Blasts From the Past: All the Reboots Worth Watching
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002)
First on the list is the 2002 reboot of “He-Man and The Masters of the Universe,” one of Cartoon Network’s first victims of bad scheduling and lack of advertising. The show, produced by Mike Young Productions, was in many ways a love letter to the original series, even including writers from the original show like Larry DiTillio. From it’s opening, which mirrored the original until Prince Adam in unceremoniously interrupted by an attack from Skeletor’s minions, to the moral lessons learned being discussed at the end of each episode with He-Man, Orko and others there was much of the DNA of that original series in this new iteration.
But where this show differs from it’s predecessor is the story telling. As I have said many of the 80’s tv shows just don’t stand up today, and He-Man is chief among them. The trite, and silly episodic fun of the heroes defeating the imbecilic villains is not on display here. The heroes do win the day, but the villains are more of a challenge, and each episode, though self-contained is still part of a larger story, be it introducing characters, the world and lore, or moving the plot forward toward the major confrontation of the season. Ever wonder exactly what “The Power of Grayskull” is? Find out here. How’d Skeletor get that face? Watch and see. The show upped the stakes as well, and everyone is made to be a viable threat or badass. Skeletor isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty for one and there is an escalating threat throughout the short series. It only lasted 2 seasons but we got a lot of back story and two major threats. Like it’s original series, the show was intended to help the sale of toys, but unlike it’s predecessor this show endeavored to tell a real story along with selling those toys, and did a great job of revitalizing the franchise.
You can purchase the entire series alone or in a box set with EVERY He-Man series ever released…if you have $400
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)
2003 saw the return of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to the small screen and it was glorious. I say that as a fan of the 80’s series and collector of toys. I also say it as a reader of the ORIGNAL comics. The new series was produced by 4Kids Productions and was actually closer to the live action film and comics than it was the old series. The turtles lost their pupils while wearing their masks, and the series as a whole was a bit darker and more serious, but it still had tons of humor and heart. All your favorites were there with a few changes though some were again back to the original comic, like April being a scientist working for Baxter Stockman, and her subsequent meeting of the turtles. Many original story lines and characters from that comic appeared as well like Triceratons, Utrom (Krang like creatures), Karai, and the Fugitoid. And they made Shredder a true threat, one they could barely beat without the help of Splinter in many instances. The show was also pretty amazing with fight choreography, as the Foot were real ninja, not clumsy robots and as the show progressed they continued to find new ways to challenge the Turtles’ abilities.
Due to some issues the fifth season of the show did not air right away, and instead a spin-off series, “Ninja Turtles, Fast Forward” took it’s place. An interesting take on the story, the turtles were shunted into the future and befriended by April and Casey’s great grandson Cody Jones, and their adventures still fit right in with what had come before it. Lasting 26 episodes before they returned to their own timeline with the new show “Back to The Sewer.” This returned the show to something closer to the status quo established in the first series, but with some new villains and new tech and weapons for the turtles. In between “Fast Forward” and “Return to the Sewer” the fifth season finally aired, hailed as “The Lost Episodes,” the “Ninja Tribunal” story arc is actually one of the best in the series. All of this led to one of the coolest things ever “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles Forever” an hour long crossover between the then modern Turtles and their 80’s counterparts. It was definitely a highlight of that series, which is saying a lot because it already had a lot of highlights.
Unfortunately this show is one of those good ones that only got a limited DVD release back when it was still airing. Trying to find the ENTIRE series on Amazon or something is a lesson in frustration. But Good Luck!!!
G.I. Joe: Resolute
G.I.Joe: Resolute (2009)
In 2009, the live action G.I.Joe film “The Rise of Cobra” aka “Lips of the Ninja” was released on the big screen to much groan inducing shame of fans of the cartoon. The less said about that film the better. But that same year a smaller project hit the internet and then Cartoon Network. That project was “G.I.Joe: Resolute” and it was the G.I.Joe movie we all wanted and it completely blew the live action film away. Written by comics scribe and genius Warren Ellis and directed by Joaquin Dos Santos and produced by Sam Register, “Resolute” is basically what would happen if someone wrote a continuation and mash-up of the old cartoon and comic-book. Originally released in parts as a web-series, it aired togetehr on Cartoon Network as a movie. It takes the characters we love, updates them just a little and then places them in a world where they no longer shoot red and blue lasers at each other, and everyone is going home okay.
From the opening of the film we have deaths on both sides of Cobra and G.I.Joe. The death of Major Blood was a message sent to the rest of Cobra that Cobra Commander will no longer tolerate failure, or insubordination, while the death of a Joe was a message to them. This completely sets the tone for the next hour as we are treated to a ruthless Commander, and the Joes are knocked off their A-game and have to compensate. It’s a short, action packed story, that assumes you know these characters already, and the writing gives you that familiarity with them even more. But all of this pales in comparison to the fight between former brothers in arms Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. It’s that ultimate fight fans came to see and it does not disappoint. “Resolute” could’ve been the start of an adult oriented animated show, but alas it was more of a quick shot of “what if” that turned out to be almost the perfect nostalgic trip while staying firmly planted in the present.
You can find this anywhere! What are you waiting for?!?!
G.I.Joe: Renegades (2010)
Our first repeat appearance, G.I.Joe returned to television a year later on The Hub, now Discovery-Family, the joint collaborated channel with Hasbro, which also aired the next entry on this list as well. “G.I.Joe: Renegades” was the first show to completely change the format of the show. Where the original G.I.Joe was about a group of soldiers, always seen as heroes and always ready to defend freedom, “Renegades” finds a small group of soldiers framed for a crime they didn’t commit and on the run trying to prove their innocence while also trying to bring the real villains to light, the The Cobra Pharmaceutical Corporation. Yes it sounds like someone dipped your G.I.Joe in some A-Team. And surprisingly it works well, very well, and the parallels between team members actually works, and them being on the run actually made for some rather tense situations for the team.
What we end up with is a long story, punctuated by some shorter story and character beats. But everyone gets to shine. There’s no dropping characters in the story just to have them show, and most of the code-names actually come from once source, Ripcord! Yes the character played by Marlon Wayans in the film, but he’s nowhere near as annoying. But things definitely don’t stop there, with lots of call backs to the original show, all the while building their own version of the world and characters “Renegades” still gives you that “Yo, Joe!” feeling! Even though the show is completely different than what came before it, once it gets going it’s hard not to enjoy. Sadly the show only made it through one, 26 episode season but was set up to start things more in line with the original show, with the formation of a full team of Joes!
You can pick up the Complete Series in one set on Blu-Ray!!!
Transformers Prime (2010)
Three days after “Renegades” hit the airwaves, another childhood favorite hit TV on The Hub, “Transfomers Prime,” developed by Transformers film writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. What made this show grab me, was the return of not only Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus Prime, but the original voice of the Decepticon leader Megatron, Frank Welker as well. Boasting quite the voice cast on top of that as well, with actors Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Adam Baldwin, Jeffrey Combs, Clancy Brown, Gina Torres, Ernie Hudson and more, the show felt like a return to the original feel of Generation One. Taking parts of the original show, the movies, the comics and even previous cartoons, the show was aimed at both young and old audiences, and really encompassed the best of them all. The original sounds were back, when they transformed, Starscream plotted to take over the Decepticons, and Optimus was still the best leader ever. And yet it was still all new.
The show over it’s three seasons and a movie isn’t exactly straight kids fair though. Bots do die, and some in some rather messed up ways, and once this hits you, you realize there are actually stakes and not everyone may make it to the end of the series. There are some serious topics handled as well, and I think that also helps adults enjoy the show. What made the show is that it actually made the humans mean something to the Autobots. It’s not just oh there’s my human ally, there were real connections made, and it made the interactions between the Transformers themselves (both Autobot and Decepticon) that much more interesting and real as they weren’t just giant robots fighting on our planet., and as the show went on you even began to really like some of the villains. The show ended up needing a movie “Predacons Rising” to truly finish the story (something I wish the next entry would do) and was followed by a sequel series “Transformers: Robots in Disguise,” which has a different look, feel and tone and is not by the same creative team. It’s also a bit more kid oriented, but I have enjoyed it so far as an extension of “Prime” and it’s definitely picking up as the show continues. “Prime” is by far the best animated Transformers show since Generation One and Beast Wars.
Transformers Prime is currently streaming on Netflix and can be bough by the season along with the “Predacons Rising” movie.
And now we come to one of the best on the list in my opinion. In 2011 Cartoon Network had two really good shows on, both of which didn’t get the traction that they needed, due to again bad scheduling and lack of advertising in the form of “Young Justice” and “Thundercats.” “Young Justice” got a second season. Yes I am still mad. Developed by Warner Brothers and anime Studio 4C, the reboot of Thundercats, like “Renegades” completely rethought the wheel. It took the space fairing cat people who landed on Third Earth and became a group of heroes, and dropped them in an anime-fantasy setting. Thundera was the a Kingdom run by the cats, and everyone else, especially Lizards were lower class citizens. And then the Lizards attack, and an Ancient Evil thought only a myth resurfaces. Mumm-Ra has returned.
There were a lot of changes made to the mythology and backstory, but as the show progressed they laid it all out for you in morsels. A bit of mythology here, a bit of character development and backstory there, a bit of humor, a lesson learned, and then the necessary action for the show. The show definitely had a moral center, and the writing was better for it. And watching Lion-O grow into a leader and use the lessons he’s learned throughout was a highlight of the show. But what I truly enjoyed was the changes they made to the characters, as it made the real characters instead of one note place holders, like the smart one, the strong one, the clever ones, etc. And oh the changes to the villains! These new versions of Jackalman and Monkeyan are freaking amazing, and scary! Sadly the show ended before it could finish the full story it started, it ended but it was an open ending with a macguffin still yet to be found. This is one is one of my top two! Here’s hoping Netflix decided to bring both this AND Young Justice back and finish the story!
Because the show only lasted one season, you can pick up the Complete Series on Blu-Ray in one set!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012)
2012 brought our favorite heroes in a half-shell back to TV on Nickelodeon by their own animation studio, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is the newest incarnation of the franchise and it’s pretty damned good. It is definitely aimed for younger viewers but it still appeals to adult fans of the turtles. In a way it’s a mix of both previous shows. It has the humor and craziness of the 80’s show, but it has the somewhat darker moments and the insane action of the 2003 show. They have given each turtles a unique look and accentuated their personalities even more so than before. They’ve also made certain characters like April and Casey younger for the kids to be able to relate to.
That said they aren’t afraid to make changes either. Fan favorites Beebop and Rocksteady appear but are very different versions than previously seen, and characters that were once villains in one show are allies in this. To be honest I haven’t seen as much of the show as I would like, but I have been keeping up on it. It really is a modern take on the show, encompassing all that came before it, even the Archie Comics versions. The show itself is one of Nickelodeon’s biggest hits, it doesn’t seem to be ending anytime, and I look forward to what they come up with next. They’ve already covered most of the major arcs that were used in the comics and 2003 show, and they seem to just be getting started. Here’s to TURTLE POWER!! Oh wait did I mention they crossed over with the 80’s Turtles too? Yup! Check it out!
You can get the first Season in one volume, and if you wait probably season 2, or if you have Amazon Prime stream it, and it is still on Nickelodeon as well!
Voltron: Legendary Defender
Voltron: Legendary Defender (2016)
Last but certainly not least is Netflix’s entry on the list, and my favorite, “Voltron: Legendary Defender.” A reboot of not just Voltron but also Beast King Go-Lion, the anime that became Voltron in the states, “Legendary Defender” is a mash up of both. Created by DreamWorks Animation and World Events Productions, and animated by Studio Mir of “Legend of Korra” fame, this new Voltron is a rework from the ground up. Pilots are switched, the story is new, and the animation is crisp. There is a lot of humor to this show, which helps balance some of the more adult and darker moments throughout, but it is completely balanced.
Despite all the changes to the show, it is 100% Voltron! Even things I missed from the old show are referenced in some way, and all along the way through the story we are dropped hints as to the past. When a major revelation is made toward the end, it completely opens the story up to some major changes down the line. I kept waiting for things to swing in line with the old show, and it never really did, and that’s what I love about it. I kept waiting for Shiro (the Sven character’s original name in Go-Lion) to die, or disappear, but was relieved when he didn’t. And yet they still kept so much. Pidge is still the tech genius, Lance is still the brash cocky pilot, and Coran, well Coran is still the heart of the entire team but in an entirely new and different way. Alura also takes on a more active and important role. This show has some of the best written characters and arcs for them I have seen, and we only had 11 episodes. Ending on a cliffhanger, and with me on the edge of my seat, both myself and my daughter got sucked into this show, and she had no idea what Voltron was! Season 2 is supposed to air sometime late 2016 and I certainly hope so. This was by far my favorite of the reboots, and I’ve liked them all, but this one just blew me away.
The show is currently streaming on Netflix, so go binge it before Season 2 pops up!
And that’s all she wrote! Now this nostalgia boom hasn’t been contained to TV or the Big Screen either. There has been a huge comic-book resurgence for most of these properties as well. IDW has been producing Transformers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics for a while, as well as some G.I.Joe, while DC put out a hell of a He-Man comic. Interested? Let me know in the comments and I will bring you up to speed on some of the ones I’ve had the pleasure of reading!