Favorite Fictional Characters, #173: Freakazoid
In the mid-1990s, animation was undergoing a renaissance, led by Disney's renewed feature-length greatness but also by heightened production quality and boundary-pushing creativity on the small screen. Around 1995 the WB! was doing some wild stuff with the Animaniacs, and in that same vein burst forth Freakazoid! Under the aegis of Spielberg, creator Paul Rugg spawned a hero for the internet age, a geeky kid who derived his powers from a computer virus. Designed as a comedic send-up of the super hero conceit, the character swiftly graduated into outright slapstick parody of the entire comic-book genre, as well as broader pop culture.
Dexter Douglas, (the geeky kid) said "Freak In!" and the weirdness would start. Freakazoid had a seemingly endless and ever-changing range of powers, a tenuous grasp of his sanity, and an over-the-top sense of humor that skewered everyone, himself included. His meta-aware engagement with the audience and disregard for civility made him a sort of PG version of Deadpool, which launched his popularity among eight-year olds and college guys alike (who, in lots of ways that matter, aren't all that different). He lasted only 24 episodes, but sometimes the brightest stars burn too hot and too fast. He was a man and a hero for his time, for the limitless and confident 1990s, a lightning bolt of kinetic disrespect and misdirected heroism. Freak out.