I'm not sure if it's something particular to my generation or what, but it's been hard not to notice the growing power of nostalgia in entertainment media. It seems like everything from my childhood is weedling its way back into mainstream culture in one way or another, whether it's the bizarrely self-aware schmaltz fest that is Fuller House, or the return of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Nickelodeon (and on the big screen, no less), and the general sentiment among audiences seems to be if we remember it, we like it.
There's nothing wrong with that, exactly. I love that Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon have any kind of presence in the modern world, and some times these nostalgic revivals turn out kinda good. Still, sometimes it feels like everyone is always talking about the same handful of things, and in a world where Youtube allows for the archiving of literally all media ever, it seems like everything imaginable has been tapped for its potential money making nostalgic power.
Of course, that isn't true. For every show that has remained in the hearts and minds of an entire generation of sad twenty somethings, there are hundreds that simply fell by the wayside; perhaps it was an unfortunate timeslot that doomed them. Perhaps poor marketing did them in. Maybe they were just god awful garbage. Who can say why a generation of youngsters latched onto Digimon while Flint the Time Detective is left to rot in obscurity. Regardless, the yesterday of animation is full of cartoons that very few remember fondly.
I consider myself something of an expert on this topic, for a few equally insipid reasons. First of all, my family didn't have access to cable television until the early 2000's, which meant the bulk of my childhood was spent desperately trying to find something to watch on tv. I couldn't afford to be terribly choosey, so I frequently got into shows that nobody else was even remotely interested in. I also stayed interested in cartoons much longer than most people, as my growing interest in Japanese cartoons during my teen years also reinvigorated my love of animation in general, so even in high school I was eager to watch new cartoons, as well as revisit old ones. I suppose my desire to make cartoons (I didn't settle into comics as my medium of choice until a little later) also kept me looking at animation a little more intently, but whatever. The point is, I spent ALOT of time watching shows nobody else cared about.
Due to my insatiable urge to resist social media trends at an almost animal level, I find myself drawn to this type of nostalgia wasteland whenever I feel like getting sappy, safe and assured that no modern executive will ever care to revive these shows like so much cannibalistic zombie matter.
With that totally unintended but remarkably appropriate transitional sentence, I finally come around to the first show of this type I'd like to discuss: Mummies Alive! Here's the intro, courtesy of Youtube.
Yeah. The basic premise is covered pretty well there, but for the sake of summary, a young boy is the reincarnation of an ancient Pharoah, whose guardians are brough to life in the modern day to protect him from an evil sorcerer. The premise is similar to Disney's Gargoyles (in fact some of the creative staff was the same if I remember correctly), but Mummies is significantly more toyetic than its high profile competition, which is both good and bad. Sure, there are tons of barely justifiable gadgets and vehicles, but the character designs are absolutely awesome. I remember thinking this show had a decidedly Capcom look to it, as if they had decided to do an entire Darkstalkers spinoff about Anakaris, and for me that really elevated the show to a more enjoyable level aesthetically.
It also had a rather strong anime vibe to it, with lots of slick action and sylized transformation sequences. The whole "transforming into badass armored forms to fight bad guys" trope was one I had loved since seeing Samurai Pizza Cats and Ronin Warriors (both hack jobs of anime series I wouldn't see proper until later), and it would be years before I was exposed to its originator when Cartoon Network aired its disasterous hackjob of Saint Seiya as Knights of the Zodiac, so Mummies Alive! was right up my alley in that regard. I could definitely have imagined a badass 2d brawler or fighting game based on this series, and I bet it would have LOOKED awesome.
There was also something kind of neat about a series steeped in Egyptian mythology, regardless of how garbled by horrible puns it may have been. It was (and somehow still is) pretty rare to see a hero of any kind of color in cartoons, and the entire cast of Mummies Alive! is basically from ancient Africa- although the mummies in modern day have a kind of blue-gray pallor, in flashbacks they're all varying levels of brown. Given my background, it was a rare treat to see characters that were ostenibly representative of me, without them being stuck in the background as a more typical white character took the center stage.
As one would expect, there was a toy line based on this series, and although I never personally owned any of the figures, I have to say they look pretty badass. Here's an ebay auction for the whole set, so you can get an idea of what we're dealing with:
Mummies Alive! Figures!
Pretty freaking sweet. I have to admit that it is absolutely awful that the ONLY female character, the cat themed warrior Nefertina, never got a figure, but considering even today this kind of bullshit happens to some degree (Avenger 2 and Force Awakens, anyone?) I guess it's only too typical. Still, the figures are pretty cool looking, and show off the stylish armor designs of the heroes and villains pretty well. There were also some pretty cool villains that never got figures, mostly big animal people, but I guess the toy line didn't really have a chance to take off.
At the end of the day, Mummies Alive! Kind of came and went without really making much of a mark on the world. There's little to no fan art online, which is almost mind boggling, and the series has never had a proper release, and probably never will. I sincerely doubt anybody will be trying to reboot or leverage this series for any kind of modern entertainment capital (although a Mummies Alive! live action movie invariably starring the whitest actors imaginable would be hilariously typical), so it's probably safe to just appreciate this little time capsule of unsuccessful entertainment for what it was and is: a goofy show about Mummies in magic armor fighting evil.
A few notes before we go: in the event that anyone actually wants to watch the series, I'm pretty sure most of it is available on Youtube, so by all means check it out. Secondly, I can't say I'm actually interested in doing special art for every show I talk about here, but I found the designs from Mummies Alive! so cool that I couldn't help but want to draw them.
Thanks for reading about a cartoon you probably didn't watch!