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The Toxic Avenger film series
Sachs Family Entertainment
Number of episodes
Fred Wolf (executive)
Toxic Crusaders is an American animated series based on The Toxic Avenger films. It features Toxie, the lead character of the films leading a trio of misfit superheroes who combat pollution. This followed a trend of environmentally considerate cartoons of the time, including Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Swamp Thing, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As this incarnation was aimed at children, Toxic Crusaders is considerably tamer than the edgy films it was based on (although it nevertheless contain many adult-oriented jokes that would go over most children's heads). Thirteen episodes were produced and aired, with at least a few episodes airing as a "trial run" in Summer 1990 followed by the official debut on January 21, 1991. It aired on YTV 1991 to 1997 in Canada.
Prior to Toxic Crusaders, cartoons based on R-rated (under-17s must be accompanied) films had indeed been attempted with programs like Rambo: The Force of Freedom. However, the content of the Toxic Avenger films was arguably more controversial than many such films, featuring strong sexual content in addition to intense violence. Created by New York-based Troma, Inc., a company famous for such low-budget classic films as Chopper Chicks in Zombietown, Class of Nuke 'Em High, and Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD, the animated Toxic Crusaders departed significantly from its live-action source.
The Toxic Avenger film series starred Melvin Junko, a scrawny nerd who, through exposure to toxic waste, was mutated into a “hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength.” In the films, “Toxie” took his revenge on industrial America by means of gory violence and bloodbaths. True to Troma’s reputation, other R-rated material abounded as well.
Only thirteen syndicated episodes of Toxic Crusaders were produced, but like the feature films, the episodes became cult favorites, spawning a string of merchandising.
Toxic Crusaders cleaned up Toxie’s act considerably. Toxie was still a grotesque mutant endowed with superhuman powers, but underneath it all, he was a good-hearted, law-abiding citizen. Another change from the films was that the toxic waste also mutated his mop into a sentient being that would sometimes battle enemies by itself or motion to Toxie ideas on how to solve problems. The villains were still polluters, albeit polluters from a different world. Hailing from the planet Smogula, Czar Zosta, Dr. Killemoff, and Psycho wreaked ecological havoc with the help of Tromaville's corrupt Mayor Grody. Bonehead, a street punk who bullied Melvin, joins them in the first episode.
Dr. Killemoff and Czar Zosta were cockroach-like extraterrestrials from the planet Smogula, which is a world where pollution is natural as fresh air and water is natural to Earth. Natives of Smogula thrive on pollution and need it to survive. For unexplained reasons, Czar Zosta and other Smogulans were able to withstand Earth's atmosphere without problems while Dr. Killemoff wears an breathing apparatus to survive. Killemoff, like most bad guys, also had a seemingly endless army of identical poor marksmen called Radiation Rangers.
Other villains and heroes made their appearances on the show with equally ridiculous origins as the Crusaders. Few if any of these characters made more than one appearance.
- Toxie (voiced by Rodger Bumpass) – The main protagonist of the series. Melvin Junko is a wimpy janitor at a health club who was often picked on by Bonehead and his friends. When Bonehead and his friends played a trick on Melvin which involved him wearing a tutu and unknowingly kissing a sheep, Melvin ran in embarrassment and ended up falling into a drum filled with toxic waste that turned him into a creature of superhuman size and strength. Toxie’s weapon of choice was a superpowered mop (named quite appropriately Mop) which had a mind of its own as it was also exposed to the toxic chemicals. Toxie also has a furry pink pet called Blobbie who he found in the toxic waste dump.
- No-Zone (voiced by Paul Eiding) – No-Zone was originally a test pilot who flew through a hole in the Ozone layer and crashed into a silo of radioactive pepper. He gained the appearance of a blue-skinned humanoid with a wheel for a right foot and powerful sneezes emitted from his enormous nose.
- Major Disaster (voiced by Ed Gilbert) – Major Disaster was originally a military man who gained the ability to control plants after falling into a radioactive swamp.
- Headbanger – A fusion of two opposing personalities into a conjoined body made up of Dr. Bender (voiced by Hal Rayle) the cantankerous mad scientist for the right half and Fender the surfer-like singing telegram boy for the left half. The Fender part was responsible for the accident where they fell into the atom-smasher and got joined into one body. Bender mutated into a green creature akin to Toxie, but Fender retained his human appearance. Headbanger originally worked with Dr. Killemoff when it came to his plot to put chemicals in the food at a fast food restaurant, but defected to Toxie's side after seeing that girls preferred the Toxic Crusaders.
- Junkyard (voiced by Gregg Berger) – Junkyard was originally a junkyard dog and a homeless man who took shelter in Junkyard's kennel which was covered in toxic waste when lightning struck it and merged them together into one humanoid dog.
- Czar Zosta (voiced by Patric Zimmerman) – One of the primary antagonists of the series and the ruler of Smogula. Czar Zosta is a small Smogulan who is Dr. Killemoff's boss.
- Dr. Killemoff (voiced by Rodger Bumpass) – One of the primary antagonists of the series. He comes from the planet Smogula. Dr. Killemoff wears a breathing apparatus (which resembled a mask giving him a somewhat human appearance) in order to survive on non-polluted worlds. Two recurring gags involving Killemoff are that he always corrects someone when they only refer to him as Killemoff by shouting "That's DR. Killemoff!", and that he never listens to Psycho's predictions, despite the fact that they could help him win.
- Psycho (voiced by Michael J. Pollard) – An obese bio-mechanical being that had an uncanny ability to guess the future, which was a key point in the TV show where his guesses would end up as the spoiler to how Killemoff's plans would fail.
- Bonehead (voiced by Hal Rayle) – Bonehead was a bullying Earth punk who embarrassed Melvin in front of girls. He later attempts to fight Toxie when he finds Bonehead and his friends harassing Yvonne. In self-defense, Toxie throws him into a barrel of acid rain in the first episode resulting in his skeletal appearance. Bonehead then joins forces with Dr. Killemoff. He was mostly brainless and incompetent. He is based on Bozo from the first movie.
- Mayor Max Grody (voiced by Chuck McCann) – The corrupt Mayor of Tromaville. He is based on Mayor Peter Belgoody from the first movie.
- Polluto – A living oil slick monster created by Dr. Killemoff. Toxie managed to destroy Polluto in the first appearance by having No-Zone sneeze a pile of cat litter on him which caused Polluto to explode. In "Club Fred," Polluto was reassembled and unleashed on the Toxic Crusaders. The Toxic Crusaders threw large pills which caused Polluto to dissolve.
- General GarBage – A Smogulan general who appeared in "Invasion of the Biddy Snatchers." He was called in by Czar Zostas to replace Dr. Killemoff. His plot involved having his infiltrators taking over the elderly citizens of Tromaville by biting them and becoming a four-armed clone of the elderly citizens. This plan went into action with some of the victims being Mrs. Junko and Mayor Grody's mother. When Dr. Killemoff is surprised that General GarBage's plan is actually working, he states to Psycho and Bonehead that they'll be out of a job resulting in Dr. Killemoff having to call the Toxic Crusaders for help. With help from Toxie's mom and the other elderly citizens, the Toxic Crusaders ended up defeating the clones with the elderly citizens using their hair spray to regress the clones back to normal form. General GarBage then appeared and unleashed the Radiation Rangers on the Toxic Crusaders. Under the idea of his mop, Toxie uses the hair spray to shrink General GarBage causing him to retreat back to Smogula.
- Radiation Rangers – A bunch of hunched-over mutants in yellow hazmat suit with intimidating gas masks that serve as Dr. Killemoff's foot soldiers.
- Yvonne (voiced by Kath Soucie in a Bronx accent) – Toxie's buxom blonde girlfriend. Yvonne is often playing the accordion and singing soprano so high that it would break things, but Toxie is too polite to criticize her about it. One time the show literally broke the fourth wall in the form of Yvonne's singing causing the viewer's TV to break (in the form of animated broken glass), and Toxie apologizing to the viewer and saying the Toxic Crusaders will come by to buy them new TV sets. She is based on Toxie's blind girlfriend Sarah from the movies, yet Yvonne is nearsighted.
- Lloyd (voiced by Lloyd Kaufman) – A friend of the Toxic Crusaders. A joke about him in this series is that his wife and children also had the same full beard as he did.
- Snailman – A race car driver named Crash Shelby careened off a bridge into a barge full of snails where the engine oil merged him with a snail. He once helped the Toxic Crusaders fight Dr. Killemoff and Czar Zosta.
- Blobbie - The title character's pet, which resembles, as it's name suggests, a little blob of goo.
- Mower Man – Mower Man was originally a gardener who took a nap in a garden shed that happened to contain leaking gardening chemicals, which exploded in the heat of the day and made him into a half-man, half gardening equipment hybrid or as he preferred: "A hideously deformed creature of superhuman shears and strength." He once worked with Dr. Killemoff in a plot that involved Weed Monsters. After being fired for accidentally mowing the Weed Monsters, Mower Man was last seen applying for a job in the want ads to help Mayor Grody destroy incriminating evidence.
- The Making of Toxie – This episode details the origin of Toxie as he becomes a superhero to fight the forces of Dr. Killemoff. He is soon joined by two more freaks named No-Zone and Major Disaster.
- This Spud's for You – Dr. Killemoff plots to place his chemicals in the food of a local fast food restaurant that No-Zone starts to work for. At the same time, Dr. Killemoff's mad scientist Dr. Bender is accidentally merged with a telegram boy named Fender which transforms them into Headbanger.
- Club Fred – To prepare for the arrival of aliens from Smogula, Dr. Killemoff has his Radiation Rangers clear out every elderly person out of their retirement homes in order to make room for their landing. The Toxic Crusaders find out about this plot and end up being joined in their battles by a humanoid dog named Junkyard.
- Pollution Solution – Dr. Killemoff sends his Radiation Rangers to infiltrate the Tromaville Toxic Dump in order to prepare for a Smogulan Invasion that is headed by his superior Czar Zosta.
- Tree Troubles – Dr. Killemoff plots to distribute "Smog in a Can." Meanwhile, Major Disaster falls in love with a tree surgeon named Emma Oakley.
- A Sight for Sore Eyes – Czar Zosta discovers a surplus of smog over the Tromaville Toxic Dump. When Dr. Killemoff's attempts to get the Toxic Crusaders out of the Tromaville Toxic Dump fails, Mayor Grody ends up moving them into his penthouse.
- Mr. Earth - Superhero – Dr. Killemoff makes plans to destroy the Tromaville Shopping Mall in order to sell remote-activated Smog Inducers to the people of Tromaville. A new superhero called Mr. Earth tries to help the Toxic Crusaders, but causes more harm than help.
- Invasion of the Biddy Snatchers – Czar Zosta has gotten tired of Dr. Killemoff's repeated failures that he ends up replacing him with General GarBage. General GarBage plans to replace the elderly citizens of Tromaville with evil clones.
- Toxie Ties the Knot – Czar Zosta's daughter Princess Gerba of Smogula arrives in Tromaville where she ends up falling in love with Toxie. Dr. Killemoff ends up playimg the matchmaker for them.
- The Snail Must Go Through – The Toxic Crusaders prepare for Yvonne's concert as Dr. Killemoff and Czar Zosta prepare to pollute Tromaville. The Toxic Crusaders gain help from a new superhero called Snail Man.
- Nab That Toxie Cab – The Toxic Crusaders start a cab company where Toxie falls in love with his cab enough to make Yvonne jealous. Meanwhile, Dr. Killemoff and Mayor Grody plot to get rid of the Toxic Crusaders with a monster truck.
- Still Crazy After All These Shears – Mayor Grody's "Just Say Grow" campaign is actually a cover-up for Dr. Killemoff's latest plans to pollute Tromaville. Alien Seeds sprout into a Weed Monster and the Toxic Crusaders fight it alongside a new mutant named Mower Man.
- That's No Villain, That's My Mom – Czar Zosta attempts to invade Tromaville by hot air balloon filled with toxic fumes. To keep the Toxic Crusaders busy, Dr. Killemoff organizes a convention for hideously deformed creatures of superhuman size and strength. Meanwhile, Mrs. Junko ends up working as Dr. Killemoff's "Girl Friday" when Mayor Grody raises the rent of her house.
- Gregg Berger – Junkyard
- Susan Blu – Mona
- Rodger Bumpass – Toxie/Melvin Junko, Dr. Killemoff
- Paul Eiding – No-Zone
- Ed Gilbert – Major Disaster
- John Mariano – Additional characters
- Chuck McCann – Mayor Max Grody
- Michael J. Pollard – Psycho
- Hal Rayle – Bonehead, Dr. Bender
- Susan Silo – Mrs. Junko
- Kath Soucie – Yvonne
- Patric Zimmerman – Czar Zosta
Marvel Comics released an eight-issue comic book series. It had no regular writer. Each issue was written by such notables as Steve Gerber (issues #3 and #5), Ann Nocenti (issue #7), David Leach & Jeremy Banx (lead strip script & artwork) and David Michelinie (back up strip) (issue #8), Hilary Barta (issue #2), and Simon Furman (issues #1, 4, 6). A four book mini series was written and drawn by David Leach & Jeremy Banx. The series was solicited and the first issue written and drawn before being canceled along with all of Marvel TV tie-in titles. One issue was a direct parody of Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
Playmates, the same company responsible for Ninja Turtles action figures, released a line of similarly styled Toxic Crusader figures in 1991. The majority of characters featured bright neon colors and glow-in-the-dark accessories. TV commercials for the figures used the tag line "They're gross, but they still get girls!" A total of nine characters as well as some rather unorthodox vehicles saw toy shelves. Similar to the Ninja Turtles' Retromutagen Ooze, Playmates also marketed a canister of slime labeled Toxie's Toxic Waste. A toy line principally conceived by Aaronian and the design team at Troma and Pangea Corporation, it saw a spike in initial sales due to its unusual and brash aesthetic. Some of the toys came packed with "Toxic Tips," which instructed kids how to make messes in their homes and otherwise muck up the environment.
Other tie-in products included coloring books, junior novels, Halloween costumes, Colorforms, Topps trading cards, a board game, a card game, and puzzles. Video games were also produced by Bandai and Sega, which were released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, and Sega Genesis.
Several years later, Troma released two Toxic Crusaders DVDs. The first was Toxic Crusaders: The Movie which consisted of the first three episodes of the series spliced together to form one story. The second release, Toxic Crusaders: Volume 1, is a collection of the first four episodes. A box set, featuring all 13 episodes and all four Toxic Avenger movies, was released on April 29, 2008.
Troma was in talks to make a live action version of Toxic Crusaders at New Line Cinema. In Lloyd Kaufman's first book, "All I Need to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger", he claims that New Line did not live up to their end of the contract and the film was not made. Kaufman has speculated that New Line bought the rights because they were in negotiations to make the sequels to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and wanted to use the Toxic Crusaders movie as leverage against the owners of the rights to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Troma sued New Line and was awarded an undisclosed amount in damages.