new-age hippiness and knowledge of the occult, but we're only ever told this and never actually get to see it come into play. Or when it does, as with characteristics from Herc and Bright, it's so heavily underplayed as to be translucent.

The exceptions are Auger who, past the shoe-hurling distinction I mentioned above, usually does get some of the sharpest one-liners thanks to his humor, and Sandra Shore. Sandra is actually a really awesome character, rising from a disposable tag along to the most competent member of the group as she takes this organization she's funding, whips it into shape, and rallies them forward with good strategies and a determination that's repeatedly left her the last one standing as their enemies pour fourth.

But they're it. Two great characters out of five doesn't make for a very interesting team. Seven actually, if we're counting the interesting Tank who quickly wanders off to no consequence, and Jet, one of the most clumsily introduced characters I've seen in a long time, whose only purpose was to save the day at the end from out of nowhere.

As with Dille's far tidier follow up show, Visionaries, the villains are the most interesting bunch as they constantly backstab one another as their various plots intersect, but even they only work to a degree. They got a little better from the pilot, but never escaped being a shrieking, ugly mess that drenched the screen with bland unpleasantness every time they were prominently featured on it. Even Dr. Manglar/Nightcrawler, who had a wonderfully grim and memorable introduction, ends up doing little of consequence as the shuffle of who's in charge keeps being re-dealt.

I'm glad I finally watched this show. It was one of the most unique experiences I've ever sat through. Unfortunately, for everything that was uniquely great about it, there were three thing that were uniquely broken, and I can't say as this is a series I'll be seeking out again any time soon.




A lone, bent figure slips silently into a confessional booth.


A small door slides open. INHUMANOIDS makes the sign of the cross.

INHUMANOIDS: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been thirteen episodes since my last confession.

PRIEST: What are your sins, my child?

INHUAMNOIDS: I have been... unpleasant. At times even grotesque. I have often lost my focus and tried to do too many things at once. I paid too much attention to some things, and not enough to others. I...

PRIEST: Be of good cheer, my child. All these things can be forgiven.

INHUMANOIDS: There is one more thing, Father. I was also not fun.


PRIEST: Alas, this cannot be forgiven.

- Fin.

I’d like to apologize for any procedural inaccuracies in the preceding scene. I was raised a Nazarene and everything I know about Catholicism I learned from watching The Exorcist.

I chose to open with that scene because it best illustrates how I feel about my experience watching Inhumanoids. Like any cartoon of its era, it has many flaws (sins), and all these I can forgive save one: it wasn’t fun. Not once. Not ever. Sure, Auger made me chuckle and it had its share of pyrotechnics, but it wasn’t fun. Fun. Eff-U-In. Look, this was a Saturday Morning cartoon, so I don’t need logic and I sure as Hell don’t want philosophy. I want to have a good time. You know, go on an adventure, but be back by supper. What I don’t want is to be endlessly strung along with no resolution. This isn’t a soap opera. It’s a cartoon. I just wonder how in the Hell they expected to sell toys with this show? For something that critics would likely dismiss as a twenty two minute toy commercial, it sure wasn’t very, well, commercial. I tried to put myself in a kid’s shoes - which was painful as they’re quite small *rimshot* - and I don’t know that I would’ve made it to the first commercial break.

I’ve tried to find something, anything, worthwhile or notable about this show, only to draw a blank. The animation was standard, the voice acting was flat, and the music ultimately forgettable. The stories lacked focus and momentum. The characters weren’t interesting. I don’t know... Auger was funny. That’s it. That’s all I got, gang.

Watching Inhumanoids after having first watched Dille’s follow-up series, Visionaries, was certainly enlightening, though. Noel and I have discussed here on the Showcase, and in private, that many of the things Dille was trying on Inhumanoids were smoothed out, if not exactly perfected, by the time he got to Visionaries. As such, I guess you could call the former a prototype of sorts.

Wait a second. Maybe that’s it. Yeah. What made watching Inhumanoids worthwhile is that it was trying to do something different. To break free from the mold of what a Saturday morning cartoon could be. Was it successful? No, at least not in my opinion, but some of history’s most interesting stories are about the guy who tried to change the status quo. You may not have liked New Coke, but you’re not likely to forget it, and failure usually provides a better lesson than success. So here’s to Flint Dille and the spectacular failure that was Inhumanoids. They say that fortune favors the bold, but in this case, the bold failed to make a fortune.

Tune in next Saturday as we follow up Inhumanoids with a special surprise.

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