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Friday, December 07, 2007

Jonny Quest!

Melashaan posted a neat meme that I think I'll end up taking part in as soon as my brains are unfried from finals. Right now though, my brain is latching onto this:

I still wish that the Jonny Quest mini DC teased would've made it out (I blame Venture Brothers for this). But it just seems, overall, that this long dead market has been revived, and I'm actually a little surprised.


There was going to be a Jonny Quest mini?! Really?!

I LOVE Jonny Quest! Pretty much any version of Jonny Quest, though my heart beats hardest for the original version that I watched in already twenty-year-old reruns as a kid. I rented the DVDs a while back and actually, they hold up surprisingly well as adventure stories.

Well. Okay. With one ENORMOUS caveat. Because the racial/ethnic portrayals in the show are horribly horribly problematic sometimes.

And by "problematic" I mean of course "racist as hell". At eight, of course, all of this went right over my head. (The privilege of being white and not having to think about things like that.) Hadji's "Sim-Sim-Salabim" was the least of it, really. Cringe-worthy doesn't really cover it.

For the record though, I was CRUSHED that Hadji never, or almost never, did that in the 90s version of the show with the stupid 3d stuff. I mean, even by that point, I was old enough/aware enough to know that there was quite a bit of racism involved. But I never could quite get my inner eight year old past the point of "But magic is AWESOME!"

Hadji was always my favorite character. And while I loved the addition of Jessie in general, I was always annoyed that he seemed to get the shaft in favor of all the stupid Jonny (Johnny?) and Jessie 3d adventures. Hmph.

The one thing that never went over my head was how, well, gay Benton Quest and Race Bannon were. Though I'd forgotten how blatant it was. I'd actually gone into watching the DVDs bracing myself for disappointment. Quest and Bannon were kind of sanitized into standard adult-character-asexuality in the later versions of the show I think. They were still constantly together of course, but it was fairly able to be dismissed with at least potential readings of them as straight.

The sixties version...um...no. Not at all. And there is no way that animators/writers in the 1960s didn't know exactly what they were doing. There's outright entendre (there's this whole bit with a whip in one of the early episodes, I think they're in Egypt. Admittedly, it's all set up so Race can use it to dispatch a scorpion planted to kill Dr. Quest, but, yeesh), long lingering looks, unnecessary physical contact, and scenes drawn to resemble old pulp comic images, with Dr. Quest usually drawn in the damsel-esque pose. Usually with the most awesome expression of arrogant disinterest ever.

Seriously, it's all "Yes, I don't want to get bitten by all the snakes, but honestly, you're a moron and my boyfriendbodyguard is totally going to kick your ass. You should just shoot us. Imbecile." (Favorite. Couple. Ever.)

Whoever does the expression work for the original show should be kissed. Because where later series Benton tends to look all absent and vaguely befuddled, 60s Benton Quest ROCKED the arrogant scorn. His expression's constantly all "Yes, I AM smarter than you. And so are my kids. And my bodyguard is hot. YOU are a pathetic little pissant who only wishes you were lucky enough to be me." It's awesome.

I think the quintessential episode of the original sixties version of the show is the one where natives capture Dr. Quest and some other scientist, and Race and the boys have to rescue them in a complicated scheme that amounts to Race dyeing himself purple and emerging shirtless from the river to convince the natives that he's the avatar of their god. Can we say 'Horrifically Racist', boys and girls? Egads. At the same time, the other scientist's reaction is priceless. Quest is all smug, in the "See, we're fine. My bodyguard will save us" sense And the guy just keeps staring at the large near-naked purple man with an expression that clearly says "bodyguard. Right. So THAT's what they're calling it these days. We're all going to die."

To be fair, a lot of the toning down probably had to do with the increasing focus on the kids. (No one wants to imagine their parents as anything but asexual, I think. :-)) The original sixties show was, despite the name, a lot more centered around the adult characters, with the kids as basically subplot characters via investigating stuff, coming to the rescue or being kidnapped. On the plus side, the racism got toned down as well, which is good. On the downside, so did the random and gratuitous violence. Which makes me a sad kalinara.

The show's a horrifically guilty pleasure. And honestly probably the reason I never much cared for Venture Brothers. The sixties version has more sexual overtones, more offensiveness, and more moments of hilarious WTF than the Venture Brothers could ever pull off. A parody is simply superfluous.

I do love the later versions as well (far less guiltily, too) and I would totally buy a miniseries! Darn you DC!

18 Comments:

  • At December 07, 2007 6:35 AM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    Man the 2nd season finale for "The Venture Brothers" had a vision quest, an army of flying butterfly men fighting attack choppers, David Bowie vs. Iggy Pop and Robert Smith, a trio of mystical heroes (including a Blackula hunter) and a super-villain wedding. The show is soooo beyond being a Johnny Quest parody...

    Though crazy adult Johnny did have a cameo in season 2...

     
  • At December 07, 2007 6:36 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    It's a bit disorganized for my taste.

    Though I admit to a really bizarre fondness for the Monarch. :-)

     
  • At December 07, 2007 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You might want to check out "Toby Danger" from Freakazoid.

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=_qDm02ZHiNE

     
  • At December 07, 2007 8:31 AM, Anonymous Mela said…

    I can't actually do it because I'm at work, but right now I'm mentally bouncing up & down like a psychotic rabbit. Not only have I apparently created a meme, but I also found another JQ fan! Glee!

    I think the main reason the mini fell through was that Howard Porter was on for the art, and he got sucked into the Trials of Shazam vortex to nowhere.

    Nothing beats the original series, warts & all. I like Real Adventures (the 90s series) because it actually introduced me to JQ, but even with its horrifically dated racial content, the original is still one of the best action series ever made.

    Some of the 'improvements' that Real Adventures tried to do were actually worse. You mentioned Hadji (my favorite, too, by the way), and instead of using the 'bad' magic portrayal, they actually reduced his role further and played into the stereotype of the Indian tech expert, which I think is worse. It's an invitation to marginalize more than before plot-wise.

    I also didn't appreciate how, to try & 'counter' how accidentally gay Race & Benton were, they made Race a womanizer, too. Every place they went there was ex-girlfriend throwing herself at him, and the only concession to how slimy this is was to have his daughter complain. But since she was pretty much catty with every woman who wasn't her mother, it didn't really help (don't get me started on her - I'd rather have the complete absense of women in a series than have a single woman who is wholly unpleasant, but that's probably me). About the only thing it was good for was creating new fanfic characters - Race's 40 billion bastard children (the majority of whom, oddly, are beautiful & talented daughters).

    You have no idea how happy I am right now to hear from someone else who likes JQ on its own merits and not because it's the basis for Venture Brothers. All I can really say is - Thank you! I'm not alone anymore!

     
  • At December 07, 2007 8:52 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Mela: That's so true. I admit, I'd forgotten just how marginalized they made him. I liked Jessie well enough, but I remember being terribly frustrated.

    And the leagues of ex-girlfriends were insane. Yeesh. I think even at 10-12, I thought he was in serious denial. Poor Benton, always getting cheated on. :-P

    Actually though, the more I watch the original show, the more I think Benton Quest got the real shaft though. While Hadji's my favorite overall, I think Benton may well be my actual favorite in that early run.

    He just had so much personality back then. On the surface he was similar, I guess. But in the sixties, he was snarky, a little arrogant, more than ready to just randomly yell to the kids/bodyguard on the beach "Pack up, we're flying to Egypt. Right now."

    And of course the damsel poses, the "You've GOT to be kidding me" expressions, and moments of surprising badassery...

    The Real Adventures version always felt eunuched in some way, if that makes sense. Very frustrating!

     
  • At December 07, 2007 9:21 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Oh gosh, this was my absolute favorite cartoon when I was a kid. Yes I AM old enough to have watched the originals.

    I do believe that Alex Toth came up with the original art for Jonny Quest. And the animation was pretty darned good for the time period as well.

    I tried watching the new ones, but it just wasn't the same. The originals are still the best.

     
  • At December 07, 2007 9:40 AM, Anonymous Mela said…

    Real Adventures was pretty toned down. I think the approach taken in the modern era has been euniched overall towards action cartoons.

    I do believe that Alex Toth came up with the original art for Jonny Quest.

    Actually, it was Doug Wildey, although Alex Toth did a lot of the designs for side characters. They were both students of Milton Caniff, so they had some similarities in style. Wildey's signature used to be featured in the end credits all by itself, but for some reason, reruns aired after the death of Bill Hanna dropped it. That struck me as incredibly wrong - if the original producers had enough respect for him to give him his own credit, why didn't their successors?

     
  • At December 07, 2007 11:16 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Doug Wildey was a fantastic artist. Have you read his "Rio" books? Beautiful. Not to mention "Rocketeer" of course.

     
  • At December 07, 2007 3:20 PM, Anonymous Mela said…

    I actually thought seriously about stealing a copy of the Rio trade from my county library. I didn't, though, even though I really should have.

     
  • At December 07, 2007 4:47 PM, Blogger Erich said…

    You really should track down the '80s Jonny Quest comics published by Comico, which featured outstanding stories by William Messner-Loebs and great art by a variety of creators (including Steve Rude, Murphy Anderson, Hempel & Wheatley, Dan Spiegle, Wendy Pini, Adam Kubert, Ken Steacy, to name just a few).

    Here's an overview of the Comico run.

     
  • At December 07, 2007 6:54 PM, Blogger Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said…

    Ironically, I've never picked up a gay vibe from JQ, but it was really fun to read your take. I LOLed. JQ has been a favorite of mine since I was kid. I own the theme music and it's fantastic to listen to.

    I know what you mean about the Venture Brothers being disorganized, but I think that's part of its charm. Oh, I love that show.

     
  • At December 07, 2007 8:35 PM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    Aiiieee! I agree with Scott on something! I agree with Scott! My world view is shattering! Up is Down! Black is White! Nothing makes sense anymore!

     
  • At December 07, 2007 8:45 PM, Anonymous Sharon W. said…

    This post makes me think about the Harvey Birdman episode with Jonny Quest in them? Did you see those?

     
  • At December 08, 2007 4:05 AM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    The one with custody dispute?

     
  • At December 08, 2007 9:08 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Hee. And the gay marriage one! Those are remarkably funny.

     
  • At December 08, 2007 8:04 PM, Blogger IslandLiberal said…

    I was a huge fan of the 90s show when I was growing up. I really wish they'd release that on DVD; the episode that gives the origin story of Ezekiel Rage stands out in my mind as being especially awesome.

     
  • At February 03, 2008 12:59 AM, Blogger OUBRE said…

    What does sim sim salabim mean?

     
  • At February 03, 2008 1:01 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    No idea! It's a grand mystery.

     

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