#1) SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron (1993)
an animated television series created by Christian Tremblay and Yvon Tremblay and produced by Hanna-Barbera and Turner Program Services. The series takes place in the fictional metropolis of Megakat City, which is populated entirely by anthropomorphic felines who are just like people, known as “kats”. The titular SWAT Kats are two vigilante pilots who possess a state-of-the-art fighter jet with an array of weaponry. Throughout the series, they face various villains as well as Megakat City’s militarized police force, the Enforcers.
Why was it cool?: BECAUSE OF EVERYTHING
I’m going to level with you guys.
Not only is SWAT Kats the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rip off but I think it might be one of the absolute best cartoons ever produced by Hanna-Barbera.
It is also 1 of my Top 5 Favorite Cartoons of All Time.
It does every possible thing right, or at least comes close to it.
There are great characters, great stories, a great setting, great villains, and great animation and designs.
Where do I even begin?
The setting for one. TMNT, and almost all the Rip Offs try to do this thing where they’re wild and outrageous characters existing in a real life setting, and interacting with actual human people. It’s all a story telling device used to create an easy sense of familiarity in the audience without, and provide easy comedy.
SWAT Kats does away with that by creating it’s own entire universe of all cats. Megakat City is a largely modern but quite futuristic metropolis with its own history, lore, media, government, and even a militarized police force. It’s so well developed and interesting, the city wasn’t a perfect utopia. It had a bumbling governor ill-fit for his job, a police force ineffective against supernatural threats, and there were people that did have problems in the city. The entire world also has a story to tell, particularly when you find out it has a rich history in both technology, and magic.
The characters. I won’t waste all day talking about them but I will say our 2 leads, T-Bone & Razor are not only cool and heroic but well developed. I think the show benefited greatly from having only 2 heroes as opposed to 4 or 5 like most TMNT rip offs are want to do.
It really gave us the opportunity to not only get to know them as heterosexual life partners who work, train, live together, and basically bro around seeing movies, competing against each other, and various other things. Can you say cat-bromance?
We also got to see them, when it counted, as serious, competent heroes. They developed their own technology, and built their own equipment out of scrap metal which they used creatively in battle along with their strength, and cat-like reflexes (heh).
But what are the SWAT Kats without their trademark jet? For those who’ve seen the series, don’t even look me in the eye and pretend like their jet, the Turbokat wasn’t the coolest vehicle to ever exist.
With all of it’s weapons, gadgets, countermeasures developed by Razor, and flown by T-Bone who is an ace pilot, they make an amazing team both in and out of the Turbokat.
Of course, what are great heroes without great villains? SWAT Kats had that in spades with a fantastic and diverse Rogues Gallery; characters who were aliens, robots, ancient beings, people who used science, magic, biology, dark powers, and even some who were as good of fliers as the SWAT Kats themselves.
But I think what I like best about SWAT Kats is how it never compromised its tone for its audience.
You see, the big thing with the original TMNT cartoon, and with many of the Rip Offs we’ve talked about this week and others I didn’t mention was the fear producers and parents had that these cartoons would be too scary and violent for kids, and possibly contain imitable violence that would cause some kids to get hurt.
To combat this, a lot of these shows would tone down their violence, and include a lot of physical comedy or some manner of comic relief to preserve their age rating. Omitting death, and changing guns to laser weapons also helped that a great deal.
With SWAT Kats on the other hand, it didn’t make any sacrifices like that. It maintained a consistent tone as a serious super hero show all throughout its run, and wasn’t afraid to get grim and gritty with some implied death, pain, and destruction. There was genuine peril that you saw in multiple episodes, and sometimes you felt like the SWAT Kats wouldn’t be able to win until they engineered a way to save the day.
It’s surprising to see such a show take no prisoners, considering it came from Hanna-Barbera.
Even more surprising when I tell you being so serious and consistent worked to it’s favor. In 1994 SWAT Kats was the highest rated animated series for syndication according to Nielsen Television Index (NTI) and Nielsen Syndication Service (NSS).
In the end though, the poetic folly is that the same strength that made SWAT Kats so good and so popular would lead to it’s downfall. Parents ended up complaining about the violence in the show, leading Hanna-Barbera to cancel it 10 episodes into it’s second season, leaving the last 6 episodes to dissapear into animation aether.
- Remco produced a line of action figures in 1994 which included T-Bone, Razor, Dr. Viper and Dark Kat. Both White Castle and Carl’s Jr. have offered SWAT Kats toys in their kids’ meals in the 1990s.
- The game SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron developed by AIM was released by Hudson Soft in August 1995 for the SNES. It is a 2-D Action Platformer with RPG elements in which you can play as either T-Bone or Razor. It features a password system and third-person flying sequences in the Turbokat Fighter. It is based on various episodes of the show and features a different boss for each world, with Dark Kat as the final boss. All worlds contain an urgent message from Mayor Manx prior to the start of each world.
Well, that’s it. That’s the end of TMNT RIP OFF week. And what a show to go out on ehh?
I’ve talked up SWAT Kats like it’s one of Gods gifts to men, and like it might actually be better than what it’s trying to rip off. It probably isn’t as good as I believe it to be, but I’m going to stick to my guns.
SWAT Kats is every bit as good as TMNT, and can stand on it’s own two feet, or paws, and shine based on its own merits.
Am I hoping for a revival? Of course I am. I always will be. But for now I’m content with the outstanding show that was left, and all the other great knock offs we talked about this week.
But most especially, I’m grateful for the amazing franchise that gave life to all of them.
Incidentally if you’d like to see the cartoon that gets the high acclaim of 1 of my Top 5 Favorite Cartoons of All Time, it’s pretty widely available.
It runs often on Boomerang.
Most of the episodes are up on Youtube.
and there’s a DVD boxset of the whole series you can buy.
Please watch this series. you won’t regret it.
[Too busy screeching, wailing, and crying about this fucking show to make an intelligent comment]
one of my favorite songs ever.
The Tusseladd, Ranglefant, Dovregubbe and Jotnar from The Troll Hunter (Trolljegeren, 2006)
There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.
Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.
None may teach it anything,
'Tis the seal, despair,-
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.
When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, ‘t is like the distance
On the look of death.
iconic video of my childhood
I still regularly quote this.
I can’t reblog this without providing a link in case anyone doesn’t know what this is. Because everyone should know what this is, I feel.
I probably quote “But I am le tired” more than any other pop culture reference I’ve ever known.
I quote this constantly. I’m so glad there’s a gifset.