Galaxy Rangers

Shane Gooseman

Recently while messing around on YouTube I stumbled across an old animated series I hadn't seen since childhood. Chances are you don't remember The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, and that's a shame, because the show was truly groundbreaking for its time.

Galaxy Rangers premiered in a long-forgotten fall TV season of the mid-80s. Its original run consisted of a single 65-episode season, but it ran for three years in syndication. The show was pitched and marketed as a space Western, but various episodes included strong doses of space opera and horror.

Galaxy Rangers - The Scarecrow
GR had some seriously horrifying content & themes for a kids' show.
I remember that the show would come on in the morning while I was getting ready for school. To a younger grade school-aged kid, Galaxy Rangers was mind-blowing. It wasn't just the 80s standard "all-American/virile paragon good guys foil the bumbling terrorist/evil wizard bad guys" every episode. The characters had some layers to them and were often self-conflicted. There were black hat stock villains but also ambiguous antagonists who were mostly out to make a buck for themselves. Most unusual of all, the good guys didn't always win, and when they did their victories were sometimes Pyrrhic.

Eliza Fox
Spoiler alert: Zachary never got his wife back.
After re-watching the first episode alone, it struck me how much of an influence Galaxy Rangers has had on my work--while I remained blissfully unaware of how the show molded my aesthetic sensibilities.

Galaxy Rangers - Soul Gem

Case in point: The main villain is a necromancer who uses a fusion of magic and technology to steal beings' souls for long-term storage in big red gems.

Galaxy Rangers was also one of the first American-Japanese anime productions. The show was written by Americans but drawn by a Japanese animation studio. As a result, the writing--especially the quirky but never tonally dissonant humor--remained accessible to US audiences while the animation blew away pretty much anything that American kids' show animators were putting out.

If you enjoyed The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers as a kid, or even if you've never heard of it before, I recommend checking out at least the first episode. It holds up surprisingly well.

Bonus: The main theme is a totally badass 80s power ballad!

To see the bastard offspring of this and other 80s and 90s cultural influences, read my action-adventure/space opera/horror novel Nethereal.

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier


  1. Western animation as whole was at its peak in the late '80s through the '90s. There was a breadth in genre and approach that simply no longer exists.

    This show is emblematic of the era. You had clear pulp influence from Doc Smith's Galactic Patrol with a clear force of good and evil, even if the characters themselves didn't fully meld into one or the other. The implication is still that both sides exist. Most cartoons were like this until western action animation all but died off with Justice League Unlimited.

    Greg Weisman's shows in particular (Gargoyles, WITCH, Spectacular Spider-Man, Young Justice) all had clear good and evil dynamics where the characters do not always fall on one side or the other.

    As for myself, my school decided to do a play of MacBeth at the same moment Gargoyles had their own MacBeth arc (though I know they were unaware of the show) which had the greatest affect on me. Few stories about the decaying effects of evil are anywhere near that powerful.

    1. Agreed.

      It is worth noting that Galaxy Rangers was an East-West joint.

  2. Galaxy Rangers was part of brief wave of American-produced/Japanese-animated cartoons in the late 80s, with the other major ones being The Mighty Orbots (a Transformers take-off) and Bionic Six (like X-Men except they're cyborgs). They were on a totally different level compared to other cartoons of the period and basically foreshadowed the Batman cartoon (which also employed various Japanese animation studios, including Galaxy Rangers' TMS). Frankly, they still look a lot better than most cartoons and the animation holds up really well.

    1. "Frankly, they still look a lot better than most cartoons and the animation holds up really well."

      Yep. Hand-drawn cells, and more of them.

    2. Brian,

      I dunno. I appreciate the hand drawn cartoons as well as the better 3d renderings. The problem is one of respect and story telling.

      To many animators are churning out animations that simply don't respect the art and genre. Further compounded by an animus towards storytelling.
      I'm struck by an ugliness that pervades a lot of cartoons. Cartoon network is particularly egregious. I loathe the aesthetics of many of their cartoons.
      I tend to discourage my kids from watching that channel because they're eyesores and I have an obligation to inculcate as best I can a sense of beauty.

    3. A lot of that has to do with adoption of Flash animation as the standard. The majority of the people in the industry have never animated with cells so have no idea how different the approaches are.

      It's not like writing replacing quills, pens, and typewriters. Writing is writing.

      Animation requires knowing what you want to achieve, and achieving it with specific tools. Now getting what you want requires a lot less blood, sweat, and tears, and no one has any drive to do anything better.

      At least in the West it does. In Japan they still put in the work regardless. I was just rewatching the first episode of Ushio & Tora, and that is some great animation that could almost be mistaken for the old way.

      Modern western animation is full of unambitious slop written for the lowest common denominator. Even with the crappy cheap computer animation, they're still full of errors and bad movement that makes even the lesser stuff from the '70s look competent.

      People say comics are dead, but western animation has been cremated and the ashes spread into the wind.

    4. JD
      Thanks for the explanation. So how to revive pride in the craft?

    5. The indie game Cuphead is a good start.

      I've always been a big fan of animation because it is a way to get across pictures and ideas live action can not properly convey.

      And yet, ever since CG became the norm creators have been trying to make animated movies and television look more and more "realistic" and frequently bank their advertising as such. They are completely missing the point.

      It is no different than FPS video games with their insistence on stupid crap like iron-sights and "down to earth" settings or genre books in showing moral grayness at the expense of the impossible and hopeful.

      This obsession with "reality" (which means dark and dreary) is killing all forms of artistic expression.

      If you think about it, every CG movie since Toy Story wouldn't be any worse if they were animated in 2D. The only praise you ever hear about CG is how technically impressive it is because it almost looks "real" which means audiences can "relate to it" more.

      That's not the point of art. But we live in an era where we need black characters written by creators of the same skin tone for "authenticity" so what do you expect?

      Sorry for the rant. It's just the sad state of things.

    6. Although I don't agree with everything he says (he is a bit of a hard-liner), I've always found John Kricfalusi's arguments about animation really interesting. The better episodes of Ren and Stimpy (e.g., Stimpy's Invention) have some jaw-dropping contortions in the in-between work that you simply don't see in any shows today.

    7. Kricfalusi knows his stuff, and Nickelodeon railroaded him. Plus, Ren & Stimpy is one of my all-time favorite television shows; not just cartoons.

      That said, Penny Arcade's art has looked like vomit ever since Gabe started trying to ape Kricfalusi's style.

    8. I'm not the biggest John K fan considering his opinions on writers and the fact he created Adult Party Cartoon, but he is right when it comes to how lazy the industry has become.

      Animation started as topsy turvy creative ideas and it is now focused on autists cracking 90s pop culture references while they go to their job at the convenience store.

      Kevin Smith already made that movie over 25 years ago and with nowhere near the wasted budget the studios ue.s

    9. I know I am late to the party (apologies for bumping old thread), but I did see some insightful commentary that some movies work better with 3D CGI, for instance Finding Nemo, which shows off the beauty of the ocean and undersea life in a more realistic and mesmerizing way than 2D can. I love 2D animation (when done right), but sometimes 3D is just the way to go. (By contrast, the reviewer who said Finding Nemo was done so well said that SharkTale was a sad missed opportunity, not really focused on beauty but the mundane, just in an undersea setting, so the 3D CGI did it no good.)

      Of course, sometimes 2D is perfect. It seems to be able to convey both realistic and ridiculous things side-by-side and keep its dignity in a way that no other medium can. Not to mention the little tricks that can go into it so it looks good without being strictly consistent.

  3. Reminds me of another timeless space western from that era.....


  4. I never saw this one as a kid but I would have loved it. I was an action cartoon junkie.

    That 80s art style is amazing, so much detail. 80s space anime is what "the future" looks like in my imagination.

  5. Good afternoon Brian,

    I recently came back into the series last year after finding that there is a podcast out (Series 6 Podcast) and I regained the website that ran back in the early 2000's. I've been looking around and finding pockets of interest here and there, and I enjoyed the article!

    Something that ties into the "horrifying content", I mentioned the Scarecrow (pictured above in the article) in an exchange recently with David Rosler, one of GR's storyboard artists, and David countered with One Million Emotions (in which bad guy Miller loses his mind after touching a doll aka the emotional electric chair) and said "...but GR was never really a kid's show and I can tell you that from working with the creator of the show, it was adult science fiction masquerading as a kid's show, with just enough "kid" to make it sell. but his interest was always more for the adult audience." I hit the show at age 12 and I was hooked.

    Best regards,
    Mike (aka RB)

    p.s. I can post the website URL if you're interested.

    1. Good afternoon, Rabbi.

      Rosier's statement makes sense. GR was amazingly sophisticated. Nothing like it would make it past the network executives today.

      Go ahead and post the url if you'd like.

  6. Thank you. The site has a lot of work to go, but it is coming along slowly in my spare time.



  7. Thanks for the heads-up. I've been watching the series and it's mostly quite good. The hand-drawn animation is done very well.

    However, the voice acting is really hit or miss; many characters sound good, particularly the main gang, but there are also a large number of unnaturally high-pitched characters that sound jarring (Doc's "computer programs," dolphins, aliens of small stature...)

    The early computer animation that shows up on the screens of spaceships is hilarious: wire-frame or low-poly solid shapes. What's with the abstract eyeball co-pilots?

    Some of the episodes seem a bit ham-fisted or moralizing, but the ones where it's good vs. evil are quite well done.