Inspired by Troma’s cult horror/comedy The Toxic Avenger, Toxic Crusaders was a bombastic pre-pubescant take on the mythos, built up by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animation studio Murakami-Wolf and flirted with by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie studio New Line – allegedly as part of a power play with the Turtles creators over the rights to a third film.
We’re not here to talk about politics, though; we’re here to talk about gross-out toys, and a theme tune tailor-made to get kids bouncing around the frontroom like they’d been mainlining Skittles and Tizer.
Only five episodes of the 13 produced were actually broadcast in 1991, but Toxic Crusaders captured the mood of nose-picking, bogey-flicking boys everywhere through an absolutely demented toy-line and perverse character design.
The show may have toned down the exploitative sex and violence of the original movie (obviously), but thanks to the involvement of Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, it maintained an irreverent, anarchic spirit that little boys and girls loved and parents were appalled by.
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Toxie himself was a grotesque mop-wielding mutant superhero, and his gang of similarly irradiated misfits (check out some concept art and more from the toyline, including characters that didn’t make it) included a conjoined blonde surfer/shrivelled mad scientist called Headbanger, a giant wolfman (originally a hobo and a stray dog fused in a lightning strike) called Junkyard, a test pilot with a massive nose and explosive sneezes called No-Zone and the gung-ho plant-controlling military man Major Disaster.
Arrayed against our heroes were villains from the polluting planet Smogula: Czar Zosta, Dr Killemoff and the obese pre-cog Psycho, and their hazmat-clad thugs the Radiation Rangers (incidentally the only Toxic Crusaders action figure I had – I wasn’t allowed cool toys).
Obviously, there was an ecological message at work – like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Swamp Thing and the aggressively sanctimonious pastel coloured douchebag Captain Planet And The Planeteers – but passed through the Toxic Crusaders‘ puerile filter it became something its target audience could seize onto like a fistful of worms.
The action figures were put together by Playmates, the company predictably responsible for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and used absolutely every idiosyncrasy in the early Nineties toyline toybox – neon colours that make animals queasy, secret glow in the dark accessories, and pots and pots of slime for people to accidentally swallow.
If the characters were stupid, the vehicles were even worse – one is basically a giant skateboard, and another was a wind surfer covered in astroturf.
Our good friends over at www.DorkDimension.com have the full story behind this line, as well as an incredible collection for you to drool over. Meanwhile, here’re all the toy adverts edited together into one barrage of sight and sound…
The usual Nineties tie-in tat was in full effect, there were Topps trading cards (with brilliantly crude environmentally sound tips from Lloyd Kaufman such as “Don’t waste paper – share a tissue with a friend”), the ubiquitous lunchbox and Thermos combo, a boardgame, Panini stickers and some tiny Monsters In My Pocket-sized things from Spanish company Yolanda.
There was also a confused Marvel comic that ran for eight issues and passed through the ands of several writers including Transformers Simon Furman, Man-Thing‘s legendary Steve Gerber, and Daredevil‘s Ann Nocenti.
Oh, and there was a dull, side-scrolling beat ’em up for the Nintendo Game Boy and Sega Mega Drive – a game so unremarkable that Retro Gamer editor Darran Jones was only able to offer an apologetic shrug