It’s Saturday morning and Stella is trying to sleep. When she is rudely awakened, she tunes in to watch the Dead End Show but instead finds an infernally boring film about… bananas?
Something nefarious is going on here and Stella is determined to get to the bottom of it. And considering that Stella is the most powerful sorceress on Earth, nobody in his right mind would stand in her way.
Frederick J. Waardehem PhD has not been in his right mind for a long time now. What is more, he really hates Saturday morning cartoons. They are loud and crude and violent and have absolutely no educational value at all. Which is why they should be banned. After all, won’t someone think of the children?
Waardehem has persuaded the TV station to cancel the Dead End Show and replace it with educational and wholesome programming, starting with Waardehem’s personal favourite, a documentary about bananas.
But trouble is heading for Frederick J. Waardehem. Trouble in the form of Stella, mighty mistress of magic, and her friend Diane, Vitamin queen and alien amazon warrior. They’re angry, they’ve got magic and they will soon make Waardehem regret his banana fixation.
A tale of cartoons and talking pigs, singing bananas, flying anvils and magic.
Read an excerpt.
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Some background information:
- Cartoony Justice is a short story of 5300 words. This story is a digital premiere and has never been previously published.
- Though it’s not for lack of trying, because Cartoony Justice gathered more rejections than any other story of mine. Most of those rejections went something along the lines of, “I really like this, but I don’t know what to do with it, so I’ll pass.”
- In short, Cartoony Justice is the story that was too weird for New Weird, too bizarre for Bizarro. Which makes it an ideal candidate for self-publishing.
- The initiating spark was a creative writing workshop assignment, which asked for a story about bananas. After moaning and groaning a lot about the particular assignment, I came up with two possible ideas. The first was the urban legend that smoking banana peels has the same effect as smoking cannabis (luckily, I did not go with that one, because we got at least two banana peels as cannabis stories in the workshop), the other was a faint memory of a cartoon about a singing banana.
- Stella, sorceress extraordinaire, is a character I created as a young girl. She has appeared in many stories of mine, though Cartoony Justice is the first to actually find publication. Alien amazon warrioress Diane and the five cartoon loving pigs are frequent supporting characters in the Stella stories. If there is one defining characteristic of the Stella stories, it’s that the strangest and most bizarre things can and do happen when Stella is around and that she has some of the strangest friends (and enemies) you can imagine. There’s a reason she is my favourite character.
- The setting, though it’s never explicitly spelled out, are the borderlands between the Netherlands and Belgium. Stella’s secret underground world is located in Antwerp, the TV station is somewhere in the Netherlands, probably in Hilversum, where the actual D.J. Kat Show was produced in the 1980s
- Cartoony Justice is an homage to the cartoons of my childhood. The fictional Dead End Show is loosely based on the D.J. Kat Show which ran on Sky in the 1980s while the fictional host Linda is named for Dutch TV personality Linda de Mol, who hosted the show along with a puppet named D.J. Kat. We did not have cable TV at home, so I could only watch the D.J. Kat Show while visiting my Dad in the Netherlands (where he worked) during the school holiday. I loved the program, because it showed all of those 1980s cartoon series that were basically glorified toy commercials (Transformers, M.A.S.K., Jem, He-Man, She-Ra, Go-Bots, etc…), which German TV would not show at the time, because they were deemed too violent and too commercial for the tender souls of German children.
- Oddly enough, clips of the DJ Kat Show are almost impossible to find on YouTube. There are some clips from an American version, which apparently ran on Fox in the early 1990s, on YouTube and there are compilations of ads that ran during the show, and there are plenty of clips featuring Linda de Mol, but none of them together.
- As a matter of fact, Cartoony Justice expresses not just my childhood love for cartoons but also my anger about the pretty extreme censorship (though they never called it that, of course) to which German TV viewers were subjected in the pre-private TV era. Basically, anything American was suspect and anything mildly controversial, whether it was violence, gay content or Vietnam war references, was promptly cut. TV was supposed to be wholesome, educational and old. Nobody who hasn’t lived through that era can imagine what a liberation the arrival of private television and its steady diet of American action shows, soap opera and flashy cartoons really was for the children and teenagers of the time. It wasn’t just me either – there are plenty of reports from those who were young at the time that for them the arrival of private television in their neck of the woods was the defining moment of the 1980s rather than the fall of the Wall.
- Porky Pig actually was banned for excessive violence in Germany in the 1970s and even Sesame Street was highly controversial when it first came to German TV in the early 1970s. Meanwhile, shows like Transformers or M.A.S.K. or He-Man were never shown in the first place. Too violent, plus they probably violated the pretty strict guidelines about product placement and clandestine advertising. Instead, we got a steady diet of Heidi and Maya the Bee.
- Nonetheless, the dour and unpleasant Fred J. Waardehem was not named for any of the censors of German television, mostly because they were invisible and their names unknown. Instead his name is a Dutchified version of Fredric Wertham, the infamous child psychologist who almost destroyed the comics industry in the 1950s.
- The various arguments for banning cartoons made by Waardehem were taken from actual arguments against media violence, including the bit about anthropomorphic animals and the dehumanisation of art. And no, I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean either. Nor could I provide you with a list of sources without going through twenty years of archived articles on media violence. And since this is a funny fantasy story and not an academic treatise on theories about the effects media violence, I’ll spare myself the footnotes.
- The “guy who does the dog barks in all the American cartoons” is a reference to the great voice actor Frank Welker who really does all the dog barks in American cartoons and lent his voice to characters as disparate as Megatron and Kermit the Frog.
- The cover consists of vector graphics with some hand-drawn extras. The idea was to create something in the style of the old Hanna Barbera cartoons of the 1960s.