Sunday, October 9, 2011

A look back at the Inhumanoids

All in all, the 1980s were an especially insipid time for science fiction cartoons. 
I say that in regard to their sources of inspiration.  The vast majority of animated productions for television were done as 30 minute commercials for toy lines.  G.I. Joe and Transformers were chief among these.  Out of that same milieu, in fact out of the very same toy company and animation studio as the Joes and the Transformers, came a series that was short-lived but was a band apart from its kind.
It was a 1986 Hasbro toy line called Inhumanoids.  The accompanying cartoon series told the story of three hideous monsters that came from deep beneath the ground.  These things were eldritch, "old gods" very much in the mold of those described in the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft.  The monster Tendril even resembles Cthulhu in less respects; vine-like, ropey limbs and a mollusk-type face.  The creature D'Compose inhabits a realm deep within the Earth's crust called "Skellweb."  There, he is lord of an army of the dead.  The very touch of D'Compose could turn a living thing into a undead zombie.  Worse yet, the sheer size of these giant monsters was enough to cause destruction to a city on a Godzilla scale.   Who could stop them?  Why, none other than the forces of SCIENCE!

A small but dedicated group of men known as Earth Corps field their advanced technology of power suits and vehicles against the monstrous threat.  Aiding them are other, more benign hidden beings ("cryptoterrestrials" if you will :)  ) such as the living trees known as the Redwoods and the rock men called the Granites.  As the series progressed, Earth Corps would tussle with new threats besides the Inhumanoids.  There was the sentient computer known as Cypheroid and the mad, milquetoast scientist, Dr. Manglar (get it?  Heh. Kinda like "Mengele?") who became the skeletal and grotesque Nightcrawler (no relation to the X-Men character) after being dipped in toxic waste.

And in the end it was all meant to sell toys.  So what made it different?  It wasn't the quality of the dialogue, that much is certain.  
For one thing, the distinction came from the tightly interwoven narratives.  Each episode lead into the other and overarching plots and subplots were carried on over the months.  Few, if any, other shows of its kind did.  Then there was the overall tone of darkness of this show that was ultimately being produced for children to view.  Parents had been grumbling before about how violent toys and cartoons had become for kids.  Inhumanoids surely sent the adult contingent over the edge.  In this cartoon, limbs were ripped off of monsters, living things decayed in rapid motion, and characters sank into acid and toxic waste.  The chest of the creature D'Compose was essentially a bare rib cage, through which red internal organs were readily visible.  Then there was the underlying sense of hopelessness.  The Inhumanoids were more powerful than we were and the most Earth Corps could hope to do was forestall them.  Evil would eventually win.  These last few factors are likely what led to the show's demise as more and more parents refused to buy such toys for their kids.

If you can find the series on DVD or on YouTube, it's worth a look if you're into "this kind of thing."  My highlights are the combined Inhumanoids attack on a Soviet military base in Siberia and the addition of Sabre Jet to Earth Corps.  Sabre Jet is a fighter pilot with a exosuit capable of flight.  His real name was Brad Armbruster...the same name of Ace, the fighter pilot in G.I. Joe.  Shared universe, anyone?

This has made me all nostalgic.  Expect future posts on other, lesser-known cartoons of that era, including Starcom, Robotix, and Crystar.

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