John Carpenter’s 1988 alien invasion flick They Live is one of the modern classics of campy science fiction. With lines like, “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubblegum,” it’s hard not to fall in love this damn movie. Among other things, it’s fun, over the top, and more than a little ridiculous. In many regards it would be perfect fodder for a Saturday morning cartoon, except for, you know, the violence. Reading that statement you may ask yourself the question, what would a They Live cartoon show look like? It’s very possible that it could resemble these new images.
From the more-than-a-little-twisted mind of artist Dan Barrett, this is more than just a reimagining of Then Live. This is a fully formed idea for a show that is also a follow up to Carpenter’s original. For the uninitiated, They Live details the adventures of a transient day laborer named Nada, played by WWF (it was World Wrestling Federation in those days) superstar “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Through sheer coincidence he stumbles on magical sunglasses that allow him to see the aliens who have blended into our society and assumed positions of power. He proceeds to call them awesome things like, “formaldehyde-face,” before he blasts them with a shotgun and inadvertently joins a fledgling resistance.
Barrett’s concept picks up after the end of They Live, after Nada and his boy Frank (Keith David)—who share one of the longest, most absurd fist fights in all of movie history—blow up the transmitter in Los Angeles. They “take the fight to New York City. There they meet a young girl named Maya who has attempted to digitally subvert the alien invasion. Her hacking efforts can only go so far so she enlists the demolition talents of Nada and Frank.”
The art is spot on, and captures the look and feel of an 80s cartoon perfectly, but the coolest part of this whole endeavor is how Barrett concocted a detailed, elaborate concept to go along with his pictures. There are new characters, like Maya, a new location—NYC—and he expands the scope of the narrative from LA to worldwide. Frank and Nada never encounter a big boss, so Barrett created one. Every cartoon needs a villain. And, of course, Holly (Meg Foster) is back for another go round. Her cartoon doppelganger, complete with those icy blue eyes, is spot on, as are the rest.
I’m pretty damn into this, and would have absolutely adored this show as a kid, and probably as an adult, too.
As ludicrous as this idea may sound on the surface, it isn’t that far outside the realm of possibility. This was, after all, an age when multiple properties that seem horrendously inappropriate for children, were adapted into animated shows targeted directly at them. Remember Chuck Norris: Karate Commandos, the RoboCop cartoon, or the Conan the Barbarian animated series? Then there’s perhaps the most head-scratching addition, the Rambo cartoon? Yeah, everyone’s favorite traumatized Vietnam vet, John Rambo, got his own Saturday morning cartoon show. I’ll always wonder how anyone thought that was a good idea.