Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Cutest Whiskers In Outer Space!

Recently, I posted on Facebook to try to decide on ideas for what my next post should be. Do I discuss the nostalgia factor of classic heroes to today's heroes? Maybe a description of how I'd design a great video game based on what others got right or wrong. Perhaps I should just focus on one of my personal favorite topics, a mathmatical proof of the perfection of dancer Kym Johnson.

You can't argue with math, folks. The numbers support it.

Finally, someone chose one of my options, so to show how easily influenced I am by the opinions of others, I present my newest topic: Character Spotlight! Now when I first suggested "the cutest whiskers in outer space," I know some people expected me to discuss this little bundle of joy:

Sadly, this little delight is disqualified because she isn't located in outer space (at least, not until she destroys a few more things I thought were safe on shelves). Instead, we look out to the stars to find...a telepathic Russian cosmonaut dog and a talking commando raccoon with a jetpack?

Anybody who calls comic books childish and immature, I point to you Awesome Exhibit A and Awesome Exhibit B. Let's see any other non-animated medium come up with characters like this and make them not suck royally or be so completely bizarre that it makes my head hurt.

Now, Cosmo the dog is going to get his own spotlight in the future, but for now I thought I'd talk about raccoons in popular culture. They've been one of my favorite animals since as far back as I can remember (the other being skunks...but that's also another story). Let's look back at the first raccoon from my childhood.

If anybody else remembers Ranger Rick, then congratulations, you were a tiny little liberal hippie like I was. The magazine of the same name would frequently have our little fuzzball above helping to solve environmental issues such as recycling Christmas trees, cleaning litter, and replacing non-recyclable Styrofoam cups (remember, this was the 80s) with paper cups. It got me to get my church to swap their cup styles for post-service coffee, something I was really proud of in my childhood.

Yes, Rick Raccoon was also my favorite one of the Shirt Tales, though asking which of my favorite from that series is like asking "of all your fingers, which hurts less when it's broken." The show wasn't any good, they introduced Kip Kangaroo (voiced by Nancy Cartwright aka Bart Simpson) in the second season for no reason, and let's not forget their "secret origin" is "Hallmark designed a few characters for cards and then made a cartoon from them." Lame.

Close behind him in the list of "things I watched then but have no stomach for now" is Bright Heart Raccoon, decidedly the coolest of the Care Bare Cousins because he knew SCIENCE where the rest were mostly ineffective.

Other raccoons I remember are Sly Cooper, the master thief from the video games of the same name, Marine Raccoon from Sonic the Hedgehog (the less said about her, the better), RJ from Over the Hedge, the raccoon suit that let Mario fly in Super Mario Brothers 3, any number of raccoons in movies that require forest animals, Neeko from Pocahontas, and...

...oh god.

Anyway, another huge one is the animated movie Pom Poko, created by the same producer of the excellent Grave of the Fireflies and Kiki's Delivery Service. Pom Poko is the heartwarming animated story of a large group of raccoons that attempt to save their living space from human development with the ingenious plan of smacking humans with their inflated testicles. I wish to god I was making that up. Just look:

To be fair, they don't just use their balls to bludgeon people. They also use their oversize scrotum to hang glide. Cause why not? But don't worry, it's not just a weird movie, turns out that in Japanese culture tanuki (raccoons to you and me) are often portrayed with extra-sized testicles that they bludgeon humans with. See?

Thanks for keeping it classy, Japan.

Moving on before I lose all of my remaining sanity to memories from my childhood, the best raccoon in current times is, obviously, the aforementioned Rocket Raccoon.

Imagine if you will, an entire sector of space occupied by a planet named Halfworld, an idyllic haven on one half of the surface and a sterile, mechanical block on the other half that serves as an asylum for the crazies of the universe. There, genetically altered animals see to the safety and entertainment of the inmates. Of these animals, the most awesome of them is Rocket Raccoon, official cop of the entire sector. And if you think I'm being ridiculous, I'll point out that on his adventures he takes a walrus with laser tusks. I wish I could make that up.

A walrus with laser tusks

Anyway, after his own miniseries where he saves the world, Rocket hopped around in a couple other comic titles for a few cameos (including a rather memorable one with She-Hulk against a race of asparagus people, but again that's for another time), but he finally got to shine again during a storyline called Annihilation: Conquest, a plot wherein a diverse group of allies (including our plucky raccoon and a giant, sentient tree named Groot) have to save the universe from an evil threat.

From there, Rocket became a key member of a team of superheroes called the Guardians of the Galaxy. Rocket's role on the team is to provide tactical advice, but for the reader his role is often to provide a bit of lighthearted fun when the storyline risks getting too dark and to act as a narrator, providing the point of view that the reader can instantly connect with. An example is when the team is fighting a giant monster from another dimension. The story breaks occasionally with "footage" of the team being debriefed after the mentioned mission. Instead of requiring a lot of text from the characters explaining what we, the reader, can already see, we get:

Lovable ol' Rocket's not a member currently, but based on how much writers love to write him and readers love to read about him, it's only a matter of time before he's on the team again, and I, personally, cannot wait. It sure beats waiting for the resurrection of Chucklewood Critters.

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