Never get around to ballyhoo much about one of my favorite Saturday night fetishes. Rather than squandering in the back alley of a seedy gay West Ho hostel getting a hummer from some Rush Limbaugh endorsed Thai rent boy, I’m usually safe and sound and Typhoid Mary free…
…watching cartoons all day and all night.
Here’s a tribute to one of my favorite cartoon characters who’s just as old as I am.
Although he’s a lot more younger looking than I am these days, that is, for a fucking 52-year-old bleach blond-haired kid.
Jonny Quest is his name (voiced by Tim Matheson). Perhaps you’ve heard of him. You know that little bratty kid with the little pug dog named Bandit, the Hindu BFF Hadji (voiced by Danny Bravo), the bronze skinned buffed bodyguard Race Bannon with the white-haired crew cut (voiced by Mike Road; an obvious cloned amalgamation of pulp adventurer/ scientist Doc Savage and comic strip adventure star Steve Canyon), and lead by his awesome scientist dad Quentin Quest (voiced by John Stephenson) whose lab is in the middle of the Florida Keys and skips all over the world in a real cool plane or a hovercraft? Occasionally they were joined by Race Bannon’s former fuckbuddy, Jade (perhaps whose design is also influenced by Doc Savage’s meddling cousin, Pat Savage).
Don’t lie. I know you’ve all seen it.
Here’s a reminder.
There. Is it all coming back to you now?
Jonny Quest is the animated embodiment of exploration and adventure. My first ever exposure to a cornucopia of culture globe-trotting fun and excitement that a little tyke viewer could ever handle in the span of a half of a year’s weekly dedicated viewing.
I must have seen each 26 episode of the original series first produced in the mid-sixties at least a hundred times from my youth and even up to this day I still watch them on dvd. They still hold up fresh, vibrant and reverent as they do today. It’s the gateway drug to all those things past and future, that probably spiked my interest in Doc Savage paperbacks and other pulp heroes no thanks to Jonny’s bodyguard Race Bannon (who was modeled after the fabled 1930’s pulp action hero). It’s probably regarded as one, IF NOT the ONLY best EVER adventure themed animated series ever designed right after the Fleischer Superman animated shorts from the 1940’s and was certainly an other influence on other series such as Phineas and Ferb and The Secret Saturdays. The character was designed by popular comic strip artist Doug Wildey, who later went on to work on the eighties comic book covers published by Comico published to draw audiences to the remake series airing on Sunday mornings. Doug Wildey took his influences from movie serials and radio dramas and even produced another action adventure Science Fiction cartoon called Space Angel. However, one look at the series and the voice technique used at the time called Synchro-Vox (used real filmed mouths) was off-putting to some. So Doug Wildey approached the idea of turning radio boy hero Jack Armstrong into an animated series using magazines such as Popular Mechanics and Science Digest as part of his storyboard presentation. The pilot didn’t test well, but the footage gained interest enough from Hanna Barbara to launch a series concerning an original character. The test footage for Jack Armstrong somehow winded up as part of the end credits for Jonny Quest.
Even the very first episode, “The Mystery of the Lizard-Men” had directly lifted elements off a couple of the classic Doc Savage pulp paperbacks, “The Sargasso Orge” and “Death in Silver“. Those early Bantam Books paperbacks of Doc and his Amazing Five (check out my past blog entry dedicated to the Man of Bronze from last year) were highly in vogue during those times.
Wikipedia’s apt description for its’ pioneering animation style:
As the first major studio devoted to television animation (with previous studios, such as Warner Bros. and Disney, devoted to animation for theatrical release), Hanna-Barbera developed the technique of limited animation in order to cut corners and meet the tighter scheduling and budgetary demands of television. As opposed to full animation, this means that characters generally move from side to side with a sliding background behind them and are drawn mostly in static form, with only the moving parts (like running legs, shifting eyes, or talking mouths) being re-drawn from frame to frame on a separate layer.
This was particularly true of Jonny Quest. The series’ visual style was unusual for its time, combining a fairly realistic depiction of human figures and objects with the limited animation technique (although not so limited as that of Hanna-Barbera’s contemporaneous daytime cartoons, or Wildey’s previous work at Cambria which featured even less character movement). The series made heavy use of rich music scores, off-screen impacts with sound effects, reaction shots, cycling animations, cutaways, scene-to-scene dissolves, and abbreviated dialogue to move the story forward, without requiring extensive original animation of figures. For example, objects would often reverse direction off-screen, eliminating the need to show the turn, or a running character would enter the frame sliding to a stop, allowing a single drawn figure to be used
The series premiered on September 18, 1964 on the ABC Network and ended its’ first and only season run on March 11, 1965. As Wikipedia describes its syndicated phenomenon:
“Like the original Star Trek television series, this series would be a big money-maker in syndication, but this avenue to profits was not as well-known when the show was canceled in 1965. Reruns of the show were broadcast on CBS from September 9, 1967, to September 5, 1970, and on NBC from September 11, 1971, to September 2, 1972. Along with another Hanna-Barbera series, The Jetsons, Jonny Quest is one of the few television series to have aired on each of the Big Three television networks in the United States. Reruns also aired sporadically on Cartoon Network from the time of its launch on October 1, 1992, until May 4, 2003, and it has been reshown periodically since then on that network. It also aired reruns on Boomerang since April 1, 2000 until October 2, 2011. Then it returned on July 23, 2012 and ceased on June 1, 2014.”
Personally I try to get a weekly viewing in on Saturdays at midnight through the auspices of my 4 disc dvd set and the Cary Coatney Network.
From there you got fist clenching episodes that featured animated anomalies such as mobile wandering robot eyes stealing government secrets, Mummies, Yetis, invisible monsters, flying pterodactyls and ugly Sumo wrestlers taking out Komodo dragons out on leashes for little strolls through the jungle (and they didn’t take along pooper scoopers either). However the show’s main antagonist and nemesis was the Fu Manchu inspired behind the scenes villain, Dr. Zin who was also partially responsible for the death of Jonny’s mother Rachel as revealed in one of the theatrical movie projects Jonny’s Golden Quest ( of which to this day I have yet to see).
The big band jazz score composed by Hoyt Curtain was perhaps a bit ahead of its’ time too for an adventure cartoon. The music was so popular enough that it went to live on recycled bits of infamy to be used in other Hanna Barbara’s action slate of mid-sixties animation including their version of Marvel’s Fantastic Four.
Since the show was prime time, it could slip past the kids’ censor and depict adults doing adults things like smoking cigarettes and pounding down shots of hard liquor (but alas, Jonny, Hadji, and Bandit did not partake) – THAT is until after the show’s production when parents’ watchdog groups got ahold of it and told the network to trim it down. C’mon, what a way to ruin a kid’s fun: a Winston cigarette always tastes good with an episode of Jonny Quest and a heaping bowl of Quisp cereal.
But the funny thing is, I haven’t given an equal opportunity to the mid-eighties sequel series, THE EIGHTIES JONNY QUEST nor the late nineties grown up series REAL ADVENTURES of JONNY QUEST (which introduced Race’s daughter, Jessie to the cast and 3D animated sequences of the virtual reality QUESTWORLD)- and I’VE NEVER EVER seen the two animated movie specials. I’m certainly not touching that Tom & Jerry team up adventure that was recently released on home video with a 10 foot T-squared cock measuring pole.
I’m trying to rectify that by obtaining the all the dvds that are available for sale on www.wbshop.com where I can pick up the missing collections and the two animated movies, Jonny Quest vs. The Cyber Insects and Jonny’s Golden Quest. (only $17.99 a piece)
If you add all the episodes of the original, the 80’s revival, the 90’s series, and the two movies – that’s a total of 93 episodes all together. That’s all almost two years worth of episodes, if you watch them week to week (6 months, if you do it daily).
Also, let’s not leave out the homages that have been paid up the yang to the roving blond-haired junior thrillseeker- particularly in, as I may cut and paste paraphrase from Wikipedia for the third and final time:
The Adult Swim animated series The Venture Brothers is a parody of Jonny Quest and similar adventure series. The principal character Doctor Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture can be seen as a direct parody of both Dr. Benton Quest (in his aloof present day form) and Jonny himself (in his traumatic past as a boy adventurer). Characters from the series also appear, though inconsistently; Race Bannon is shown in season one normal age whereas Johnny Quest appears in season two, all grown up though unnamed. Due to a desire to sidestep copyright issues, as of season three, Johnny Quest characters have been officially retconned as brand new characters: Johnny Quest is now “Action Johnny”, Hadji is now “Radji”, Race Bannon is referred to as “Red”, and Doctor Zin is “Doctor Z”, an elderly and respected supervillain within the show’s universe. Per the shows’ takeoff on the originals, characters are shown in a much darker light: Johnny Quest is a recovering drug addict who, like Doctor Venture, has grown up as a severely traumatized adult. Race Bannon is portrayed as a member of “OSI”, the fictionalized spy agency in the series. Bannon is killed in the first season, recovering a deadly virus from a supervillain and is later shown during a flashback, as having been an interrogator for OSI and having engaged in torture as part of his job. “Radji” is shown having grown up as a successful manager of a call center in India; he is shown as having grown tired of “Action Johnny” and his drug addiction and having contempt for Doctor Venture. Doctor “Z” is a famous and beloved super-villain, having retired from active villainy in order to lead the Guild of Calamitous Intent as part of its Council of Thirteen
So you may ask yourself – what’s spurned me to churn out a blog about some ‘kiddie’ show rather than the usual gathering of vintage progressive rock acts and friends and foes dropping into the great ether like flies?
Because Jonny Quest is poised to make a comeback. Movie interest from Sin City and Spy Kids director Robert Rodriguez is in development for one, and DC Comics on the other is taking an interest in re-inventing the Hanna Barbara slate of properties with re-imaginings of Scooby Doo, Wacky Races, The Flintstones, and of course, Jonny Quest and the rest of the merry band of its’ roster of adventure heroes that soon followed in Jonny Quest’s footsteps (although they never followed in Jonny’s PRIME TIME TELEVISION FOOTSTEPS).
Plus, secretly, I’m itching a desire to contribute a bit to the mythos myself, as soon as I get a lawyer on it. I wrote a one page proposal for it last summer and I would hate to take it to my grave sight unread.
DC is doing a noble approach to the concept of an entire separate universe consisting of all of the Hanna Barbara’s adventure heroes (although I wouldn’t mind seeing a team-up from time to time with DC’s major characters as was demonstrated on a opener to an Batman: Brave & the Bold episode when Space Ghost showed up to help Batman take down Zorak), I knew that one day this would prove inevitable – and I thought it wise if I spent some time last summer on tackling a secret origin story for a certain group of characters that I loved as a kid besides Jonny Quest.
However, somehow, DC’s publisher, Dan Didio beat me to the punch and enlisted artist/writer Darywn Cooke to tackle on the idea of a re-imagination, and Darywn in turn recommended writer/artist Jeff Parker and artist Evan “Doc” Shaner to produce the product due to other commitments.
Promotional art for the Future Quest mini-series inserted into this month’s crop of DC Comics.
The book coming out on May 18th is called “Future Quest” and it’s the first of a six issue try out series that has Jonny, Hadji, and Bandit meeting other such equally adventuresome dignitaries in their surrounding universe such as Space Ghost, Mightor, Frankenstein Jr., the Herculoids, and the Impossibles to help defeat one enormous threat.
Some of the other sixties cartoon characters have been re-imagined themselves. The Impossibles now have a lady member in their rock band super hero roster. Former primitive caveman super hero Mightor has been outfitted in a snazzy new costume rather than the loincloth he’s used to be seen on television in. And lastly, Frankenstein’s Jr’s boy scientist/robot controller Buzz Conroy’s race has now been changed to Asian. Plus many other surprises are most likely in store. However, Young Samson, Dino Boy, Moby Dick and genie, Shazzan seem to be the only ones missing out on all the fun this time around.
So here’s to more Future Jonny Quest adventures!!