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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

“Toxic Crusaders” and Troma’s Attempt to Capture a Whole Different Kind of Audience [TV Terrors]

Horror and science fiction have always been a part of the television canvas, and constant attempts have been made over the years to produce classic entertainment. Some have fallen by the wayside, while others became mainstream phenomena. With “TV Terrors,” we take a look back at the many genre efforts from the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, exploring some shows that became cult classics, and others that sank into obscurity.

This month we head back to the 1990s to revisit the Toxic Avenger’s small screen rebranding with “Toxic Crusaders,” the family-friendly animated series from Troma Entertainment!

  • Aired from 1991-1993
  • Aired in Syndication

Back in the 80s and early 90s, several adult properties were tailored toward kids as a means of selling toys and broadening the audience, resulting in PG-rated animated shows for decidedly violent big screen fare like Robocop, Rambo, and Conan, all watered down for the after school audience. And yes, even Troma’s bloody The Toxic Avenger franchise got in on the fun.

“Toxic Crusaders” (“Avenger” was considered too violent a word for kids by censors) was part of the collective effort in the nineties to create shows that influenced environmental consciousness (“Captain Planet,” “Swamp Thing,” et al). The series was produced by Jack Mendelsohn, who was notable for producing iconic children’s programs (a few cut from the same cloth like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Barnyard Commandoes”). Mendelsohn was no stranger to creating shows centered on a ragtag group of superheroes, and he brought this formula to Tromaville. 

The premise for the series follows the original movie to a tee. Melvin, a klutzy nerd who cleans for a gym, is tricked by a girl he likes to meet her in private, dressed in a tutu. When he’s doused accidentally by toxic waste, he becomes Toxie, the deformed superhero of Tromaville – armed with his patented weaponized mop. He fights to save the environment against the evil four-armed alien in a suit known as Dr. Killemoff, as well as his Smogulans and the Radiation Rangers. 

Rather than being the lone mutant hero from the movies, Toxie has his own ragtag group of toxic heroes in the animated series. There’s No-Zone, a test pilot with blue skin and a large nose that gives him a powerful sneeze; Major Disaster, a military soldier with the ability to control plants; Junkyard, an anthropomorphic dog who was once a homeless man (mutated by toxic waste); and finally Headbanger. The latter are a conjoined pair of superheroes that decide to do good after working with Killemoff. This was a pack of misfit superheroes in the vein of “The Tick,” and the writers were very enthusiastic about injecting meta and self-aware humor into every episode whenever they possibly could.

The series promoted a much more upbeat and wackier sense of humor than the original movie did, with a much brighter color palette and a more obvious approach toward action that didn’t involves guts and gore. Toxie is also much more of a vocal, positive, and affable mutant superhero (the great voice work by Rodger Bumpass doesn’t hurt) worth rooting for. Tromaville is still essentially Tromaville, with the show maintaining a lot of the commentary about illegal toxic dumping amidst the deceptively broad premise of good guys and bad guys.

Much of the plots were repetitive and formulaic, but the show held its meta-humor close to its chest, especially with the scheming Killemoff and his cronies. The characters were also beautifully designed, which made the series considerable eye candy. But the primary appeal and legacy of “Toxic Crusaders,” especially coming along at a time when access to indie and cult films was so much harder, is that it allowed Troma and Lloyd Kaufman a means of winning over a new audience and generation of movie buffs. Hell, it certainly worked for me. I loved “Toxic Crusaders,” and the animated series motivated me to actively seek out the original movies as well as literally anything else from Troma. The series was, in this way, a gateway to lifelong Troma fandom.

Despite the best efforts, the series only lasted thirteen full episodes, but flourished in syndication long after its cancellation. During this time it managed to spawn decent merchandise including a series of video games, card games, a very good, more mature comic series from Marvel, and an excellent action figure line. 

“Toxic Crusaders” has thankfully been embraced by most fans over the years as an under appreciated fan favorite. Even “Toxie” creator Lloyd Kaufman has often talked about the series, and has made it a part of the Tromaville universe. It’s a fitting end to a series that sadly never got its fair shot to become a household name. Perhaps the upcoming reboot might change that.

Is It On DVD/Blu-ray/Streaming? Sadly the whole series is a bit tough to find these days, but episodes can be purchased on DVD from the Troma Official Website and through Amazon. There hasn’t been a good transfer in years, unfortunately. “Toxic Crusaders: The Movie” from 1997 (which is just five of the show’s episodes packaged as a movie) can be purchased and streamed online. You can also find episodes online through YouTube, if you look hard enough.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3660026/toxic-crusaders-tromas-attempt-capture-whole-different-kind-audience-tv-terrors/

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