|Rambo was based on the successful movie franchise starring Sylvester Stallone. The first of these movies came from the novel First Blood, which told the story of Vietnam veteran John Rambo, who tried to adjust to civilian life but met with so much opposition and prejudice that he snapped and committed a rash of violent acts upon a small town. By the end of the book, both Rambo and the sheriff of the town were dead, and the reader was left questioning the government’s implicit responsibility. As you may have guessed, the cartoon Rambo ended up very different.
The series borrowed more from the sequels to First Blood, which depicted Rambo as a freedom fighter, battling oppressors in foreign countries and rescuing hostages or MIA’s who were helpless against their captors. Resembling the animated G.I. Joe, Rambo was now part of a team called The Force of Freedom, a liberal-minded and ethnically-mixed group of men and women, each with his or her own combat specialties.
The group received its orders from Col. Trautman, a major character in all three Rambo films. Rambo and the Freedom Force always seemed to come up against the evil organization SAVAGE, led by renegade General Warhawk. SAVAGE was also a military group, but unlike Rambo and his crew, they cared less about people and more about personal gain.
The main thing the cartoon had in common with the films was the overwhelming violence (although the animated recipients of Rambo's fury always recovered quickly). Beyond that, the similarities ended. This John Rambo was somewhat of a genius, well educated in the fields of geography, history, and civics, to name a few. He was also quite the “peacenik,” using violence only when it was absolutely necessary, which just happened to be every episode.
In order to make up for the cartoon Rambo’s lack of he-man machismo, the animators took every opportunity to feature his bare chest. When the hero rode a motorcycle he was safety-conscious enough to wear a helmet, but never a shirt.
While the cartoon was popular enough to spawn a line of successful action figures, it failed to reach the same heights as the films, causing its demise after one season.