In honor of BIRDS OF PREY coming out this week, we are having a week-long theme of looking at some under-appreciated, overlooked, or really just bizarre superhero and comic book-based films. Daily Grindhouse presents…Lost In The Gutters: Odd Superhero and Comic Book Films Week.
The late ’80s and early ’90s brought on mutant mania. Any superhero worth its weight had been transformed by radioactive waste. The TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1990) movie was the biggest thing in the world. They were fun loving, action-packed, and had a great sense of humor. Same could be said for the campy hijinks of THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING (1989)—which came out just a year later. How could I not be in love with everything energetic and contaminated?
The year was 1990 and I was 12 years old when I first rented THE TOXIC AVENGER (1984). I had no idea what I was in for. I had some friends staying at my house for a sleepover. We watched GHOULIES 2 (1987), and TROLL (1986) (we couldn’t get enough of those rubber mini-monster movies), but now it was time for something completely different. Something with a mutant superhero. Within the first few minutes of THE TOXIC AVENGER, we were laughing our little pre-pubescent asses off. The jokes were low brow, and nobody of any maturity would have found this entertaining—but we loved it.
The thing that sealed this film as a classic was that not too long into movie there was a sex scene. Right at that time my mother walks in, shrieks about how profane it is, rips it out the tape out of the VCR and demands that I return it right then and there. That should be the end of the story, but I’ve always been a rebel. The first chance I had the house to myself, I rented THE TOXIC AVENGER again and it solidified me as a lifelong Troma fan.
There was nothing that spoke to me quite like a nerd fighting back against his bullies. The story of Melvin Junko (Mark Torgl) being set up to be embarrassed in front of everybody at the health club he works at was something that had been done multiple times before in films like TERROR TRAIN (1980). What made THE TOXIC AVENGER different was that instead of becoming a psychopathic killer, he accidentally dove into a tub of toxic waste and became a hero to the people and fought everything from street thugs, to organized crime, and even dirty politicians. It was genius.
I had never seen extreme gore like I did in this film before. Sure, at this point I had been watching horror movies for probably four years, but I had never seen anything quite as deliciously disgusting as I did in THE TOXIC AVENGER. Limbs torn off, heads crushed, guts torn out, it was raw and vile. I reveled in every last second of it.
On a personal note, when the other dudes where looking at the tits and ass presented in THE TOXIC AVENGER, I couldn’t take my eyes of the corrupt Mayor Peter Belgoody (Pat Ryan). Seeing multiple scenes of him either shirtless or close to naked, and his hairy obese body jiggle stirred something in my loins. THE TOXIC AVENGER helped me come to terms with my sexuality and the fact that I’m a chubby chaser.
It’s so funny to think that a film with over the top gore, excessive offensive humor, and enough T&A to give it an X-rating spurned the eco-friendly children’s cartoon Toxic Crusaders (1991-1993). I had already seen THE TOXIC AVENGER II (1989) and THE TOXIC AVENGER III (1989),but I still watched every episode of Toxic Crusaders. I didn’t care that it was a campy rip off of Captain Planet And The Planeteers—I needed all the adventures of Toxie I could get!
Mainstream society will never get it, but with an off-Broadway musical, and big budget remake of THE TOXIC AVENGER on the horizon, Toxie fandom isn’t going anywhere. Similar to the Wu-Tang Clan, THE TOXIC AVENGER is for the children. Thanks uncle Lloyd, you changed my life forever.
Tags: 80s, Cindy Manion, Comic book, Gary Schneider, Jennifer Babtist, Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz, Mitchell Cohen, Mutant, New Jersey, Pat Ryan, Radioactive, Superhero, The Toxic Avenger, Toxic Crusaders, toxic waste, Troma, Tromaville