Action figures created cartoons. Or maybe it was the other way around. Regardless, in between generating the newest team of anthropomorphic fighting whatever, producers were smart to grab any pre-established licenses they could to make a quick buck. A seldom tapped reservoir was the Sunday morning cartoon strips. While many have dabbled in animation in the form of specials — most notably Peanuts — a few spawned series with various degrees of success and lengths. Moreover, most of them were actually good.
Heathcliff (no one should, terrify their neighborhood) starred an orange cat not named Garfield. I suppose the only difference between the two characters other than their names was one was an indoor cat and the other was an outdoor cat. There were two versions of the show, one in 1980 and another in 1984. The first one was a much shorter show (25 episodes), with later episodes featuring a backup of Marmaduke. I vaguely remember seeing an episode or two. The version I grew up with was the more popular 1984 series. Instead of the lovable dog, Heathcliff was joined by the Catillac Cats, a group of junkyard cats with a transforming, flying Cadillac boat car. Legendary voice actor Mel Blanc played the titular cat in both iterations.
The other (i.e. more popular) orange cat had his own series as well: Garfield and Friends. Characters from U.S. Acres — another strip created by Jim Davis — accompanied the show as a back up. Considering its whopping 121 episodes over 7 years (along with airing reruns for longer), to say the show was popular is an understatement. As I said in my Real Ghostbusters article, Lorenzo Music voiced Garfield, with Billy Murray taking the part in the god-awful live action movie. While Garfield Minus Garfield is the best version of the character, and Friends still ranks up there.
After having a beloved show in the ’60s, Dennis the Menace saw a resurgence with an animated version in ’86. Along with bringing show-staple Mr. Wilson (voiced by Phil Hartman!), Dennis’ multicultural pals were also in tow. Like all the other shows here, Dennis was broken into segments, though with no backup fielded by other characters. Hartman left after the first 65 syndication episodes to work on SNL. Luckily, they found someone else to replace him as the dog, Ruff.
The least known here (the Internet consensus is that little beyond it existed) was Mother Goose and Grimm. Fun fact: While I understood the fairytale reference with Mother Goose, for year I never got why the dog was named Grimm. This show also featured omnipresent Frank Welker and Rob Paulsen as supporting cast. I remember watching the show, but couldn’t tell you what it was about. I’ll guess some sort of antics and hilarity were present, at the very least.
A few other Sunday comics made the jump to animation, but with a different demographic than the 12-and-under Saturday group: Dilbert, Baby Blues, and Boondocks. The latter two aired on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim with Boondocks schedule to return with 20 new episodes. Again, much different demo.
What was your favorite comic-turned-cartoon? Did I miss any? More importantly, suggestions for shows? Tell me in the comments!
Loved all these at the time, can’t stand them now.
Tony has just closed on his first house and will be painting and moving as you read this. He’ll be damned if he misses a post on his site, thecredhulk.com. Send him a high five on Facebook or Twitter.