How the Radical ’90s Cartoon Took a Bite Out of Comics

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Much like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the jawsome heroes of Street Sharks had their very own Archie Comics comic book series in the ’90s.

In the wake of the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the ’80s and ’90s were known for anthropomorphic animal heroes with serious attitudes like Bucky O’Hare and Biker Mice From Mars. However, few of these creatures were as ferocious as the Street Sharks, giant genetic experiments that served as the protectors of Fission City. And much like the Ninja Turtles, Archie Comics published a three issue mini-series by Evan Skolnick, Nelson Ortega, and Jay Oliveras that retold the origin story of the cartoon heroes.

Street Sharks begins with Dr. Robert Bolton, professor at Fission City University, walking into a terrible experiment being performed by his friend and colleague Dr. Luther Paradigm. Dr. Paradigm is hellbent on perfecting the science of genetic manipulation, or “gene slamming.” His plan is to create the perfect human by combining human DNA with that of another animal. Dr. Paradigm injects a lobster and a swordfish with his serum and turns them into massive mutated monsters. Dr. Bolton objects to Dr. Paradigm’s experiments but becomes injected himself with an unknown animal’s DNA. While he transforms, Bolton escapes the lab, leaving Paradigm alone and without another test subject.

Related: Why Street Sharks is the Most Underrated Cartoon of the ’90s

The next day at Fission University, Dr. Paradigm asks his student, Lena Mack, to contact Dr. Bolton’s four sons and to tell them to meet him at an abandoned nuclear facility. Dr. Bolton’s sons John, Clint, Robert and Coop all head to the facility expecting to meet their father but are captured by Dr. Paradigm’s other experiments, now named Slobster and Slash. Dr. Paradigm restrains the four boys and injects them with shark DNA hoping to make them the most lethal creatures on Earth. Dr. Paradigm considers his experiment to be a failure when all four boys go limp, seemingly dead on the table. Slobster and Slash dump their bodies in a nearby culvert, leaving them for dead.

The next day, the boys wake up wet, confused and incredibly hungry. As they begin to eat, a startling transformation begins. They all turn into giant humanoid sharks! Knowing that Dr. Paradigm needed to answer for what he did to them, the boys rush off in search of answers. The only problem, of course, is that four massive mutant sharks tend to draw attention wherever they go. A high-speed chase ensues as the police race after the Sharks. Luckily, Lena’s friend Bends happens to drive by and picks the Sharks up.

Related: Line it is Drawn: Revamped Saturday Morning Cartoons

Dr. Paradigm kidnaps Bends and attempts to inject him with piranha DNA. The Sharks arrive in time and save Bends and Paradigm gets injected with the DNA instead. Mutating into a fishman hybrid monster, Dr. Paradigm becomes Dr. Pirahnoid. The comic ends with Pirahnoid stealing a nuclear warhead and fixing it with a special variation of his genetic experiment. The Sharks foil Pirahnoid’s plan and pledge to become Fission City’s guardians.

The Street Sharks cartoon ran from 1994 to 1997 and checked off every box necessary for a ’90s cartoon: mutant monsters, explosions, snappy one-liners and a line of action figures to bring the show to life. With 40 episodes to its name, Street Sharks was a moderately successful show. While many of the shows it replaced or aired alongside enjoyed reboots or revivals, Street Sharks remains a relic of the ’90s, untouched by the changing tides of time.

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