Thursday, February 19, 2009

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE HEROES???? - Notes on Roger Ramjet - Originally appeared in NOSEBLEED issue 21




As this palpitating episode begins....... One of the meagerly insignificant contributions to the world of low budget animation, Roger Ramjet, has disappeared from evident history. Even the supergeek highway, the internet, has little in the line of praise, or anything, for this “ Internationally well known good guy “. For the uninitiated, Roger Ramjet, a dimwit hero with a big chin was created in the early ‘60s by animator Fred Crippen. He was a strange crossbreed of Marlon Brando’s muscular awkwardness and Groucho Marx’s unashamedly low humour, and fought all manner of ruthless villain, turncoat, criminal and general scum, with the aid of his trusty cohorts, Yankee, Doodle, Dan and Dee, otherwise known as the American Eagles.


I always kinda wondered where these kid’s parents were........ Roger always had that weird scout leader/child abductor air about him. I mean, who were these kids and where did they come from.... how were they ever entrusted into the parental guidance of Roger?.... Even watching back on the episodes, it’s difficult to ascertain what these kids get out of it. Doodle, the small fat cynic, crops up most, but he’s more likely to be found with his head in the fridge than bounding enthusiastically towards possible danger. Dan, the bespeckled brilliant young inventor is usually busy creating something with no possible realistic application. Dee, the pony tailed girl with big eye lashes - Rarely seen, but more likely to be a hindrance to the entire operation than anything else..... definitely a kidnap victim waiting for an opportunity. As for what we assume to be the eldest, Yankee....... well, he’s just there..... says next to nothing, rarely contributes significantly to any situation. A sub-mental perhaps?


Roger’s mid ‘6Os adventures and escapades, more often than not, commissioned by General GI Brassbottom at the Pentagon, took him up against the scum of the earth. These included Arnold Overprice - a dodgy real estate agent, Professor Mayoyourty - The 73rd most dangerous man in England , Red Dog the pirate and his feathered friend - Coral Bob, Those negative bad guys from outer space - The Solarnoid robots, and most evil of the lot, a kind of disgruntled “Lex Luthor in a beige trench coat” type called Noodles Romanoff.


It was always obvious when Noodles was going to crop up in an episode..... Roger would be relaxing by the phone in American Eagles Headquarters and the commentary would cut to... “In that little den of iniquity half way up the next alley, The National Association of Spies, Traitors and Yahoo’s, otherwise known as N.A.S.T.Y., the organisation dedicated to crime, espionage and being bad in general”..... This was always followed by a harrowing close-up of the man from N.A.S.T.Y., Noodles Romanoff as he addressed his No-goods, 3 incapable stuttering fools named Gerard, Milton and Sylvia !?!?! Funnily, the N.A.S.T.Y headquarters varied in physical appearance from a shitty run-down shack with planked up windows to a slick, slender fortress with numerous turrets of machine guns.... I suppose it all depended on how “Crime, espionage and being bad in general” was paying at any given time.





On many an occasion, “the arch criminal, master spy and enemy of Roger Ramjet”, Noodles Romanoff plotted and devised to rid himself of this flying do-gooder on account of him being bad for business. These plans were carried out in the form of kidnapping Ma Ramjet, setting Roger up for assault on innocent citizens and the old favourite, trying to drop a safe on his head...... needless to say, Noodles was always caught off guard by small details he overlooked. On the occasion of the kidnapping of Ma Ramjet, she agreed to get in the car with them claiming it was “The best offer I’ve got all day”. Being a card shark, she subsequently stole all their money at a poker game while waiting for Roger too save her. Noodles got wise and accused her of cheating.... bad move.... Ma Ramjet took one of her “Ma Ramjet’s Atomic Vitamins For Senior Citizens (with get up and go got up and went)” which transferred her from a mild mannered old lady into super mother..... you can guess the rest......


And those pills..... Roger’s Proton Energy Pills that gave him “the strength of 20 Atom Bombs for a period of 20 seconds”...... the small white tablets he popped every time a bad guy was about to be bashed....... could those small pharmaceuticals be the reason why Roger had disappeared from our TV screens........ Could it be that Roger is to blame for “The Generation of the Pill Popping Fuckwit”, that is the 1990’s??????? It’s quite obvious that such an action in a childrens programme is a total no-no these days, but was Roger actually responsible for it all?????


Noodles wasn’t the only cause for concern however..... as the highly irritating theme music ended and “As this extruded episode begins.... ”, of equal concern was the taste of Mr Morton Pumpkin of Lumpoc’s morning cup of coffee.......... (as a general tidbit of information, Lumpoc is suggested in many episodes to be Roger’s home town). .................. In the world of Roger Ramjet, such a predicament was likely to cause a national emergency. And it wasn’t only humans......... machines also had it in for Ramjet. One particular call from General GI Brassbottom declared that, “the machines of the world are taking over...”, Roger’s reply was, “You can say that again, just the other day a parking meter said to me....” .......the General cuts him short and his words of wisdom are lost forever. Later, it is discovered that a gang of machines hiding in a warehouse, “built by the government to house surplus Green Bay Packer victories”, are the ringleaders. Headed by a disgruntled Jukebox who’d been replaced by a rock’n’roll group, the machines decided that they’d had enough of not being given their “Just due”. Particular trouble makers were traffic lights.... and a seedy looking bubble gum dispenser is seen lurking in the background. When Ramjet comes to save the day, the jukebox sets type writers on our hero, instructing them to “Semi-colon him to death”.


Which brings us to the non terrestrial fiends........ it makes you wonder what sort of technology created the Solarnoid robots. Of all arch enemies of Ramjet and the American Eagles, they are the most banal. Their masterplan was to land on earth, act like everyone's friend, gain confidence until the entire planet is taken in by them, and then run for president of the USA, thus taking over the world. On hearing the bad news from a panicking General GI Brassbottom, Roger calms him down with the reassurance that , “It’d never happen. They haven’t established residency yet”.





And finally, a word on the creator of this superhero..... little is publicly known about Fred Crippen, aside from his involvement in running the annual Screen Cartoonists Golf Classic...... a Hollywood tradition, started in the early ‘50s for animators, which has seemingly survived recession, the collapse of old studios, strikes and overseas job losses. As a result, the odd reference to the sport is understandably made in Roger Ramjet, mostly by General GI Brassbottom. It’s possible that the general’s character is Crippen himself - a cantankerous old troglodyte - as you would expect most golfing animators to be. In one particular episode, Brassbottom is heard warning our hero, “This better be good, I broke a golf date to come here.......” Other than that, the only other evidence that Fred Crippen still exists is the odd production credit on JOHNNY BRAVO....... a stroke of genius which contains the same robust humour. It has been suggested that Buzz Lightyear is a possible distant relation of Ramjet.... a fair deduction, but Johnny Bravo in particular bears all the marks of a family strain of genes which have been kept reasonably pure.......


“What’s important in life is Liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the occasional candy bar”.


- BOZ

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