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Sidekicked

by Kent Brindley 10 months ago in vintage
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The Top 10 WORST Animated Sidekicks of the Animated 80's/Late 70's

Sidekicked
Photo by Gabriel Bassino on Unsplash

Ah, the memories of syndicated action animation!

Cool heroes and evil villains!

The good guys always winning (Though, every so often, involving cliff-hanging story arcs to see victory)!

The sidekicks.

If it was animation in the 80s, dating back to the late 70s, each iconic group of heroes had at least ONE lame sidekick character to crank down the violence/turn up the comic relief for younger viewers.

Some animation companies abused this trope more often than others (I'm looking at you, my beloved Filmation; and thanks for being my favorite animation company anyway. "Eric Gunden" [the late great Lou Scheimer] always had to voice SOMEONE, right...?).

Let's revisit some of the most annoying, cutesy, in-your-face animated sidekicks; those who were almost as big of a detriment to the heroes as the actual enemies were...

10. Zan and Jayna (The Wonder Twins) and Gleek (All-New Superfriends Hour; The World's Greatest Superfriends).

"Wonder Twin POWERS, ACTIVATE!

Form of a semi-useful animal!

Shape of a TOTALLY USELESS WATER SUBSTANCE!

(Monkey chatter)"

A lot of fans of "The Super Friends" (especially those who hold "Challenge of the Super Friends" as the standard bearer) HATED the Wonder Twins; and especially their space monkey, Gleek.

Admittedly, like any other teen sidekick, Zan and Jayna did tend to get too big for their britches and think higher of themselves than they should have really felt. And, yes, that did tend to put them in danger.

They're at the BOTTOM of my obnoxious list because, despite Zan only ever becoming water ("ice" if he felt like being useful), at least the Wonder Twins had their Exxor powers to help them.

Besides, even factoring in the obnoxiously cute Gleek, the Wonder Twins weren't NEARLY as bad as...

9. Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog; the Junior Superfriends (Super Friends, Season 1).

There was honestly SO MUCH wrong with the first season of Super Friends.

The episodes ran for an hour rather than the half-hour.

For how watered-down and preachy the episodes were, they FELT about three times longer than their actual run-time.

We finally got to see Superman, Batman & Robin, Wonder Woman, and (ugh) Aquaman (and, once or twice, The Flash, Plastic Man, or Green Arrow) on one screen; yet there was no Lex Luthor, Joker, Black Manta, or, honestly, any real villain in sight (it goes back to how preachy this particular season was; these heroes almost always matched wits against a "villain" who was a misguided scientist and their moronic apprentice).

...and, yet, all of these faults PALE in comparison to the inclusion of the first group of "Junior Super Friends," Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog.

They had no powers; and only Wendy ever really brought an intelligent thought to the table when called upon to do so. Don't get me started on Marin's impulsiveness; or that awful cape. Oh; and his dog, Wonder Dog, brought absolutely nothing of value to anywhere.

Essentially, the "Junior Super Friends" were around to be caught by the "villain" of the week and force the true Super Friends' hands as they beat down the opposition with broken down doors and morally righteous prattling.

Once again, at least Wendy tended to reason with the "criminals." However, as she was the only youngster who seemed to have a brain, she tended to sound snide and overly condescending to Marvin.

We would have to wait for "Challenge of the Super Friends" to see an intimidating rogues gallery; and Robin as the only teen in sight, and a skilled sidekick at that...

8. K'SHIN AND ZUFFIE, THE ZUFFOID (DEFENDERS OF THE EARTH)

Have Marvel and King Features team TOGETHER to finally put Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Mandrake, the Magician, and Lothar on one screen and pit them against Ming, the Merciless, and an empire of expendable robots. (Better throw in a great theme song and call up Galoob to make a toy line too).

What could go wrong?

Nothing; there is absolutely nothing wrong with that premise.

...Better write-in some teen and animal sidekicks because...reasons; and 1980s.

Flash was soon joined by his son, Rick, to train, fight alongside, and quasi-babysit. The Phantom's normally level-headed daughter, Jetta, came along too and came complete with a panther who I no longer remember the name of. Lothar's son, L.J., showed up as a "Junior Defender" as well. These were all teenagers and, though they took turns being way too impulsive, depending on the episode of the day, they could hold their own.

Then, along came Mandrake pre-pubescent adoptive son, K'Shin.

...and, since an impulsive child wouldn't have been enough of a detriment, there was also a tiny alien ally, Zuffie, the Zuffoid, who only naturally always insisted on being tagged to K'Shin.

I'm sure that K'Shin and Zuffie had their target audience with the youngest "Defenders..." fans, as they served the role of consistently needing to learn the lesson. Unfortunately, West Michigan wasn't necessarily a large animated market and I didn't see "Defenders of the Earth" until I was in my early 20s and they were on DVD.

There are a handful of good episodes here and there; but it's rather difficult to see passed how annoying K'Shin and Zuffie can be.

7. Scott Trakker and T-Bob (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand [M.A.S.K.])

Matt Trakker and the M.A.S.K. team took on Miles Mayhem and V.E.N.O.M. in their transforming vehicles in any number of locations around the world on a syndicated basis.

They had their hands plenty full already in keeping the rascally V.E.N.O.M. in line.

Good thing that there was no annoyingly disobedient kid and anthropomorphic sidekick to force the team onto side missions within missions.

...Oh; wait.

There was always Matt's son, Scott; and Scott's robot/nanny/motorscooter-mode-of-transportation, T-Bob (Who may have tried a little bit harder to keep Scott in-line and out of trouble; except for the whole problem where he was a robot so Scott got to call the shots).

I had one M.A.S.K. VHS in my youth and those were the episodes that really stood out. The two episodes on that tape ("Scepter of Rajim" and "Magma Mole") were also the two episodes of the entire season where Scott was, surprisingly, very obedient about staying behind from the mission and he and T-Bob were, subsequently, not heard from again until the moral segments.

I was unpleasantly surprised when I picked up "M.A.S.K." on DVD to revisit a time of running home to catch these episodes. I must have been too young to notice how aggravatingly disobedient Scott was and how that constantly got him mixed up in danger for Matt to save him from; until I saw these episodes NOW.

Yeah; the less remembered about T-Bob's antics and his voice, the better. Just enjoy a great action show, amazing theme music, and memories of a great toy line from Kenner...

6. ORKO (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe).

If you just read the name "OR-KO!" in close to Alan Oppenheimer's "Man-at-Arms" voice when the misfortunate inventor had seen the receiving end of one of the mixed up court jester's spells, you remember this little guy well.

"Orko" was very much the comic relief to "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" and, in a lot of ways, he was partially responsible for just how big of a divide existed between the TV series and the earliest mini-comics (another part of that divide was the introduction of the Prince Adam/Cringer story line for television).

I might catch a bit of flack that there are OTHERS more obnoxious than Orko; enough so that he hasn't cracked the top 5 for irritating sidekicks. Honestly, Orko's personality depended on the writer for the day; and he DID serve as the vehicle for Lou Scheimer to lend his voice to "He-Man's..." series (it wouldn't be the first time that a "cute" character was shoehorned in for the purposes of Mr. Scheimer going "yeah; I'll take that role;" it wouldn't be the LAST occurrence either).

Orko could be slightly misunderstood at times. While a lot of writers did write him as a petulant child (how many times in Season 2 ALONE did Orko try to "run away from home?"), others tried to treat him, while being the court jester, still as being bold enough to try to help stand up to Skeletor and his cronies as needed.

Besides, Orko's magic was only REALLY mixed up on Eternia. Any time Orko was returned to his home dimension of Trolla, his magic was surprisingly strong and effective!

Besides, Orko was allowed in on Prince Adam's dual identity as "He-Man" and, therefore, couldn't be ALL bad...

5. KOWL, THE KNOW-IT-OWL (SHE-RA, PRINCESS OF POWER)

...Above is NOT a misprint, in "Filmation" lore, there was but ONE Princess of Power. Her name was She-Ra.

Kowl was a rainbow-winged owl, hooted by (who else?) "Eric Gunden"/Lou Scheimer.

Think "Orko with an actual shape and face; and without magic." (Orko WITH magic on Etheria was better known as Madame Razz, and was voiced by the talented Linda Gary; but she and Broom have escaped this list).

Kowl spent much of his time being a nay-sayer and liked to brag about how much he thought he knew about Etherian lore. He constantly served as a verbal foil to Bow, the archer, whom, despite their disagreements, he always hung around anyway.

Kowl's very best appearance would likely be opposite Adora in "The Stone in the Sword" as, like Orko was to Adam, Kowl was allowed knowledge of Adora's secret identity.

4. SNARFS (THUNDERCATS)

Once again, you read that right.

As if ONE Snarf wasn't enough for the Thundercats franchise (he should have been; trust me), no, there was a whole PLANET of Snarfs who occasionally came and went as side characters throughout the abysmal Seasons 3 and 4 of the long-running Thundercats franchise.

Naturally, the "Snarf" that we know and loathe as Lion-O's nagging nanny cat takes the brunt of our frustration.

Honestly, shy of "Snarf Takes Up The Challenge," Snarf was not only a little bit useless to the Thundercats' cause, he tried to be a detriment to Lion-O, their leader, based on his OLD role as nanny; when Lion-O was a CUB, not a warrior.

Are there WORSE offenders than Snarf (Osbert)? Sure; his NEPHEW, Snarfer, took the annoyingness at least four levels higher...

3. Belfry and the Ghost Command Gimmics (Filmation's Ghostbusters).

I always preferred FILMATION'S version of the Ghostbusters (yes, the ones with the genius gorilla) in my youth. That opinion STANDS to this day; and I felt that the Real Ghostbusters had lasted a bit too long by the time that they had become "Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters."

That being said, "Filmation's Ghostbusters" had its problems as well. We'll start this discussion with that trope of every other Filmation show from the 80s: "Drop in a couple of cute characters for the kiddies; and give Lou Scheimer a chance to flex his vocals."

This time, they were the Ghost Command Gimmicks of Skelevision, Ansabone, the Skelevator, the Skelescope, Fred, the Chair, the filing cabinet; if it was a piece of office furniture, it spoke, had a personality, and was obnoxious. The same was true of Belfry, the pig/bat hyrbid (he looked suspiciously like Piglet with wings).

Luckily, the Ghostbusters' missions naturally took them out of the office to tend with Prime Evil and his evil ghosts; and only occasionally would Belfry join them, always against Jake's best judgment...

2. Batmite (The New Adventures of Batman)

...Okay; WHAT was Filmation thinking?

1968's "The Adventures of Batman; with Robin the Boy Wonder" was GREAT for its time and Batman and Robin contended with Joker, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Catwoman, and Riddler in two episodes EACH (one "long" eleven minute cliff hanger; one short 7 minute).

Filmation had a good formula going for it with the first "Batman" cartoon to complement Superman, Aquaman, Superboy, and other DC heroes brought to the screen by Filmation. Olan Soule (Batman) and Casey Kasem (Robin) were GREAT as the animated Dynamic Duo.

Along came 1977; and a logical question of "what happened?"

For "The New Adventures...," Adam West and Burt Ward were called upon to voice the Dynamic Duo (understandable; Olan Soule and Casey Kasem were double-booked to voice the Caped Crusaders on the rival Superfriends). Also, Riddler and Scarecrow were exclusive to "Challenge of the Superfriends" and, therefore, couldn't appear.

No problem. This was the LEAST of the show's concerns.

(Lou Scheimer voice:) "...TA-DA!"

...I give you the impish Batmite.

Batmite came from the world of Ergo and was a super bat fan. His mixed up magic would, without fail, foil the Caped Crusaders and aid the enemy; to which he would whine "All I wanted to do was help!"

I'll admit it; in spite of Bat-Mite, Batman always won in the end. Oh; and there WAS something kind of humorous about Bat-Mite's fawning over Batgirl (voiced beautifully by Melendy Britt in the same voice she would eventually use for Adora).

It gets worse than Gleek, Wonderdog, yes, even worse than the Filmation version of Batmite. I give you Number Wo...

"Da-da-da-DA-DA-DAHHHH; PUPPY POWER!"

(Cringe)

As I was saying, I give you...

1. Scrappy-Doo (the Scooby-Doo Franchise).

Scooby is an animation icon; a legend.

Part of his CHARM is that he helps solve crimes in spite of his timidity.

His nephew, Scrappy, holds no such charm; as he is too big for his britches and mistakes "courage" for constantly charging in and messing things up.

His brash bravado is almost as obnoxious as the little pup's voice.

Now, the little pup's annoying antics weren't nearly as noticeable in Season 1 when at least the rest of the kids were still around to cut in on at least SOME screen time.

Then came Season 2 and WAY TOO MANY seasons beyond. Half-hour mysteries were replaced by seven minute mini "cute" episodes. Fred, Daphne, and Velma inexplicably disappeared, leaving only Scooby, Shaggy, and (even less explicably) Scrappy.

Scrappy-Doo lasted all throughout the 80s, up until "The Thirteen Ghosts of Scooby-Doo." By now, it was too late for me. I loved "The New Scooby Movies," "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?" and "The Scooby-Doo Show" (in that order). When I was 5 or so, I liked the MYSTERY adventures when Scrappy had first showed up but, hey, at least the other kids were still around.

Other than that, Scrappy-Doo could have single-handedly tanked a great franchise. (Do note that Scooby-Doo reincarnations today NO LONGER USE HIM!)

This has been me, and MY list of "Obnoxious Sidekick Characters." There were quite a few that I didn't explore and you will also note that "Filmation" showed up on this list several times, despite being my favorite in animation. I can still acknowledge where they sometimes went wrong in their writing; especially as an adult looking back on this...

Who did I get wrong? Who did I forget to include as "FAR more obnixous than..(inclusion)"? Feel free to let me know; and, as always, thanks for reading...

vintage

About the author

Kent Brindley

Smalltown guy from Southwest Michigan

Lifelong aspiring author here; complete with a few self-published works always looking for more.

https://www.instagram.com/kmoney_gv08/

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