rubikAny cartoon released before Duck Tales (1987) is garbage. I said it. But Mr. Hulk (or Tony) you say, what of TransformersThunderCats? Or Ghostbusters? Don’t you love them too? Yes, I do, emphatically. However, they are nothing more than glorified commercials. If it wasn’t for the Children’s TV Act, enacted by the FCC in 1990, it only would have gotten worse. Allow me to present my case.

For years, cartoons were the machinations of corporations like HasbroMattel, or Hallmark to sell toys, and nothing more. Often, the cartoon was phenomenal, or found the magic recipe, creating legions of young fanatics who begged their parents for toys, forever warping imprinting on the youth of yore. Conversely, there were either knock-offs or cash-insfailing to launch. Then, there were the shows that were outright affronts to Saturday mornings, catering to greedy corporate overlords in a vain attempt to sell more toys.

lazer_tag_academyExhibit A: Lazer Tag Academy. Jamie Jaren, the Lazer Tag Champion of 3010, travels back in time to protect her ancestors from a freshly thawed criminal from 2935. Jamie’s ancestor, Beth, eventually creates the Starlyte gun and Starsensor (which you can purchase now!). These are the same tools Jamie uses in lazer tag. In the wrong hands, they can be used to manipulate matter and travel through time. Sigh.

Exhibit B: Rubik, the Amazing Cube. This living Rubik’s Cube, which only came alive when solved… you know what, forget it.

DD - 1Finally, Exhibit C: Dungeons & Dragons. This is the prime example of a com-toon™ (I just made that up, trademark The Credible Hulk). While there was a decent fantasy story within, it was needlessly encumbered by the D&D paint. Did the dude-guy really need to be called the Dungeon Master? Why couldn’t he have been called Voren, the All-Seeing™ (I am on fire!) or something?

In 1990, after years of this nonsense, the FCC stepped in with the Children’s TV Act, essentially mandating that children’s shows have some redeemable educational quality. In many ways, this fixed the issue, in others, it only exacerbated it. While many still tried and failed to create com-toons™, this opened the door to some of the best cartoons ever created.

Many decry censorship as the greatest indignity ever levied against the creative process. Don’t get me wrong, I can easily see how quickly it can go to hell. Sometimes, creators need some guidelines, lest they become amoral. Or get it completely wrong.

What’s your favorite com-toon™? What say you on imposed limitations? Comment below!

In addition to THN’s Saturday Morning Cartoons and Nerd at the Movies, Tony writes for his own site,, about comics, video games, movies, TV and more, six days a week. You can follow his updates
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Why have I not thought of com-toon™ before?