Animation Block: the Inhumanoids

With Jesse’s permission, I’ll be covering this bizarre bit of animation history.

As previously pointed out, many of the cartoons from the 1980’s and 90’s were designed as a mean of advertising wares. The Inhumanoids was no exception. Produced by Sunbow and Toei, The Inhumanoids never quite reached the same cultural status as its contemporaries like G.I. Joe or even Jem. So why exactly did this show fail to make an impact?

Like all the Sunbow shows, the idea behind the cartoon was selling toys. The Inhumanoids toy line was different than most. Unlike the Joe line, which ranged from 1.99 to 5.99 per figure (and were quite small), the Inhumanoids themselves were massive lumps of plastic, going around 25 to 30 dollars per figure, and in 1986 money, that’s quite a bit for one toy.

Debuting as part of the syndicated Super Sunday line (which saw this show partnered with Jem of all things), creator Flint Dille was tasked to come up with compelling reasons for the characters, much the same as he did on other Sunbow programs.

The Inhumanoids told the story of two forces. The titular Inhumanoids were giant monsters living under the Earth, who plotted to destroy everything that lived. Ruled by Metlar (a large goblin-like creature), the other two were De-Com-Pose (undead creature) and Tendrill (plant monster). Two other monsters would join the cast, but they never made it into toy form.

Opposing them on a weekly basis were the Earth Corps. Lead by Herc Armstrong, the team consisted of Dr. Derek Bright (engineer), Augur (archeologist), and the Liquidator (spelunker, chemist, and occult expert). The series revolved around their efforts to stop the Inhumanoids from destroying the planet.

They also had to deal with the evil Blackthorne Shore, an utterly evil businessman who constantly tried to harness the Inhumanoids for his own purposes, as well as the incompetent Senator Masterson.

The voice cast was the same as most Sunbow shows, featuring such well known (and heard) voice actors such as Neil Ross, Chris Latta, and Susan Silo, and they gave it their best. The writing, however, was where the show really stood out.

The show featured a tremendous amount of violence for the time period. Where in G.I. Joe, characters always parachuted from crashing planes, the Inhumanoids would feature a character being melted into bones; or being turned into giant zombies, or in the case of one episode, being hacked apart by zombie hordes groin first. There was no blood, although in the hacked apart example, seeing a rock creature die was still strange. The science used in the show was highly dubious, but I doubt the writers were concerned with education.

The villains were the strangest thing about it. Naming the show after them was an odd gesture, plus the plots they had were insane even by the standards of the time. The Inhumanoids were cut from the Cobra Command mold of villainy, given to large and sometimes nonsensical means to destroy the world. Metlar, for example, could bring statues to life. So for one episode, he brought the Statue of Liberty to life so he could marry it and lord over the crushed humans with it by his side.

There was also a great amount of continuity, with actions carrying over from episode to episode. Blackthorne was arrested in one and stayed in jail. When he escaped, it was mentioned and explained. The show only lasted 13 episodes, so there was little effort to develop anyone.

The series has been fully released in Europe, but in America only the first nine episodes were put on DVD. You can give it a look on Youtube. It may not be the best thing Sunbow ever did, but it is worth a look.