Ah, the reboot. Whenever a series has fallen out of popularity, or perhaps studio executives decide a franchise is in need of a fresh coat of paint, they turn to the reboot. The concept of the reboot is practically as old as television itself, and it has birthed plenty of success; reboots of shows such as Dallas and Battlestar Galactica have been met with rave reviews and high ratings. And while cartoons are no stranger to the reboot, their success rates have proven to be a mixed bag. After all, fans of cartoons often skew towards the “opinionated” side, and if they don’t like a show, they won’t hesitate to voice their displeasure. The same definitely applies to a show they enjoy. So when a reboot of a popular cartoon pops up, you better believe fans are going to have something to say about it.
As picky as cartoon fans are, oftentimes a straight re-do will not suffice; rather, when tackling the reboot of a popular animated series, it pays to go a little weird. Whether it’s drastically changing up the art style, imbuing characters with new powers, or just throwing in a bunch of swearing, reboots of cartoons have done it all. Whether the reboot pops up on the same network it originated from, a new network entirely, or even an entirely different medium, you better believe reboots of cartoons have done that, too. So join CBR as we take a look back at the comics and cartoons that spawned from weird, crazy, and just plain insane reboots.
15. HATED: LOONATICS UNLEASHED
When attempting to revive an ailing series, it can often be wise to subvert viewer expectations; instead of doing what they’ve come to expect, take the series in an entirely unexpected direction. Such was the case with Loonatics Unleashed, an utterly insane reboot of the classic Looney Tunes franchise that reimagined the characters super powered, x-treme crime fighters. And fans hated it.
Debuting in 2005, Loonatics Unleashed fully embraced the craziness of its premise; characters such as Ace Bunny, Danger Duck, and Rev Runner fought cyberpunk bad guy versions of characters such as Marvin the Martian and Elmer Fudd for the fate of the city of Acmetropolis. While the series certainly didn’t lack imagination, fans of Looney Tunes hated the “market tested x-treme” feeling of the show. Viewership numbers reflected this, leading to this hated reboot being canceled after just two seasons.
14. HATED: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF HE-MAN
With arms bigger than a mid-size sedan, the He-Man and the Masters Of The Universe cartoon and accompanying toy line captured the imagination of children around the world with their larger than life physiques and personalities. But when the series started to falter in popularity, the decision was made to pull the plug on He-Man, only to reboot the series under the title The New Adventures of He-Man. Unfortunately, the resulting new series almost immediately crashed and burned thanks to fan hate.
Debuting in 1990, The New Adventures of He-Man found a skinnier, ponytail-clad He-Man heading into space to defend the planet Primus from the evil forces of neighboring planet Denebria. With a new team of Galactic Guardians at his side, He-Man was tasked with defeating his old nemesis Skeletor and the insidious Mutants of Denebria. Fans hated this spacefaring take on the Eternian hero, and new viewers were indifferent, leading to the New Adventures heading to an early grave after one measly season.
13. HATED: THE REN & STIMPY ADULT PARTY CARTOON
When The Ren & Stimpy Show debuted on Nickelodeon in 1991, it delighted in pushing the envelope. With its crass humor, sexual innuendos, and violence, the show was a stark contrast from the likes of Rugrats and Doug. But when series creator John Kricfalusi decided to reboot Ren & Stimpy as a decidedly adults-only show, fans were less than thrilled.
The Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon moved the rage-filled chihuahua Ren and the dimwitted cat Stimpy into the TV-MA market, filling its six episodes with sick humor, swearing, and nudity aplenty. The show was met with immediate disdain from the outset, with Billy West, the original voice actor of Stimpy, refusing to take part, calling it “unfunny” and potentially damaging to his career. TR&SAPC was yanked from the air after just three episodes due to universal panning from fans and critics alike, leaving this insane reboot with the dubious title of perhaps the most hated animated reboot ever.
12. HATED: YO YOGI!
Nothing can stay cool forever. Case in point: Yogi Bear. This lovable pic-a-nic basket stealing bear was a hit with the kids when he debuted in 1958, but as the ’90s rolled around, Yogi was considered old news. Now, Hanna-Barbera Productions could have accepted Yogi’s lapse in popularity and quietly retired the character, preserving the memory of this beloved animated icon, or they could drag Yogi kicking and screaming into the neon soaked early ’90s. Hanna-Barbera opted for the latter.
Yo Yogi! debuted in 1991, and recast the scheming park bear as a hip mystery solving teen. Decked out in bright, primary colors, with a hot pink tie replacing his trademark forest green one, Yogi spent less time stealing pic-a-nic baskets and more time hanging out with his fellow fashionable teen pals at the mall. Fans hated the new Yogi, and this ill-fated, totally insane hip reboot of Yogi Bear disappeared from the airwaves after 13 episodes.
11. HATED: SCOOBY APOCALYPSE
Sometimes, an ailing property just needs a fresh coat of paint to be reinvigorated and reintroduced to a brand new audience. While many companies would be happy to simply add a loudmouthed sidekick or try out a new art style, DC Comics decided to take classic Hanna-Barbera properties and totally reinvent them. While some of these re-imagined series have worked wonderfully, one in particular has not: Scooby Apocalypse.
Spearheaded by the legendary Jim Lee, Scooby Apocalypse drastically retools the Mystery Incorporated gang; Scooby is a prototype “Smart Dog” rendered intelligent thanks to a chip in his brain, Daphne hosts a mystery investigation television show, Fred is her lovelorn cameraman, Shaggy is a tattoo-clad hipster, and Velma is the diminutive super scientists responsible for creating Scooby-Doo. Oh yeah, and Scrappy Doo is a gang leading musclebound monstrosity dead set on murdering Scooby. The series certainly isn’t lacking in imagination, but critical and fan reaction has been mixed. This reboot is truly insane, and fans are definitely not wild about it.
10. HATED: THE REAL ADVENTURES OF JONNY QUEST
With its hammy dialogue, stilted animation, and pulp-y stories, the original Jonny Quest is as beloved as it is parodied. But when the decision was made to bring Jonny into the ’90s, Hanna-Barbera wanted to distance the franchise from the campiness of the original series. Unfortunately, the studio’s attempt to modernize Jonny Quest led to a reboot even more ridiculous than the original series.
Debuting in 1996, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest cast teenaged versions of Jonny, Jessie, and Hadji as investigators of mysteries and the paranormal. The series’ big hook was the team’s ability to travel to QuestWorld, a Lawnmower Man-esque virtual reality world created by Jonny’s father Dr. Benton Quest. Unfortunately, fans found the series new gritty, paranormal-centric take jarring, and despite a strong marketing push from Cartoon Network, the plug was pulled on this ill-fated reboot after just two season.
9. HATED: TEEN TITANS GO!
Fan hate doesn’t always equate to poor ratings. In fact, despite ample hate from dedicated franchise fans, a show can manage to prosper. Case in point: the critically reviled, but mega popular, Teen Titans Go! Serving as a reboot of the popular action drama Teen Titans, Teen Titans Go! re-imagines the Titans as slapstick, punchline-spouting jokesters, more interested in getting into zany antics than fighting the forces of evil.
While taking a serious, teen-centric action drama and rebooting it as a straightforward comedy is certainly insane, the vocal fan hate has done little to stop the success of Teen Titans Go! With five seasons under its belt, boatloads of merchandise, and a movie heading to theaters, Teen Titans Go! shows no sign of slowing down, despite how much fans of the OG series might wish it would.
8. LOVED: NANCY DREW AND THE HARDY BOYS: THE BIG LIE
Despite being world-class, mystery-solving teens, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys never seemed to get involved with anything too serious. The mysteries found in their respective series were always relatively family friendly and inoffensive. So squeaky clean were the Hardy Boys that the brothers landed a cartoon in the ’60s that cast the teens as rock stars that also solved mysteries. But Dynamite’s Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie rebooted these saccharine teens into world weary detectives embroiled in dark, hard boiled mystery.
In this brooding tale, Frank and Jeff Hardy have been accused of murdering their detective father, forcing the brothers to team with femme fatale Nancy Drew to clear their names. A dark reboot of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew could have been terrible, but critics and fans adored the series, making this one successful reboot.
7. LOVED: THE RUFF & REDDY SHOW
On the list of beloved Hanna-Barbera properties, The Ruff And Reddy Show wouldn’t even break the top 10. Debuting in 1956, The Ruff And Reddy Show followed the misadventures of whip-smart cat Ruff and dimwitted dog Reddy, and ran for an impressive 50 episodes. But with Hanna-Barbera going on to create beloved characters such as Yogi Bear and Scooby-Doo, Ruff and Reddy never managed to get to the same level of popularity. It is this concept that writer Howard Chaykin used to frame the comic reboot of Ruff and Reddy.
DC’s The Ruff & Reddy Show chronicles the trials and tribulations of the cat and dog team as they deal with a fall from stardom, the ensuing obscurity, and the battle to get back into the spotlight. A frank look at celebrity starring two washed up Hanna-Barbera characters certainly sounds insane, but fans and critics have nothing but good things to say about this reboot.
6. LOVED: 2005 SPACE GHOST
With the cult classic Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, it can be easy to forget that Space Ghost was originally envisioned as a bonafide superhero. With years of surreal humor under his banana yellow cape, it seemed like Space Ghost’s serious days were behind him. However, a six-issue miniseries published by DC Comics in 2005 helped remind fans just how dark and serious Space Ghost could be.
The series, naturally entitled Space Ghost, chronicled Thaddeus Bach’s tragic past as an idealistic policeman who loses his family to the corrupt police force. The story follows Bach’s betrayal and near death, only to claw his way back from the grave and enact his revenge as Space Ghost. With a story from Joe Kelly and covers by Alex Ross, DC put serious talent into what many considered to be a joke comic. Space Ghost certainly presented a different take on the beloved character, but fans were happy to enjoy this dark reboot of Space Ghost.
5. LOVED: WACKY RACELAND
Wacky Races did exactly what it said on the tin; when the cartoon debuted in 1968, it brought wacky races to TV. Racers such as Penelope Pitstop and The Gruesome Twosome battled their way across 17 episodes for the title of “World’s Wackiest Racer.” Despite only airing for a single season, the series became a cult favorite. But when it came time to reboot Wacky Racers for comics, DC opted for an utterly insane re-imagining, spawning Wacky Raceland.
Wacky Raceland imagined the Wacky Racers as Mad Max-esque drivers in a post-apocalyptic wasteland competing in a race to the death. Bloody, brutal races are undertaken by gritty versions of the cartoon racers; the Ant Hill Mob becomes a group of hive-mind dependent albino dwarfs, the Red Baron is a Hilter-worshiping Nazi, and so on. With eye-catching art and plenty of imagination, Wacky Raceland has become a ceritifed hit among fans of the original cartoon.
4. LOVED: SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH
Upon launching in 1939, Archie Comics served as a beacon of family friendly, utterly inoffensive comic fun. In the ensuing years, Archie Comics would launch new titles, such as the popular Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which would go on to spawn a well regarded live-action sitcom and cartoon. For a comic about witches, Sabrina’s adventures tended to avoid the darker sides of witchcraft, but this changed when Archie Comics decided to reboot Sabrina and bring the teenage witch into a dark world of horror.
In 2013, Archie Comics launched Afterlife With Archie, a story exploring the ramifications of a zombie outbreak in Riverdale. Sabrina was heavily featured, using her dark blood magic to resurrect Jughead’s dog Hot Dog, setting off the series chain of events. A follow-up comic came soon after, chronicling Sabrina’s dealings with the occult. For such a formerly squeaky clean character, zombies, demons, and black magic can seem insane, but fans love this Sabrina reboot.
3. LOVED: DC’S THE FLINTSTONES
Everyone knows The Flintstones. Debuting in 1960, The Flintstones were America’s favorite prehistoric family, serving as a dependable source of cartoon antics and rock puns. But it can be easy to forget that The Flintstones originally served as a parody of modern suburban life, using dinosaurs and caveman to joke about marriage and family. But in the ensuing years, The Flintstones lost its edge and became just another wacky cartoon. But DC’s The Flintstones gave the modern Stone Age family their bite back.
Launching in 2016, The Flintstones followed Fred, Barney, and the gang as they explored heavy issues such as consumerism, cultural appropriation, polygamy, and religion. Sure, the series still had plenty of rock puns, but The Flintstones was more interested in biting social satire. As insane as a socially conscious Flintstones might sound, the series received rave reviews, and made many best of 2016 lists. This is a reboot fans were all too happy to enjoy.
2. LOVED: IDW’s JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS
When Jem debuted in 1985, it introduced kids to the truly, truly, truly outrageous adventures of Jem and the Holograms, big haired rock star teens that were as comfortable tearing up the stage as they were hanging out at the mall. The series had a healthy three-season run, and permanently cemented itself as one of the most beloved cartoons of the ’80s. But when comic company IDW acquired the rights to Jem, the publisher wasn’t happy just churning out a nostalgia-heavy revamp of the cherished series; rather, writer Kelly Thompson rebooted Jen, bringing the character into modern era, with modern sensibilities to match.
Launching in 2015, Jem And The Holograms reintroduced readers to Jem, Kimber, Aja, and Shana, following their adventures as they rocked out and butted heads with rival rockers The Misfits. Thompson’s reboot has a strong focus on social issues, embracing queer relationships, body positivity, and general girl power, which resonated with fans old and new, earning the series a devoted following.
1. LOVED: WEAPON BROWN
Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts is pretty much the textbook definition of inoffensive; with its sugary sweet characters and cute artwork, the franchise was built from the ground up to be family friendly. However, it turns out that Peanuts was perfect for a dark and gritty post-apocalyptic reboot. That brings us to Weapon Brown.
This wholly unauthorized re-imagining from writer Jason Yungbluth casts Charlie Brown as a world-weary wasteland wanderer known as Weapon Brown, scouring the ruined world for the woman he loves, who has been kidnapped by his former best friend turned Great Pumpkin worshiping cultist, Linus Van Pelt. Weapon Brown has become a cult hit among underground comic fans and Peanuts fans, and has spawned numerous sequels over the years. While the series may not be very well known, you’d be hard pressed to find a more insane reboot than Weapon Brown.
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