Reason magazine has a great interview with Jackson Publick, the co-creator of one of my favorite shows The Venture Brothers. For those of you who haven't seen it, it is sort of a parody of all the cartoons from the 60s like Jonny Quest where supergenius kids fought crime and had archnemeses. (The word "archnemesis" has a plural, right?) Money quote:
Reason: The cliches of this material, though, like the mystery-solving whiz kids and the Dr. Evil character, aren't ever treated seriously anymore. Not even in the stuff on the Disney Channel that's meant for kids.
JP: All of that is so ridiculous that you can only buy it for so long. In the 60s they were servicing a gigantic generation of children. You had all these baby boomer kids in the 50s and 60s, a brand new market for sci-fi writers. There was all this stuff designed to make them feel included and celebrated. At some point you just have to say, c'mon, children can't solve mysteries. Children lack the perception and the reasoning ability to do that. And they don't weigh much! A diamond smuggler could snap one in two!
Read the whole thing.
Venture Bros is an excellent cartoon, as was the original 1960s Jonny Quest series. (Although, the latter's racist stereotyping of its day is pretty non-PC these days.) Another great take on Jonny Quest is the Harvey Birdman episode in which Race Bannon sues Dr Benton Quest for custody of Jonny and Hadji, playing off on the doctor and bodyguard's inferred relationship.
It's too bad that we no longer have this genre of "boys' adventure" cartoon. I grew up with Jonny Quest and was thrilled by it. I probably realized at the time that its premise was unrealistic and its plot cliche, but that's why we suspend disbelief. To a pre-teen, it seemed mysterious, sophisticated and suspenseful.
I guess these days you have to look to anime to find something similar, but often, anime plots are unnecessarily obtuse. Ah well. "Go Team Venture!"