So Sayeth the Odinson: Which Era Has the Best Cartoons: The Modern Era or the Decade that Gave Us the Rubik’s Cube?

Greetings from the Odinson,

Including the comic books, novels, toys, cartoons, TV shows and movies, the Odinson has made no qualms about his love for all things ‘80s.  But the 1980s was not the only decade that mined gold when it came to these pop culture formats.  The ‘90s and Beyond have also turned out some pretty entertaining stuff.  One thing is for sure, in the modern era of entertainment we have been treated to some pretty cool and creative pieces of art.

This week I want to focus on the cartoons and animated shows that have defined our youth.  What era features the best in cartoon entertainment, the decade of the 1980s or the 1990s and Beyond (2000-Present).  Now as a child of the ‘80s, it will be hard for the Odinson not to be biased, but I will do my best.  Shall we begin?

Visionaries (13 episodes 09/87-12/87) vs. Yu-Gi-Oh (224 episodes 04/00-09/04) – The Visionaries are mighty warriors with the uncanny ability to summon forth mighty hard-light holograms capable of amazing feats.  Yugi is a modern day teenager in possession of the Millennium Puzzle, a mystical device that allows him to share a consciousness with a 5,000 year old Egyptian spirit.  He travels the world and engages in supernatural duels where the players use magical decks of cards to summon forth powerful holographic monsters and traps to do battle.  The Knights of the Magical Light are super cool but their short run and underdeveloped plotlines can’t hold a candle to the plight of Yugi and his quest to save his family and friends. Winner: Yu-Gi-Oh

Robotech (85 episodes 03/85-06/85) vs. Samurai Jack (52 episodes 08/01-09/04) – Robotech is a combination of three different animes from Japan, edited together to create a unified universe and one of the most epic stories in animated history.  The tale is broken down into three chapters – Macross, Masters, and The New Generation.  Without a doubt, Macross is the best and it tells the story of the United Earth Government and the Robotech Defense Force and their apocalyptic war with the invading clone armies of the alien Zentradi.  Samurai Jack features a noble warrior who is exiled to a far future timeline ruled by his demonic foe.  His quest is to find a way back to the past so that he can defeat his enemy before he takes power.  Samurai Jack is a really satisfying watch, but nothing compares to Rick Hunter and Matt Sterling flying around in their sweet transforming Veritech Fighters, defending mankind, and still finding the time for the pretty girls.  Winner: Robotech

Transformers (98 episodes 09/84-11/87) vs. Dexter’s Laboratory (78 episodes 04/96-11/03) – It’s the battle of sci-fi!  The Transformers are more than meets the eye.  The centuries-old war that has been raging on the far side of the universe between the benevolent Autobots and the warmongering evil Decepticons has spilled over to planet Earth.  Now mankind is caught in the middle of these mighty factions.  Dexter is the world’s smartest boy.  With a mad genius on par with Lex Luthor and Doctor Doom, the only thing holding Dexter back from complete world domination is the whimsical, innocent meddling of his troublesome sister – Dee Dee.  From toys to movies to comics, the Transformers have forged a pop culture empire that cannot be denied, but Dexter’s Lab is just too entertaining for its own good.  Very few animated shows have got me to laughing hysterically as much as Dexter’s Lab has and laughter goes a long way in my book.  Winner: Dexter’s Laboratory

Voltron (124 episodes 09/84-11/85) vs. The Powerpuff Girls (78 episodes 11/98-03/05) – Voltron is a mighty robot, loved by good and feared by evil.  The Defender of the Universe is comprised of five mechanical lions, each piloted by a brave space explorer, that when united form a giant robot.  With Blazing Sword firmly in hand, there is no giant RoboBeast or adversary from Planet Doom that Voltron cannot overcome.  The Powerpuff Girls were created using sugar, spice, and little bit of Chemical X.  Voltron is the undisputed king of giant robots, but Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup have all the power of a displaced Kryptonian and are more adorable than a garden full of Cabbage Patch Kids.  Winner: The Powerpuff Girls

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (24 episodes 09/81-09/83) vs. Spider-Man (65 episodes 11/94-01/98) – Amazing Friends features Spidey along with Ice Man and Firestar as they take on the greatest threats in the Marvel Universe.  This show was an absolute Must See event for a young Odinson.  It also features super cool guest-appearances by Marvel All-Stars like Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Namor and the X-Men.  The 90s animated Spider-Man series took super hero cartoons to the next level with its continuity.  There are season arcs and character development not seen before in a cartoon of this kind.  And the animation is super cool.  I absolutely love what they were going for and trying to accomplish with the ‘90s Spider-Man cartoon, but nothing can ever take the place of the magic I felt when I watched the ‘80s classic. Winner: Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends

GI Joe (95 episodes 09/83-11/86) vs. Batman: The Animated Series (85 episodes 09/92-09/95) – Yo Joe!  GI Joe is the world’s most elite Special Forces unit and charged with defending freedom against Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization bent on ruling the world.  However, they broke the mold the day that Batman: The Animated Series made its debut.  There can be no debate that this animated gem spearheaded by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini is the King of Animated Entertainment.  The stories, the direction, the character development, the animation – BtAS is, hands down, the greatest cartoon ever made.  Winner: Batman: The Animated Series

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (130 episodes 09/83-12/88) vs. Gargoyles (78 episodes 10/94-02/97) – The battle of fantasy!  I can remember racing home from the bus stop after school, sprinting as fast as my little legs would carry me, because I could not miss a second of the adventures of He-Man and his quest to stop the evil Skeletor from obtaining the secret to Castle Grayskull.  Gargoyles is yet another beautiful example of the evolution of the medium as character development, story continuity and fantastic animation leapt forward in the decade of the ‘90s.  Gargoyles is amazing and well worth the watch, but the Herculean exploits of the Most Powerful Man in the Universe were simply awe-inspiring to a young Odinson.  Winner: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Super Friends (109 episodes 09/73-09/86) vs. Justice League (52 episodes 11/01-05/04) – The battle of old vs. the new!  Brought together from the cosmic legends of the DC Universe, the Super Friends assembled the world’s greatest heroes – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman – to defend mankind and preserve justice.  In The Challenge of the Super Friends, the world’s greatest heroes assemble once more to defend justice against the Legion of Doom, a small army of their greatest and most dangerous foes.  Then finally, in The Legendary Super Powers Show, the Super Friends are joined by Cyborg and Firestorm in their never-ending battle against the dark forces of Darkseid!  The Justice League animated series took all of the elements from Super Friends, threw them in a pot with all the ground-breaking elements of Batman: The Animated Series, mixed them up and created one of the most inspiring animated series in the history of the medium.  Winner: Justice League

ThunderCats (130 episodes 01/85-01/89) vs. X-Men (76 episodes 10/92-09/97) – The battle of mutant heroes!  ThunderCats features one of the coolest sci-fi tales ever conceived as a small band of survivors flee their doomed planet and somehow make their way to a lush paradise world.  However, though this new world is full of vibrant life and unparalleled beauty, it is also home to unspeakable evil and danger.  The ThunderCats, a race of feline super warriors, must defend the denizens of Third Earth and themselves from the dark power of berserker pirates, intergalactic assassins, deadly mutants, and most dangerous of all – Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living!  Though it can’t be denied that seeing the Children of the Atom animated was a treat, the series is however plagued by clunky animation and weak character interpretations.  No character suffers from this format more than the great Wolverine.  I realize they can’t have him slicing and dicing his way through every episode of what is essentially a children’s program, but seriously, did he ever win a fight in that show?  Winner: ThunderCats

DuckTales (100 episodes 09/87-11/90) vs. Pokemon (750+ episodes 04/97-Present) – The battle of action/adventure!  Inspired by the amazing exploits of Indiana Jones, DuckTales features Scrooge McDuck, the world’s richest fowl, and his nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, as they journey the globe alongside their bodyguard and pilot Launchpad McQuack and their friends Gyro Gearloose and Doofus Drake in search of treasure and adventure.  Pokemon is the story of Ash as he travels the globe in search of more Pocket Monsters to train.  Though there is no denying the pop culture phenomenon that is Pokemon, a game that inspired an animated series that still runs to this day along with numerous movies, DuckTales is, hands down, a Top 5 cartoon of all time and a must view gem from the ‘80s.  Winner: DuckTales

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (193 episodes 12/87-11/96) vs. Dragon Ball Z (291 episodes 09/99-04/03 [US Re-dubbed Run]) – The battle of kung fu!  The Heroes in a Half-Shell burst onto the scene in the mid-eighties and took the pop culture world by storm.  The animated series featured a more wide open take on the concept and added a bit more mirth to the adventures of Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michaelangelo as they battled the evil forces of Shredder and Krang, a creature from Dimension X.  But when it comes to continuity and character development, nothing holds a candle to the high-flying, planet-shaking kung fu battles in DBZ.  The show’s premiere hero Goku going Super Saiyan alone is worth the price of admission.  And very few animated shows feature villains on the level of Vegeta, Frieza and Cell, three of the most powerful, diabolical and sinister evildoers ever to be seen in the animated medium.  Winner: Dragon Ball Z

Wow!  I am utterly shocked but the 1990s and Beyond takes the Belt!  It’s probably due in no small part to the maturity of the material.  Character exploration and development and story continuity play huge roles in shows like DBZ and Batman, and that goes a long way.  However, because of the excellent quantity and quality that came out in the 1980s, it is still my favorite era.  Just think of all the gems that didn’t make this list  – BraveStarr, Bionic Six, The Real Ghostbusters, The Inhumanoids, Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon’s Lair, Thundarr the Barbarian, The Spiral Zone, MASK, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors – just to name a few.  But never let it be said that the Odinson isn’t big enough to admit when he has been defeated fair and square.

Narrowing the list down to just a handful of names was a Herculean effort to be sure, but I believe I pretty much came up with the cartoons that helped define these two distinct eras.  Whichever era of cartoon entertainment is your favorite, I think we can all agree that we’ve been pretty fortunate to see some pretty awesome cartoons and animated shows in our lifetimes.

This is Odinson bidding thee farewell

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About Odinson

I am a lifelong comics fan and pop culture enthusiast. Comic books, novels, games, television, movies, I love it all. From fantasy to science fiction, drama to comedy, as long as the writing and execution are interesting, I love it, and I want to talk about it.

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