Ah, the 80s. Transformers were still made of metal, and Knightmare was the best show on TV. Sadly, the 80s also presented some low points. The Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Falklands War. Cabbage Patch dolls.
Cartoons too came with high and low points in the 80s. That decade brought us excellent cartoons such as Thundercats, Visionaries and, uh… Transformers. And yet these cartoons, and their Japanese creators, had some strange ideas. Again and again and again we saw annoying sidekicks that were supposed to provide comic relief, but instead provided only – if you’ll excuse the Americanism – lameness.
So, find below a brief collection of the more vexatious sidekicks.
1) Orko, from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
Orko worked hard to overcome his handicap of being born without feet or a face.
Orko was a floating, blue-eared rat. He verged on being considered a ‘main character’, rather than simply a sidekick. No less annoying for all that. Multiple He-Man plotlines centred around one of Orko’s spells going wrong. That storyline was funny for the first 50 or so episodes of Bewitched. It’s been old ever since.
2) Uni, from Dungeons and Dragons.
Dungeon Master gained his powers from his enchanted pointy skull.
Uni sounded like a sheep, and contributed inappropriate cuteness to a show aimed at young boys. Quick test: which of the following Dungeons and Dragons characters is the least cool? a) Venger, b) Tiamat, the seven-headed dragon, c) Hank, the ranger with a magic bow, d) Uni, the bleating baby unicorn.
3) T-Bob, from MASK.
T-Bob transforms into a motorbike. No, really.
Scott Trakker was the Wesley Crusher of MASK - young, irritating, frequently menaced by villains and receiving an inordinate amount of screen time. And T-Bob was his sidekick. He was an android that transformed into a scooter. Scott was allowed to ride around on him without a helmet, which is somewhat indicative of what the rest of the MASK group really thought of him.
4) Nono, from Ulysses 31.
What’s worse than a robotic sidekick? A robotic sidekick that sings.
Ulysses 31 was a sci-fi interpretation of various Greek myths. Hey, you remember the myth in which Ulysses, the king of Ithaca, volunteered to fight Hector during the Trojan War – and the whole time, a whingeing, cowardly red robot was trailing around behind him, complaining non-stop? No, neither do I. Nono attempted to provide poor comic relief, and his ear-discs popped off his head whenever something freaked him out. ‘Nuff said. Still, at least he gets to sing the final verse in the Ulysses 31 theme song.
5) Oon, from Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors.
Robot designers in the future will decide that fighting machines must be a maximum of one and a half feet tall.
Robot sidekick number 3 is Oon, who wanted to be a knight of some kind, and who carried around a gaudily-painted lance that was about twice as tall as he was. He was basically a metal Scrappy-Doo. The least memorable part of that show.
I’m not counting the actual Scrappy-Doo as an 80s irritant, by the by, as he was no more annoying than Scooby-Doo or Shaggy.
6) Snarf, from Thundercats.
Poor Snarf suffered from a dreadful verbal tic.
Good God. Snarf.
For the 2011 Thundercats remake, Snarf can’t talk. That is a small improvement – though the creators have gone for the ‘cute’ vibe instead, which is hardly better.
7) Niddler, from Pirates of Dark Water.
Some sort of bearded monkey-bird thing. Jesus.
Pirates of Dark Water was a cartoon about a guy who discovered he had some sort of mystical destiny, and had to sail round the world looking for 12 amulets, or something. I forget his name; I’ll call him Keith. Parts of the ocean itself had transformed into ‘dark water’ – living, black, evil goo. That’s a pretty badass idea. Keith, our tanned hero, conscripted a freaking bizarre talking winged monkey to help him – the only winged monkey not currently in the employ of the Wicked Witch of the West.
8) Needle, from Conan the Adventurer
Needle, companion of Conan the Heterosexual Barbarian.
Needle is orange, screechy, and talks about itself in the third person. If I were Conan, I’d crush it with a brick.