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Western Animation / The Comic Strip

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The Comic Strip was a 1987 Rankin/Bass Productions Animated Series which ran for one season, 65 episodes in all. This was Rankin/Bass's last television series before it went into dormancy.

The premise: four different cartoons (with different animation styles) were shown in rotation sequence, with two of the four appearing in roughly 12-minute slots per 30-minute episode. An animated variant of the live-action Wheel Program, essentially.

The four cartoons were:

  • Mini Monsters, which chronicled the adventures of two normal children at a summer camp also attended by the children of some of fiction's most famous monsters (including the children of Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and the Wolf Man);
  • Karate Kat, about an anthropomorphic cat detective who fought crime using karate skills;
  • Street Frogs, showing the escapades of a Five Frog Band of aspiring musicians and street dancers, most episodes covering their (doomed) efforts to raise money for the group;
  • TigerSharks, showing a team of human/marine hybrids and their underwater adventures. Of the four, this was the only cartoon to be consistently shown in two-part episodes. This series had an animation style similar to the earlier-produced ThunderCats and SilverHawks that distinguished it from the other three shows in the line-up.

The series as a whole shared many of the same cast and crew with the ThunderCats and SilverHawks series, being the second series to be made in the wake of ThunderCats's popularity, after SilverHawks.

Not related to, or to be confused with The Comic Strip Presents.

A clip of the show's intro can be seen here.

Tropes present in The Comic Strip:

  • Action Girl: Octavia and Angel of the Tiger Sharks.
  • Adults Are Useless: Camp counselor Gary from Mini-Monsters, and also Sherman and Melissa's parents in that show's first episode.
  • All for Nothing: Most Street Frogs episodes, as their comedic antics somehow always ruin their chances to make money.
  • Ambiguously Human:
    • The Tigersharks are ostensibly humans from Earth, but in their non-transformed forms, Lorca and Octavia have lavender and green skin respectively. Octavia's hair is also teal with streaks of light blue-silver and she has black lips. Most of the team also have pointed ears, even the ones who appear closest to baseline human. One has to wonder if alien DNA didn't enter the human genome at some point between the present day and the setting.
    • Jynx from Mini Monsters was a witch with pointed ears and buck teeth. Whether she was human, elf or another race is never established.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Camp Mini-Mon, which Sherman and Melissa's mother says sounds Indian.
  • Badass Normal: In spite of being normal kids in a camp full of super-powered monsters, Sherman and Melissa often end up saving the day on their own, including fending off an alien invasion by driving the vanguard away with pranks and annoying music.
  • Benevolent A.I.: The Tigersharks' ship SARK, is a friendly member of the team.
  • The Bet: The Mini-Monsters episode "Wolfie's Bet" has Wolfie taking up a bet by the other campers that he won't tell a joke for 24 hours; if he wins, he gets Sherman's cassette player, but if he loses, he can never tell another joke at Camp Mini-Mon again. He loses, but gets to continue telling jokes anyway because his bet violation was done to save Klutz's life.
  • Big Bad: Big Papa on Karate Kat. T-Ray and Captain Bizzarly split this role between them on Tiger Sharks.
  • Big Good: Big Mama for Karate Kat.
  • The Big Guy: Katgut from Karate Kat was the biggest of Karate Kat's allies, also helping train Karate and going head-to-head with Sumo Sai.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Downplayed. Twins Sherman and Melissa Baxter of Mini Monsters are actually decent kids with a somewhat bratty/hyper streak, but being stuck at home for another summer vacation led to them ramping up their rambunctiousness, destroying parts of their house and playing pranks on their parents until sent to the titular camp, where they find the new environment stimulating enough to calm down.
  • The Brute: Sumo Sai from Big Papa's gang on Karate Kat.
  • Butt-Monkey: Big Max and Snappy Sam on Street Frogs.
  • By the Power of Grayskull!: Karate Kat's mantra before changing out of his jacket suit into his karate gi by spinning.
    I'm lean, I'm mean, a karate machine! Keeeeee-YA!
  • Cane Fu: Walro of Tigersharks uses a walking cane in human form, which he can defend himself with, and which also spray irritating gas from the bottom.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: As with most 80s cartoons, the villains were clear and proud of their intentions.
    Captain Bizarrly: What cause do you serve?
    T-Ray: Evil! What other cause is there?
  • Cats Are Mean: Big Papa and his gang.
  • Catchphrase: Karate Kat's By the Power of Grayskull! mantra described above, and also "Kee-ya, baby," at the end of a segment.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The Tiger Sharks all have names referencing the animal they turn into before the element that does that's even introduced.
  • Cool Shades: Dr. Slick on Street Frogs wears square-rimmed sunglasses.
  • Cool Ship: The Tiger Sharks' SARK could act as both a spaceship and a submarine.
  • Dancing Is Serious Business: For the Street Frogs, alongside rapping.
  • Dating Catwoman: Big Mama and Big Papa used to be married.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dr. Katmandu in Karate Kat.
  • Distress Call: The Tigersharks can mentally send a distress signal ("Tiger tiger by the tail!"), which shows up on SARK's monitors with their location. They may receive an answer sent from SARK ("Hold on, Tiger Tiger!"). It's not exactly clear how this works, though since it seems limited to those phrases it might be some sort of mentally-activated radio implant.
  • Distressed Dude: Lorca of the Tiger Sharks is already on Water-O when the show begins, but that also means he gets captured by the villains and takes two episodes to get rescued and get his own mutant form.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Karate Kat, though he's far from the only one in his universe. Also Wolfie of the Mini-Monsters, though in his case it's justified as he's a werewolf.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": The first episode of Street Frogs begins with Honey Love refusing to answer to her birth name of "Loretta" when Sam is trying to get her attention, instead of the aforementioned street name she picked as part of the titular group.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Broadcasting episodes of the same show five days a week is known as 'stripping' the show.
  • The Dragon: On Tiger Sharks, Dragonstein to Captain Bizzarly. Bonus points for being an actual dragon.
  • Episode Title Card
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Karate Kat is only known as "Karate Kat" no matter by who or the circumstances.
  • Evil Twin: Karate Kat had an evil twin brother named Karate Krud, who first turned evil after getting a bump to the head. When the two confront each other, they're so identical in appearance that it's near-impossible to tell them apart; Krud uses this to his advantage when Dr. Katmandu tries to whack him on the head with a specially-made mallet that'll force him to undergo a Heel–Face Turn. Dr. Katmandu hits the correct twin, then explains that he expected Krud to be better than Kat at everything, so he simply aimed for the twin who was winning the fight.
  • Expository Theme Tune: Besides the one for the overall show itself, the four cartoons had their own individual theme tunes.
  • The Faceless: Sherman and Melissa's parents in Mini-Monsters.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The Street Frogs' efforts to make a decent buck were generally hampered by their own weird antics.
  • Fighting from the Inside: After Captain Bizarrly used a jamming device to numb SARK's mind and control him, he's almost about to attack Octavia, until Angel calls out to him and tells him what he's about to do. She manages to get through to him, and horror at the prospect of harming Octavia allows the ship to fight the control enough to breach and sink at a speed which sweeps off the jammer.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Dracky in Mini-Monsters.
  • Funny Animal: In Karate Kat, the general cast consists mostly of anthropomorphic cats. In Street Frogs, there's a wide cross-section of anthropomorphic animals besides the Street Frogs themselves (reccuring examples include Snappy Sam, who is a snapping turtle, and the local radio disc jockey Typhoon Toad, who is a toad).
  • Gadgeteer Genius:
    • The Tigersharks' has Walro and Lorca on the heroes' side.
    • ''Karate Kat has Doctor Katmandu, who invents all manner of contraptions for the McClaw agency, and...probably Boom-Boom Burmese on the villain's side, who runs Big Pappa's chop shop.
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: On Street Frogs, every time a money-making opportunity was announced over the radio, the gang would be quick to jump on it. However, for them, success was never an option.
  • Grumpy Old Turtle: In Street Frogs, diner owner Snappy Sam (an anthropomorphic snapping turtle) loathes the titular group immensely because of all the hi-jinks they get up to (often at his expense); also, they owe him a big tab for past meals.
  • Harmless Freezing: Years prior to the Tigersharks series, the Waterians froze Captain Bizarrly and his cohorts into ice floes on their planet. After T-Ray sets them free, they have no ill aftereffects. Also, they weren't unconscious.
  • Hypnotic Gaze: T-Ray's henchman Wall-Eye can mesmerize people with his whirling eyes, freezing them in place.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Almost every Karate Kat episode title has the word "Kaper" in it.
  • Idiot Hero: Karate Kat.
  • If It Swims, It Flies: The Tiger Sharks spaceship, the SARK which can be a submarine and travel in space.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: On Mini-Monsters, Wolfie's jokes are filled with these to the point of being utterly groan-worthy to the other campers. Klutz the monster lizard is the only one who finds them funny. To the point that Wolfie trying to go a whole day without telling a joke to win a bet almost kills Klutz.
  • Inept Mage: Melvin (son of Merlin) and Jynx (daughter of a witch), inherited magical powers from their respective parents, but being kids they have yet to master their abilities.
  • Invading Refugees: T-Ray and his forces were an outright villainous version of this trope in Tiger Sharks. Their home planet dried up and they could only live underwater hence they fled to Water-O. But they aren't sympathetic or interested in peaceful coexistence with the Water-O natives.
  • Invisible Streaker: Blanko from Mini-Monsters is usually visible as a floating tee-shirt, a hat and a pair of Cool Shades, as well as white gloves and a pair of shoes — but oddly, no pants. Occasionally, if he needs to be completely invisible, he'll take off his clothes.
  • Ironic Nickname: Big Max of the Street Frogs is the youngest and smallest member.
  • Jerkass: Sherman and Melissa of Mini-Monsters, at least in the first episode. It results in them both being sent to Camp Mini-Mon just to get them out of their parents' hair.
  • Kill It with Fire: On Tiger Sharks, Dragonstein's primary mode of attack is to breathe fire.
  • Land Downunder: Lorca's speech patterns on Tiger Sharks.
  • Lethal Chef:
    • Jynx the witch on Mini-Monsters, as her concoctions caused severe bellyaches to her fellow campers in one episode.
    • The Street Frogs in an episode of their show are catering to a wedding, but the sandwiches and drinks they prepare cause the consumers to change color and collapse.
  • Mage Species: Jynx and Melvin of Camp Minimon are the kids of a witch and a wizard respectively, and are folded into the category of non-humans/"monsters". Close inspection does reveal that they have pointed ears, at least. (Technically, Merlin was only half-human in the mythos, but that's not referenced).
  • Magic A Is Magic A: The Fish Tank shifts the Tigersharks from a human form into an aquatic form, and from an aquatic form into a human form. In one episode, when T-Ray and his crew of aquatic people get access to it, it turns them into human forms which can survive out of the water.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: Sonic wave blasters seem to be SARK's main weapon, or at least the one it uses most when on Water-O.
  • Mobile Fishbowl: In Tiger Sharks T-Ray and his mooks are water-breathing creatures from a planet that dried up. They are now trying to conquer a watery planet; the one upon which the series take place. Since the other group of villains (and their occasional allies) cannot breathe water, they have used water filled suits at least once.
  • Monster Mash: The non-human campers at Camp Mini-Mon.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Averted. The food served at Camp Minomon appears to not be entirely compatible with normal human physiology, requiring Sherman and Melissa to drink some potions to settle their stomachs after eating.
  • No Man of Woman Born: The Spellbinder is a strangely shaped wand which emits soundwaves that take over men's minds. That is, biological men, not SARK or the female members of the Tigersharks.
  • Ocean Punk: The Tiger Sharks segments take place in the ocean planet Water-O, and as a result most of the cast is capable of breathing underwater (although the protagonists had to undergo a transformation to do so) and most of the vehicles are capable of underwater travel.
  • Oddly Small Organization: Big Papa only has Sumo Sai and Boom-Boom Burmese working for him.
  • Oh, Crap!: In the Karate Kat intro sequence, Big Papa would open a safe with the intention of robbing it...only to find Karate waiting for him. Cue this expression on Big Papa's face.
  • Oireland: Dolph's speech patterns on Tiger Sharks.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Unless Karate Kat was actually named that by his parents. It's not really the weirdest name in the show.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Wolfie, the resident werewolf in Mini-Monsters, tells jokes with Incredibly Lame Puns to the other campers.
  • Pet the Dog: Blanko is the first of the Mini Monsters to be friendly with new counselor Gary instead of trying to scare him away.
  • Pungeon Master: Wolfie of Mini Monsters seems to have a compulsion to tell constant horrible jokes, mostly revolving around puns.
  • Punny Name: The Tigersharks "villain", you might generously call him, Carper. He constantly complains. That is, he constantly carps.
  • Rapid Aging: A "Tiger Sharks" episode of is centered around what looks like a hoard of golden spheres, but is actually dangerous toxic waste causing this in anyone touching it. Both the heroes and one of the major villains have a problem because of it... the other villain learned his lesson many years ago.
  • Real Is Brown: The backgrounds for Karate Kat are done in multiple shades of brown, to the point that the rare alternate colors tend to pop out.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: Tiger Sharks was essentially Thundercats underwater.
  • The Resenter: In Karate Kat, resident scientist and inventor Dr. Katmandu feels this way toward the main character because he sees Karate as just a stupid muscle-head. Which is not an indefensible conclusion.
  • Saturday Morning Cartoon: Actually, as it was syndicated, it had a good chance of coming on any day at any time.
  • Shock and Awe: T-Ray's ship is equipped with "Lightning Rods" which work the opposite of what their name implies, shooting out blasts of electricity. It's red electricity, too, 'cause he's evil.
  • Shout-Out: One Karate Kat episode, "The Twin Brother Kaper," has Karate Krud telling Big Papa's gang that the real Karate Kat (who he's impersonating) stands for "justice, truth, honor and loyalty"; this prompts one of Big Papa's goons to describe the hero as "a thunder-cat."
  • 65-Episode Cartoon: Just enough for syndication.
  • The Smurfette Principle:
    • Honey Love for the Street Frogs.
    • Solemate, a member of Captain Bizarrly's crew, is the only recurring evil female in Tigersharks.
    • Jynx is the only female Mini Monster. Some sources say that Blanko is also female, but they also call them "Blanka", which is not the case.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Jynx the witch usually has her name spelled with a "Y" but her model sheet spells her name as "Jinx" with an "I".
  • Spelling Song: The intro theme song for the overall show. Also, the intro sequence for Mini-Monsters has this in the form of a cheer-leading sequence.
  • Spontaneous Choreography: Street Frogs, frequently.
  • Stranger in a Strange School: Sherman and Emily are the only two "normal" kids among the Camp Mini-Mon campers, while camp counselor Gary is the only "normal" adult (Dr. Jekyll doesn't count for obvious reasons).
  • Summer Campy: Camp Mini-Mon.
  • Sumo Wrestling: The schtick of one of the evil henchmen from Karate Kat, Sumo Siamese.
  • Super Hearing: As might be expected, Dolph of the Tigersharks is particularly sensitive to sound when transformed into a dolphin-man.
  • Swiss-Army Weapon: Walro's cane.
  • Team Dad: Walro on Tiger Sharks.
  • Team Mom: Big Mama on Karate Kat.
  • Threatening Shark: The Tiger Sharks embody this trope when it comes to fighting bad guys in both their team name and the shape of their spaceship. Furthermore, their leader Mako can transform into a humanoid mako shark whose presence always means bad news for the bad guys.
  • Totally Radical: Street Frogs
  • Transformation Sequence:
    • Karate Kat, combined with By the Power of Grayskull!, although the "transformation" was little more than a costume change (he used the same name in both outfits and gained no new abilities) with a touch of Let's Get Dangerous!.
    • The Tiger Sharks also had a transformation sequence wherein they used a special device called the "Fish Tank" to transform into their marine forms and back again.
  • Two Girls to a Team: The Tigersharks have Octavia and Angel.
  • Very Special Episode: One Street Frogs episode featured Big Max tempted to do illegal things just to earn some seed (the Streetfrogverse's currency). The song used on that episode, "Don't Say Yes (When You Mean No)" echoes one of the official songs of Nancy Reagan's War on Drugs, while the episode ends with an ominous male voice saying the words "Crime does not pay!"
  • Vile Villain, Laughable Lackey: T-Ray on Tigersharks is played as a pretty serious threat. He has two minions named Carper and Weakfish who don't do anything but complain and run away at the first sight of the heroes.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Tiger Sharks use Applied Phlebotinum to transform back and forth from humans to Fish People.
  • Why Did It Have To Be Water?: Captain Bizzarly on Tiger Sharks hates water, despite being a pirate on a planet that is almost completely covered in it.
  • Witch Classic: Jynx from the Mini Monsters. She wore a pointed hat, used magic and had a cauldron for concocting witchcraft.