When it comes to sidekicks, few were cooler, or more bizarre, than Thirty/Thirty. A freakish robotic horse sporting a huge weapon and the ability to stand on two legs, he was the epitome of the powerful, gung-ho action hero we’d all become familiar with thanks to a healthy glut of American cartoons and comics throughout the 80s.
What made Thirty/Thirty stand out from the crowd, however, was partly his equine features, partly his Foreigner-inspired haircut and partly his ridiculously-sized gun, named Sarah-Jane. Outside of an Arnie film, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen quite such a preposterous display of artillery, and certainly not in a kids’ cartoon. But there it was, and wasn’t it bloody marvellous? I wanted one, you wanted one. Heck, I imagine even the Pope wanted one and he’s all about peace, you know.
Other than the robotic-horse hybrid Thirty/Thirty (I believe the correct term is an Equestroid), Bravestarr‘s big hook lay in the powers of the mighty hero Bravestarr himself. Say ’em with me:
Eyes of the HawkEars of the WolfStrength of the BearSpeed of the Puma (or Pooma, if the title sequence was to be believed)
I always wondered how the writers came to deciding on these superheroic qualities and whether it was a particularly long meeting. Which powers were rejected along the way? Nose of the Toucan? Hair of the Alpaca? Deep-seated concerns of the Misanthropic Baboon? Whatever, it always irked me that Bravestarr should only be equipped with four mighty powers from the animal kingdom when there were so much more to choose from.
It was the same with Manimal. Week after week, I knew he’d be forced to pick one of his limited powers to save the day, but longed for him to throw a surprise into the mix.
Clearly, the writers stuck to what they knew would work over as broad a range of situations as possible. After all, who needs the Charisma of the Funky Gibbon when you have the Strength of the Bear to beat any bad guys up week after week. And that’s exactly what Marshall Bravestarr did each time I tuned in.
Presiding over law and order in New Texas, we were presented with, essentially, a futuristic western which knocked seven bells out of Wild Wild West. The western mythology worked well, with accents, backdrops and villains all steeped in a John Wayne-esque vision. Only with robots and magic powers instead of loose women and spittoons.
The holder of said magic powers was the arch villian of the piece, Tex Hex. What a name. Tex Hex was a genuinely scary-looking bad-ass looking to wreak havoc across New Texas with his band of not so merry men, the Carrion Bunch. Pick of the Bunch, other than Tex Hex, was smoking Skuzz (yes, there was smoking on a children’s TV show, as well as drinking in bars, but no flagrant prostitution) and Sandstorm, whose ability to create sandstorms conveniently helped the Bunch escape from being caught.
As for the good guys, despite the fact that Thirty/Thirty kicked significant posterior, he still couldn’t make deputy status – surely a subtle comment on racism, there.
Instead, that honour was given to the show’s über-annoying misfit Fuzz, a kind of brown, furry dog with a voice not unlike Pee-Wee Herman.
I hated Fuzz then, and I hate him now. It’s only when revisiting this show for this article that I realise that of all the annoying, gimmicky creatures to beset children’s television, Fuzz is surely of Premier League class. He’s the Rob Schneider of the action cartoon world, which is by no means a compliment (have you seen Deuce Bigalow: European Gigalo, because I have and it’s really, really sh*t).
Back to the show itself, and this was a cavalcade of gadgets (Bravestarr‘s drop-down binoculars were a highlight for me), action (as in any western, there must be at least one elongated smackdown per episode and the show delivered on that front) and storytelling (amidst the action was an awful lot of talking and basic exposition, but unlike many kids’ shows, this was a well scripted show that remained faithful to its source inspiration).