One time, when I was 10, I camped in the woods behind my suburban Tennessee home in a pup tent. Tucked away in my He-man sleeping bag, I began to slowly sense that I was starving to death. Out of desperation, I used my Boy Scout pocket knife to rip open my Stretch Armstrong and consumed the bitter corn syrup inside for survival. Remembering afterwards that I was in my backyard only served to sharpen the edge on the intense feeling of stupidity that ensued as I rushed into the kitchen and called the nearest poison control center.

    Looking back on that event, Iím surprised that other childrenís toys, ones far more dangerous than Stretch Armstrong, havenít taken me out by now. How Iíve survived the attacks of a pizza-slinging Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vehicle is beyond me.

    But another, more in-depth look into a little-celebrated aspect of yesteryear proved even more surprising and interesting: My study an overblown public relations move that spun horribly out of control, taking on a mind (and grotesquely blackened heart) of its own, Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Out of curiosity, I checked up on the Captain Planet website to see how all the eco-friends were doing, and the results were startling. For the time being, weíre only going to look at a few characters:

    (Note: All quotes and pictures taken from the Official Captain Planet website.)

The Captain Planet website states:

Wheeler is an impulsive, street-wise teenager from Brooklyn, always ready with a flip remark. He loves to provide comic relief to his fellow Planeteers and to goad the villains.

Wheeler is the least knowledgeable Planeteer when it comes to ecology. Although he sometimes fails to understand the issues at hand, his heart is in the right place. He fancies himself the "ladies' man" and flirts incessantly with Linka, the Planeteer from Eastern Europe.

    That's right, they take the cockiest, most hormonally-driven, and "least knowledgeable" Planeteer and give him the power to incinerate things on command. That way, when he's not too busy tossing fireballs at random objects to impress Linka, he can launch some flames at Sly Sludge (voiced by Martin Sheen) and his giant oil tankers, ceremoniously consuming half the Earth in chemical-induced burning. 

    But like all Planeteers, Wheeler picks the least logical way to use his ring. Usually, he waits until someone evil captures them and uses his ring to melt the locks on their prison cell, allowing them to escape. If you were an eco-villain, and every time you attempted to capture the Planeteers you found their cells empty and the locks melted, wouldn't you eventually figure out that maybe you should buy some melt-proof locks, or at least take away their rings?

    No, you wouldn't. If you were that intelligent, you would've disabled the Planeteers instead of locking them up, and you would've realized that trying to base your life on a business that's going to attract Captain Planet's wrath is a fruitless undertaking, since the Captain has the power of teamwork and nature to foil your fiendish schemes.

 

"Intellectually, Captain Planet has an encyclopedic knowledge of the universe; emotionally, he is a blend of the five disparate personalities and imaginations of the Planeteers. He is the combination of their hearts and souls, and a metaphor for their teamwork and cooperation."

So, if Captain Planet is an equal mix of the Planeteers, his own inner contrasts should cause him to self-destruct. Look at it this way: Wheeler's outspoken brashness is combined with Linka's quiet sensibility somewhere within the Captain's personality. His fickle emotional state should cause him to slowly degenerate into some insanely evil creature. I guess somewhere in his encyclopedic knowledge of the universe he found a way to circumvent this. Imagine what a time David Coburn (right), the man who voiced the Captain, must have had attempting to get in character.

Captain Planet only appears in his Captain Planet garb. These are not clothes but elements of the Earth that are integral to his composition. He is able to rearrange his molecular structure to transform himself into the various powers and elements of nature, e.g., water, wind, fire, ice, etc. Captain Planet's outfit does not represent a specific culture. He has grass-green hair, sky-blue skin, earthy brown eyes, blood-red chest, gloves and boots, and sunlight-yellow insignia/globe. The globe on his chest sometimes flickers and turns gray when he is losing power or is exposed to high levels of pollution.

 

Captain Planetís clothes have long been a topic of intense conversation. In an apparently futile attempt to look as cool as Captain Planet, I tried to locate some of his clothes for myself, but succeeded only in finding a belt, which I didnít purchase.

(Voiced by none other than LeVar Burton, of Reading Rainbow.)

Kwame's element is Earth. He can create small, localized earthquakes; move rocks in the earth; cause holes or furrows in the earth for planting; create tiny islands by raising rocks from the shallows of the ocean; and turn mud into solid ground.

With his "green thumb," Kwame can grow almost anything, and his earthy wisdom provides a firm foundation for the other Planeteers. He is quiet but firm in his convictions and often assumes a leadership role. Though fundamentally serious, he has an impish sense of humor and often delivers off-the-wall lines in perfect deadpan.

    Comments like these were digging this show an early grave long before Season 2, simply because they built up unrealistic expectations for the show. When I watch, I spend the whole time waiting for Kwame to unleash a side-splitting deadpan one liner, but he's always too busy solidifying mud to pull it off. And if by some fluke he's not doing that, he's making furrows in the earth for planting. Combined with Gi's watering powers, large amounts of time, and Ma-ti's special heart ability, which allows him to buy seeds at a Gardening store, the Planeteers can grow crops large and healthy enough to dominate any city fair.

  There are several so-called (but often misunderstood) "bad guys" fighting against Captain Planet, but none compare to the evil that is Zarm, an alien being defeated by Gaia long ago. But what has no doubt drawn your attention is that Zarm is voiced by Sting. In fact, as you may have noticed, countless legitimate celebrities were acquired for Season One of the show. The following may surprise you:

 

    Whoopi Goldberg, Edward Asner, and Dean Stockwell all had parts in Captain Planet. There were other actors who are mysteriously not pictured with their cartoon counterparts, however: Meg Ryan was Dr. Blight,  Jeff Goldblum was Verminous Skumm, and James Coburn was Looten Plunder.

    If youíre still reading this, youíve likely noted that, up until this point, I havenít covered everyoneís favorite planeteer, the forgotten Ma-ti.

Ma-ti (voiced by Scott Menville, left), even when I was in 3rd grade, was mocked on a fairly regular basis. In the intro to the show, while the theme song plays, each of the planeteers demonstrates their special abilities, reminding the viewer of exactly who they are. Kwame shouts "EARTH!" and a monstrous jutting rock would spring forth from the ground. When Linkaís bad Russian-accented "WIND!" is shouted, a tornado tears into a pile of trash, nonsensically flinging it everywhere. But when Ma-ti shouts "HEART," his pet monkey comically runs across the screen. Nothing else. That monkey, by the way, is voiced by Frank Welker, to the right, who also doubles as Apuís voice on Alladin.

Today, as I walked to my first period class, the crinkling of foil interrupted one of my footsteps. I looked down at the trash Iíd stepped on, frowning, and picked it up. And as I remembered Captain Planet, I laughed, and returned it to its position on the ground. Perhaps the power really is mine, but regardless, I choose not to exercise it.