Buster and Babs Bunny

Younger and junior versions of cartoon characters

Since the 1980s, there have been many animated characters which are either junior versions (e.g., children, nephews, nieces, or protégés) or younger versions (i.e., the original characters presented as children) of other well-established characters. An example of a younger character is Scooby-Doo as a puppy, and an example of a junior character is Scrappy-Doo, Scooby-Doo's nephew.

Premise

This trend, often referred to as the "babyfication" or "juniorization" of shows , was kicked off by the 1984 series Jim Henson's Muppet Babies, which was based on a sequence in the (live-action) film The Muppets Take Manhattan. An earlier example of younger versions of existing cartoon characters, however, would be Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd from the 1944 cartoon The Old Grey Hare, which features Bugs and Elmer as babies (as well as very old characters) The same concept was used in a cartoon featuring an elderly Foghorn Leghorn and Barnyard Dawg who each have a grandson.

Examples from comic books are Superboy, who was introduced in 1944's More Fun Comics #101 as the teenage version of Superman; Superboy would eventually be seen in an animated series in the 1960s. There was also Little Archie, which featured the childhood adventures of Archie Comics character Archie Andrews.

A common trait of many of these spin-offs is their habit of breaking whatever semblance of continuity (however minimal or nonexistent it may be) the previous versions of the characters established; for example, the original Flintstones series stated that Fred and Barney first met Wilma and Betty as young adults while working at a resort, an assertion backed up by several later episodes/spin-offs (as well as the second live-action Flintstones movie, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas). However, The Flintstone Kids shows them all as having known each other as ten-year-olds. Other differences between the two series include the 1980s-equivalent technology (video games, personal computers, etc.) seen in Kids vs. the 1960s-equivalent technology seen in the original series, as well as there being greater racial diversity in Bedrock in Kids (though other Flintstones spin-offs featuring the characters as adults have also shown a presence of minorities in Bedrock). For these reasons, some animation fans consider most of these "younger version" shows either as apocryphal or as having caused all the series with those characters to have "jumped the shark."

Television

Television series featuring younger versions of animation characters include:

Comics

Comic books and strips featuring younger versions of animation characters include:

  • Captain Marvel Jr., a teenaged apprentice to Fawcett Comics' superhero Captain Marvel, introduced in Whiz Comics in 1941 and later popular in Master Comics and his own self-titled comic book. The character's comic adventures continued until 1953; when DC Comics assumed the rights to the Fawcett characters in 1972, Captain Marvel, Jr. was returned to publication.
  • Superboy: featured the adventures of Superman as a teenage superhero defending his home town of Smallville from various threats. Other characters seen in this series include the teenage version of Lana Lang, who made some appearances in the adult Superman stories as well. The series ran from 1944 through 1986, when the traditional version of Superboy was retired. A newer version of Superboy exists in the current Superman comics, but this version is was a younger clone of Superman.
  • Little Archie: featured the adventures of the Archie comics gang as elementary school students.
  • Spy vs. Spy Jr., a running comic strip in the juvenile-themed Mad Kids (a spin-off of Mad Magazine). Unlike the more familiar version, the junior Spy characters do not attempt to murder one another. Instead, they engage in tit-for-tat pranks and plots (in one episode, a Spy ends up soaked by his own garden hose; in another, a Spy gets splattered by bad-smelling "skunk juice").
  • Petey: The Adventures of Peter Parker Long Before He Became Spider-Man, a Fred Hembeck backup feature in Marvel Tales featuring humorous stories of Peter Parker, Flash Thompson, and Betty Brant as children, with Aunt May Parker and Uncle Benjamin Parker. A typical example featured Petey sent by Aunt May to the pharmacy to buy Uncle Ben's medicine and told he can keep the change. not realizing the cost of medicine, he buys sodas for Flash and Betty, only to discover the change from the medicine is a quarter.
  • Little Endless: Child versions of the Endless from Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics, originally appearing in the story "A Parliament of Rooks]", illustrated by Jill Thompson, and subsequently in Thompson's graphic novel The Little Endless Storybook
  • X-Babies: Several X-Men stories parodied the concept by having younger versions of the cast created by Mojo.
  • Wonder Woman : Over the years there have been multiple comics involving a younger version of Wonder Woman. Some have been flashbacks comics of her early days, some have been as a result of her becoming younger and some involved 2 younger versions of herself going into the future and teaming up with her. The two younger versions of her are Wonder Tot and Wonder Girl. When writer Bob Haney, erroneously believing that Wonder Girl was a junior protege of Wonder Woman, used Wonder Girl as a member of the all-protege Teen Titans, the character was re-established as a genuine junior version to explain her presence as a Titan.

Concept albums

There has been one concept album with an accompanying music video DVD on the subject of younger versions of cartoon characters.

Other

See also

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