?The secret identity has long been a staple of superhero and action fiction. Just because a man or woman wants to use their special abilities to defend the defenseless or kick some criminal ass doesn’t mean they want everyone to know who they are and where they live. So, when it’s time for action, they generally change into their work duds in a particular fashion. Superman used phone booths for a while and Wonder Woman did that spinning thing, but cartoons have taken the art of transformation to an entirely new level with often overcomplicated ways of going from regular Joe to superhero. For the most part, these transformations were used over and over again as a way to save on animation even if they didn’t quite fit into the structure of the story perfectly. As far as this list is concerned, you won’t find any Transformers, GoBots or Voltrons because that’s really a whole list in and of itself.
A lot went into the explanation of super-powered teddy bear SuperTed. Instead of just existing, the opening of every episode explained that he started life as a regular, though defective, teddy bear discarded as rubbish until Spot, a spotted mohawk-sporting alien came to Earth and sprinkled him with “cosmic dust” which gave him sentience. From there the spotted man took Ted up to Mother Nature’s house, which of course is in a cloud. She gave him superpowers and the ability to rip his fur off to reveal a full superhero costume underneath, including cape and rocket boots. To make things even more complex SuperTed must recite a magic word to make the change, but viewers never get to hear it. We give the Welsh creators of the show a lot of credit for being creative, but damn, there’s a lot going on for a fairly simple concept.
9) Hong Kong Phooey
Sure, mild-mannered janitor Henry’s transformation into inept superhero Hong Kong Phooey seems a bit complicated what with jumping into a filing cabinet that doesn’t work without the aid of Spot, his sidekick cat, getting his face smashed into a wall and having to jump into a dumpster, but the real question is, why bother? Is pushing a mop around such a glamorous job that he feels he needs to protect his secret identity? Surely Hong Kong Fooey could have a pretty decent public life even though he’s completely incompetent. An even better question is why doesn’t he just put the kimono and mask on in a closet or dressing room? Dude needs to simplify the process and maybe spend that extra time memorizing The Hong Kong Book of Kung Fu.
8) The Thing
Talk about revisionist history. 1979’s The Thing cartoon not only connected the character of Benjy Grimm to The Flintstones instead of the the Fantastic Four, but also made him a kid with the ability to turn into the rock-covered Thing by touching two rings together and chanting “Thing rings, do your thing.” And how, you ask, did Benjy turn from scrawny teenager into superhero? The rings draw dozens and dozens of orange rocks to the kid which, unfortunately, don’t bludgeon or suffocate him to death.
7) Turbo Teen
Have you ever looked at a car and noticed that the combination of headlights and grill look vaguely like a face? You know, when you were a small child, or perhaps when you were totally high? Yeah, we think that’s all the creators of Turbo Teen were thinking when they created this series about a kid who accidentally drives his car into a secret government lab that fuses him with his car. As if that weren’t bad enough, the transformation is triggered by extreme temperatures, heat turning him into the car and cold turning him back. Essentially, Brett’s face became the front of the car and his ass the trunk. Can you imagine how gross it would be to ride in him? Is the cab his stomach or intestines? If he eats, does the digested food end up in his trunk? And what is his wiper fluid made from? Oh, don’t answer that.
6) Mon*Star from Silverhawks
The regular version of Mon*Star is a pretty tough-looking mobster with one eye and ’80s metal band hair. The transformed version sports metal body armor, a spiky head and elbow jets. To get from point A to point B, though, Mon*Star has to say an incantation which moves an entire planet into the proper alignmen,t sending a destructive blast at his palatial hideout that, when finally aimed corerctly, transforms him. Once again, that seems like a lot of effort, especially considering the power never seems to be enough to smite his enemies. Maybe Monny should focus on developing some tech himself or an electromagnetic pulse to take out those damn Silverhawks. It’s all about results and if you’re not getting the ones you want, maybe it’s time to switch up the approach.
She’s feeling good, folks. You wouldn’t like her when she’s feeling good. After a season of moody and introspective episodes, the mid-90s Incredible Hulk animated series took a more lighthearted turn when Bruce Banner and his cousin Jennifer — a.k.a. She-Hulk — started palling around. Originally turned into She-Hulk thanks to an injury sustained while going up against Dr. Doom in the first season, Jennifer really enjoyed becoming She-Hulk. Maybe a little too much? Play the clip and just listen to the audio, and tell us it doesn’t sound like dialog that could come from the upcoming Hulk porn parody.
4) Bones Jones from Mutant League
Though he only transformed in the first episode, Bones Jones was a football player who changed after the ground gave out from under a football field to reveal barrels and barrels of toxic waste that mutated him and everyone else in the arena. Now, mostly a skeleton, Bones leads a team of fellow mutants through a series of different sports including, for some reason, volleyball. There’s a lot about this cartoon based on the ’90s Mutant League videogame series that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but we’re most surprised by the fact that they showed the main character’s skin melting off of his body. Even more curious is that they showed it happen in the series’ opening credits week in and week out. How did they get away with it?!
Leave it to the Brits to come up with a questionable version of the Captain Marvel (Shazam, not Kree) mythos in which deep-throating a banana turns a small boy into a chesty superhero called Bananaman. There’s something exceedingly creepy about the whole thing.
2) The Ghost Busters
Based not on the ’80s classic comedy movie of a similar name but actually a ’70s TV show called Ghost Busters, the animated Ghost Busters was created to play off of the success of the much more popular film and also to compete with The Real Ghostbusters. Whether you love or hate the adventures of Jake, Eddie and Tracy the Gorilla, you’ve got to admit that these guys went through a lot of trouble just to change their clothes. First our heroes have to jump into a bone armoire of sorts and punch in the correct code on a skull which then sends them into another dimension filled with demons and monsters. There they are manhandled by giant skeleton hands, thrown onto a mystical spider-web that disappears all but their boxers and then set onto a conveyer belt — also made of bone — that first puts their ghost busting uniform on and then slaps their gear in place. Finally, to leave this strange dimension they have to jump onto a trapeze and dismount onto a slide that sends them back into their regular world where they have to rely on Tracy to pull a lever that will allow them to bounce off of an old mattress into the garage where their talking, transforming car awaits them. Couldn’t they just keep that gear in their room and change like normal people, especially poor Eddie who doesn’t fair as well in the demon dimension as Jake? Who’s to say how precise or well-intending those skeleton hands are and whether they may or may not just toss you into a completely different dimension wearing nothing but heart-covered underwear?
1) Everybody in Dragonball Z
When it comes to transforming, only the robots seem to have more than the Dragonball Universe. At first, Goku and his fellow aliens called the Saiyans only transform into giant apes. But eventually they almost all can turn Super Saiyan, which gives them immense power and the characters’ trademark spiky blond hair and blue eyes. Why ostensibly Japanese aliens turn into Aryan stereotypes to defeat their enemies is not worth examining closely — seriously, it’s not — especially since at least have the bad guys in the show can also transform, usually multiple times, often by eating people. Oh, and then the main characters can actually fuse with each other, and transform again. And then at one point, Goku transforms into Super Saiyan 4, which turns his hair black again. But he also turns into a giant golden monkey at one point, too. See? Best not to worry about it too much.