A Look Back on Some of the Best Superheroes of the 80’s

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Bravestarr

Bravestarr. I actually forgot this animated series’ title had I not looked it up at Google (I used the keywords “cartoon 80’s hawk ranger desert”, hoping I’d get lucky. You see, all I remember is the hawk, and that it has this cowboy-ranger for a hero (I remember the stars in his boots), and that the show’ setting was the desert.

But enough with digression. Bravestar is Marshall Bravestarr, the marshall (okay, so he’s not a ranger) of the planet “New Texas”, who can call upon the power of “spirit animals”. eyes of the Hawk (I was right about the Hawk, though), for seeing great distances; ears of the Wolf, for super-hearing; strength of the Bear: for super-strength, and speed of the Puma, for super-speed. For once, we have a superhero who doesn’t rely on anything sharp for a weapon.

You have to give it to the series creator too, for shattering stereotypes and making their hero a Native American, as opposed to the usual diet of white heroes kids have been programmed to look up too. And oh, apparently, there was a talking horse in the show, Bravestarr’s sidekick named Thirty/Thirty, but my memories’ not too good these days.

Still, despite its short run, Bravestarr is that unlikely hero whom you wish you didn’t forget too soon.

Bravestarr aired from September 1987 to February 1988.

Voltes V

We just can’t get enough of fighter planes that “volt” into a robot wielding a sword and other ultraelectromagnetic weapons, when the enemy monster becomes too strong for comfort. That’s teamwork for you, the “bayanihan” spirit (or oneness of nation) that no doubt made Voltes V such a big hit in the Philippines, so much so that Filipinos have incorporated the Japanese-made anime into their culture.

Who can forget the teamwork of the five pilots who make up Voltes V? Camp Big Falcon and its oasis in times of attacks, the evil Boazanian Empire and the many monsters manufactured there? And yes, that theme song that plays whenever the team volts into Voltes-V, almost a national anthem in the flood of emotions it has inspired in everyone regardless of age.

If anything, Voltes-V has taught us that we can all be heroes.

Voltes V first aired on TV Asahi starting April 6, 1977.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Take the idea of turtles posing as ninja heroes today, and it seems a bit corny. But way back in the 80’s, it was just brilliant. As a kid of the 80’s, I was hooked to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (my favorite was Donatello) and have seen the turtles in action too many times, that by the time I saw a real turtle, all sluggish and shy, I was a bit disappointed.

But what am I saying here? No superhero is ever corny if their heroism humbles us, never mind if their choice of weapons were a bit too sharp for concerned parents’ taste. But did the TMNT generation grow up to be a violent bunch? I don’t think so.

Throw in some excellent high-kicking cowabunga moves, colorful personalities always in conflict with each other, and lots of take-out pizzas, and you have a great cartoon series that outlasts any trend in action figure character design.

I just hope that digital movie that comes out astounds all of us.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ first cartoon series began on December 14, 1987.

The Transformers

On the surface, they’re just robots who can easily morph—with matching cool, hinge-creaking, whiplashing sound effects—into all sorts of vehicles and insects, dinosaurs, and even a cassette tape, and then back into robots.

Deep down though, they’re robots with a mission. Both factions, Autobots (the good guys, led by Optimus Prime—who made ten-wheeler trucks cool) and the Decepticons (the baddies, led by Megatron, ) come from the planet Cybertron, which, coincidentally, was dangerously running low on energy. In search of a new energy source, the two warring groups crash-land on Earth, where they continue their battle.

Alien robots on planet Earth. One side, bent on draining the planet of its energy, while the other has allied with humans and vowed to protect Earth.

Did the movie adaptation by Michael Bay deliver the goods well? Okay, I enjoyed it. The Transformers were… very upgraded. They had new, deeper dimensions to their character. Very complex. And so were the humans. Which leads me to think no, we are not just helplessly in the middle of some robot wars. In real life, it’s us greedily draining our planets of its resources, waging foolish wars against our own kind.

On TV, it’s easy to pick out the good guys and cheer for them. In real life though, we have a hard time recognizing when we ourselves become Decepticons.

He-Man

By the power of Grayskull…I have the power!“. A classic line which brings us back to the land of magic, sorcery, of castles and kingdoms, and once again, good over evil.

No doubt, He-Man is your quintessential alpha-male, complete with bulging muscles, magic sword and unbeatable superpowers. Never mind that he was rather cliché—only big muscled guys get to be heroes—inspiring in skinny little boys (including me) an insecurity that were to surface later in our teenage years. The power of cartoons.

But wait, there’s Sheera too, princess and He-Man’s battle partner, not to be confused with some other helpless female character who gets in trouble and needs to be rescued from time to time. At least, there was Sheera to shatter the stereotype. If anything, He-Man was that cartoon that doesn’t rely on violence, no matter how perfectly able the lead hero was.

Notably, his most violent act was picking up an enemy and tossing him away as you would a doll. Violence was only used as a last resort, and there we have a bulky superhero racking his brains instead on how to outwit the evil Skeletor. Yehey for that.

Captain Planet

Something tells me the online RPG*-addicted bloodthirsty kids of today might find Captain Planet a little, well, tame for their tastes. He sports a green mullet haircut (you just can’t overemphasize environment-friendliness) and, like all other heroes of the 80’s, wears his red briefs over his light blue tights. Not exactly high-kicking and action-packed in that stealthy, devil-may-care way superheroes are packaged nowadays.

But the idea behind Captain Planet is what makes him enduring. Five kids or Planeteers possessing rings join forces to summon him. And it’s what the rings symbolize too: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Heart—the basic forces that run our planet. Take all that teamwork and perfect synchronization, and you have a superhero that really packs a punch.

While I don’t really remember much of the show, or even who was my favorite Planeteer (everyone, I do remember that feeling of adrenalin, of release, of that job well done, of that something you have contributed and wagered, even if vicariously, just to save the planet.

Let’s see the bloodthirsty superheroes of online games do that.

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