I am very honored to host the one and only Nick Ball's SWAT Kats Essay. It is written in (duh) essay form with all his usual Aussie humor (or maybe it's his own brand... Hmm....he should talk to the patent offices in Australia and the United States...talk marketing with Strike and - I should move on.....)
You don't have to agree with it. You don't have to like it. But you do have to respect that these are his opinions. I share many, if not all of them and the show is still one of my favorites.
SWAT Kats: Where It's At? - An Analysis By Nicholas "Hateful thing" Ball,
written specifically for Klawz' fine SK page.
It's been quite some time since I've written an essay, and when I did so in the past, they were hardly enjoyable. The only essays I got some sadistic pleasure out of was the ones I had to do in Religion class, for two main reasons - one, it didn't count for anything and two, and more importantly, I could finally voice my true opinions on a topic, and 'go to town' on something. I drew a line in the sand, took everything from where it came, didn't play favourites and gave every hanging a fair trial. Judge, jury AND executioner. Three pay checks - nice work if you can get it.
Damon Knight once wrote "The critical method is to take things apart. The critic uses the same sharp-edged tools on all stories, but good stories resist; bad ones come to pieces" - and it's for the same reasons that I now turn to SWAT Kats - I'm curious as to how the whole thing ticks, or rather, ticked, or to put it more accurately, I'm curious as to how it managed to tick for so long.
My, other 'kats' must be thinking now "But..he's one of US! How could Nicholas do this?" ~ yet, the bonds of acquaintance and shared interest are certainly no match when it comes to criticism - there are no ties that bind. And whoever said I was one of 'you'?
The thoughts contained within this essay have been rattling
in my head for quite some time - ever since I saw the 2nd episode,
actually. The first wowed me, and I didn't use my brain and subsequently enjoyed it WAY too much, but I was more aware the second time around. I did partially vent myself by writing stories that concentrated on some things that bothered me (you read FAQ Kats? Those were all my questions!), but nothing to the depth and detail that I will attempt today. Will I succeed? What provoked this essay? Okay, I'll answer both questions - probably not, and the SK Mailing List.
I will only touch breifly on the SK Mailing List at this stage in time - but be prepared for another one of these things if I am annoyed enough. For that is what caused me to come home and sit down at the keyboard, to pour out all this raw emotion and peculiar word usage - I'd had enough. With the exception of the (rare) intelligent posting, people would either ask stupid questions, or offer what turned out, to my horror, to be shared animosities towards tED tURNER and lamentable wailings due to the axing of the cartoon 'SWAT Kats' and some sort of connection between the two. And I had just had enough. Why? They'd ask, Why did he take the SWAT Kats off the air? Well, you've gotten me mad, and I'm going to tell you, in hideous detail.
SWAT Kats is stupid. No, really. Sure, I have about 20 episodes on tape, but you really can't deny that it's stupid. Hmm..you people are shaking your heads and clutching your Razor figurines tightly to your chest as you tumble into a pit of unrealistic denial - don't worry - I'll help you out. I'll open your eyes and help you see the light. Kataracts are sure to follow, but if you don't stop what you're doing soon, you'll go blind anyway. Yes, I know I'm stretching the envelope of metaphor, but it's going to be quite difficult to prove this point to such a biased audience. Cut me some slack (and I don't mean give me enough rope so that I'll hang myself, either).
I'll just start at the beginning. The title: 'SWAT Kats: The
Radical Squadron'. It would have been fine if they'd just left it at
'SWAT Kats', but they had to add on some meaningless words, didn't they? I mean, 'the' - I've hated that word for all time, and 'squadron' is hardly useful or relevant here (look it up in a dictionary, and read the PRECISE definition!) and as for...'radical', well, I think I need say no more on such an untubular non-cowabungalike word, dudes, like totally?
And as for the characters, well, let's get up close and impersonal, huh? (Enough of your induction to causality, casualty and casuality - from now on you're on your own). We start with the Mayor of MegaKat City - Mayor Manx, who's about as two-dimensional as the cutout picture of him in 'The Ghost Pilot', only moreso. Manx is typically shallow and bumbling - a poor ruler of MegaKat City who only seems to delegate and play golf (often doing both at the same time). If you spot him, and he's not playing golf, holding a golf club or talking about golf ('Yes, now let's go off and play a round of golf' - actual quote, kids), then you've probably stumbled across a script/animation mistake. Remember - Mayor Manx is your typical bumbling bureaukat, and there is a reason for this. We'll get onto the reason later, now it's time for the next special guest - Commander Feral! I actually sympathise with Commander Feral to an extent, as Molly Metallikat points out, "[The SWAT Kats] make him
look stupid at least twice a week!" But once again, his boomy voice
and typically cliche lines (Hotshot vigilantes! Helicopter backup! Someone make up a drinking game! I think I'm going to be sick!) make him yet another 'useless' leader. Man, if he only handed out credit where credit was due, huh? Aw, man, that Feral's yelling at the SWAT Kats again. Aw, man, I think I really am about to be sick. But his thinness is for a cause also, as in Manx's.
Here's the reason, (as best as I can see. If this isn't it, then they're all just incredibly dodgy. Sorry) - we need the intelligent 'women can do everything' love interest thing going. No, I DO mean this. I may come across as some chauvenist here, but they basically assigned 2 men to positions of power just to show how lousy they are at it, whilst their underlings, both women, are much better. Callie Briggs runs the city. Lieutenant Feral is the jewel of the Enforcer crown. It's Callie who stays at the prison whilst Rex Shard goes nuts with his stones and writes speeches and, actually, I'll have to get back to Callico later, now let's go back to Lieutenant Feral. Yes, very...uh...butch? Maybe not. 'I'm not taking no for an answer!' Hmm. Commander Feral won't go near the Pastmaster, so along comes Felina to throw 'a net over him'. Feral orders his niece to get back on the ground or something, and she says something about not being able to hear him, just so she can try and be the hero. Because she wants to be the hero. Uh, heroine. Heroine!?? No?! Can't have drugs on a 'kiddies' show like this! Katnip, maybe, but no actual
tangents to real life besides the odd use of 'satire' (Doctors play golf too!) if we'll call it that, but Felina can't be the hero - becuase we already have two heroes, ladies and gentlemen, T-Bone and Razor!
Razor: Dark Kat and Feral, I mean it's just like deja vu all over again.
T-Bone: Deja who?
Razor: I mean..(brief past refernce)..you remember?
T-Bone: (voice goes darker) Oh yes....I remember...
Stooop! Stop it! Tacky, cliche flashbacks don't go well with nachos!
T-Bone is a big guy. He's the strong one. He's not as quick as Razor,
either. I mean, wits wise. In most cartoons, the big one is the slow one. Except in Pinky and the Brain. Oh wait - there too. Well, he's strong and flies the TurboKat and flexes and grits his teeth alot. Good hero stuff, but maybe the Tremblays were raised on Action comics, huh?Now let us move to Razor. Razor's much smaller, but more intelligent. He uses his mind in situations, building newer weapons for the TurboKat and all that kind of stuff. Think of him as MacGyver. Everyone seems to like Razor more, as he still holds his end up, even though he's arguably the weaker part of the team. And so we have a team, big with small, quick with not-so-quick, and
I CAN'T STAND IT!!!!!!!!!!!
It's so f**king irritating! These two have absolutely NO personality
whatsoever. Whenever Razor goes unconscious from 'the G's', T-Bone
says motorhead things like 'He's out like a blown engine'! Sure, you fix cars and fly jets, but GET A LIFE! Do these two ever say anything original? I highly doubt it! Let's roll! Sure thing, Sureshot! He's yours! Deploy! I mean, I don't expect 'Oh yes, Lady halifax, I would love another cucumber sandwich', but the scriptwriters (writers? WRITERS?? HAH!) have obviously gotten in way too deep with all the stupid cartoon lines! Down here in Australia, we have some really rotten comics that are American try hard ones, drawn by people raised on the same tosh as the 'writers'! Here's an excerpt from 'Urban Warriors', set in post apocalyptic Melbourne(the cover has a close up of a hand holding as gun. The background are brick walls, covered with the graffiti of the two warring street gangs inside, just so you know).
Guyhero: 'Okay, Bushido - what did you do this time?'
Bushido: 'Would you believe nothing?'
Guyhero again: 'God, man! One day this vendetta of yours will get us killed!'
Galhero: 'BACK OFF, GUARDIAN! (Oh, so THAT's his name. Twelve pages in, and we're finally introduced with our main character..) It isn't his fault'
Villainess: Believe me, Angel (oh, hello to you too) - this is his fault and tonight he shall pay for his mistakes....IN BLOOD!!'
Bushido: 'Kwannon?' (Uh oh...)
Angel: 'You two know each other?' (Oh, GOD, not THAT!!!)
Bushido: 'You could say that' (turn page)
Kwannon: We were lovers (Aaaarrgghh! I hate symmetry!!), when I left Japan you took my heart with you - tonight, as I prepare to leave Empire City, (what a name, huh?) I shall reclaim it - ALONG WITH YOUR HEAD!'
Can anyone tell me what's wrong with that? What was wrong with the above piece of dialogue? It sucked! If you couldn't tell it sucked, then go work for Marvel or Hanna-Barbera (the same Hanna-Barbera that tried to sweep 'Top Cat' under the rug!), because you're obviously set to work for such gen-e-arses. "Okay, we need some melodrama. Make the kids sit up as we delve into the deep characters I've created!" "I know! We'll reveal that Chance can't swim!" "Brilliant!" Brilliant! They almost had something going with 'Razor's Edge', but they screwed it all up completely again! "Okay, Razor's character feels guilty that he almost harmed the public before he finds out it was all rigged, so he can rejoin T-Bone and fight the bad guys again" Okay, fine. But he just totally forgets about being careful! Whoops, almost harmed the public, that was bad, what? I didn't harm anyone, well, I'll just go back to square one again.
Thinking on it, this entire show is really like a sheet of rice paper. Pleasing to the eye, but when you try to get some actual depth - *crunch* - oops, just made a hole! And the more we try to cover it up, the bigger it gets! And to get to my point of hating symmetry - The Dark Side Of The SWAT Kats - another item of potential! Hey, look! Callico's changed sides! Now she's bad! And Dark Kat's..still bad. And the Ferals are..still good. Oh. Well, let's get back to Callico, with what I think is one of the funniest lines of the entire series.
Rooftopscene: Callico walks up to Enforcer on guard duty, she has narrower eyes and pointier teeth, signifiying she's bad, not to mention a rather dodgy accent (If you think about it, all the characters in the show that we don't like - Cmdr Feral, Manx, Metallikats, Viper, Kreeplings, Dark Kat, Steele have dodgy voices. All 'good' characters like T-Bone, Briggs etchave good voices. The exception to the rule is Hard Drive, who's a bad guy, but he's got a really cool voice. Rather like Snake Eyes in the Simpsons.)
Enforcer: I'm sorry, Deputy Mayor, you don't have clearance up here.
Briggs: (overacting) No problem...here's my clearance!
(sprays him with some gas from her bag etc)
Here's my clearance! I seriously can't stop laughing! It's *too* much
like 'Here's my payment!'! Man, I love that line.. I was going to make the point that Briggs and Felina both try to be superior/useful, but always end up the damsels in distress, thus patronising/limiting the shekat's role, and stuff, being rescued by love interests of T Bone and Razor, but I don't think I can be bothered anymore. I'm sure you may have noticed it at SOME stage or another. Anyway, I'm almost done now, and soon you may delete this file, in the meantime, let's just discuss the axing, briefly.
I'm seriously surprised that the show got as far as it did. I mean, can you seriously picture it going much further? Productively? It's just going around in circles - "Gosh, it's Dark Kat (again), trying to destroy the city (again), will the SWAT Kats be able to stop him (again) and save the city (again) if Commander Feral and the Enforcers fail (again)?"
What new plots are there? Dark Kat dyes his hair and attacks as the newer, younger villain? Dr Viper makes mutated sea monkeys attack the DMV?Hard Drive steals the recipe for the eleven secret herbs and spices?They got about 24 eps in (25, if you count that thing called 'SKIQ', which I've never seen or heard of. Someone care to enlighten me?), which is about double that of 'Faulty Towers'. 'FT' decided to stop at twelve eps, and you sit down and watch some of those today, some 20 years later or something. They achieved immortality through talent, not through attempting to use cryogenics and life support machines - thank god tED pulled the plug and sent it to an earlier and more dignified grave when he did. But even then, it was not meant to be: they were dug up, like the Pastmaster was, only to be reran through increasingly tired screenings. The show's become somewhat of an SK villain - you turn your TV on, and see some sorry episode (i.e The Ghost Pilot) haunting your screen - you know that he'll be gone soon though, and you also know that he'll be back again, someday.
Run In Syndication, SWAT Kats.
"It doesn't seem worth the hassle,
don't change your life, change the channel" - TISM Nick Ball 12.12.97
Okays, you've finished the essay, so you might want to go back to the main page. Or maybe you'd like to visit Nick Ball's site (co-run with his friend, Tom Murtagh). Soon you may say that you have entered The 37Zone...
Yes I know that was corny. Leave me alone. :P