After the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (originally known as the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles here in the UK) in the late ‘80s, it seemed that every other company and cartoonist was trying to create their own imitation of the lovable group of anthropomorphic bros, with shows like Street Sharks, and of course the team I will be reviewing today, the Biker Mice from Mars!
Each of these imitations had their own spin on what the groups favourite food was and it’s no wonder we grew up loving fast food. Whilst the Turtles had their pizza, Street Sharks had burgers and the Biker Mice had hot dogs and root beer. However, unlike the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, many of these imitated shows fell into a void of time where most adults remember them fondly and most younger teens have never heard of them. Which is why I decided to write these reviews, to bring back that nostalgia and to educate the rest of the world on what television was like back in the day.
As you might have guessed from the title, Biker Mice from Mars is about a group of motorcycling mice from the planet Mars. These mice are anthropomorphic and look more human in body, whilst having the heads and tails of mice, along with the red antennas on their heads to remind you they’re not part of some lab experiment gone wrong. The team of heroes consisted of three Mice that took on the stereotypes of any decent team back in the day. ‘Throttle’ was the fearsome leader, the Leonardo of the group if you will, who could be pretty chill but also turn serious when needed. ‘Vinnie’ was the groups Michelangelo, because he was the one that never really took anything seriously, and would often refer to all the danger as “fun”. Finally, there’s ‘Modo’, who was the teams’ tough guy, who could be seen as the Raphael of the group. If you need a hothead with the strength to take on the biggest guy in the room, Modo is your man…erm…mouse!
Then comes the human of the group. TMNT had April O’Neil, but the Biker Mice from Mars has a similar character in the form of Charlene “Charley” Davidson. Instead of investigative reporter though, Charley is a mechanic, who helps keep the Mice’s motorbikes in good shape after rough encounters, as well as upgrading them with added gadgets and weapons when needed. Just like the Turtles though, Vinnie is often seen flirting with the human female lead despite getting constant rejections. There are often many quips and gags that border on perversion when it comes to the mice talking about the female of the group.
Unlike the Ninja Turtles, the Biker Mice seem to be more brawler than martial artists, but a lot of their fights are won whilst riding the motorcycles. However, they do have some advantages to being mice, such as being able to use their tails to grab hold of objects or people when needed. One thing they don’t like though is being called rats…or any other rodent that isn’t a mouse it seems.
Biker Mice from Mars takes place predominantly on Earth, in a dystopian version of Chicago, where it seems most of the city is evacuated and in ruins, so it’s a perfect place for a group of alien mice to hang out. Despite this though, they still hideaway in a secret area, inside of a scoreboard at the stadium, although it seems that most of the time when a human sees one of them, they aren’t phased at all by the sight of 7-foot tall alien mice that can talk, which just seems bizarre.
The plot of the show is non-linear which means that the episodes don’t focus too much on the continuity of the previous events of the episode before. However, the characters often refer to past events in a quick quip as a nod to show that they do remember certain things that have happened. There’s a running gag throughout the show which involves the mice somehow demolishing the villain’s tower at the end of each episode. More often than not the large concrete tower falls on top of the villain, and yet he survives constantly, which proves that this gag is more for the slapstick humour than anything else.
The villains of the series are other alien races, with the primary villain being a member of the race of Plutark’s, a fish-like being, in the disguise of a large human similar to Marvel’s Kingpin but with hair. His name is Lawrence Lactavius Limburger, and he seems to have somewhat overly-complicated plans to take over and/or destroy Earth. He is accompanied by moronic henchmen such as Dr Karbunkel, a mad scientist, as well as Greasepit, a large muscular dimwit who is somehow always in charge of the villain’s plans, despite messing up and failing each and every time.
The selling point of the show is without a doubt the heroes motorcycles. Each mouse has a unique motorcycle that appears to be an extension of the Mice’s personalities. The bikes also seem to be somewhat sentient in certain episodes, as they are able to understand simple commands such as “stay close” as well as being spoken too like companions by the Mice. Each bike is equipped with laser-shooting guns and rockets, as well as grappling hooks and other gadgets that are used when needed for almost any situation.
One aspect of the show I loved, is that in the first episode when they first find Charley and she discovers who they are, she says “You’re mice?” to which Modo responds quickly with “You were expecting Turtles?”. This is a great quip because it shows that the creators of this show know what people think of the concept and aren’t trying to hide the fact that they are indeed creating another TMNT imitation, but what makes the show stand out is that it is very different from the Turtles. The gags are more slapstick and somewhat Looney Tune-esque, and the Mice, whilst sharing similarities with the Turtles, stand out as unique characters.
TMNT isn’t the only pop culture reference in this show, however, as there are other gags that refer to famous films and actors etc. For instance, in one episode there is a robot known as the Exterminator, who just so happens to have a Schwarzenegger style voice, and not to mention he says the phrases “Hasta La Vista” and “I’ll be back”.
Speaking of phrases though, every hero team needs a good catchphrase. The Turtles have shell related puns such as “Shell shock”, but more importantly, their more famous phrase is “Cowabunga!”. The Biker Mice have a phrase they like to say when they head out for a mission which is “Let’s Rock and Ride!” as well as a catchphrase that they say to any citizens they save, which is “Ride Free Citizen!”. These catchphrases obviously relate more to the biker aspect of the show, which is why they work for these characters but not others.
Overall the series is very humorous with many quips and gags that nowadays are somewhat questionable, but for the most part, are just fun. It certainly stands out from the Turtles and other TMNT-like shows and the Looney Tunes-esque comedy is something you don’t see very often nowadays without it feeling forced, whereas this show manages to make it feel natural for this style of animation. The Biker Mice are great characters with their own personalities but they definitely feel like brothers and that’s what’s important because you know that when certain manipulative villains try to separate them, they’ll always work together rather than betray their brothers. Watching this show again brought back nostalgia for me, and I genuinely laughed at some of the jokes, whilst questioning some of the other concepts such as the Mice stopping at a red traffic light, despite being in a high-speed chase with the villains. It’s that kind of dumb fun that I love about these classic kids shows.