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Fighting Crime In A Future Time With The Real COPS Of The 80s I LRM’s Retro-Specs

Welcome to the February installment of LRM’s Retro-Specs! The 80s cartoon and toy boom is so extensive that at times many can fly under the radar. There are so many forgotten gems that need some love. The trope of cops versus robbers spans the decades. While many remember 1989 brining the world one of the early reality TV shows (Cops) there is another cartoon that earns some of the spotlight in the 80s: COPS

COPS Refresher

Cheesy tag lines and the 80s are synonymous. The COPS cartoon is no different. “Fighting crime in a future time” and “It’s crime fighting time!” sets the tone for the series. I thought the cartoon was awesome. It’s the typical cops vs. robbers/bad guys idea. In 80s fashion, everyone was big, bulky, but unique. The show has 65 episodes, yet only lasts for one year. It gets mixed in with many of the other cartoons in the late 80s as it lasts from October of 1988 to February 1989. 

COPS stands for Central Organization of Police Specialists. In 1989 the show is on Saturdays as reruns with the name change to Cyber Cops due to the OTHER Cops show. Seeing as the 80s are a time of toys and cartoon connections, those that succeeded had long-term plans.

Others tried to catch lightning in a bottle and ride the success of other 80s cartoons. COPS is based on a toy line from Hasbro called COPS ‘n’ Crooks. The toys are actually awesome, which I will cover later. I could be wrong, but it seems that when the toys are made first, then the cartoon, there does not seem to be as much lasting power.

The cartoon is good though. Set in the future (2020…sigh…) in Empire City. Agent Baldwin P. Vess is sent to take down crime leader Big Boss. After almost dying at his hands, Agent Vess is given a bulletproof torso donning the name “Bulletproof” (of course).

Yes, definitely has a RoboCop vibe, but comes out a year prior so of course it is an idea to try to ride on. There are a group of COPS who all have skilled attributes and nicknames. My favorite is P.J. O’Malley better known as “Longarm”. Why? Well he has a cool mounted piece on his arm that shoots a retractable handcuff. He uses it as a grappling hook, to apprehend villains, etc. Pretty badass!

There are also Highway, HardTop, MainFrame, Mirage, and Bullseye to name a few. Of course who can forget the robot dog, Blitz. The villains who work for Big Boss have equally cool names such as my favorite Buttons McBoomBoom who unbuttons his vest and machine guns pop out. There’s also the likes of Turbo Tu-Tone with a great fu man chu, and Dr. Badvibes. Such great names! 

Fun Toy Line

As mentioned before, the cartoon comes from Hasbro’s initial toy line. And the toys are excellent! The Hasbro line comes out in 1988 and does well enough for two series as well as vehicles. The toys are detailed, fairly large with distinguishable features, and a good amount of weapons/accessories that come with them. 

The weapons are quite unique. Buttons McBoomBoom has a guitar case with a machine gun inside, which is awesome and goes well with his mechanical machine guns in his chest. The best part? Many of the toys came with caps which could be places in the character’s weapons and made for miniature cap guns!

Of course there is only a small amount of caps, then you would have to nag your parents for more cap strips. However, they weapons can still clearly find use without them, but the caps clearly make them so much cooler!

There are a total of nine awesome vehicles. The best part is that the vehicles would come with a character, much like many G.I. Joe vehicles. Each one is unique and reflects the character using it which were then seen in the cartoon as well. My favorite is the Cop Cycle with Blue Streak and Air Raid with Bullseye. They seemed so futuristic and cop-like with the colors always made them memorable. The caps that are included really put a nice, unique touch on the line. 

Comic Connections

There is of course a comic line. However, it would last about as long as the toy line and cartoon. DC Comics releases a 15-issue series from 1988-1989. I really appreciated it because I thoroughly enjoy the show and toys.

To be honest, the comics were often better than the cartoon. I did not get into the comics right away. COPS comes back in 1993 as Cyborg Cops and again in 1995 with the original name. I was a little older at this time. But looking back through the comics later on realized how they are actually darker than the cartoon.

It’s understandable why the tone of the cartoon was lighter. That’s the direction they were moving. We can see this with Season 1 of TMNT in comparison to Seasons 2 and 3. Now while the COPS comics are not as dark as the original Eastman and Laird TMNT series, you can definitely tell a difference.

Think of it like the difference between X-Men comics compared to the X-Men: The Animated Series. While the cartoon was somewhat dark, there is still a noticeable difference to the comics. It seems like a recipe for success, right? However, there are a few reasons the series did not last.

The Short Life Of The Series

All good things must come to an end. However, a series that looks like it could be a strong franchise is not meant to be. It had 65 episodes, toys from Hasbro, comics from DC. So what happened? The idea had potential, but many felt that the stories were not completely thought out and the animation was “clunky” as IGN notes. Steve Head of IGN also suggests that the episodes are too formulaic:

Bulletproof introduces the case in voiceover, reading from the case file, quickly setting the stage for Big Boss’ or fellow conspirator Dr. Bad Vibes’ latest scheme. ‘Here’s how the case went down,’ he says. And minutes after that, we get the robbery or the domination-of-the-city plot.”

While this is not completely off track from many other 80s cartoons. I feel that in itself is part of the issue. It was just “another” cartoon jam packed with some other really outstanding concepts. With that said, I still highly recommend checking it out.

If you think of it from a nostalgic viewpoint and watching it as a kid in the 80s, it stands to entertain. COPS is out on DVD since 2006, as well as on Amazon. It is also currently streaming on Amazon Prime. You can view some episodes on YouTube. Don’t let the haters hold you back from checking out this lost 80s gem!

ALSO SEE: Flying Back To 80s Fantasy Flick: Flight Of The Navigator I LRM’s Retro-Specs

Do you remember COPS from the 80s? Who is your favorite character? Do you have any of the toys? Are you going to check it out on Amazon Prime or YouTube? Leave your thoughts in the usual spot, and thanks for reading!

Sources: IGN, TV Tropes, Figure Realm, Retropolis

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