Black Friday is upon us and as an adult, the day is about the horrors of the retail world as people run over each other for the sake of getting the best deal. As a child, the day was different. It was that odd day of the four-day holiday weekend that didn’t have its own identity. Thursday is Turkey Day and the weekend is the weekend, but Friday was just that extra day that you didn’t have school. Yet in the early 90’s, it was a special and forgotten time of post-Thanksgiving cartoon blocks.
I don’t recall what channel this was on or if it was even multiple channels, but somebody in TV realized that there were countless children home with nothing to do on the day after Thanksgiving and for one day, they needed to rein in that demographic. Instead of soap operas, we’d get a 2-3 hour block of cartoons. But not just any cartoons. These would be failed pilots that the network would have lying around. Just random cartoons that would never be heard from ever again.
Even to this day, I can only recall three off the top of my head. One was something called the Moo Family Holiday Hoe-Down, which was about a family reunion of sorts with a bunch of musical cows where two of them got thrown through history over the course of the half hour until making it back to the party. Another – and easily the most famous – is Battletoads, an attempt at animating the nigh-impossible NES game. The cartoon was memorable for having one of the stranger battle cries: “LET’S GET HORNY!” I kid you not.
But 1994, the final year I can recall ever seeing one of these cartoon blocks, gave us Legend of the Hawaiian Slammers.
Released by DiC Entertainment, Legend of the Hawaiian Slammers was an attempt to capitalize on the mid-90’s fad that was pogs. Yes, pogs. Remember pogs? They’re back. In superhero form.
Despite how forgettable the blocks of Black Friday cartoons were back in the day, I always recalled this show, partially because of the hilarious opening theme song. The lyrics went a-something… a-like this.
Slammers of Darkness
Slammers of Light
When they come together they FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!
They strike like hammers!
And then repeat. You know you’re in for fun when all of the action is taken from the lone episode itself, leading to repeat shots because they ran out of interesting footage.
It begins with the laboratory of the evil Dr. Von Fragman. We know he’s evil because the very first thing he mentions is how his archeologist colleagues laughed at him. That’s never a good sign. Cutting open a stone covered in Hawaiian hieroglyphics, he uncovers a metal coin, otherwise known as a slammer. Figuring out the instructions, he spins the slammer so that it revolves around him. The slammer then turns to black smoke and transforms into the badass-looking Shadow Slammer.
After laughing a deep and maniacal laugh, he kneels down in front of Von Fragman and says, “Like the sun commands its planets, he whom the slammer revolves around is master of its power.” Von Fragman is pretty excited about this and commands him to stand and explain his powers. Shadow Slammer talks big about darkening hearts and bringing terror to all he touches, but really, his power is making things dark.
So far, the cartoon is on the right track. I genuinely like this villain concept. Shadow Slammer has a neat look and ominous voice and in most other cartoons, he’d come off as a top tier threat. Only here he’s forced to be subservient to a dipshit second-rate mad scientist. Think of it if, say, Darkseid was forced to be a willing slave to Bruno Mannheim. I don’t know, I think it’s a cool twist.
Shadow Slammer explains that there are nine other slammer gods out there. If Von Fragman were to wield all ten slammers, he would essentially command all of nature and would easily rule the world. He points to a map of Hawaii and claims that the others are locked in a volcano.
From there, we meet Ronnie (top left), our main character. Because this is a 90’s cartoon, he’s a radical dude with an incredibly diverse set of friends. Not that we get any personality out of them other than the black kid being a bit of a fuckup. Ronnie plays pogs with them and dominates with his reality-bending ability to spin his slammer in a way that’s a complete affront to physics. I should note that at no point do they actually say “pogs” because that’s trademarked. Yes, they’re doing a cartoon tie-in to something that they aren’t even officially affiliated with.
Back to the villain plot, Von Fragman wanders through a nearby volcano with his outdoorsy garb making him look like a leprechaun.
Shadow Slammer locates a second slammer buried in a wall of rock, so Von Fragman sets up some explosives. In a neat little moment, he lights the fuse and yells to run while Shadow Slammer simply stands there defiantly and says, “Nothing mortal can harm the dark.” God, Shadow Slammer. Your design is wasted on this show. Wait, shouldn’t he have run anyway because Von Fragman told him to?
Von Fragman finds a slab of rock with a slammer sticking out and gets excited until realizing that setting off explosives in a volcano is a really stupid thing to do. Some lava chases him out, but it’s only a minor eruption. Shadow Slammer’s something of a beacon anyway, so they’ll find where the rock ended up regardless.
We check in with Ronnie again for the sake of seeing his black friend do a “NOT!” joke (which was already old and tired before this cartoon was created) before Ronnie has to cut out. He’s late for his guitar lesson and takes a shortcut in a field. Wouldn’t you know it, he trips over the piece of rock with the slammer embedded into it. Man, that cooled down fast. He’s all excited about finding this metal slammer even though my 20 seconds of reading the Wikipedia page on pogs shows that metal slammers are looked down upon and usually outright banned for essentially being unfair.
We meet Ronnie’s guitar instructor, who is an old man in a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses. His voice acting is fascinating to listen to because it’s like the guy is trying to sound Jamaican, but by overlaying an old man accent, he sounds more Irish than anything else. He also breaks into tired “this is what TV writers think kids talk like” lingo and shows how hip he is by teaching him a classical piece, identified as an Eric Clapton riff.
It doesn’t take long for Von Fragman and Shadow Slammer to bust onto the scene. If teleporting out of black smoke isn’t enough to show that he means business, Shadow Slammer makes a statement about the guitar teacher’s musical talents.
Afraid for his teacher, Ronnie pulls his slammer out of his pocket. He fumbles and the slammer hits the floor with a spin. It revolves around him and Sun Slammer appears.
90% of the footage of Sun Slammer shows him doing this exact pose.
He bows to Ronnie and gives the same speech about awaiting his command. Von Fragman yells at Shadow Slammer to take care of him. Oh, man! This is going to be awesome! Shadow Slammer’s going to pull off something so cool that—
And he just hugs him and throws him through a wall. Uh huh. You know, now that I look at this, Shadow Slammer is a pretty bad idea for a villain because he may come off as completely ominous, but, “I make shadows!” doesn’t make you much of a fighter.
Once Ronnie gives Sun Slammer the go-ahead to fight back, Sun Slammer shows him how it’s done. He fires light blasts from his hands, the circle on his chest and even turns his arm into a solar sword thing. It really makes Shadow Slammer look pretty sad. Defeated, he reverts into slammer form and Von Fragman runs off with him in hand.
The police, firemen and media are on the way to investigate what’s going on, but Sun Slammer is able to blind them all with his light and use the diversion to escape with Ronnie. They take a break for a second and Sun Slammer starts up a flashback sequence.
Thousands of years ago, Hawaii was all peaceful and stuff and a volcanic eruption caused a rift in time and space. Five evil gods appeared to create havoc.
Lava Slammer, Storm Slammer, Lead Slammer, Fire Slammer and Shadow Slammer. And strangely, yes, they were referred to as “Slammer” back then. Weird.
We see them destroy a village with their powers. As I watch it again for this review, I see that the animators really got things mixed up here. Lead Slammer throws a rock at a nearby hut and it bursts into flames. Meanwhile, Lava Slammer walks past a building and his stomping weight causes it to crumble. Whoops.
Again, we see how worthless Shadow Slammer is. Fire Slammer sets homes on fire. Lead Slammer does the same… somehow. Lava Slammer at one points transforms himself into a pool of lava and destroys a big chunk of the village singlehandedly. Storm Slammer uses lightning and high winds to cause even more destruction. Shadow Slammer makes it darker. Thanks for that, chief.
To combat them, five heroic gods appeared.
Water Slammer, Earth Slammer, Gold Slammer, Ice Slammer and Sun Slammer.
The two sides fought it out and after a hundred years, they realized that this was a stalemate. Neither side was capable of destroying the other. Soon all their animation was just repeated and goddesses Water Slammer and Fire Slammer started getting a little too familiar.
Since the background shows that villages were still being burned to the ground, the Slammers of Light cut their losses and figured out some way to seal them all away in tiny disc form. It’s never really explained how. They just went from fighting to being transformed into slammers. Then Sun Slammer and Shadow Slammer fought it out inside that volcano in a room specially made to hold these little slammers. They too became slammers, the volcano exploded for dramatic value and that’s that.
From here, the exposition becomes contradictory. On one hand, the cartoon tells us that if Von Fragman were to control all ten slammers, he would rule the world. Then Sun Slammer tells Ronnie that only evil people can use the Slammers of Darkness and only good people can use the Slammers of Light. It’s also said that Sun Slammer’s slammer sought out Ronnie due to his inherent goodness. But they really need to get a move on so that Von Fragman doesn’t control all the slammers! Which Sun Slammer specifically just said he can’t do! Make up your mind, story!
The flashback also takes a lot of wind out of the show’s sails because it isn’t as dramatic when you know that the slammer characters can’t die, even against each other. There are stakes there, sure, but it isn’t all that fun when there’s no kryptonite in the equation for either side.
Sun Slammer brings Ronnie to the volcano and says he needs to get his ass down there. Ronnie isn’t so keen on this, for good reason. Sun Slammer talks him into it by saying that he needs to make selfless decisions like he did in order to save the world. Ronnie buys into it and figures, “If Indiana Jones can do it, I guess I can too.”
What? No. That’s like saying, “If ‘the World’s Strongest Man’ Mark Henry can tear this phonebook in half, it must be easy.”
Little do they know that Von Fragman and Shadow Slammer are watching their every step. I notice that Ronnie has to climb down himself with Sun Slammer following him. Sun Slammer could easily just carry him and fly around the volcano’s insides. What a dick.
Again, the cartoon contradicts itself. Earlier, Von Fragman had to ask Shadow Slammer to show him to where the slammers were to the point that he was able to go, “Oh, right, it’s inside this wall over here. Trust me on this.” Now Sun Slammer is insisting that Ronnie has to trust his instincts and figure out where the other slammers are himself. Besides, Sun Slammer should know damn well where that special room is. According to that flashback, he was there right before his big sleep. Even if he didn’t, why doesn’t Von Fragman go back to having Shadow Slammer lead the way like before? It would save time.
As they walk through the volcano, an elevator music version of the show’s cheesy theme song plays. Nice.
Shadow Slammer is in luck as he’s in one of the few places where his powers aren’t worthless. He enshrouds Ronnie in shadow, Ronnie stumbles in the wrong direction, walks off a cliff and slides down a tunnel in a fall that really should have broken most bones in his body. Sun Slammer uses the talents he learned from Goatse Slammer to get past his dark rival.
Despite being separated from his idiot buddy, Ronnie is able to find his way to the room where all the slammers are held. Von Fragman follows him and commands Shadow Slammer to hold him at bay. Sun Slammer reappears at this point, but Von Fragman keeps him busy by releasing the Ursula-from-Little-Mermaid-looking Storm Slammer and ordering her to, “Blot out the sun… forever!”
Realizing that he has no chance of overpowering the evil god holding him down, Ronnie saves the day by fishing a pog out of his pocket, flicking it and using his ridiculous pog-playing skills to knock one of the slammers out of Von Fragman’s hands. Von Fragman commands Shadow Slammer to grab it, freeing Ronnie. Ronnie flicks another pog at it, causing it to land near him, spinning around until transforming into Gold Slammer.
With a sultry voice, she tells him, “Don’t just stand there gawking. Command me.” Even as a kid, I thought that was borderline creepy.
By this point, the writer gets tired of coming up with ways for Ronnie and Von Fragman to unleash the slammers, so it gets lazy. Von Fragman would just throw three of them to the ground and they’d transform while Ronnie would get the same results from being thrown into the piece of stone where the other three were being held. All ten slammers are there and they go back to fighting their counterparts.
Since neither team is allowed to win due to the ground rules that got them into this situation in the first place and we only have a minute and a half of show left, Von Fragman yells that their fighting is messing with the volcano. The room begins to crumble. Even though Ronnie tells Sun Slammer that he has to get out of there, Sun Slammer does the self-sacrifice bit where he insists that he’ll hold them off. Heroic and all, but again goes against the whole command gimmick.
The place falls to pieces and the various battlers simply turn into slammer discs with no rhyme or reason. They’d be grappling, they turn bright and then their slammers would just fall to the floor. Sun Slammer puts all of them away but himself, just before some lava spills onto him from the crumbling ceiling above.
Ronnie escapes by falling out of a little side exit in the volcano. Escaping the flowing lava, he sadly looks up and says his goodbyes to Sun Slammer, wherever he is. The volcano violently explodes and Ronnie decides he should cheese it. He then trips over another slab and once again finds Sun Slammer’s disc embedded into it. He happily picks it up and runs off. Again, that JUST got fired out of a volcano! His leg should have been fried to the bone the second he tripped over that thing.
The final shot is of the volcano, which is supposed to be a hopeful image, but looking at how strong that lava is spilling out, this might call for an island-wide evacuation.
I figure that had there been a second episode, the good slammer caps would have ended up in the hands of Ronnie, his three nondescript friends and maybe his guitar teacher. Who knows? Either way, it didn’t pass inspection and went on to stillborn TV heaven with all the other failed pilots. At least they were able to make a couple bucks by releasing it on VHS.
You know, it’s weird. Watching this again so many years later, I can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu. There’s something familiar about it all. The story of a blond, long-haired superhero who appeared to counter a shadowy and sinister supervillain. A war that went on for so long without a winner that the sun-powered hero had to sacrifice them both to win, allowing history to forget them both. Then they return to the present, going back to their endless war until once again, the hero erases them both. Yet the ending reveals that he isn’t gone for good. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but…
Oh. Huh. How about that.
So there you go. Legend of the Hawaiian Slammers is the closest thing we’ll ever get to Sentry: The Animated Series.