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The Crazy Legacy of Roger Ramjet

In the mid-60s, the audiences were introduced to an unlikely superhero, Roger Ramjet. Roger Ramjet is the quintessential, highly moral, space-age superhero tasked with the responsibility of saving the world. His strength and instrument are his Proton Energy Pills, which give him strength equivalent to 20 atom bombs in just 20 seconds. If you are wondering what are these Proton Energy Pills, hold on. We will get to that fun part in just a short while.

Facts Verse Presents The Crazy Legacy of Roger Ramjet. Before we tell you more about this cartoon series, please take a moment’s time to like and subscribe to our channel and press the bell icon to stay updated about all our latest videos.

Roger Ramjet is a highly patriotic superhero, committed to safeguarding the American way of life. He, therefore, finds himself forever involved in battles started by the National Association of Spies, Traitors, and Yahoos (N.A.S.T.Y) or forces of evil. Always on some government mission, Ramjet keeps running into different enemies and is often captured by them. Ramjet has his trusted side-kicks — Yank, Doodle, Dan, and Dee — who go by the name the American Eagles Squadron and appear every single time to save Roger Ramjet. Though his sidekicks are much younger than Ramjet, they are far more skilled, technologically advanced, and fly their personal ramjet aircraft without any problem and much like Ramjet, all four of them wear white jumpsuits and aircraft helmets all the time. They all love the American way of life and would go to any extent to protect the planet and of course, their boss.

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Roger Ramjet is a highly patriotic superhero and his love for America is such that every time his name is uttered on screen, either the American flag or a rotating ring of stars appear magically on the screen — it’s bizarre but funny. And though Ramjet is quite ill-starred and ineffectual most of the time, his Proton Energy Pills (PEP) transform him into a superhero capable of taking over all his arch-enemies. Roger particularly used these pills to their best advantage while dealing with his arch-rival Noodles Romanoof, the head of the N.A.S.T.Y), who always attacks Roger with his gang of thugs and ruffians. Other than Romanoff, Ramjet and his American Eagle Squadron also often find themselves standing face-to-face with other series villains, trying to invade planet Earth to destroy it. Sometimes, their strategy to destroy the planet is so bizarre you will find yourself scratching your head. For instance, in one particular episode, these villains kidnap all Miss America contestants. Seriously, who was writing this stuff?

Coming back to the Proton Energy Pills (PEP). The PEPs are nothing but doses of amphetamine. Well, to the current-day audience, the idea of a superhero binging on amphetamine pills may seem bizarre and even inappropriate, the concept worked well in the 1960s when the audience was relatively much more naive.

Though Roger Ramjet first aired in 1965, the audience truly discovered this show when it aired on syndication between 1979 and 1994 on different networks. In Australia, ABC first aired the show in 1966. The English audience got access to it through the BBC and ITV between 1979 and 1994. The European audience, on the other hand, got access to Roger Ramjet through Sky Channel and Bravo between 1985 and 1993. The series also appeared on Cartoon Network in the mid-1990s. It currently airs in the US on Kids & Teens TV. Most people who today remember Roger Ramjet probably discovered the show on one of these many networks.

Roger Ramjet was created by Fred Crippen (who later created a few episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle) and Ken Snyder, who later became a cartoon producer. Fred and Crippen weren’t geniuses but they created a wonderful team of artists. Gene Moss, Jim Thurman, Dick Beats, and Gary Owens were some of the talented people who joined the team of Roger Ramjet. The funny thing was that since the show was a communal effort, with everyone contributing to the writing and other tasks, all the artists also got credits in the end.

For years, the show often appeared squeezed between more popular cartoon shows, which is the reason why Roger Ramjet stayed a relatively unknown superhero for a long, long time. More importantly, this was a show that was created and conceptualized in the mid-1960s. Thus, all the sketches were quite crude and lacked the fineness of the more popular comedy shows of the time. Each episode was just five minutes (seven minutes if you included the opening and the closing credits) and was so crudely made that the cartoon looked like the work of school kids. In fact, if you see the show properly, you will realize that the creative team did not even bother with crucial details like ‘background’ and ‘setting’.

Believe it or not, but the entire team operated on a meager budget, which is why they often did away with the niceties. Writers, animators, and voiceover artists who had proper day jobs worked on the cartoon in the evenings and night to create Roger Ramjet. Since those who worked on the show were all talented and renowned artists, even with a meager budget, the team was able to churn out great material every day. More importantly, Roger Ramjet served as the medium which these artists used to toss around the jabs that their day jobs disallowed them to throw at people. This team was the reason why Roger Ramjet was so relevant and sharp even while being crude in its presentation.

What Roger Ramjet lacked in terms of animation, it more than made up for in terms of content — the writing was pretty amazing. More importantly, the voice artists who worked on the show were incredibly talented artists, so much so that they made you forget all the crudeness that we just discussed with their interpretation of the various characters. These artists made Roger Ramjet seem like a spoof of some of the popular radio shows of the 40s, such as Sky King and Gangbusters.

If compared to the shows of today, Roger Ramjet was closest to South Park — the humor was certainly smart and meant more for the adults than the kids. Of course, the humor in Roger Ramjet was far more toned down than the humor in South Park — sexual expletives were never used and the creators, of course, stayed away from hurting any religious sentiments. However, even while staying away from being controversial, the show was quite funny, often making keen and sharp observations on the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and the Central America turmoil.

Other than making keen observations about political events, Roger Ramjet also often dropped big names casually. From Nöel Coward and James Joyce to Rusty Warren and Henry Cabot Lodge, the show’s creators often found interesting ways to throw innuendos at celebrities. And of course, like so many other comedy shows, Roger Ramjet also often paid homage to iconic books like Catch-22 and Catcher in the Rye. The show airs today in different parts of the world and though the audiences may find some of the jokes dated and even beyond their grasp, there is still a lot to be enjoyed.

Roger Ramjet was in many ways inspired by The Bullwinkle Show, a show about a bunch of animals running a TV station. However, Roger Ramjet did in a five-minute episode what Bullwinkle and his friends did across several episodes. Roger Ramjet brought the idea of references, jokes, and plot twists from Bullwinkle and the same quick-cut, rapid-fire comedy style was later replicated by shows like The Monkees and Laugh-In. Similarly, much like Bullwinkle, at the beginning of every episode, a narrator would set the theme and tone for the entire episode. As soon as this was done, the audiences were hurriedly pushed into the plot, which was invariably always filled with jokes coming from all sides.

Together, the entire team created 156 episodes, and all the episodes were sold into syndication in 1965. Each episode was half-hour-long and showed three independent adventures of Roger Ramjet and his American Eagles Squadron. When you see the episodes you realize that the team did not have any particular target segment in their mind — they created a cartoon simply because they wanted to create one.

If we look back at it now, the characters, themes, plots, and twists occupied a secondary place in Roger Ramjet. The show laid much more focus on the writing, the numerous jokes that were a part of each episode as well as the different references that the shows made to events and people alike. Believe it or not, in one particular episode, which we believe the writers wrote to show their love for Westerns, Roger Ramjet and his side-kicks threw random references to eight or nice classic

Western films. In fact, each episode was filled with so many references, puns, and bad jokes, that the audiences often felt the need to watch different episodes all over again simply to get all the material. More often than not, trying to understand a single episode of Roger Ramjet took the same amount of time it would take a person to finish an entire episode of MAD magazine. However, it was always worth the effort — you would feel mentally drained at the end of it but also more intelligent. And let’s face it — Roger Ramjet was a show about a superhero who took amphetamine pills and thus, was probably targetted at stoners, who generally have all the time in the world to analyze and understand things. So, it all actually made a lot of sense.

Back in the 1960s, most of the cartoons were made in such a way that they targetted adults more than children. For instance, both Bugs Bunny and Betty Boop were created keeping the adult sensibilities in mind. However, what made Roger Ramjet different than any other cartoon of its time was the way it combined the radio-style narration of the 1940s with the cynicism of the 60s. More importantly, this was a cartoon that challenged the already deteriorating attention span of the audiences by impelling them to spend time to uncover various jokes and references. It also often made extremely intelligent remarks while covering itself under the garb of just another dim-witted superhero series. Not many people remember Roger Ramjet today, but those of us who have seen the cartoon are very easily able to see the influence it had on the many subversive animated shows that were created after Roger Ramjet.

Do you remember Roger Ramjet? How did you like the show? Do you remember the puns, the bad jokes, and the references? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section — we love hearing from our audiences. Before you move to the next Facts Verse Presents video, take a moment to like and subscribe to our channel and press the bell icon to stay updated about our latest videos.

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