Kids suck these days because kid’s cartoons suck these days, seriously. It has nothing to do with the waning moral fiber in the country, or the complete death of family values. It also has little to do with drug use and drug availability. Nope. Shitty cartoons. Don’t you get it? Cartoons raise your kids, you don’t. You are too busy working and trying to provide the life for them that society has convinced you they deserve. How can you work AND raise them? You can’t, so you don’t. You plop them down in front of the TV, leave them a microwave dinner, and tell them you love them as you rush out the door. And what do they do? They turn on the TV. And guess what is on? Cartoons. And it is THOSE very cartoons that raise them. I am awesome (and insane) because these are the five cartoons from the nineties that kindly let me suckle off their teet during my formative years.

Ren & Stimpy

This may be the only Beatles satire I have ever been okay with.

Listen, there have been few things over the course of my entire life that have equaled the joy of Ren & Stimpy. The nineties were a very dark time and nowhere was this better reflected than in Ren & Stimpy. While the show may have appeared to be a children’s show on the surface, I cannot stress to you just how dark and f*cked up it actually got at some points. Here, take the “ice cream bar” moment,  one of my favorite Ren & Stimpy episodes:

And you wonder why so many kids were taking LSD and watching Nickelodeon.

While the success of the show was partly due to the iconic characterizations of the duo, a good deal of the love people have for the show stems from John Kricfalusi’s amazing, exaggerated, motley art style, that seemed to be as much inspired by drugs as it was inspired by golden-age animation. They tried to revive this show a few years ago, but without success. It is like stripping violence from the Roadrunner, darkness and psychedelic were a running thread that was what you expected when you tuned in. Ren & Stimpy rest in peace, and let us miss you every single day, the way Powdered-Toast-Man would want.

Animaniacs

If you squint your eyes and look REALLY close, you can tell it’s the Animaniacs. I think.

Take the cute sensibilities of Disney-style animation, and mix it with a subversive and intelligent sense of humor of Woody Allen (ala Mel Brooks), and make it more like a sketch comedy show than a cartoon, with a wildly original and diverse cast, and you have The Animaniacs. It would be impossible for me to pick a favorite “skit” (Pinky and the Brain or Goodfeathers) but I can tell you, Animaniacs was one of the best cartoons ever aimed at children that did not talk to kids like they were stupid. Thing is, they slipped a lot of GREAT adult jokes and references in there, too. The kind of jokes you miss completely if you are not paying attention. Jokes like this:

A joke about fingering Prince. Um, did I write this show?

The animation was great, the voice casting was perfect, and it was consistently funny. I still watch episodes of Animaniacs on Youtube from time to time. Somehow, it never gets old…

The Maxx

When I tell young kids that MTV was once amazing, they laugh at me and think I’m kidding.

The Maxx was a cartoon for “adults” that ran on MTV Oddities (basically, MTV programming aimed at the teen-drug-crowd, which was my exact demographic) that ran for one season, and sadly, left a great deal of unanswered questions by the time it resolved (or didn’t, actually).

The Maxx was based around a comic book of the same name by writer/illustrator Sam Keith. I loved the existential angst of the comic, and I loved Keith’s odd, hyper-stylized art, so when I first saw the cartoon, and saw that it did BOTH of these things justice, I was elated.  So how do you describe The Maxx to people? Jesus, I wouldn’t even know where to start. A homeless man who is really a superhero, but who is really, most likely, not a superhero, has visions of himself and his social worker, Julie, only it is NOT really them, and, well, just watch a minute of it and see for yourself:

All things considered, I think I did a pretty decent job of explaining The Maxx to noobs.

It was weird and it was wacky, but there was also something truly original and badass about The Maxx who, like all great heroes, fell before his time. Meaning, he was canceled. Sorry to hold your hand through that metaphor.

By the way, order the entire first season of The Maxx right here, cheap as hell and well worth it.

Batman: The Animated Series

This show was the best representation of the Batman character ever, hands down.

Do you know what a perfect storm is? When every single element adds up just right, every single thing needs to be PERFECT to form the ultimate storm? That is what this show was, the perfect storm- Batman: The Animated Series

From the sharp writing of Paul Dini, to the dark, art-deco animation style of Bruce Timm, to the perfect soundtrack by the brilliant Danny Elfman, to the BEST vocal performer to ever play Batman, Kevin Conroy, this, to me, is the most fully realized version of this universe for many bat-fans. Even Harley Quinn was born out of this show. She was supposed to be a one-shot guest star, but her character clicked so well with fans of the show that they kept bringing her around, and now she really is part of the Batman universe. Here, just a taste of how perfect it all was:

Bane versus Batman. Still a better love story than Twilight.

Though this show may always be one some channel in reruns, that does not meet my needs. New episodes, dammit! I know I am not the only one demanding this. Anything to make up for the last miscarriage of a Batman movie.

Gargoyles

Man, when Disney pandered to their male audience, awesome things happened.

Now I feel the need to let it be known that I kinda had nerd-wood for the “Disney afternoon” that used to run after school on TV. From Rescue Rangers and Tailspin, from Gummi Bears and Ducktales, if it was Disney, and it was animated well, Iloved it. But no single show in the history of Disney shows, has had the badass swagger that Gargoyles did. Yes, I just described a Disney cartoon using the terms “badass” and “swagger” and you know, I’m not sorry. A little ashamed, yes, but not sorry. And let me tell you why. Any cartoon about gargoyle statues that COME TO LIFE is instantly an awesome cartoon. I am shocked Disney hasn’t turned this into a live action movie (yet???!!!) and I still think the show is pretty cool to this day.

Here, peep some Gargoyles action:

Have a whole episode, free, on me, so you can see what I’m talking about.

Gargoyles, much like most of the cartoons on this list, bring us back to a more innocent time in the world.

A time when Disney pushed cartoons instead of live-action-pop-sluts. A time when cartoons weren’t afraid to be weird and different. A time when pot was a lot of cheaper. A time when people were still afraid of AIDS. A time when a Schwarzenegger was an actor and not a Governor. A time when having long hair was still pretty cool if you were a dude (note the past tense). A simpler time, a more honest time.

Ah, the nineties. How we miss you so.

Also, Darkwing Duck was awesome. Just saying.

He was like Batman, if Batman was a duck. So wait, he was Duckman? Batduck? Who cares, he was cool.