Perhaps not the first internet-inspired superhero, Freakazoid is definitely the first comedic internet-inspired superhero. According to "The Chip" (Freakazoid's origin story), nerdy Dexter Douglas received a top-of-the-line processor chip for his computer. A fatal flaw in the design caused anyone who typed in a random series of characters then pressed "Delete" would be sucked into the internet and transformed into a super-powered, yet insane creature: A "Freakazoid." Obviously, through a bizarre coincidence, Dexter managed to type that exact sequence and become Freakazoid.
Freakazoid had a standard cast of characters for a superhero show: a Rogues' Gallery, a set of people who interacted Freakazoid, and another who dealt with his alter ego. Also, the first season of the show had side features starring other superheroes, The Huntsman and Lord Bravery, but these characters and others were "fired" after the start of the second season, returning only for one episode to ask why nobody called them when the second season started. This is, of course, typical of the style of humour for the show -- the characters are intermittently aware that they're in a cartoon, the villains put up a serious fight only to be defeated by ruses that wouldn't have suckered Elmer Fudd, and jokes are made about everything from Rush Limbaugh to old sci-fi films like The Island of Dr. Moreau. The truth of the matter, however, is that the stories are not the reason to watch Freakazoid!. They're run-of-the-mill fare for superheroics. What Freakazoid! was about was the inside jokes.
The crew of the show seemed to be given carte blanche by Steven Spielberg, and took the opportunity to simply amuse themselves on a national podium. Many episodes (especially in the second season) feature clips of film or lines of dialogue that the crew found so funny they were compelled to repeat them at random intervals throughout the show ("That was quite a jolt, Freak!"), or included clips of stock footage (four different shots of a chimpanzee were randomly played in the opening sequence, for example), but the most prolific running gag was Emmitt Nervend. In fact, throughout the entire first season, one of the credits at the end of the show told observant viewers (or those with a VCR) how many times in the episode Emmitt Nervend could be found.
Head writer Paul Rugg (who was also the Supervising Story Editor for Steven Spielberg's Animaniacs) also voiced Freakazoid (if Freakazoid sounds to you like Mr. Director of Animaniacs -- the Jerry Lewis-type character -- that's because Rugg voiced them both), and it's a fair estimate to say that what went on during an episode of Freakazoid! was essentially what Paul Rugg wanted to happen. In interviews, he has said that he went into the recording booth and started ad-libbing a scene, and the crew animated it. The show has a dedicated following, including a small webring that was maintained for several years after the cancellation of the show, a group called F.L.I.P. that has dedicated itself to pushing for Freakazoid to be brought into the mainstream DC Universe (the continuity in which all of their characters, such as Superman and Batman, coexist), and a steady stream of requests to Cartoon Network to run the show whenever they're not (of course, Freakazoid! has been relegated to the overnight time-slot on CN, but some people realize it's best to take what you can get) and to revive the show with new episodes. Of course, Paul Rugg's departure from the WB Animation Dept. is the official reason given for the cancellation of the show, which was dependant on his presence, so I guess it's all up to him.
Freakazoid: The titular hero wore red underwear with his "F!" emblem on the chest and had a stripe of white lightning in his hair, much like the Bride of Frankenstein. The Freak was a surprisingly effective crimefighter, considering his inability to focus on the matter at hand. According to his theme song, he defends Washington, D.C. from the various evildoers who seek to rule to world or aquire ill-gotten gains. His alter ego, Dexter Douglas (voiced by David Kaufman), was an average geek with computer smarts and socially awkward behavior.
The Douglas Family: Douglas (voiced by John McCann), Debbie (Tress MacNielle) and Duncan (Googy Gress) Douglas are Dexter's dysfunctional family. Douglas and Debbie Douglas (no, that's not a typo) encourage the semi-literate Duncan's high school sports career while oblivious to Dexter's intellectual interests. The lot of them are also oblivious to their younger son's crimefighting exploits, as they are very self-absorbed and stupid.
Sgt. Mike Cosgrove: Cosgrove (Ed Asner) is the lazy cop with the commanding voice. He is most often seen inviting Freakazoid to join him as he takes in the lesser-known attractions of Washington, D.C. or goes out to eat. In episodes he appears in for more than a few seconds, he works with Freakazoid, as he appears to have extremely high-level clearance, the keys to the city, and all the time in the world. Also, when Mike Cosgrove tells you to "Cut it out," you cut it out now.
Steff: Freakazoid's girlfriend is also a classmate of his alter ego. In the first episode, "Dance of Doom," we learn that Dexter is rather unsuccessful in his love life, and it's a fact of Dexter's life that the women who won't give him a second glance that isn't accompanied by laughter or revulsion are the same ones who swoon when Freakazoid is around. Steff got to be the lucky girl to go out with Freakazoid, and eventually learned of his dual identity and became one of Freakazoid's crack team of specialists for extra difficult missions during the second season.
Ingmar: Freakazoid's mute butler. He kept the Freakalair clean and brought our hero finger sandwiches. ("He's mute, ya know.")
Professor Jones: Ingmar's replacement. When Ingmar resigned from his position, he brought along Professor Jones (voiced by Jonathan Harris, Mr. Smith of Lost in Space) to take his job so Freakazoid wouldn't be left in the lurch. He does not handle adversity well, however, and is extremely easily frightened, causing him to run in circles while screaming. Occasionally, he lets out an "Oh, the pain!" for us, so it's all good.
Roddy McStew: Voiced by Craig Ferguson of The Drew Carey Show, Roddy is the designer of the chip that gave Dexter his Freakazoid powers. He also plays the role of mentor, teaching Freakazoid the subtleties of his powers, scanning the internet for things of interest to him and generally aiding him when a situation calls for more than Freakazoid can do on his own.
Fanboy: One of Freakazoid's former sidekicks, Fanboy (Wayne Knight) is the quintessential fanboy: He loves comics, movies, and tv shows, and anything else that has conventions encouraging attendees to come in costume. With his too-small T-shirt and jaunty little cape, Fanboy follows Freakazoid around as long as there's nobody more famous for works in the superhero or sci-fi genres, such as George Takei and Mark Hamill.
The Huntsman: Another of the superhero community in Freakazoid's world, the Huntsman lives in the forests on the edge of the city (don't ask which one) and only comes to town to fight crime when his signal horn is blown from the roof of the police headquarters, sort of like an archaic Batman. The Huntsman is a big tough guy dressed like Robin Hood with both a striking resemblance and an identical voice to those of Kirk Douglas in his prime. Having only appeared during the first season, the Huntsman did not have all that many appearances on the show, but those he did have were memorable, to say the least.
Lord Bravery: Lord Bravery was a British superhero, and dealt more with the difficulties of being a superhero than with the actual saving of innocent lives and the stopping of supervillains. Among the things Lord Bravery was forced to contend with were his unsupportive wive and mother-in-law, the low crime rate in Great Britain, and local copyright laws. Lord Bravery was an approximation of what would have happened if Monty Python's had decided to do a superhero show.
Toby Danger: Toby only appeared once, but is worth mentioning because of the impact his single short had. Toby was a blatant parody of Johnny Quest, complete with a mishap-laden revision of the original Johnny Quest opening sequence. In "The Doomsday Bet," the Danger family (Dr. Vernon Danger, young Toby, his adopted sister Sharon, and the family's bodyguard "Dash" O'Pepper -- Vernon and Dash were voiced by Don Messick and Granville Van Dusen, the voice actors that played Dr. Benton Quest and Race Bannon, respectively, from the original Johnny Quest) visits Las Vegas after one of Dr. Quest's -- I mean, Danger's -- inventions is sabotaged and goes awry. The short poked fun at the dialogue and stilted animation of realistic figures that constituted JQ's signature, featuring one of the most awkwardly animated fight scenes ever shown on television and a perfect distillation of Race Bannon's character ("Let me throw a barrel at it!"). Toby Danger's first and only appearance was in the second episode of Freakazoid!, as a backup feature to the feature, "Candle Jack."
Candle Jack: Candle Jack is an urban legend. He's a bogey man who likes to capture children at campsites. He can only do so if they say "Candle Jack," however, so obviously noone is safe from him.
Caveguy: A Neanderthal man of high culture and considerable intellect. Aside from his fearsome appearance and larcenous nature, he could conceivably be the perfect human; a combination of physical strength and mental prowess. Since Freakazoid is a comedy, however, this is never addressed.
Cobra Queen: Cobra Queen was a petty thief who once stole an amulet that turned her into a mutant human-snake hybrid. She now has the ability to communicate and control giant snakes.
Guittierez: The CEO of the company that created the Pinnacle chip that supplies Freakazoid's powers. His goal was to gain the powers bestowed by the Pinnacle chip. He eventually got them and was defeated again by Freakazoid, and again later. Voiced by Ricardo Mantalban, he has a number of eccentricities and deplores being called a "weenie." I dont' know why.
Jeepers: An expert in all things mystic, Jeepers is a creepy little man who created a magic watch that can turn beavers into gold. End of story.
The Lobe: The Lobe (voiced by David Warner) is a brilliant criminal genius whose head is actually his exposed brain. Presumably his brain grew to large to be contained by his skull or something. The Lobe is Freakazoid's most prolific enemy and seems to enjoy the chase even more than the fruits of his labors.
Longhorn: Longhorn was a trucker/criminal who had plastic surgury done to make himself look like a half-man, half-bull. He also aspires to be a country singer, but his criminal exploits come first.
Freakazoid was an all-around fun show. It always seemed that Steven Spielberg could show up at any moment and realize that he was paying the Warner animators just to play and wind up cancelling the whole show (although Spielberg loved the show, personally -- which is good, since he ponied up the money for it). Paul Rugg was not a versatile voice actor (he had a killer Jerry Lewis impression and not much else), but he certainly had a sense for what was funny, both as an actor and a writer.
What was best about Freakazoid was its total lack of convention. The second episode featured a two-minute long ad-lib by Paul Rugg that had nothing to do with anything, and this was edited and animated into Freakazoid defeating Cave Guy. The throw-away lines were a wonderful thing, and all the characters brought something fun to the show: Vorn the Unspeakable was a Lovecraftian demon who was always polite when introducing himself, the Lobe's henchmen enjoyed watching him have a good time, and Norm Abrams was the most popular TV carpenter ever.
Sure, there was stupid stuff, like "Frenching with Freakazoid," in which he teaches us the phonetically correct way to say "Who cut the cheese?" in French. It aired during Kids' WB. They had to keep children entertained or the show wouldn't stay on. Of course, Paul Rugg left the show, thus killing the show, but that was by choice rather than poor ratings. As mentioned above, though, Cartoon Network has the broadcast rights, and will likely run the show on and off in perpetuity unless there's a possibility of a relaunch. As of this writing, the show is on Cartoon Network at 4 AM Central every weeknight. If you want to watch the show through, set aside a month to record an episode every night starting with "Five Day Forecast," which is the first episode. It won't take much time, and you'll be glad you did.