Are you an extreme left wing bike gangster with a chainsaw and repressed psychotic anger issues? Are you a robot that turns into a self-conscious Lamborghini, a depressed Porsche, or a micro cassette that is hard to get along with on a personal level? Well Roboplastic Podcastalypse Episode 34 is for you! Let Dr. Steve L.K. Macrocranios guide you in this one hour therapy session where we'll examine the most infamous mentally disturbed robot (and non-robot) cartoon characters from Prince Adam to Spongebob Squarepants to Zartan. And speaking of everyone's favorite paranoid schizophrenic swamp skiing Dreadnok, we'll take a good hard look at the Zartan controversy of 1984 and see how several mental health organizations did not appreciate Cobra being an equal opportunity employer of action figures with mental problems. Dr. Macrocranios knows that when you're a robot that turns into a car, you can literally drive yourself crazy. So join me now in this EVERY STUNTICON COLLECTOR HAS A MENTAL BREAKDOWN edition of the Podcastalypse!
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GHOST IN THE CARDBOARD MACHINE
But before we get into the mental illness antics of imaginary toy robots, let's talk about mine! I cosplayed for the very first time at a convention called Animate!Miami last month. I guess I was really inspired when I was reading the comments at the bottom of a news article about the latest shooting incident some crazy wacko did at the time. The inspiring commenter wrote something like, "We will be dead for trillions and trillions of years and our lives are but a blink of an eye in the span of eternity" or something like that. I immediately knew that although everybody else would take it as advice to kiss their kids and go skydiving or whatever, I knew what he was really telling me was to go to a Brony convention dressed as a robot from a cancelled 1984 toyline before I die. So I just ran with it. At 38 years old I taped a bunch of cardboard together to look like a robot from a 1984 cartoon that only had one episode and I went to a con where nobody knew what I was and most of the attendees were younger than my Super Nintendo. And although it is probably 30 years and several childhoods too late to be dressing up as Hun-Dred the Conqueror and have people recognize the costume, I'm kind of glad I got it done within my once-in-a-trilion years window.
Did you ever notice that children's entertainment is filled with tons of mentally disturbed characters? Eeyore is depressed, Charlie Brown has insecurity issues, and that Calvin kid was the poster boy for paranoid schizophrenia. But for some reason those characters are tolerated while others like Zartan are not! As I was going through old newspapers from 1984 I ran across a ton of articles from December of that year detailing the story of Zartan's file card controversy. So what I wanted to do with this episode was explore the controversy surrounding Zartan to see how it impacted Hasbro's practice of writing character profiles, especially for the Transformers. But get this-the Transformers post Zartan were some of the most whacked out, violent mental cases in all of kids' toys and television, yet no consumer groups went after Hasbro for their portrayal of robots with mental health issues! Why was this? Well I have a couple ideas and I discuss them to myself in the show. Because being a master of cardboard robot disguises and talking to yourself obsessively about schizophrenic toy controversies from 29 years ago is a totally normal thing to do (JUST DON'T TELL MY PSYCHIATRIST).
Sears November 18, 1984
FIBZIB-FRENZY IS BLUE AND ZARTAN IS TOO
This Sears ad from November '84 is a pretty typical example of how the Zartan was advertised in newspapers. Just like the cartoon and commercials, nowhere did they make note of or call attention to his schizophrenia. In order to pick up on that you really had to be an attention paying, filecard reading consumer. I don't think the Indiana Mental Health Association actively had people going out and reading GI Joe filecards to see which ones were negative portrayals of mental illness, so I'd guess that this was picked up on by an alert parent who let them know about it. (This ad is notable for a few non Zartanian reasons, too. It's the only use of Jetfire line art I have ever found in an ad from 1984 and it's the only ad I've ever come across that includes the art of all four Decepticon cassettes without Soundwave.)
|Zartan 1984||Zartan 2001|
STILL CRAZY AFTER SEVEN MORE YEARS
What really trips me out is that after Hasbro censored the original filecard (above left) and deleted all mention of Zartan's mental problems for the '85 edition of the figure, they went back in 2001 and added it all back in, with exception of the schizophrenia. It's essentially the same mentally disturbed guy, though! Yet this time there was no consumer outrage. But I guess the 2000s were a much different time. Heroes in comics were as deranged and scary as the bad guys they were fighting, so a Zartan with multiple personalities in 2001 was small time bad guy dysfunction. Hasbro has since stopped using Zartan's mental illness as a selling point in their filecards.
SHOW NOTES OF THE PODCASTALYPSE
- Rule 34 is the new 52
- There are now internet search results for "RoboForce cosplay"
- GoBot cosplayers are my heroes
- Who wants free hugs from robot satan?
- RetroRoboAd holiday countdown 2012 at the Robofacial Bookocalypse
- Merry Christmas you're autistic
- Aspergers syndrome is so 2012
- Every team needs its crazy (saxophone playing) man
- The good book of spiritual comforts for the robotarded
- Raoul, hero of the brown kid insertion Transformer characters
- The reigning champions of toy robots familial dysfunction
- Alternators are Robo Force in disguise
- Tantrum's head hose leak-the only explanation ever given for robo madness
- BREAK-Duocons commercial
- The Tyler Durden of Transformers
- Top ten cartoon psychiatric disorders
- BREAK-Zartan commercial
- The original Zartan filecard
- Buzzer, the other mental Dreadnok with repressed psychotic anger and also without it
- 'Schizophrenic' Doll Concerns Officials / Times-Union Dec 4, 1984
- Paranoid Doll Cause of Concern / Palm Beach Post Dec 5, 1984
- Company apologizes for 'schizophrenic' toy / Milwaukee Sentinel Dec 5, 1984
- Doll maker admits mistake / Tri City Herald Dec 5, 1984
- Mentally ill doll draws an apology / The Bulletin Dec 6, 1984
- Children, Toys, Fantasies / Lawrence Journal World Dec 8, 1984
- Doll has real-life enemies / The Calgary Herald Dec 10, 1984
- Penance performed at party / Palm Beach Post Dec 19, 1985
- Larry Hama on Zartan
- Flywheel's tech spec motto
- Outro: "Zartan" by TheHardStuff