Move over, Fox McCloud. Jump back, Rocket Raccoon. There’s another gun-toting, space dog-fighting fluffy hero around: Bucky O’Hare. This fun, dramatic, space opera takes classic elements from Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and a little bit of Star Wars, but with badass mammals taking on an evil empire of killer amphibians. Yeah, okay it is a lot like Star Fox, but actually predates it by over ten years. Created by comic book veteran Larry Hama and Michael Golden, Bucky O’Hare debuted as a comic in 1984, spawning a short-lived animated series and a toy line released by Hasbro. Having had experience writing for G.I. Joe and X-Men, Hama and Golden created a fantastic, exciting world. To celebrate this forgotten franchise, this review looks back on the 1991 animated series Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars.
The series resolves around the ongoing, intergalactic war between the freedom fighters of the United Animal Federation and the evil Toad Empire. Long ago, the Toads were a peaceful if inept race until they created Komplex, a supercomputer who was meant to take care of the Toad’s less enjoyable tasks. Instead, Komplex went rogue and enslaved the whole planet through brainwashing but hilarious propaganda. To combat the Toads, the U.A.F. formed a small but effective space fleet of frigates, beginning with the “Righteous Indignation”, captained by the intrepid, heroic Bucky O’Hare , a green-furred hare from the captured planet Warren.
Bucky is an adventurous, swashbuckling archetypal hero of classic space opera, brave, bold, daring, but his crew follow him for his knack of staying calm and taking control in dire situations. The other members of his crew include first mate Jenny, a psychic cat from Aldebaran who must keep her powers secret as per her planet’s law; four-eyed, ex-pirate Deadeye Duck is serves as gunner; cycloptic robot Blinky, the berserker baboon Bruiser, and human boy Willy DuWitt who comes from our world, who all serve as the engineering crew.
The heroes are great fun, all bouncing off each other with their wild personalities. Admittedly Blinky can get a little annoying at times, reminding me of Alpha-5 from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. During early runs of this series, Jenny never really struck me as an interesting character but that opinion has since changed, reminding me of such character as Jean Gray, dealing with her powers and the consequences of using/hiding them. Deadeye and Bruiser are great fun, and Willy serves as a good audience representative and bringing the obligatory episodic aesop required of all TV shows back then.
One of my favourite character is Commander Dogstar, an elderly, bungling but courageous soldier and captain of the U.A.F. ship, “The Indefatigable”. Though his crew didn’t get as much development as Bucky’s, they are quite fun. There is also Mimi LaFloo, a vixen held a prisoner by the toads for years but her wits and leadership ends up making her captain of “The Screaming Mimi”. On the side of the toads are Komplex, a ruthless AI who has a very nightmarish appearance, and the incredibly warty Toad Air Marshall, who can flip out at the drop of a hat and will go mad if anyone mentions Bucky. Amongst Komplex’s toadies (sorry) are Toadborg, who is kind of like Shockwave from Transformers, but can be even more crazier than the Air Marshall if angered, and Al Negator, a Cajun-accented sleazesaur who will do anything bad for a buck.
I do particularly like the humour of the series, usually with the disgusting propaganda advertisements of the toads. The space fights and action are thrilling and great fun. Just a mash of dog fights, laser fire, toad-shaped battleships, killer robots, space pirates, berserker baboons, parallel worlds. It’s great fun. I also enjoy the amount of mythos and story they can fit into the twenty-minute episodes. My favourite is “The Creation Conspiracy”, revealing Komplex’s origins, an underwater spy network run by a British dolphin and a snark octopus, Blinky gets kidnapped by Komplex’s creators, and there is a reality warping superweapon called the Matter Transmutor up for grabs.
There are some obvious parallels of Star Wars, Komplex himself being a giant planet-sized death weapon, parts of the Righteous Indignation resembles the Millennium Falcon (particularly the gun pod), and there is the wacky robot sidekick. Jenny’s race are powerful psychic whose powers are similar to the Force, but more based in, as the show writer Christy Marx, a mix of magic and quantum physics. I believe at one point Deadeye mentions lightsabers, but they never appear in the series for obvious copyright reasons.
Unfortunately, in all area, Bucky O’Hare never reached a major form of popularity or success, and has become another nostalgic gemstone remembered by those who grew up with it. There have been the rare rumours of a resurrection of the franchise, and considering the success of similar franchises like Guardians of the Galaxy, perhaps at some point, we shall see Bucky and friends return to our screens. As the awesome TV series’ theme song says, let’s croak us some toads!
Have you read or watched Bucky O’Hare and how has it held up for you over the years? Any similar franchises you know of that deserve a revival? Leave a comment below or on our Twitter feed.