Weird Wednesday: Rambo: Animated Series

Wait, what? I know right? But yes it did exist.

After “Rambo: First Blood Part 2” came out, the parental advisory board was cracking down on how many kills Rambo had made and how action films were corrupting our youth. Well in 1986 a softer neutered version of Rambo was introduced to America’s youth.

Ruby-Spears, the second biggest cartoon maker in the 80s, crafted together “Rambo & the Force of Freedom”. The series was direct ripoff of “GI Joe” with Rambo leading his own motley named group of freedom fighters. Like the old Joe cartoons, no one died on this series either.

How this came to be was that Hasbro, the makers of GI JOE, were pursuing licensing for both Rocky and Rambo to be added to the GI JOE lineup. Rocky was so close to being a GIJOE trainer that he appeared in Marvel Comic’s GIJOE: Order of Battle comic series. But when negotiations broke down and Stallone sold the rights to Ruby-Spears both additions were nixed. It is funny that other than his likeness, Stallone’s name is not attached to this version of Rambo at all.

They made 65 episodes of Rambo and it ran from April to December of 1986. On some networks it even ran daily.

The action figures, playsets and merchandising that spawned from the series was a carbon copy of GI JOE as well but the toys themselves were laughable.

The series was just plain awful. The animation was as impressive as warmed up meatloaf. The messages for kids were utterly ridiculous. Not to mention, how can you make a Saturday morning cartoon for kids based on an R-Rated hero? What’s next Freddy Krueger on a cereal box? Or Michael Myers solves mysteries with Scooby Doo?

It was such a ripoff of GI JOE that the series had White and Black Dragon who are martial artist brothers on opposing sides. Can anyone say Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow?

GI JOE had some smart writing for a toy-based series especially in the comic books. Larry Hama, I am talking about you. Without Hama’s contribution, GI JOE would have been lost in the 80s cartoon craze abyss. Hama’s comic series took the toys to a whole new level with smart detailed writing and with so many Joe toys that was a feat unto itself.

Rambo never had great writers or creators who took the time to really make this expansion of the character count. So it never had a chance. But like the Star Wars Christmas Special, this series should have never seen the light of day. It just makes no sense for a R-Rated hero to influence and teach kids lessons.

It is funny how we can still find it in $5 Walmart bins once in a while. What is sad is that Ruby-Spears made so many great cartoons and they will never see a DVD release but tripe like this does.

(0.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer

3 thoughts on “Weird Wednesday: Rambo: Animated Series

  1. It’s the best article a cursory Google search and a skim of the Wiki can buy. You’re what, 25, or so?

    How is someone named motily?

    Apart from general theme, in what way were the Rambo toys a “carbon copy” of 3 3/4″ Joes? Different scale, different construction, different articulation, gimmicked weapons, holstered accessories. How is that “laughable”?

    The animation of the show compares quite favorably with Sunbow’s productions. In what way is it “awful”?

    Are awful and laughable the extent of your critical vocabulary? Laughable gets two namechcks inside of four sentences, here.

    How did Larry Hama’s work on the GI Joe comic rescue the cartoon from anything?

    There’s no question the Rambo cartoon was inspired by GI Joe. That said, this was nothing but drive-by snark. As someone old enough to have watched the show and owned the toys, it’s clear you did neither. This was a hipster wrestling promo masquerading as opinion.

    They say write what you know. You didn’t.

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