Beyond the Background: Antoine, from Zero to Hero

Today’s Beyond the Background examines the saga of one of the anthropomorphic Freedom Fighters from planet Mobius.


“Juice and jam time!!”

Ah, no. Not him….



Yes, that’s right; today Beyond the Background takes a look at that kooky French palace guard coyote, Antoine D’Coolette.

Wile E Coyote

“He’s a coyote? I did not know that!”

Yeah, I thought Antoine was another fox at first.


It’s also worth mentioning that I thought Princess Sally was a mole until I learned that her surname is Acorn and read in one of the Sonic comics that she’s in fact a squirrel. She looks more like a mole to me, sorry.

Anyways, Antoine began his career in the ABC Sonic Hedgehog Saturday morning cartoon series, nicknamed Sonic SatAM by its’ fans. There, the character played a vital role in the Knothole Freedom Fighters’ operation to overthrow Dr. Robotnik and restore the planet Mobius to its’ original pristine beauty: he was the one member everyone could laugh at and look down upon, the butt of everyone’s jokes, including his own. Antoine was clumsy, cowardly, vain, braggadocious, skittish, incompetent and pompous. He typically had 2 objectives on the show:

  1. Trying to prove he’s better than Sonic, and failing miserably.
  2. Trying to get with Princess Sally, and failing miserably.

“Bro, you weren’t just put in the Friend Zone, you got put in the Never Had a Snowball’s Chance Zone!”


“Hey, what’s the difference between Antoine D’Coolette and a sack of fertilizer? The sack! WAKA-WAKA-WAKA!”

And so it went for the duration of Sonic SatAM‘s 1/12 seasons on TV. Then after the series ended and the Sonic saga continued in the comics, he initially seemed to continue in the same vein, but then something interesting happened (aside from Sally going from her strange pink palette to her original brown hue):

First, the character was redesigned; made to look less jokey and more visually appealing:



Next, he began changing internally as well as externally. A lot of this can be attributed to a confab with another Freedom Fighter, Bunnie Rabbot…

Bunnie Rabbot

…Who told him to believe in himself and never give up, no matter what the obstacles (and trying to be pretty and flirty while simultaneously being half robot, she’d know a thing or 2 about obstacles) or how often you get roasted (never say “roasted” to an anthropomorphic animal). Taking this advice, comics Antoine began sharpening his skills and making himself a formidable warrior in his own right: maybe not the fastest thing alive, but a skilled swordsman and an active pilot, nothing to sneeze at, he also actually started displaying feats of bravery, strength and nobility. Sure, Antoine still displayed moments of skittishness and he still had the occasional habit of mangling English, and he displayed some exaggerated bravado from time to time (though mainly as a way to assure his fellows that everything was going to be OK and to psyche himself up and swallow his fear) , but no longer did Antoine routinely grace the Wall of Shame bulletin board month after month.

This chance tete-a-tete with Bunnie also led to another pivotal evolution for Monsieur D’Colette: as a result of her pep talk, the 2 of them began going on more missions together and generally spending increasingly more time together. It no longer mattered that Sally just wasn’t that into him; he eventually realized that he was getting nowhere with Sally in a hurry, but his companionship with the Bionic Bunny quickly filled that void. Antoine and Bunnie’s partnership became so close that eventually he proposed to Bunnie. Next thing you know, Boom Baby. You’re looking at Mr. and Mrs. Antoine and Bunnie Rabbot-D’Coolette. Talk about a change in character!


Marriage. Now that’s something truly terrifying.

This rarely happens with toons. It’s rare to see a cartoon character grow and change so dramatically, and for the better, it’s even rarer to see a rejected lover character in fiction finally get the point and move on (I’m looking at you, Bling-Bling Boy from Johnny Test!), so to see a character accomplish both of these achievements deserves mention, hence this blog post.


“In one fell swoop, he went from zero to hero! From lamest to famous! From worst to first! From grating to greatest! From dud to stud! From wiener to winner! From loser to legend! From Less Filling to Tastes Great! It’s the success story of the decade for an entire generation!!!”

-OK, that might be pushing it. But it’s still cool to see a former joke character come into his own.


Good on ya, bro.

Beyond the Background: Emma Hart

This is going to be brief. Think of this as a Mini-Beyond the Background, or a Beyond the Background short.


Brief. Shorts. Ba-dum-bump.


“That’s funny. Ha.”

Today’s Beyond the Background is all about…this kid.


For those who don’t know, this is Emma Hart, a minor character from Hasbro’s Littlest Pet Shop. Emma was a teenage girl who wanted to be a tour guide. She started with her trip to Paris, but took the wrong books and once there she had the wrong map. Despite that, she seemed have the knowledge to be a tour guide.

-As an irrelevance, I could mention that one of the Lego Friends is also named Emma…


…And one of Dora’s friends from Into the City is named Emma.


Clearly Emma’s currently a trendy name on the girls’ toy land scene!

Anyway, Emma Hart was the daughter of Stephanie Hart, an airline pilot who went on to become the co-pilot for Blythe Baxter’s dad, Roger.



No joke, when these characters were introduced, I thought the writers were going to build a budding relationship between Roger and Stephanie (as the whereabouts and identity of Emma’s dad was never disclosed), but that was not the case. Sorry Blythie, no new mom for you.


There’s not much more to say here; Emma, her pith helmet and her summer dress only appeared in 4 episodes: “To Paris with Zoe”, “Plane it on Rio!” and “The Expo Factor”-parts 1 and 2. That was literally it. That’s a shame, I would’ve liked to have seen a little more of Emma. No, she didn’t have what it took to be an A-List character, but I found her quirky, kooky and fun, and she always made me smile when she appeared. Plus, she definitely had one of the more unique character shticks I had seen in recent years: a kid who wanted to be a tour guide. That’s quite a thing for a kid to want to aspire to.


“Hey, they keep hiring them; someone’s gotta do it!”

Beyond the Background: Funnyman

Today Beyond the Background looks at a superhero character created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel.


No, not the one with the blue tights and the big red ‘S’, the one with the polka-dotted clown pants and the big comedy mallet. Today’s Beyond the Background is all about Siegel and Shuster’s other superhero creation…Funnyman.


Look! Up in your grill! Is it a squirting flower? Is it a custard cream pie? Is it a springboard boxing glove? NO! It’s FUNNYMAN!!

Who’s Funnyman? It’s story time:

In 1948, Superman related merchandise was making a fortune for its’ publisher, but Superman’s creators felt under-compensated. Also, there was a lawsuit against their employer, so Siegel and Shuster had to look elsewhere for a paycheck. They approached Magazine Enterprises publisher Vincent Sullivan, who had published their first Superman story, and thus led to the origin of Funnyman.


Funnyman was the alter-ego of TV comedian Larry Davis, with a penchant for ‘acting out’ in public and using comedy props, practical jokes and cornball gags in place of cosmic superpowers. Davis’ manager, agent and sometimes love interest Julie Farrell had arranged for Davis, in the costume he’d later adopt as Funnyman: big floppy comedian’s jacket, big red bow tie, polka-dot pants and big floppy shoes, plus a putty nose instead of a mask or cowl…


“I tawt a taw a putty nose!”

…for a publicity stunt in which Davis would foil a staged crime. Some crossed wires and mixed signals would lead to Davis facing down and thwarting a real criminal, and Davis took a liking to feats of daring-do, thus giving rise to the “Daffy Daredevil”, to Julie’s dismay (she’d rather he stick to stuff that earned a check). Funnyman used comedy as his power weapon, eventually padding out his arsenal with a ton o’ gags, ranging from the efficient to the downright ridiculous, he bolted through the streets on his trusty gadget-laden Trixcycle, he had a flying Jet Jalopy and eventually gained his own HQ called “Funny Manor”, with each room filled with wacky crook-catching traps.


Funnyman was basically like The Joker, only on the good guy’s side and in no way scary.


Funnyman didn’t catch on like Siegel and Shuster’s more famous creation, folding after only 6 comic book issues and a brief newspaper strip stint, but he was the first recorded Jewish American superhero, so there’s that.

So for all the whining I read on YouTube about Harley Quinn’s presence on DC Super Hero Girls:


“Why is Harley Quinn there?” “Harley’s not a hero!” “She can’t be a hero!” “Why is she a hero?” “Harley Quinn’s a bad guy!” Harley Quinn shouldn’t be a superhero at Superhero High!”

I say, shaddap! She can be a hero, and Funnyman is proof of that, Harley’s just reiterating the same shtick that Funnyman employed 69 years ago.


I like Harley Quinn as a heroic prankster who’s not the Joker’s doormat. Deal with it, nerds.

Since Funnyman was created for a competing publication, he’s technically not a DC character, so it seems unlikely that he’ll turn up in the DC Universe one day. (The character did make a sort-of appearance in issue #5 of a Super Friends comic in which a TV “funny man” named Larry Davis–who resembled Funnyman’s true identity–hosted a charity fundraiser staffed by the Trinity of Wonder Woman, Batman and of course, Superman; and the plans to revive Funnyman were considered quite seriously at one stage during the 1990’s when comedian Richard Belzer…

52nd Monte Carlo TV Festival - Portrait Sessions

Yeah, that Richard Belzer.

…was in the planning to portray the Daffy Daredevil for a proposed Funnyman motion picture that never materialized.) I think that’s a shame, cause I actually think Funnyman was kind of cool.


Yes, I think a comedy clown superhero is a cool concept. If you’re not going to have super powers, then you need to have something just as good to compensate. Some of the popular examples are super-genius intelligence (complete with an awesome array of high-tech gadgets), mad martial arts skills or a quiver of trick arrows. It could be because I have a natural attraction to all things zany, cartoonish and comedic, but I think the power of wacky and laughter could make for fun superhero fodder. Nowadays, all of the characters who employ comedy, silliness, jokes and pranks as their arsenal are villains, like The Trickster…


“I’ll beat the shtick out of you, Flash!”

…Or Darkwing Duck villain Quackerjack of the Fearsome Five.


“Excuse me, I’m out of my mind at the moment.”

Why can’t we have a hero with the power of Zany?

-And yes, I’m counting zany as a super power. Speaking of Quackerjack, in the Darkwing Duck episode “Jail Bird”, Negaduck uses the mystical Eye of Quackzoquatl to steal the powers of his fellow Fearsome Five teammates so “somebody will finally have these powers who’s got the brains to use ’em!” Once stripped of their powers (and diminished to pocket size), Quackerjack is taking it worse than the others; he’s utterly broken.

Quackerjack: You ruined me!!!!

Negaduck: What are you cryin’ about?! You didn’t have any powers to begin with!

Quackerjack: You… WACKINESS!!!

Negaduck: I did not! (Then immediately afterwards bursts into insane guffawing.)


“So, yeah, Funny is a super power now! Deal with it, ya noids!”

Beyond the Background: The Teen Team

Today Beyond the Background spotlights a trio of intergalactic teenagers from beyond the stars. No, it’s not the Teen Force from NBC’s Space Stars or the Neutrinos from TMNT. I’m talking about My Life as a Teenage Robot‘s The Teen Team.


“IT’S TEEN TEAM TIME! (Hey kids, is this a catchphrase yet??)”

For the uninformed, the Teen Team were a band of teenage superheroes from different galaxies in “outer space, or course”, who appeared in 1 1/3 episodes of Teenage Robot (I’ll elaborate on this later). Their roster consisted of The Amazing Orion, The Stupendous Squish and The Elusive (or Mysterious) Mistery.


“Wow. A team of teenage superheroes. Never saw that before!”

Yeah, no prizes for guessing, these three were fun-house mirror versions of Glen Murukami and Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans.

Titans Tower

They just don’t live in a nifty T-shaped tower.

Basically each Teen Team member was a mash-up of 1 or 2 Titans characters:

  • The Amazing Orion, for example, physically resembled an all-organic version of Cyborg (Big O was voiced by Phil LaMarr, BTW),though he possessed powers similar to Starfire: flying and firing brightly colored energy blasts from his hands.
DCSHG Starfire 1

Though Star’s cuter.

  • The Stupendous Squish was obviously the Teen Team’s answer to Beast Boy: he was the shortest team member and had the least serious personality, cracking corny jokes and puns left and right, even while in the heat of battle. Squish appeared to be made of a turquoise gelatinous substance and his costume resembled a tube of toothpaste; he was able to ‘squish’ out of his costume (either his entire body or just his head) and once out, morph into nearly any shape, including letters (he once shifted into the word ‘SPLAT’ while tussling with Tadzilla.
yuck mouth

“GAH!! Toothpaste! My arch-nemesis!!”

  • The Mysterious Mistery (or Misty for short) was the female member (I would’ve made them 2 girls and a boy instead of the reverse, as I’m not really feeling the ‘token girl’ shtick these days and I always thought it was weird how Jenny didn’t have any female friends on the show), whose powers were psychic in nature, with the ability to read and control others’ minds, as well as an ability to turn into a cloud of mist, appropriately enough. Misty’s main ability is her ability to transform parts or all of her body completely into mist/smoke at will. She can use this form to cushion a fall. Also in this form, she can’t be physically hurt. In mist form she can literally get inside the mind of people, robots, and animals to know what they are thinking and their biggest fears. She can turn into smoke to heal any wound in seconds and can also teleport in mist form. She also has some martial arts skills, a direct nod to another TT member, Robin. Misty typically wears a hood/cowl in battle, which makes the outline of her head resemble that of the TT character Jinx; unmasked, she physically resembles Raven.


The Teen Team appeared as a team in only a single episode, titled appropriately enough, “Teen Team Time”. They initially befriend Jenny and even make her a team member at one one point.



But it isn’t long before things begin to go awry. Here’s the short in its’ entirety so’s I don’t have to explain the plot.

Mistery made a second appearance by herself (this is what I meant by 1 1/3 episode appearances) in a follow-up short entitled “Teenage Mutant Ninja Troubles”, in which Misty returns to Earth after stating that the Teen Team has disbanded due to internal conflicts (it is mentioned that after the split, Orion took up ballet!) and so she begins attending Jenny’s school, where she is teased by the Krust Cousins, Brit and Tiff. Not standing for any of that noise, Misty engages in a prank war with the Krusts, however she takes things too far, escalating things to the point of Misty squaring off against Jenny herself. Things end on a less that auspicious note, with Misty taking off for parts unknown.

This latter episode bummed me out; I liked the idea of Jenny finally having another girl character to talk to and confide in, and I liked someone finally laying some well-deserved smack-down on the Krust Cousins (though I did kind of like their characters in a way, I had always hoped they’d reform one day and if not become Jenny’s buddies, at least become good-natured goofs a la Bulk and Skull), but having Misty go heel didn’t please me and I was really dismayed that the writers broke up the Teen Team. I thought they were kind of cool, and would’ve liked to have seen more of them as heroes. Why are Supers so cool when placed in teams of 3? You have the DC Trinity…


…The Galaxy Trio…


…And the Troika from Jim Lee’s Wild C.A.T.s.


Normally, I’m not down with glorifying villains, but I liked these guys. One of them was a flipping talking, transforming robot, for corn’s sake!

Superheroes are almost always cooler as trios.


-Of course, there are always exceptions.

Beyond the Background: Clay, the Neglected Xiaolin Dragon

Today, Beyond the Background ventures into the realm of Kids’ WB!’s Xiaolin Showdown.


From 2003 to 2006, Xiaolin Showdown reigned on Kids’ WB!, with nothing afterward (Xiaolin Chronicles doesn’t exist; I don’t know what you’re talking about), accruing many loyal fans along the way. The 4 young Xiaolin Dragons traveled the globe in search of the legendary Sheng Gong Wu and facing off against such instantly recognizable, memorable and unforgettable foes as…






This Guy!


and Him! (Yup, totally memorable.)

3 of the 4 Xiaolin Dragons became popular and fan-favorites: Omi, the monk Dragon of Water, was the face of the franchise (literally, his head graced the title’s logo); Raimundo the Brazilian Dragon of Wind was the voice of SpongeBob and the Mayor of Townsville himself, Tom Kenny, and even got made into team leader by the series’ end; Kimiko the rich Japanese Dragon of Fire was distinctive for being the only female Dragon and of course for her many, many, many different hairstyles and outfits (which Jason has already covered in My Ever Changing Clothes), but for all of the hype and fan art the other Dragons enjoyed (heck, as far as fan artists were concerned, Rai and Kimi might as well have had ‘PLEASE SHIP US!” tattooed on their foreheads), one Dragon always seems to get left out of the fan-love, that Dragon being the subject of today’s Beyond the Background, Kung Fu Cowboy Clay Bailey.

"Howdy, pardners!"

“Howdy, pardners!”

Clay is the Cyborg from Teen Titans of Xiaolin Showdown; why does he receive so little love from fans? I’ve always thought Clay was cool. Let’s examine what makes this feller unique:

Clay Bailey was the Xiaolin Dragon of the Earth. He fought evil to collect the magical Shen Gong Wu with the other Xiaolin warriors. His Wudai Weapon was the Big Bang Meteorang and his Wudai power was Wudai Crater. He was able to use his elemental powers with the Fist of Tebigong and the Third-Arm Sash.

Clay was from Texas as a cowboy and worked on a ranch, being raised by his parents along side his sister, Jesse. He later traveled back for the Star Hanabi. He had not initially known that the Star Hanabi was his father’s lone star. After Dojo told them that it was the Star Hanabi, he needed to get it from him but he couldn’t go back with his friends to the temple or the Star Hanabi until he proved he was a man.

Clay was very mellow and patient, and did not get ruffled easily. He’s kind, heroic, friendly, chivalrous and gentlemanly. He has the biggest heart of all the monks and probably gets into the least fights. There are few things that will make Clay angry, some being taking or messing with his hat, or harming his friends. Clay was also very honorable, trustworthy and chivalrous, and was somewhat old-fashioned in his ways. Clay used Tai Chi, referred to as “Old Man Kung Fu” by Raimundo. In his very first Xiaolin Showdown, Kimiko, Raimundo, and Omi did not have any faith in Clay winning against their nemesis, Jack Spicer, because of his patient maner and characteristics of his element. But Clay proved the other Monks wrong by using sunflower seeds to attract the bird in the showdown instead of aggressively attacking and harming the bird.

Clay, naturally, was also the strongest of the Dragons in training. Clay could often think of creative solutions to problems, and his patience was valuable to the other Monks. He always had a way to find the light of every bad situation. He took on the “big brother” role of the team, always protecting and caring for the other Monks. He was also a big eater, his first loyalty being to any food he laid his eyes on, particularly pork chops.

-On top of all that, the dude’s a Kung Fu Cowboy. That alone is noteworthy. It’s a perfect meshing of awesome things from both the West and the East. That’s totally new and has never been done before.

-OK, it hasn’t been done that many times before, but it’s still pretty cool, and so is Clay in my book.


Ride on, Kung Fu Cowpoke, Ride On.