80s lace

Baron Skeleton

I’ve had this idea gestating in my mind for a few years now but I’ve never been able to solidify it beyond a few character ideas, so I’m just going to make a post about it now and see if that helps it coalesce into something more solid.

I really love 80′s cartoon villains - Megatron, Cobra Commander, Skeletor, Mumm-Ra, and all their henchmen.  There’s something so delightful about how they were designed to be menacing and theatrical and yet restrained by the standards of the time from ever being a real threat.  The idea of a skull faced wizard acting like a rebellious and rowdy eight year old is just inherently endearing.

They’ve kind of gone extinct though.  Villains in kids’ shows nowadays tend to be actual threats - even lovable goofs like Adventure Time’s Ice King have some disturbing sides to them.  But I pine for those completely toothless villains of yore, whose day ended a few years before I was born and who I knew from reruns and youtube poops.  Where have all the Skeletors gone?

So I’ve had this pitch in my head for a sort of throwback to those kinds of villains, and I call it Baron Skeleton after the lead bad guy.  Like He-Man and Thundercats, it would be a sort of sci-fi/fantasy mashup without a real identifiable theme, and ideally it would also be designed to be as toyetic as possible - I’d want characters to be intentionally designed to share different body molds ala He-Man figures and Transformers, so that way the theoretical toy company could get as much use out of their toy toolings as possible.  I’d also want to keep to story-telling standards of the time - a character whose toy just came out would have one episode where they’re introduced as SUPER important only to become just another character in the show a few episodes later, stuff like that.  Ideally the show would be just a little aware of this without being too meta.

The big “twist” of Baron Skeleton would be that we’re focusing on the bad guys rather than the heroes.  It’d play on my pet interpretation of 80′s cartoons: that the bad guys are basically theeatrical freaks and geeks, while the good guys are popular kids.  I mean, think about it - 80′s cartoons always stress following rules, obeying authority, being super healthy, and just generally conforming to societal expectations.  80′s heroes want you to fit in rather than stand out - and they’re always attractive, straight laced people.  80′s villains, on the other hand, are surly, pouty, antisocial weirdos who come in all sorts of different shapes.  They have weird obsessions and weirder fashion sense.  It’s basically Goths vs. Preps, and so that would be the overall conflict of Baron Skeleton - antisocial misfits vs. popular comformists.

Our protagonist would be the titular Baron Skeleton, who’s mainly a hybrid of Cobra Commander and Skeletor - i.e. a lanky skeleton man in a vaguely military-ish outfit.  Theatrical and prone to wild mood swings, Baron Skeleton leads the (currently unnamed) bad guy faction, although “leads” might be too strong a term.  He’s less an iron-fisted dictator and more of a short tempered Kermit the Frog, desperately trying to reign in his volatile henchmen while futilely trying to get his own schemes to work.  Like a good villain, he’s too clever by half - i.e. just smart enough to make a truly clever and complex plan, but not smart enough to keep it from falling apart.  He’s also somewhat aware of the flaws of his operation, but not enough to actually fix them.

His number 2 would be Snakeman, a large, muscular henchman with a big snake head on an even bigger, beefier humanoid body.  Snakeman isn’t particularly invested in the “bad guy” thing, and basically uses Baron Skeleton’s schemes as an excuse to stir shit up and have fun.  He often “forgets” (i.e. purposely didn’t listen to) his orders and just makes shit up as he goes along with the hopes of causing as much mischief as possible.  Despite his lax attitude, he deeply cares about Baron Skeleton, and genuinely wants his boss to be happy.  Though Snakeman is one of the reasons the group’s schemes fail more often than not, he’s also often the person who keeps Baron Skeleton and the others from facing serious consequences, and Baron Skeleton considers him his closest friend.

The rest of the cast is still nebulous in my mind.  I’d want there to be one new bad guy (as of the first episode at least) who wants to be an actual villain – i.e. genuinely evil and threatening. This character – let’s call them “Newbie” for now – would be used for exposition in the first season, being the fish out of water who has to be taught how things are run.  Baron Skeleton and Snakeman would always shoot down his suggestions of legitimately evil actions, telling him early on that real villains get killed: “You don’t want things to escalate.  Once you get serious, the Good Guys get serious too, and that’s when the bodies start piling up.  Gotta keep the stakes low if you want to stay in the game long term.”  In the first season finale, Newbie would betray Baron Skeleton by finally pulling off a truly evil scheme and framing Baron Skeleton’s group for it, forcing the Bad Guys to prove they’re actually not that bad.

There would have to be a host of other wacky henchmen too.  I’d want one Starscream-style perpetual traitor who’s always trying to steal Baron Skeleton’s position only to be forgiven and welcomed back into the fold.  There would likewise have to be one slavish loyalist who praises Baron Skeleton’s every action, no matter how stupid or mundane it is. You’d need a mad scientist and/or sorcerer to help make plot devices for the schemes of the week, and maybe a spy-master who’s far too competent to be in Baron Skeleton’s employ but sticks around because they like the low-pressure environment.  It’d also be fun to play with Monsters of the Week and legions of faceless henchmen.

Finally, the show would need a hero team to oppose, which is an essential part of this pitch but one I can’t for the life of me figure out.  80’s heroes are nowhere near as interesting to me as 80’s villains, and while I could probably design a hundred different henchmen for Baron Skeleton’s faction, figuring out even a small core team of heroes is agony for me.  The closest I’ve come to thinking of a coherent theme for them would be a sports-themed team of heroes – it’s Goths vs. Preps after all.

I also think it might be funny to have the setting be vaguely high school themed, with episodes that take basic high school sitcom tropes – the big dance, career aptitude tests, that sort of shit – and blow them out of proportion so they’re completely fantastical in scale.I had some design sketches for a few of these guys ages ago, but god knows where they went.  Maybe I’ll make some more later on – but for now, this is Baron Skeleton.

“The clothes I wear… that doesn’t change.  I love long dresses.  I love velvet.  I love high boots.  I never change.  I love the same eye make-up.  I’m not a fad person.  I still have everything I had then. That’s one part of me… that’s where my songs come from.  There’s a song on the new Fleetwood Mac album [Mirage] that says, ‘Going back to the velvet underground/back to the floor that I love,’ because I always put my bed on the floor. 'To a room with some lace and paper flowers/ back to the gypsy that I was.’”