Greetings from the Odinson,
They were the scourge of my generation’s Saturday mornings. These mutants, monsters, interstellar magic-users, and killer robots were sometimes scary, sometimes funny, truly unique, and, most importantly, top drawer entertainment. They came from the four corners of the cosmos in all shapes and sizes, each with a diabolical plan for world conquest, the accumulation of power, or just winning the battle of the bands.
They were the Saturday Morning Cartoon Villains.
The treasure trove of imagination that is the 1980s gave us so many colorful and deliciously devilish antagonists.
Tyrants, Magic-Users and Cybernetic Terrors:
Overlord, a seven-foot-tall despot who wields the magical Power Sword and seeks to rule over the alien planet Sagar. Gemini, a cyborg-wizard that walked on clouds. He appeared as a wizened man, but when the blast shield of his helmet lowered, his head would spin 180 degrees, and then the blast shield would open to reveal a gnarled, demonic visage that could rain down beams of destruction from his eyes on our hero Thundarr the Barbarian. Ruling planet Etheria, the sister planet of Eternia, with an iron fist was Hordak, a cybernetically enhanced shape-shifter. In fact, He-Man’s arch foe, Skeletor, was once Hordak’s apprentice. In the not too distant future, Doc Terror was a cyborg terrorist that seeks to conquer the world by enslaving all mankind. The only thing standing in his way was the Centurions: Power X-Treme! And, in a post-Apocalyptic world where mankind fights a desperate battle against robotic overlords that seek to exterminate (or digitize) them, Soaron, a mechanical nightmare that attacks from the sky, is the most feared hunter/killer of them all.
Threats from Beyond the Stars:
Lord Umbra, the arch foe of the Mighty Orbots, was a sentient super computer the size of a planet with enough firepower and loyal minions to make the Empire and the Death Star proud. Cy-Kill, a malevolent transforming robot from the mechanical world of Gobotron. He was the ruthless leader of the Renegade Go-Bots and believed the strongest should rule, making him a threat to both Gobotron and planet Earth. Prince Lotor, the demon commander of the Robo-Beast armies of Planet Doom, and the arch nemesis of the Voltron Force. Ming the Merciless, an intergalactic conqueror and ruler of the far off world of Mongo. He has set his sights on our world and the only thing standing in his way are the Defenders of the Earth. The Zentradi, a massive interstellar space fleet of giant warriors that sought to take back the SDF-1 Macross and the secrets it holds, and they have no problems with destroying Earth to do it. And, Saw Boss, a hybrid plant/machine and the sinister leader of the Monster-Minds, was a shape-shifting alien despot determined to rule the world.
Professional Bad Guys and Agents of Anarchy:
Dr. Claw, the leader of M.A.D. the criminal organization bewildered and constantly foiled by the antics of the seemingly oblivious Inspector Gadget. Stampede, a monstrous bull-demon whose gang of outlaws seeks to out maneuver Marshal BraveStarr and steal all the Kerium, a precious ore mined on New Texas, a planet with three suns located deep in space. Miles Mayhem, the commander of V.E.N.O.M., the secret super weapons division of the terrorist organization known as Cobra. And, The Misfits want to prove their songs are better than Jem and the Holograms so bad they’ll resort to whatever it takes, even cheating, lying, and stealing songs.
Above are some of the most diabolical and sinister evildoers in the History of Saturday morning cartoons, but there are others that are even worse. Who are the Top 10 villains that could possibly rank higher than these scoundrels?
The Odinson’s Top 10 Villains of 1980s Saturday Morning Cartoons
10 – Mon*Star – On the fringes of known space, a tentative order is kept by the cyborg super cops the SilverHawks. The main thorn in their side is the crime boss Mon*Star. From his moon base lair, he pulls the strings of a small army of mutants and cyborg criminals. But, what makes him especially dangerous is that he can use the power of the Moonstar to transform into a hulking, spike-headed warrior, riding into battle astride a giant armored space-squid. How awesome is that?
Here’s an interesting point that has never been made to my knowledge. In his mortal guise, Mon*Star appears to be an anthropomorphic lion. The SilverHawks cartoon was produced by Rankin/Bass, the same company that produced the ThunderCats cartoon. Could Mon*Star actually be a renegade from the doomed planet of Thundera that made his way to the edge of space and started a criminal empire?
9 – D’Compose – Of all the monstrous Inhumanoids that rose up from the depths of the earth, this skeletal kaiju was by far the scariest. Sure, Tendril might squeeze the life out of you with its crushing tentacles, and Meltar may burn you to ashes with its molten breath, but D’Compose will not only entrap you within its exposed ribcage for a possible future snack, but it can expose you to a zombie virus that turns you into a zombiefied kaiju completely under D’Compose’s control.
8 – Megatron – He is a mighty soldier, a walking weapon of mass destruction with knowledge of military tactics, and an army of loyal (for the most part) giant transforming robots ready to die for him. Rivaled in sheer strength only by the stalwart Optimus Prime, Megatron is a true threat and force to be reckoned with. He and his evil Decepticons plan to suck planet Earth dry of all its natural resources and leave behind a hallowed out husk that will be uninhabitable by humans. Only Prime and his brave Autobots have a chance of stopping them.
7 – Shredder – Though the animated version of Shredder is not nearly as scary and intimidating as his comic book counterpart, he more than makes up for it in tenacity. This guy takes his licks and just keeps coming back for more. Even when he is betrayed by his partner in crime, Krang, or left to fend for himself by his minions, Bebop and Rocksteady, this guy still shows up in the next episode to take his lumps from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
6 – Starscream – He’s not as strong as Megatron. He’s not even as smart as Megatron. Plus, he is easily one of the most cowardly villains in the pantheon of villains. But, what ranks Starscream above his tyrant commander on this list is his entertainment factor. His constant backstabbing, conniving, and scheming is one of the most standout, and oft times humorous, things about the Gen-1 Transformers cartoon. Why such a ruthless dictator like Megatron would ever suffer this malcontent’s presence is beyond me, but seeing Starscream constantly talk his way back into the good graces of his cohorts was always part of the fun.
5 – Gargamel – All throughout my childhood, along with his wicked cat, Azrael, this devious, hunch-backed sorcerer bedeviled the benevolent little trolls known as Smurfs. A major plot point of the cartoon was to make sure Gargamel never found the hidden location of the Smurf’s mushroom village The reason? This wicked old wizard wanted to capture the Smurfs and use their body parts as ingredients for his spells, and even worse, to spice up his stew!!!!
All kidding aside, Gargamel wanting to eat the Smurfs may have been a product of my overactive child’s imaginations, but he was always trying to throw them in a boiling pot for some reason.
4 – Venger – Riding across the sky astride an ebony stallion with fiery hoofs, Venger, with his bat-like wings, fanged grimace, clawed hands, and a single, long devil horn protruding from his cowled skull, was easily one of the most visually striking cartoon villains of the 1980s. He was the arch foe of the wise Dungeon Master and a constant nemesis to the lost kids that had been transported from the real word to the realms of Dungeons and Dragons.
Venger is a powerful sorcerer and wanted the magical weapons the kids possessed to amplify his power even more so he could defeat the only other creature in the whole realm whose power surpassed his own – Tiamat the indestructible five-headed dragon.
3 – Cobra Commander – He is the leader of Cobra, a terrorist organization determined to rule the world. Despite his cowardice on the field of battle, Cobra Commander is a brilliant strategist and charismatic leader. He would have to be in order to draw such an eclectic group of rich talent like Destro the arms dealer, Baroness the master counterspy, Zartan the master of disguise, Dr. Mindbender the brilliant mad scientist, Stormshadow the super ninja, and so many more super cool super villains, too many to list here.
With the financial backing of the twins Tomax and Xamot and the super weapons provided by Destro, and an army of highly trained soldiers, Cobra Commander’s coup is a true threat to the free world, and the only thing standing in his way is GI Joe A Real American Hero!
2 – Mumm-Ra – In the forbidden domain of Third Earth sits a dark foreboding pyramid. Within this ancient structure of evil dwells an old lich, a master of magic and manipulation. This sinister, mummified wizard can even call upon the ancient forces of evil to grant him even more power and transform him into a hulking ogre-mage whose immense magical power is rivaled only by the Sword of Omens.
In fact, once transformed, Mumm-Ra the Ever Living becomes nearly unbeatable. His only true weakness is gazing upon his own macabre reflection which sends him scurrying back to his sarcophagus where he lies entombed, recovering, immortal, always scheming, and waiting until the next time he can rise up again to plague the mighty ThunderCats and the denizens of Third Earth.
1 – Skeletor – He is a wicked warlock with the ability to shape-shift, hypnotize, planeswalk, and transmute matter, along with a plethora of other uncanny spells. He dwells within the ominous Snake Mountain, one of the most super cool villain lairs of All-Time. There he commands a small army of mutants, monsters, witches, and cyborgs as he embarks on his never-ending quest to storm the ramparts of Castle Grayskull and unlock the secrets to the universe which lie within.
Armed with his infamous Havoc Staff and one of the most unforgettable evildoer laughs of All-Time, he possesses a blue-skinned muscular physique that rivals the hated He-Man and a hooded skeletal visage right out of a nightmare. Skeletor is arguably the best villain design and most diabolical evildoer to come out of the Saturday morning cartoon era of television.
There are memes floating around the internet and T-shirts on the streets with the visages of classic characters like Skeletor, Mumm-Ra, Shredder, Megatron, etc. and a caption that reads – If you grew up with these villains, then your childhood was awesome.
Well, my childhood was awesome.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
NOTE: Be sure to check out my book – The Survivors: A Glen Haven Tale. Available in Paperback, Kindle, and Audiobook.