The Softer Side of the Toxic Avenger

In the mid 80’s and throughout the 90’s big companies were buying up licenses to turn anything into toys, cartoons, video games and comics.  I mean there were Nintendo games based on Jaws, Conan The Barbarian, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street and many more off the wall selections. So independent sleaze studio Troma thought hey why not us and made a cartoon series based on their R-rated drive-in/video hit film The Toxic Avenger to Fox, and not to anyone’s surprise it happened. For those readers who may not know what Troma is I will give you a quick rundown.  Troma is an independent film studio based in New Jersey, owned and run by Lloyd Kaufman & Michael Herz who specialize in making and buying low budget films to release in grindhouse theaters, drive-ins and the home video market (Beta,VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray).  They are know for sex, boobs, mutants, slime and gore and besides the Toxic Avenger movies, they are known for Class of Nukem High, Mothers Day and Terror Firmer. While Troma is still around, they are no longer the power houses they once were, but I still love them anyway. Fox, who only aired 5 out of the 13 episodes, thought that they had something special that could have been a runaway hit much like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but they would soon be shown wrong.  The show would be canceled and shown for awhile on USA’ Networks Cartoon Express. While I would love to get into some funny stories about the films about The Toxic Avenger, I will save them for when I take a look at Marvel Comics’ short run of issues based on it.

Toxic Avenger PosterTroma Logotoxic avenger

The Toxic Crusaders first aired in 1991 for Fox and followed Toxie, his loud mouth mother and his bimbo girlfriend Yvonne as they team up with a band of freaks, such as No-Zone a big nosed, wheeled legged blue skinned one time pilot.  Junkyard is a mix of homeless man and stray dog.  Major Disaster is a planet man who controls plants, and Headbanger is a two headed person that has one half surfer dude the other mad scientist! Put them all together and you have The Toxic Crusaders who want to stop all the pollution caused by alien smog lover Dr. Killemoff and his band of evil mutants. The series ran for 5 episodes before FOX decided that it was a no go and pulled the plug on it, but it did show briefly on USA’s Cartoon Express. This was a cartoon that took a stand to try and teach kids to try and save the environment much like Captain Planet and Swamp Thing, but did so in more of a silly goofy nature. I remember being pretty hyped to watch the cartoon, and was super let down by it and found it to be mediocre at best.  While the animation was cheap looking, it was more of the lame story lines that made me stop watching after the 3rd episode in. I later watched episodes on USA and still found it just so-so. The show had a total of 13 episodes, and while not all of them aired on TV, you can find the whole series on DVD thanks to the fine folks at Troma who put it in their Toxic Avenger Box Set. The show has built up a small cult following, and while I still find it cheesy bad, it’s that charm that makes me still remember it and its theme song to this day. Oh did you notice they call him Toxie and not Toxic Avenger?  I guess they wanted to make him more kid friendly.

Toxie Shirt 1Toxic Crusaders DVDtoxic_crusader_cartoon

Playmates was a huge toy company at the time, and they were doing figures for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Barnyard Commandos, Dick Tracy, Darkwing Duck and many more.  They ended up getting the rights to make action figures based on this short lived series. The figures were in scale with the Ninja Turtles, and I am sure that many kids had that amazing toy cross over, and came with many weapons most of which glowed in the dark. Not to mention the figures also had a vehicle line that made many off the wall rides for the Crusaders and baddies. The toy line came and went and not much hype was put into them. I do remember the TV commercials for the toys, and I did know a few friends who had the figures at school. When I was younger I only had 2 of them and that was Dr. Killemoff and his skeleton mutant henchman Bonehead, both of which I got new at Big Bear. It’s crazy looking back that I passed on Toxie to get the bad guys that while cool figures were not nearly as cool as Toxie’s. I do remember having Killemoff & Bonehead team with the Shredder & Krang to try and stop the Ninja Turtles, and later Dick Tracy and Itchy were added into that “story line”. Over all the line was short lived, but they were pretty neat figures.

dr killamoff toyToxie ToyMajor Disaster toy

Not only were toys made based on the cartoon but so were video games for Nintendo, GameBoy and Sega Genesis. The game on all formats was a side scrolling beat’em up that would have Toxie fighting from level to level to get to Killemoff. In my youth the only one I played was the Sega Genesis version, and that’s because me and my brother rented it from a small video store called K & L Video. The game was entertaining and a little annoying in game play.  I remember staying up late trying to beat it but never did, and we had to return it in the rented time frame. K & L was my favorite video store in the area and stocked way better stuff then Blockbuster Video.  The horror section was amazing, and he carried games for the older systems. Kenny was the owner, and he was a super cool guy, always giving pep talks and posters & selling horror VHS to me. But sadly Kenny (who’s real name was Michael Wayne Brown) made a mistake in his youth and killed a man during a botched robbery.  After being captured, he escaped and went on the run finally settling here in Ohio.  Changing his name, he opened a video rental store and became the champion of good deeds to the teens in the area. I think Kenny saw some of us who might have been on a bad path and wanted to make a difference and steer us away from mistakes he made in his past. Kenny ended up turning himself in after his story aired on Unsolved Mysteries, and an employee knew his secret.  Kenny did make a mistake in life, but he should be used as a speaker to troubled youth.  He could make a difference in someone’s life.

Toxie NESToxie Video GameToxie Genesis

Not only were toys, video games and comic books made based on this short lived cartoon but there were also coloring books, trading cards, Colorforms, Halloween masks, T-shirts and puzzles.This showed you everyone thought that this cartoon series was going to be a huge hit with kids, and the money making machine was in full effect. In fact New Line Cinema bought the rights to turn the cartoon into a movie, but when the series bombed, the plug was pulled. Troma sued New Line and won for not coming through on their side of the agreement. I used to have a Toxie Halloween mask but due to age the cheap mask degraded and is now a mangled mess.

Toxie Coloring Book toxie shirt 2Toxie CardsToxie Puzzle

So in short Toxic Crusaders was a cheesy fun cartoon that in all terms bombed but sparked a ton of merchandise all that was made to cash in the the super popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It played very shortly on Fox and switched to USA. In 1992 Marvel Comics made a 8 issue series based on the cartoon that never had a full time writing staff, but will this series be good? Remember I rate the issues on the 1-4 scale and base it on art, story, how close it stays to the source material and over all entertainment value. So let’s get Toxic!

Toxic Crusaders 1

Toxic Crusaders # 1  **1/2
Released in 1992   Cover Price $1.25   Marvel Comics   #1 of 8

“The Making of Toxie”. Dr. Killemoff is an evil man with four arms and purple skin who loves smog and toxic waste and has decided to dump a very toxic batch in Tromaville, New Jersey where an accident causes Melvin Junko to fall into the batch and turn into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength known as Toxie! Our hero makes his home in the city’s junkyard and comes to the aid of a nearly blind dim whit blonde babe named Yvonne and causes bully Bonehead to turn into a skeleton mutant himself and is joined by Killemoff, Pyscho (his righthand man) and the radiation rangers who all jump Toxie. But a bus full of fellow good mutants show up to help lead by Major Disaster (who controls planets).  The team consists of No-Zone (with power of Sneeze), Head Banger (two headed) and Junkyard (a dog man).  They save Toxie, run off the bad guys and become The Toxic Crusaders!

This first issue is a fun read but does have lots of flaws in the very rushed story. The coming together of the team is done so half heartedly that the impact of them being a positive team is lost, and worst is the comic seems to be in on the fact it’s lackluster and even takes pot shots at itself! The build up of a feud between Killemoff and Toxie is for the most part vacant and not fleshed out, leaving it to be a very loose rivalry.  I mean I get the fact Toxie loves the environment and Killemoff who is a giant roach wants the world to be poisoned with foul air, but I am pretty sure that would make anyone hate Killemoff and want to stop him. Plus they way over used the phrase “hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength” to the point of being annoying. The good things about the issue are that they did a good job of putting the cheesy cartoon into a comic book and do a good job of showing Toxie’s birth and keeping it close of the R-Rated film he comes from.  The comic also has some good and shocking action as Toxie even knocks a punk’s eyeball out…now that’s hardcore! The art is also well done and has a nice cartoonish look. The cover art on this one is not very well done and is for the most part generic. Over all this is an average action comic based on a cartoon and was worth the read.  Let’s see if the same could be said for issue 2.

Toxic Crusaders 2

Toxic Crusaders # 2   **1/2
Released in 1992   Cover Price $1.25   Marvel Comics   #2 of 8

“The Big Broadcast of 1992”. Island City is the smog-infested home of Killemoff who has come up with a ray that will spread pollution throughout the world and interrupts a TV show to go about his plan and to challenge the Toxic Crusaders to try and stop him. Toxie and team enter the sewers and walk to Island City to find a horde of Radiation Rangers and Tromaville’s own fat Mayer Grody along side them.  Toxie and team defeat them and head to the tower of Killemoff, but they are met by Bonehead, Psycho and a horde of troops.  Only Toxie has time to get to the top as the team holds off the bad guys.  Toxie tries to talk Killemoff from using the ray but fails and the ray is used! Toxie and the Crusaders return to Tromaville to find it the same and not polluted because the ray was a dud!

This issue is again average all the way around, but this time the plot is a little more fleshed out and there are many more fighting panels that make it chug along. The issue, like the previous, seems to make jokes about itself, making you wonder just how miserable the writers must have been working on this comic series. The plot is very typical and has Toxie and Friends going to the bad guy’s hideout to stop him from causing harm to the whole world.  Wwhile that premise has been done many times, it’s still a good generic plot that you feel okay reading again. The rest of the Crusaders also get a little more panel time and are turned into likable side characters that are good for one liners and fighting. The fact that Toxie failed to stop Killemoff also makes our hero seem incompetent and a dummy, and those aren’t not good traits for a superhero to have. The art in this issue is for the most part the same as the last issue but this one does make parodies of many other media such as Wheel of Fortune, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Jack and the Beanstock among many others. While again capturing the cheesy nature of the cartoon, this just seem to be missing something. The cover on this one is also very so-so, and making this issue over all just average all the way around.  This is not a good start for this series so let’s hope 3 breaks the average mold. 

TOXIC Crusaders 3

Toxic Crusaders # 3  ***
Released in 1992   Cover Price $1.25   Marvel Comics   #3 of 8

“Night of the Living Dessert”. Killemoff is at it again, but his money man from his home planet is mad about all the money that is being wasted to fight the Toxic Crusaders and to gain Tromaville.  So a plan is hatched to poison a batch of custard to get at the men of Tromaville. Bonehead screws it up and instead delivers the wrong batch of goo, and the company makes a Custard Man Monster who just wants someone to eat him! But once it attacks Yvonne, Toxie and The Crusaders must track down the slimy dessert monster before it chokes and kills someone.  The Crusaders attack the creature but only seem to make it mad when they won’t eat it alive.  So it grows and is about to destroy Tromaville.  Killemoff has an idea that if the Crusaders eat the custard man it will live in their bloodstreams and he will be able to control them.  This backfires on him.  As they eat the monster he comes to brag, only to get a toxic team burp that knocks him from his car and landing hard on the ground and then having the car fall and crush him.  Toxie and friends win this round and head home to the junkyard for a well deserved nap.

This 3rd issue is a fun ride that reminds me of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle issue from Archie Comics! The plot has the team having to fight and eat a monster man made of mutated custard, in order to free it and pay back Killemoff with a wicked team burp. This issue has lots of humor that works and does not make fun of itself or the reader. Killemoff and his men are used not only as villains but also as stooges who get beat up and things dropped on them. Toxie also comes off very heroic as does the whole team. One of the better things about all the issues so far is while it’s a dumb cheesy series it really does have good messages hidden under its childish nature. The Mutant Custard Man is a great character that while hurting people just really wants some one to eat and enjoy him; you see he really just wants to be liked. The art work is good and cartoonish.  The cover while silly still is well done, and the plot is fun making this the best issue this far in the series. Let’s see if issue 4 can keep this on the right path and make for another good issue. 

Toxic Crusaders 4

Toxic Crusaders # 4  *1/2
Released in 1992   Cover Price $1.25   Marvel Comics   #4 of 8

“Gnaws” Dr. Killemoff has set bombs in the sewers of Tromaville to explode and cause the city’s toilets to shoot out waste filling the streets, but his plan is stopped by Toxie and crew who go down to get rid of the bombs but before they can they must face a very pissed off giant rat. In the end Toxie’s mop saves the day. Story 2 is “Porcelain Paranoid” Killemoff is at it again as he pumps deadly water into Tromaville, killing many people with its acid like powers, but Toxie saves the day as he uses No-Zone’s massive sneeze to push the bad water back to Island City. Story 3 is “From Seat to Shinning Seat” has Toxie trying to clean a very messy bathroom for a factory and instead meets an undead plumber who fights what he thinks is a giant turd monster!

This issue is 3 short stories all having to deal with pipes, poop, muck and toilets, and none of them are any good! They all feel very rushed and for the most part each have very similar endings making them all seem almost interchangeable. Out of the 3 stories the best is “From Seat to Shinning Seat” just for the fact it’s the only one that don’t cram so many characters into one lackluster story. I am not sure why they chose to do this issue with different stories, artist and writers but it made for one poor read. Toxie’s attitude and speech changes in almost each story, and while in the cartoon the mop never was alive but now all of a sudden 4 issues in the mop is alive and the brains of the team. The art in the first story is piss poor and is very sloppily done.  The rest of the art for the other stories is what came before. The cover is one of the only nice things I can say about this issue.  So to sum it up this is this far the worst issue in the run.  I hope issue five brings the series out of the toilet!

Toxic Crusaders 5

Toxic Crusaders # 5  **1/2
Released in 1992   Cover Price $1.25   Marvel Comics   #5 of 8

“Delivery System” Toxie’s body warns him of danger, and he and the Crusaders rush off to save the day, but as Toxie keeps running the Crusaders stop the ice cream headed Double-Dip gang.  Toxie runs out of town and finally collapses from exhaustion and it’s shown that Psycho and Bonehead has figured a way out to make his blood boil and they want to use this to make Toxie a walking bomb.  Toxie’s Mom has reconnected with her old high school love, and he is the key to set off the bomb that is now Toxie.  In the end he has a change of heart and before Toxie explodes Major Disaster uses No-Zone to destroy the detonator.  Once more The Toxic Crusaders save the day and are treated to Liver and Onions in BBQ Sauce.

The series picks back up to average with this issue, and I am fine with that.  This time around Killemoff takes a backseat as the main bad guy, and Psycho and Bonehead take the role and come up with a good plot to kill the Crusaders by making Toxie a bomb. They also flesh out Mom’s role in the series and show her back history that is done like a twisted version of an Archie comic. The issue has comedy, drama and action and makes it a fun read, and I think its funny how at the start they beat up a gang of thugs who have heads like ice cream scoops. They also go back to the mop not being alive and a character, and again I am totally cool with that. The thing is I am not sure if this issue is as good as it seems or of it’s just that the last issue was so bad that it made this issue seem better. Plus the cover claims that it has the “Grossest” kiss in comic history, and it’s just Toxie’s Mom kissing her old man lover…yeah…not worth the build up. The art work is standard for the series, and the cover is pretty damn eye catching. Over all I found myself enjoying this issue, and while not the best in the series thus far, it was a solid average outing.  So let’s see if issue 6 is any good.

Toxic Crusaders 6

Toxic Crusaders # 6  ***
Released in 1992   Cover Price $1.25   Marvel Comics   #6 of 8

The Toxic Crusaders are yesterday’s news and have lost all the female groupies to Corporal Globe and The Globiteers who have came into Tromaville and beaten all of Killemoff’s new plans. Corporal Globe is a environmental super powered being who wants nothing more than to save Mother Earth from pollution and the ladies love him for it. Toxie and team are thinking about packing up and leaving to see if another city would need their help when Psycho comes up with walking time bombs that when exploded releases Jock Sweat all over town! And when one explodes Corporal is down for the count, and its up to The Toxic Crusaders to save the day, and when they do the town and ladies are back on their side.  The Globiteers disband and leave Corporal all alone.

This issue is really fun and is one big parody of Captain Planet and his sappy messages about keeping Mother Earth clean. Corporal Globe comes off as an ego driven hero who who believes in his message but also seems to be doing it for the fame. In the issue Toxie seems to take a more side character approach until he is needed to save the day. There is also a ton of random cameos from such people as Ted Turner and Rowan Atkinson all of whom just seem to pop up in Tromaville. This issue was also to mark the end of the series.  In the back of the issue states that the current series has ended with this issue but a new # 1 is coming soon….wonder what happened as two more issues followed this one! The art is hit and miss in this one as some times it seems sloppy and rushed, but the story line seems more thought out than issues of the past and makes this next to issue 3 the best in the series so far. The cover on this one also is pretty rocking, and while this goes away from the source material I still think the premise works and makes the characters more fun and while making fun of themselves it’s not rammed down your throat like in the first couple of issues. This is a very good issue and makes me wonder what the next issue holds.  So with that, let’s not wait and get into issue # 7!

Toxic Crusaders 7

Toxic Crusaders # 7  **1/2
Released in 1992   Cover Price $1.25   Marvel Comics   #7 of 8

“Girl Power” Yvonne is sick and tired of being treated like a slave while at the dump hideout house of the Toxic Crusaders who make her cook, clean, bend over to stare and get comics for them.  So she does what any smart woman would do, she leaves. She gets it in her head that she will go to Island City and defeat Killemoff once and for all, but what she finds is that Psycho has created a time machine and has gone back in time and got a giant man made of Asbestos who is on his way to Tromaville to posion and kill the citizens. Yvonne with the help of Toxie’s mom warns the team of its coming in a round about way and feeds them a plan that Toxie can take credit for.  The plan works, the Asbestos Man is defeated and Yvonne and Toxie are happy once more.

This issue’s cover lies! When first picking this issue up one would think that The Crusaders were on the popular USA Cartoon Express, but sadly this just doesn’t happen and we only get the Cartoon Express in a very tiny cameo. In fact this issue again has some cameos with the best being The Bride of Frankenstein who Psycho uses the Time Machine on to bring to the present to go on a date with. The plot is good and gives Yvonne time to shine making the issue more about her then the Crusaders.  This is a good thing and adds some spice to the series. It is odd that they all treat Yvonne like a useless slave, and Major Disaster comes off as a sleaze as he clearly keeps checking out her boobs and ass and making comments about them! And why is Toxie okay with his team mate asking his girlfriend to bend over in front of him so he can see her butt?! The art in this one is fun cartoonish again, and this is the style I like for this series. To sum it up great plot, Yvonne rocks, lying cover, good art and some fun cameos make this one a fun time. Let’s see how the final issue goes and will it make this series go out with a bang. 

Toxic Crusaders 8

Toxic Crusaders # 8  *1/2
Released in 1992   Cover Price $1.25   Marvel Comics   #8 of 8

“Toxzilla” Killemoff has kidnapped a tourist and turned him into a 500ft toxic giant who is sent to Tromaville to crush, eat and destroy everything in sight. So Toxie and the Crusaders head into town to do battle and are eaten by the monster! And once inside they must dodge tapeworms and Radiation Rangers to stop Toxzilla’s brain.  Once they do so Toxie and crew save the day again! “Beau No3e” Nozone is feeling lonely and Killemoff has made a woman out of sludge to blow up The Toxic Crusader’s hideout but the sledge woman starts to feel for Nozone and turns on her makers!

This issue is a complete mess and is back to having multiple stories, and none of them worth much more then a once read. Toxie & crew in the first story “Toxzilla” fight a fat bloated disgusting giant.  Oh wait, they barely fight him and spend most the issue inside his body and cram as much gross stuff in it as possible. The second story “Beau No3e” is a complete waste of time and adds nothing to The Toxic Crusaders story arc we have been dis-treated to in the past 7 issues. The message of save the environment is missing and instead random gross stuff is thrown into its place. The art in both stories is terrible and seems very rushed, given that this was the intended last issue in the series, it’s clear as day that no one working on the comic gave a rat’s ass about the story, art and presentation. This issue just stinks all the way around and has more crap moments then good making this the winner of worst issue in the series.

The Toxic Crusaders was a failed attempt to capture the popularity of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in both cartoon and comic forums. The biggest issue with the comic is lack of care that was given to the property,  The characters’ moods and style change several times as do the artist and writers making the 8 issue Marvel series  come off as a clustered mess with no direction. Plus it’s clear that Marvel wanted to do very little with the series once the cartoon and toy line was canceled and only stayed with it due to contract with Troma. I mean the series was slated for “last” issue a number of times during its short run! In fact issue 8 that was the planned last issue for the series states that a 4 issue mini series was in the works, and as you can see that never happened. Plus let’s be blunt: taking a character like Toxic Avenger who is a R-Rated hero, who in the films rips off arms and beats people with them or makes their face into a milk shake and the changing his name to Toxie and making him a lovable nature loving knuckle head is just not a recipe for success. But on the other hand, I give both Troma and Marvel credit for trying something new and making a extreme step into trying to make a kid show hit. Over all The Toxic Crusaders run at Marvel was a mediocre at best effort that produced more so-so issue then solid good ones. I was never sold on the cartoon and am not sold on the comics! I want to thank Game Swap Kettering and Lone Star Comics for having the issue for me to get for this review. Next update we are going to do something a little different instead of a look back and a review of Star Comics, we are going to be doing an interview with local Dayton, Ohio comic artist and maker Jason Young who has made the hit indie book Veggie Dog Saturn! So see ya next update.

Veggie Dog Logo

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