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The Top 50 Cartoon Characters - They Aren't Your Favourite, They're Just Drawn That Way

Daikaiju

Rated Ages 6+
(He, Him)
Anyway if you love camp Skeletor, you've gotta check out the new CGI He-Man and the Masters of the Universe on Netflix. Benjamin Diskin's performance is pitch perfect and exactly what I want out of a 21st century buff skeleton wizard.
I loved that Snake Mountain has a crappy mic.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
43. David Xanatos



70 Points, 3 Lists, #3 Positronic Brain

“Nothing terrifies me - because nothing is beyond my ability to change.”

Source Material: Gargoyles

Voice Actor: Jonathan Frakes

David Xanatos is a billionaire industrialist and CEO of Xanatos Enterprises and has holdings in the genetics company Gen-U-Tech, the robotics firm Scarab Enterprises and Pack Media Studios. Xanatos’ biggest and most unusual expenditure was to purchase an ancient Scottish castle and have it reassembled on the roof of his skyscraper. In fact, the goal was to lift a curse on a clan of creatures called Gargoyles as part of a larger plan. Xanatos is full of larger plans.


Xanatos is a criminal mastermind, often hiding plans within plans and generally chalking his few losses to learning experiences he can use to further other plan. Generally unflappable, he has no final goal beyond amassing more power, resources and advantages to himself and is willing to take big risks in order to do it. But he is not without humanity, as we later learn he loves the criminal Fox with all his heart, which he considers his “weakness”, one he considers worth having (Goliath, one of his enemies, finds it damning he considers love as a weakness).

As a character, Xanatos could arguably be considered simply a very 90s Lex Luthor, right down to a very 90s ponytail. But he does have some advantages that push him beyond simply an imitation into a strong character in his own right. One is the voice actor Jonathan Frakes, who takes the same roguish charm he brought to the character of Commander Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and makes it a little more sinister. Despite the fact that his plans involve robots, magic and mutation, he always comes across as a much more practical villain and not even particularly interested in besting the heroes so much as getting what he wants. If they happen to “win”, it might not impact his plans too much. And the show makes it as fun to spend time with him plotting out his own machinations and giving reveals to his right-hand man Owen as it is for all the adventure stuff.


Bulgakov

Plans within plans is always a great archetype. So is a villain who looks forward to the next fight after a loss.

Plaintiffs:



Defense:

“I'm sure if he hired us, losing is part of a bigger plan. We get paid either way.”
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Xanatos is easily in the running for being my favourite depiction of Lex Luthor, and also probably my favourite character in Gargoyles.

Also, I notice that the early parts of this list ws mainly me voting for bad guys. I swear that’s not intentional
 

Positronic Brain

Out Of Warranty
(He/him)
You fools, by not giving Xanatos the #1 spot you've walked directly into his trap!

(I love that Xanatos always keeps his cool - it was refreshing at a time when all cartoon villains acted like, well, cartoon villains. And the fact that they gave him and let him keep some actual character development might have been unprecedented in a western show)
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Low key spoilers: just as yesterday was villain day (in fact, the last three entries were villains), the next few days all seem to have some thematic connections. This is the loosest; today is cartoon characters of the 2010s!
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
Huh. I actually didn't know the famous Gambit was named after a guy from Gargoyles. It's a real pity I missed that show when it was new; I'm sure I would've loved it, but it hit late for me, right when I was going off to college.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
42. Jake the Dog



72 Points, 3 Lists, #7 Adrenaline

"I mean, if you feel something, you feel something. It's not about personality matrixels and charts, it's all about the bu-bumps in your heart. You can't stop the pumps and bumps! Pumps and bumps! Pumps and bumps!”

Source Material: Adventure Time

Voice Actor: John DiMaggio

Jake the Dog is a shapeshifting adventuring dog in the post-post-apocalyptic world of OOO, in an era where magic returned to the world. Jake’s power’s origins are a mystery even to himself but he is an extremely powerful shapechanger who can be as small as a grain of sand or as tall as a building and neither of those directions might be his limit. He lives with his adoptive brother Finn, a human in a world where he may be the last, in a treehouse not far from the Candy Kingdom (self-explanatory). Both act as adventurers, dedicated to battling evil helping those in need. He is imaginative, which tends to augment his already amazing shapeshifting powers and is able to use them in a variety of inventive ways for situations were lateral thinking may be needed, though he does love himself some good old-fashioned brute force.


Though Finn and Jake are best brothers, they are also very different people. Though Jake likes fighting and adventure, he’s far more easy-going of the two, both for better or worse. For better, he has a philosophy of letting the universe come to him, and often takes opportunities as they come rather than seeking them out. He tends to be meditative at times when his friends want to act and often is able to calm down Finn from taking rash action (though it is not uncommon for their roles to flip from time to time). On the other hand, Jake can be very flakey and can often drive the people he loves to anger by being easy-going in desperate and dangerous situations, a quality that can be bane and boon depending on how things play out.


Jake began as a trustworthy confidante and goofball, which is good as it is, to being someone with a rich philosophy and complex mindset. Jake is mindful but he can also be careless to those he loves, not taking other people into consideration with his laisse faire attitude, particularly to his own life. He is someone who is already at peace even with the possibility with his death (where he knows how he will die, thanks to his “croak dream”) but despite his laidback attitude is willing to do hard work. The show is rich with philosophy and Jake’s seems to be the most overtly spiritual while still being a fun-loving heathen quite often. While he has his flaws, it would be hard to imagine a bro you’d want in your corner more when you need comfort.


Plaintiffs:


Pendleton Ward himself admitted his initial take on Jake was Tripper from Meatballs.

Defense:

“Check the rule book to make sure there’s nothing that a dog can’t break copyright law.”
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Of course the intrinsically chill good dog was my Adventure Time pick.

How could he not be?

He couldn’t not! That’s how!
 

Issun

Let's 90s gaming
Like Futurama, Adventure Time is a show I've seen just enough of to know that I like it, but not enough to put anyone from it on my list.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Adventure Time is a show that consistently amazed me year over year, returning again and again to its diverse range of characters to add one more layer to their seasons and seasons worth of backstory. It's a show that often tackles very adult themes of aging, death, war, poverty, loss...and somehow never feeling bleak about it. Jake's stories often dealt with ideas of existentialism, the nature of family, finding your place in your own world, and eventually coming to grips with yourself even as your body starts to give out and your children get old and your friends change.

Also he's a cartoon dog who gets really big and sometimes punches a thing.

God damn I love Adventure Time.

I didn't vote for Jake, but I could have voted for nearly anyone in this show's cast list, and had a hard time narrowing it down to just the two that I did pick.
 

JBear

Internet's foremost Bertolli cosplayer
(He/Him)
Jake's a good dog, and dogs are great, so I voted for him!

True story.
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
You did a good job summing up Jake. He's a silly transforming dog in a show for kids, but his outlook on life is surprisingly adult at times.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
41. Tina Belcher



72 Points, 3 Lists, #3 Patrick

"Here’s a bunch of numbers. They may look random, but they’re my phone number.”

Source Material: Bob’s Burgers

Voice Actor: Dan Mintz

Tina Belcher is the oldest of the Belcher children who attend Wagstaff School. Her family lives in above her family’s burger restaurant Bob’s Burgers and near the shoreside attraction the Wonder Wharf. 13 years old, Tina spends much of her time with her younger siblings who often make a tight trio but also spends lots of time with Jimmy Jr, a student she has a crush on, as well as Tammy, a frenemy she ends up spending a lot of time with. Tina explores her newfound sense of sexuality with a rich fantasy life and what began as erotic fan fiction has branched out into erotic friend fiction, in which she writes the people she knows getting into sexy situations, though her limited understanding of sex usually culminates in people touching their butts together.


Tina is on the cusp of womanhood and often feels torn between the world of her childhood (and therefore her relationships with her siblings) and what could loosely be described as a more mature life (her teenage friends). She also has a weird mix of what is nervousness and confidence in herself that sometimes clash, the latter of which often contrasts how she assumes other people see her (confident and vibrant) against how people tend to see her (awkward and shy). Though Tina often gets nervous and becomes paralyzed with fear (along with a weird droning sound) when in an even mildly tense situation, she is also surprisingly brave, especially in emotional sense.


Bob’s Burgers has no shortage of out-there characters but Tina is arguably it’s best. Gene and Linda are funny but they are often so obnoxiously wacky that it often feels distracting. Bob and Louise are also high contenders, just all around rich characters. But I feel like we’ve seen variations on their types before. I don’t feel like we have a lot of female characters at 13 grappling with their worlds the way Tina does. She’s a thirsty 13 year old who often feels at war with herself and she takes her often low stakes stories with seriousness. Originally, the character was conceived by the show’s creators as a boy but I think changing the gender swerved her away from generic teen boy-nerd character and created someone much more endearing, a sweetheart with a lusty side, an honest troublemaker and someone who has strong feelings about truth and love. I really like that Louise, the show’s Bart Simpson-esque character, is the take charge member of the trio but that Tina’s the one who shows herself to be the most emotionally brave, often becoming her sister’s rock.

Plaintiffs:

Dan Mintz



Defense:

“You might think the defense would be ‘shouldn’t he have said something by now’. But every time he tried it came out ‘uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh’. So let’s try to keep that going and kick that can down the road.”
 

Issun

Let's 90s gaming
I've never seen an episode of Bob's Burgers (I need to rectify that someday), but I was tempted to vote for Tina anyways because I have watched the driving scene before and oh my god.
 
I've got an iffy relationship with Adventure Time. I was on that show like a fly on shit on day one. I just loved how bonkers everything was, and how it just embodied childhood imagination/fantasies. The first couple of seasons of Adventure Time are pure magic. Then the show kept going, and it started to be about more than just a weird kid having whacky adventures every week. There's like lore, and feelings, and drama, and it just kinda felt like the show lost its magic as it tried to grow up with its audience and gained narrative ambition. It's become something else I don't enjoy.

But Jake the Dog. Jake the Dog is the heart and soul of that show, and he's mostly managed to resist the Serious Business in it. Jake is the best. Easily would have made my list had my list not been special.

Tina is my spirit animal. Also a very good list addition.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
40. Marge Simpson



73 Points, 3 Lists, #10 JBear

"Last week, some Jehovah's Witnesses came to the door, and I wouldn't let them leave. They snuck away when I went into the kitchen to get more lemonade.”

Source Material: The Simpsons

Voice Actor: Julie Kavner

Marge Simpson is a Springfield resident living in 742 Evergreen Terrace. She’s a housewife who lives with her husband Homer and her three kids Bart, Lisa and Maggie. She is known for her striking towering hairdo, green dress and red pearl necklace. Marge takes care of Maggie and the housekeeping during the day and tends to the family’s many needs, such as meals and house cleaning, to a level were it is shown the Simpsons can barely help but devolve into complete slobbishness in her absence. She tends to keep positive but it also the most wary of the family, sometimes over things she doesn’t understand but often due to the ambitious and often foolhardy plans by her family.


Marge loves her family but often feels taken for granted or trapped by her circumstances. When this happens, she often tries to branch out in either a field of work or self-expression, such as painting or acting. When her family does experience her absence they are almost invariably amazed at what she had to do for the house, though as much as she is loved, also tend to fall into old patterns. Nonetheless, Marge is the most loved and trusted member of the family, the person each of them goes to first for advice or a shoulder to cry on. Though Marge’s advice is on occasion questionable, she is often willing to do whatever it takes to set things right.


Marge is one of the show’s unsung heroes, I’d argue even by the writers themselves. I feel a lot of the time they set her up as the “nag”, which is unfortunate. In fact, in my rewatch, they do this a little early (the Brad Goodman episode) but when retroactively deciding that, I felt that this wasn’t the case at all in the episodes they’ve referenced. Yes, she does get to be the boring “voice of reason” at times, but even that is reductive. Yes, she’s one of the “hearts” of the show but I think even some of the more joke based writers like Swartzwelder often recognized her basic humanity and ability to find goodness and knowledge in hard situations. But at the same time, she’s someone living with an intense pressure while still keeping a cool head while helping her loving but dysfunctional family. And on top of that, there’s also a wonderfully weird energy to the character. She’s so very sweetly square, often missing or approaching things from a somewhat sheltered way or laughing at old jokes like they are fresh. Beyond that, sometimes she’s so square, it veers into the bizarre, including this all time great moment.

JBear

Picking a favourite Simpson was very difficult, but I have ever-so-slowly over the years come around to Johnny's (correct) opinion that Marge is the secret best Simpsons. She reminds me of my own mom in all of the funniest ways, and gets all of the best, wholesome comic beats. I just think she's neat.



Plaintiffs:



Defense:

“It does us help that the Bride’s testimony is mostly a series of shrieks. Just keep Marge off the stand.”

 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I totally missed the original era of the Simpsons craze, when George H.W. Bush told the National Religious Broadcasters convention that if he was re-elected, he would make America less like The Simpsons and more like The Waltons. Well, Bush didn't get re-elected and nobody in our generation talks about the Waltons. But I grew up in a household that saw things like H.W. did and forbid viewing of the venerable TV cartoon family. Not that it mattered much to me - I was home schooled and never watched TV at prime time, so I lacked the all-important peer pressure or even the access to the TV set that would have put Simpsons in front of me.

The most Simpsons exposure I had as a kid was occasionally trying out Bart's Nightmare and Krusty's Super Fun House at the video rental shops. I saw a few episodes on TV in high school when I hung out at my friends' houses, but otherwise I only knew what I knew about it through cultural osmosis. And that's how it remained through most of my life.

But last year at the outset of the pandemic we signed up for Disney Plus and started a watch-through of the show. We started on season 2, dipping in and out of the show as time goes on (we're up to mid-season 4 now). It's amazing how well a comedic cartoon show for adults from the 1990s has aged. In many cases it's aged better than some of its later competitors.

Anyway all that aside, I did put a Simpson on my list, but it wasn't Marge. If I didn't pick the one I picked, though, it would have been her.
 

Issun

Let's 90s gaming
Marge is great.

I didn't put any Simpsmans on my list. I enjoy the show, but I don't have the attachment to it others here do. I figured it'd be well represented without my help anyways.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
39. Bart Simpson



73 Points, 3 Lists, #6 Johnny Unusual

"You've got the brains and the talent to go as far as you want. And when you do, I'll be right there to borrow money.”

Source Material: The Simpsons

Voice Actor: Nancy Cartwright

Bart Simpson is a Springfield resident who lives at 742 Evergreen Terrace. He’s the eldest son of the Simpson family which includes his mother Marge and father Homer and his sister Lisa and Maggie. Bart is a underachieving student at Springfield Elementary School and is known for his prank pulling and classclowning. His best friend is Milhouse, a meeker boy who is eager to help Bart with his mischief and he is often the bane of his principal, the straight-laced Seymour Skinner. His trouble making behaviour often causes grief for his parents, particularly his father, whom he likes to take down a peg if the opportunity presents itself.


Despite his love of making trouble, Bart genuinely loves his parents and will defend the people close to him, though sometimes he acts out when he perceives a slight. Sometimes this can be unreasonable, such as hurting his sister’s feelings for petty reasons but sometimes it is getting revenge for against the people who wrong him. Whatever the reason, his parents often have difficulty discipling him. This is no small part in his savvy and charisma, which often counters the genius book smarts of his younger sister. He can often use these for not only creative pranks but occasional entrepreneurial endeavors.


When the Simpsons first aired, Bart was the star, with his anti-authority, audacious attitude which, by today’s standards, feels pretty mild. But those who lived through Bart-mania would be understood for not realizing the humanity of Bart. On my rewatch, he’s a character I see a lot of myself in. I wasn’t savvy and I was afraid of making trouble but a lot of the best episodes focus on what happens after Bart gets in trouble (and as I careless kid, I DO get this), processing it and proving himself a good kid, such as Marge Not Be Proud, which I now feel is both one of the most emotional episodes but also laugh out loud hilarious. As Marge says, “he has a kind of spark. It’s not a bad thing, but it makes him do bad things.” It was only later how astute the observation was, that the same instincts that draw him to trouble also draw him to justice (such as leading other kids against bullies) and trying to make the world a better place. If anything, the systems that fail Bart are often more egregious than the majority of Bart’s destructive but often clever pranks. It’s one of the things that the show forgets later on; it’s not that Lisa is the smart one, it’s that they both excel in different skillsets.


Plaintiffs:





Defense:

“Hopefully they’ll contend with each other. That said, when possible, get the kid on the stand.”

 

Issun

Let's 90s gaming
I'm surprised to see multiple Simpsons so low, but perhaps everyone knew a lot of characters from the show would make it, and so left the upper tier of their lists for other characters.
 
Marge was a painful cut for me, and on another day she might have made it. I now have no idea if the Simpsons character I did vote for will show up, probably not but who knows. This is a fun and suspenseful list!
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
I wound up voting for two Simpsons, and neither of them were these two.

I would have voted for Marge, just for strength of her thinking potatoes are neat
 
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