Editor’s note: Joseph Hirsch is the author of The Dove and the Crow. Read it, won’t you?
Awhile back I wrote a book about two boys who grew up in the 80s, and, while researching 80s ephemera for the novel, I kept asking myself, Wasn’t there a cartoon about some cowboys in space? I did a little bit of internet sleuthing, and it turns out, there was.
According to Wikipedia, the most reliable source not just on the internet, but in the entire universe, “BraveStarr is an American Space Western animated television series. The original episodes aired from September 1987 to February 1988 in syndication.” I didn’t even know there was such a subgenre as the “space Western,” but Wikipedia tends to broaden one’s horizons while simultaneously dumbing them down, sort of like the internet as a whole, and apparently the subgenre’s antecedents date back to the early Flash Gordon serials and also informed the décor of the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars (note: the fact that I wrote the previous sentence with a straight face probably suggests I don’t know what I vagina is, but I can assure the reader that at one point, I was, in fact, sexually active).
I took the plunge and watched a full episode on YouTube. It was the pilot episode, so one has to make allowances and not judge too harshly, since any show needs some breathing room, before it is retooled and perfected. This episode in question dealt with Bravestarr, a native American lawman in outer space, and his faithful companion, 30-30, a talking anthropomorphic horse with opposable thumbs who stands upright on two legs, and reminded me quite a bit of the Zooey creatures in Jon Konrath’s brilliant, The Memory Hunter.
Bravestarr sort of looks like a cross between John Redcorn (the Native American who cuckolds Dale Gribble on the cartoon King of the Hill) and the character of Shep Proudfoot in Fargo, the Native American who belt-whips Steve Buscemi’s ass after Buscemi tells him to “go smoke a fucking piece pipe.”
It’s hard to describe the show conceptually, but I’ll try. It’s basically a cross between Blade Runner and My Little Pony, or perhaps a mashup of Rainbow Brite and William Gibson’s seminal cyberpunk masterwork, Neuromancer, except for kids. The show’s heavy on the moralizing (the moral is delivered at the tail-end of each show, a la G.I. Joe ((kids, don’t do “spin,” a hallucinogenic drug featured on the show whose effects are akin to those of LSD))),and the whole affair is surprisingly multicultural for a Reagan-era relic.
Parts of the show I didn’t understand. For instance, why is the anthropomorphic, gun-toting horse known as “30-30” when that laser cannon he’s packing is obviously a smoothbore that couldn’t fire Winchester rifle rounds (30-30s) if Bravestarr’s life depended on it? I would also like to know more about the misnamed bipedal horse’s homeland, which is called…wait for it…the Equestroids.
All in all, I didn’t mind wasting eighteen minutes (no commercials on YouTube) watching this thing. In conclusion, let me add that, while this show was nowhere near as good as Sergio Leone’s sweeping hymn to the Western genre, Once Upon a Time in the West, I did actually enjoy watching Bravestarr more than, say, slamming my penis in a car door.