Tuesday, July 15, 2008


We here in the Monster Shop are very stoked about the upcoming release of The Secret Saturdays, a new cartoon soon to debut on Cartoon Network. Created by Jay Stephens, this cool new show depicts the adventures of a family of cryptozoologists who strive to protect the world from ancient monsters and secrets, while simultaneously protecting said ancient monsters and secrets from greedy humans.

Cryptozoology, or the study of undiscovered animals, gets unjustly laughed at in scientific circles due to its concentration on what is known as "mega-fauna" cryptids. Mega-fauna cryptids are not things like undiscovered species of beetles or other insects, but big animals--in short, things like the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot. The earliest evidence of cryptozoological aspects in 'toons is most likely Hanna-Barbera's Jonny Quest, which is one of The Secret Saturdays' inspirations. Created by Doug Wildey, Jonny Quest details the adventures of the title character, a resourceful lad who travels with his father Dr. Benton Quest, pilot/adventurer Roger "Race" Bannon, Indian pal Haji and bulldog-pup Bandit on missions and adventures that span the globe and sometimes have them running into lost civilizations and ancient legends. Predating JQ, in the comic book format, was Jack Kirby's Challengers Of The Unknown, sometimes said to be a trial run for what would eventually become The Fantastic Four. The Challengers were a group of adventurers who, after miraculously surviving a plane crash unharmed, decide that they are living on borrowed time and band together for adventures that take them not only to battles with monsters and ancient beings, but to alternate universes and even across time and space. To be involved with a branch of what is known as "pseudo-science", the Saturdays have a hell of a cartoon pedigree.

Because there is no scientific proof that cryptids exist, and because most evidence for these creatures largely consists of unreliable eyewitness accounts, cryptoozoology is considered a pseudo-science. Yet at the same time, much of the Earth is still unexplored, especially its oceans and seas.

And one thing that is perennial about the human condition is that we have a need in our lives for monsters, myths, the supernatural, and the unexplained: things that cause us to suspect that there is another world beyond the one we know, things that fill the heart with wonder and the eyes with stars. Religion gets blamed, and often unfairly, for being the cause of unrest in the world, but even though every atheist I know would grind their teeth at this statement, we need a God. We need great big things like God, because sometimes we can hide under them from real evil. We need to know and believe there are forces for good in the world that work in our favor, and we need monsters to represent our worst fears and our greatest evils, or even to represent the evils in ourselves that we can't face.

And sometimes--many times, in fact, the monsters wind up being the good guys, or at least an indicator of our need and capacity for redemption. And never is this more present than in cartoons. Take the case of Hal Seeger's Milton The Monster, who showed up on Saturday morning screens back in 1965, but was actually in the production stages as far back as 1964, pre-dating both The Addams Family and The Munsters. Created by goofball mad scientists Professor Weirdo and Count Kook, Milton was an amiable Frankenstein who got overloaded on "tincture of tenderness" during his creation, making him sweet and lovable--and usually the victim of his creators' schemes. Other monster toons have proliferated as well; master cartoonist Alex Toth's The Herculoids were a team of super-powered creatures who protected their home planet of Quasar from encroaching aliens and outer-space bad guys. The Addams Family, depicted on TV as a clan of macabre and monsterlike individuals who were also the ultimate loving and cordial family, got their own Hanna-Barbera animated series in '73, traveling the country in a Victorian-styled RV and helping out folks in trouble. Though dismissed as a Scooby-Doo clone, the aptly-named Fangface was an actual werewolf who was on the side of good, and he and his gang of pals often ran into real strange creatures--not just crooks in monster suits but actual supernatural occurrences. And during the '80's there was the Drak Pack, in which the teenage descendants of legendary monsters, led by a reformed Count Dracula, used their supernatural abilities to atone for the sins of their ancestors by defending the world from evil.

So I think there's a need, if not a scientific basis, for
cryptozoology, for wonder, for anything that causes us to try to be better, braver, or smarter, or helps us deal with the unknown.

And cryptids are real. If you don't think so, then check this out.