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

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Even as a sheltered evangelical, growing up in the 90s it was impossible to miss the Bartmania. He was everywhere. On t-shirts, in video games, advertising Butterfingers. And evangelicals hated him. They hated him way more than any of the other Simpsons. One of my favorite pop culture podcasts, Decoder Ring, has an episode taking a deep dive into this particular era of cultural zeitgeist. I recommend it.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
38. The Brain



73 Points, 3 Lists, #4 Torzelbaum

" I feel the need. I feel the need for expeditious velocity.”

Source Material: Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain

Voice Actor: Maurice LaMarche

The Brain is a super-intelligent lab mouse who lives in Acme Labs. Genetically manipulated and mutated, the Brain’s improvement seems largely ignored by his owners, who use him by day for study and research. But at night, he plots to conquer the world. His only ally is Pinky, a similarly mutated rat but with a much lower intelligence and much more erratic behaviour. The Brain is convinced that only he has the true intelligence to lead the world and concocts schemes every night to do so. However, either by bungling by himself, Pinky or some unexpected x-factor, the Brain invariably loses, with the world being none the wiser that someone was trying to conquer it.


The Brain values his intelligence and views humanity as being of lesser intelligence, in need of being lead. However, as smart as he is, he often over-estimates his own savvy, sometimes sabotaging his own plans through his own arrogance or frustration. Though he blames Pinky for his failures, there is just as much chance he is to blame, even to the point where he learns this to be true when he makes Pinky super-intelligent. He also cares for Pinky, though he is often abusive towards his assistant, bonking him for any infraction or stupid comment. But when he is in need, Pinky is always there for him and at times, he actually becomes appreciative of this fact… though this usually doesn’t last long.


A funny villain is always good but the Brain is more of an antihero than a villain. Or rather, he fits in the category of villain that’s so doomed to failure that you are on there side. After all, he’s never malicious and while he can be cruel to Pinky at times, he is often a sympathetic if wrong-headed fellow. We certainly don’t want him to actually succeed but we do spend the show on his side. It helps like a lot of our characters that we occasionally get some emotional vulnerability for the duo but while both parties were voted for, I think seeing the Brain become emotionally vulnerable is more rewarding than the always emotional Pinky. I think the show wouldn’t be as much fun to watch without enriching this character, which is the advantage when the duo finally got their own series.


Plaintiffs:




Defense:

“What if, on Halloween, we air a broadcast about how the Earth is being invaded by a better law firm who is willing to defend our client. Would that scare him into backing down?”
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
37. Mojo Jojo



73 Points, 4 Lists, #13 Issun

"All right, you flea-bitten curs! Heel! I, Mojo Jojo, am your master, and you shall obey my commands like the dogs you are! Because I am your master, it is I who you will obey! Obeying commands is what you will do! I will give you commands, and you will obey them!”

Source Material: The Powerpuff Girls

Voice Actor: Roger L. Jackson, Masashi Ebara (Powerpuff Girls Z), Michael Dobson (Powerpuff Girls Z)

Mojo Jojo is a super-intelligent chimpanzee who lives in an observatory in the middle of a park in the City of Townsville. A supervillain through and through, Mojo Jojo’s main goal is power, world conquest and the destruction of the Powerpuff Girls, a trio of pre-school aged superheroes. He is noted for his unique manner of speech where he is constantly reiterating himself to an extremely redundant degree. Mojo was once a hyperactive lab chimp used by the scientist Professor Utonium until it caused an accident that both created the Powerpuff Girls AND mutated him into super-intelligence.


Though the Powerpuff Girls have faced monsters, aliens and the devil himself (in a Rocky Horror sort of way), Mojo Jojo is the Girls’ most tenacious villain and probably the one who has come closest to truly defeating them. Despite this, while the Girls’ often take him as a menace when he’s pulling off a plan, they are just as likely to treat him as a nuisance or even a playmate if they meet him on a non-“battle for the fate of the Earth” basis, where the Girls often drive him to distraction. Mojo relishes his evil and intelligence as cartoon villains often do and is proud of his machinations and inventions.


It is unfortunate that the character’s voice, particularly in the early episodes, is a stereotypical Japanese accent because the rest of the character is a classic, fun supervillain. In addition to other things (which I’ll get to), his voice is a parody of the weirder, older age of anime dub acting of the 60s and 70s. But beyond that, he’s just a completely fun, over-the-top villain who is distinct and is a genuine threat but also works great as a utility player on the show. Need someone for the Girls’ to pester? Jojo works. Need someone to take the piss out of villainy. Mojo again. He’s works all across the board but rarely feels over used, even with a specific verbal gimmick.

Plus, Devo did an entire song about him.


BTW The Powerpuff Girls’ album is legit awesome and has a bevy of alternative bands like the Apples in Stereo, Shonen Knife, Frank Black, and Optiganally Yours.

Dracula

PPG had some of the all-time great villains in cartoon history, but Mojo was my favorite. He channels all of the ineffectual blowhard charisma of 1980s cartoon villains into one tiny package.

Plaintiffs:

Fun fact, he’s a mix of these things









Defense:

“This could be a class action suit, so maybe we should deride the move as “classist”. *shrug*”
 

Issun

Let's 90s gaming
Finally, one of mine! I couldn't decide between the girls, but Mojo is probably the best character on the show anyways. I kind of see him as a bridge between Skeletor and The Monarch. Plus his speech patterns are amazing.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
36. Dr. Orpheus



74 Points, 3 Lists, #3 JBear

"Greetings, pumpkin, I am at Mr. Venture's lab... to right that which is wrong and to repair the torn curtain OF TIME ITSELF!! There are four puddings in the fridge. You may enjoy the contents of one of them. Dinner at six.”

Source Material: The Venture Bros.

Voice Actor: Steven Rattazzi

Doctor Byron Orpheus is a necromancer who lives on the Venture Compound, the base of former boy adventurer and super-scientist Dr. Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture. Orpheus lives on the compound with his daughter Trianna until she moved out and the Venture Compound was destroyed, where he located to a motorhome. Orpheus is the leader of the Order of the Triad, a team of supernatural heroes, as well as selling his mystical services to those who need it. Though Orpheus has a number of supernatural abilities, his area of study is the world of the dead and is an expert on ghosts and the undead.


Dr. Orpheus leads a relatively modest life, for an adventuring sorcerer at any rate and though he exudes melodramatic theatrics, they are as likely to be used in mundane situations as they are appropriate ones. Though Orpheus’ post-secondary education includes communications with a minor in women’s studies, he is a very talented sorcerer, with his extremely powerful “Master” proclaiming for his faults he is the greatest student he ever had. Despite his performative nature, sometimes he is underplays the more horrific aspects of his job. He is a loving and doting father, even though often he and his daughter don’t see eye-to-eye and his unfortunate habit of erasing her mind of some of the more traumatic magical encounters she’s had rather than talking about it.


Despite this last problem, Orpheus is one of the more likeable characters in the series. He is probably the best parent and best friend in the series, a guy you really want in your corner if you don’t mind the decibels. He’s one of the few characters living a comic book life who wants to live the fantasy yet is still mostly pretty competent. At the same time, his ridiculous flair for the excessive flamboyance, even in mundane situations, makes him charmingly ridiculous. And like a lot of characters on the show, there’s a yearning to be taken seriously in a world of ridiculous happenstance, something that’s never going entirely happen.


JBear

This character is so fun, and a great deal of it falls on the VA, who is amazing. I could listen to him talk all day ("An *orphan*!?"). He has the cadence of an arch-villain, but the personality of a cool uncle. He works in the occult, but he's a great guy and a doting father. He's at his best when given awful characters to bounce off of, but I could watch a whole show that was just him, if I’m being honest.

Bulgakov

Master of Foreshortening

Plaintiffs:



Defense:

“I’m pretty sure his blind lawyer doesn’t have a way to tell we are lying, so I’m sure we are fine.”
 

Bulgakov

Yes, that Russian author.
(He/Him)
He is probably the best parent and best friend in the series, a guy you really want in your corner if you don’t mind the decibels. He’s one of the few characters living a comic book life who wants to live the fantasy yet is still mostly pretty competent

I think the great appeal of Orpheus is that while his first marriage may have ended, he's generally competent at BOTH mundane and magical activities. He doesn't know how not to try his hardest and be an ethical person.
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
Brain was on my long list but didn't quite make my final. The fact that they just straight-up animated the Orson Welles commercial rant is amazing.

Mojo is a great one I completely failed to think of.

Orpheus I don't really know since I haven't seen enough Venture Bros yet. Might get around to correcting that someday.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I'll never get tired of PPG and I'll especially never get tired of Mojo Jojo. He's got the air of a character like King Dedede, who is always up to no good but ultimately feels pretty soft in comparison to the cosmic threats his enemies are always fighting off.

I didn't vote for any Venture Bros. character, but only because I've not really seen the show beyond a few of the earlier episodes. It's something I intend to correct.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
35. Spike Spiegel



75 Points, 3 Lists, #6 ThornGhost

"I’m just an old-fashioned cowboy.”

Source Material: Cowboy Bebop

Voice Actor: Kōichi Yamadera (Japanese), Steve Blum (English)



Spike Spiegel is a planet-hopping bounty hunter who lives on the spaceship The Bebop. He works with fellow hunter Jet Black and later rival Faye Valentine, eccentric hacker “Radical” Edward, and genetically engineered Corgi Ein. His work takes him across the solar system and he is usually hunting for big scores to keep him and his crew up in the skies. Spike is an excellent marksman and a master of Jeet Kune Do, the martial art made famous by Bruce Lee. Spike was formerly a gangster and member of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate but personal tragedy inspired him to leave his life of crime behind for a life of the quasi-legal.


Spike might be a fighter with only a few equals but he only seems to spend a little time training and most of it lounging around… at least when he isn’t working. Spike also is usually seen smoking ratty cigarettes. Believing he’s “died once”, Spike tends to act fearlessly in tense situations and though he often seems relaxed and cool-tempered, he can be impatient and while he presents himself as pragmatic and acting in his own best interest, it is not unusual to actually stick his neck out for people. As a hunter, he is skilled, if somewhat reckless, throwing himself into deadly situations.


Spike is one of those classic anime protagonists who lives the life of an antihero but at the end of the day is a decent person and responds well to other decent people. Elements of Spike being taken from some other beloved Japanese anti-heroes (a look and sarcastic playfulness similar to Lupin III and a smoking habit very similar to Lupin’s sidekick Jigen) mark a character in that mold but he stands on his own as a memorable protagonist due to the fact that for all the cool air about the character, there’s more going on beneath the surface. Bebop remains popular not just because of its overwhelming style but it’s marriage with substance. It’s a shows with archetypes like femme fatales and giving them depth that make the show worth returning to again and again. It might be a boring answer to direct the anime curious to this show but that’s because it is the very correct one.


Plaintiffs:

Yusaku Matsuda



Defense:

“My own defense? Keeping him unaware I’m also Miguel Sanchez.”
 

WildcatJF

Red After Image
(he / his / him)

Definitely couldn't ignore Spike when I was coming up with my list. He rounded out my Top 10. He's such a fascinating character with many nuances to his personality and demeanor...and Steve Blum gives him so much soul in the English dub. Just a fucking legend of a protagonist in all of animation as far as I'm concerned.
 
Last edited:

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I've always gotten a sense that Cowboy Bebop is more popular with American audiences than Japanese, but I don't have any actual data to back that up. It certainly has a strongly American sensibility, taking so many elements from popular western genre stuff. I love it. I've been meaning to rewatch it for a very long time. If I'd decided to allow anime onto my list, someone from this show would have been on it (but probably not Spike).
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
34. Starscream



77 Points, 3 Lists, #4 Dracula

"It’s time for action, not words! I am the leader of the future!”

Source Material: Transformers

Voice Actor: Chris Latta, Doug Parker, Michael Dobson, Jack Merluzzi, Daniel Ross, Tom Kenny, Steve Blum, Sam Riegel, Scott Whyte, Frank Todaro, Hirotaka Suzuoki, Kazuki Yao, Hiroki Takahashi, Jin Yamanoi, Nobuo Tobita, Takaya Kuroda, Tomokazu Sugita

Starscream is an alien robot from the planet Cybertron. A member of the Decepticon faction of “transformers” (robots, as you might imagine, capable of transforming), Starscream is one of the higher ranking members of the group. During a battle with their enemies, the Autobots, the leaders of each faction found themselves unconscious on Earth for millions of years before awakening and waging their war anew. To fit in to his new surroundings, Starscream took the alternate form of a fighter jet, which he uses in aerial combat and transportation. Starscream’s ultimate goal is to replace current leader Megatron as leader of the Decepticons.


While Soundwave, a loyal boombox, is Megatron’s loyal right-hand man, Megatron adheres to keeping enemies closer as it is rare for Megatron not to have Starscream nearby despite or because of his constant vocal desires to usurp. Though the Decepticons are known for their malevolent behaviour, Starscream is easily the least trustworthy and disloyal member and he is not shy about sharing that fact. At any opportunity, Starscream tries to replace his would be leader, even on the flimsiest of pretexts. However, with any given failure, he usually moves from snarky to extremely submissive, hoping to bide his time until his next chance. Despite this, Starscream constantly remains by Megatron’s side and works to battle their mutual enemy, the noble and heroic Autobots.


Starscream is yet another classic Saturday morning (or rather weekday afternoon) villain. But the fun is watching him bounce off of his boss, constantly trying to undermine him. Sniveling and scheming, he is constantly grossly estimating his own pull within the group and his own intelligence and status, only to be humiliated again and again. I always thought Soundwave was cooler but Starscream is more fun, as he brings more tension and character dynamics to the group beyond following orders. In fact, Soundwave wouldn’t work nearly as well without Starscream as a counterpoint.


Plaintiffs:



Defense:

“Try to make it a mistrial by stone.”
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
My blurb on ol' Starscream:

Bob Budiansky wrote: “He considers himself the most sophisticated and handsome of the Decepticons. He exudes a high-class, urbane air that provides a certain irony to his murderous tendencies.” Lindsay Ellis called him “baby’s first Loki.” Chris Latta’s high-pitched vocal performance in the cartoon crystallized him as the unforgettable, tragic, and mostly idiotic would-be usurper of Megatron, who would declare leadership of the Decepticons any time Megatron was slightly inconvenienced. I respect the hustle.

The Decepticons of the original G1 cartoon end up with the more memorable characters, especially in the show's first season. Megatron, Soundwave, and Starscream form a character dynamic that JU describes well in his writeup. Starscream's continuous attempts to usurp Megatron forms one of the show's most memorable recurring subplots. The Autobots don't really have anything like this - in season 1 there was Optimus and an army of nice guys with nigh-identical personalities who never had any interpersonal conflict. In season 2 they started to introduce more pathos among the Autobots (Gears, Red Alert, Grapple, and Mirage come to mind), but there was never anything quite as memorable as what we frequently saw with Starscream.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Star scream is another one I am kicking myself for forgetting, as he’s easily my favourite Transformer.

Well, I like Shockwave more, but he lacks a personality by design
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
Star scream is another one I am kicking myself for forgetting, as he’s easily my favourite Transformer.

Well, I like Shockwave more, but he lacks a personality by design
Rumble: Hey! Nobody calls Soundwave un-cruzimatic!

...

Oh, wait. You said Shockwave. Nevermind then.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
33. Zorak



77 Points, 3 Lists, #1 WildcatJF

"I am the Lone Locust of the apocalypse. Think of me when you look to the night sky!”

Source Material: Space Ghost

Voice Actor: Don Messick, C. Martin Croker, Dave Willis

Zorak is an evil alien criminal in the future who battles the superhero Space Ghost. A mantis-like creature, Zorak has threatened Space Ghost on multiple occasions and remained Space Ghost’s most recurrent rival, even joining the Council of Doom, an organization made of Space Ghost’s most vile enemies.


Buuuuuuut you aren’t here for that. You are here for the character as he became in the subsequent series Space Ghost Coast to Coast (and the spin-off The Brak Show). Within Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Space Ghost is now a talk show host and Zorak is his band leader. Zorak isn’t doing this by choice; Space Ghost has turned his own villains and prisoners into the show’s reluctant crew and constantly blasts Zorak for evil, talking back or just because. But this rarely deters Zorak from taunting Space Ghosts and his guests, trying to build up his own mythos or simply being a thorn in everyone’s side. On the Brak Show (which may be a show within a show in the very meta Adult Swim Space Ghost canon), his role is Brak’s “best friend”, though this is a one sided relationship. Where the hopeful Brak sees a friend, Zorak sees someone to hang around with while he causes as much trouble as possible for fun.


Zorak is basically a supervillain reduced to schoolyard bully. He just does bad stuff because to him it’s “cool” and that’s a fun note to play, especially against the buffoonishly square (and also just as much of a bully) Space Ghost. His role is to disrupt a show that is always off the rails and add even more antagonism than Space Ghost does (which he does). His role became similar to Nelson Muntz from the Simpsons (except more laser-blasted) in that he’s the bully but often has sort of a quasi-friendship with the person he antagonizes the most, mostly due to the fact that he’s got to talk to someone I guess.


Plaintiffs:



Defense:

“Considering the plaintiff tried to destroy all life in the universe, it’s going to be hard for them to find an impartial jury.”
 

WildcatJF

Red After Image
(he / his / him)


Zorak: My favorite episode of The Golden Girls is the one where they all took contaminated Geritol and died.
Space Ghost: That was never an episode!
Zorak: Well, it should have been.



Space Ghost: No one sleeps with my grandmother!
[pause]
Space Ghost: Right?
Zorak: Right! From now on.



Zorak: I am the Lone Locust of the apocalypse. Think of me when you look to the night sky.



God I love Zorak
 
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