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Childhood heroes fall foul of time

"CAPTAIN Scarlet, indestructible ..." Ah, if only.

As it turns out, the good Captain - that implacable foe of the Mysterons - wasn't quite as indestructible as his theme tune made him out to be.

On Sunday, Francis Matthews, the man who voiced Gerry Anderson's marionette hero, succumbed to a foe more deadly than even Martian invaders. Time.

It was actually a bad weekend for our cartoon heroes. Not only did we lose the voice of Captain Scarlet, we also lost Casey Kasem who will be forever remembered - or as long as the baby boomers generation hangs around - for voicing that acme of American stoner culture, Shaggy. You know. Scooby Doo's best mate.

And while we're in the vicinity it's worth noting that, last year, we lost Richard Briers, whom some people may remember as Tom in The Good Life but I'll always recall as the voice of Roobarb and Custard. It's like my childhood is curling up and dying right in front of me.

Of course now that I'm a grown-up (allegedly) I can see the subtext at work in all these cartoons of yesteryear. Roobarb, which first appeared in 1974, is some early indicator of the punk generation then on the rise. Creator Bob Godfrey was so anarchic he didn't even keep his colouring-in inside the lines. Captain Scarlet, and Thunderbirds too for that matter, was clearly some kind of post-imperial lament for the loss of Empire. It was the kiddie equivalent of nuclear weapons. We might not rule the world but we're still pulling our weight (though even in the era of Harold Wilson's "white heat of technology" do you seriously think the British government could really have found the budget for Thunderbirds 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5?)

As for Scooby Doo, it's lightly coded hippy propaganda. Who are the bad guys? Usually businessmen who would have got away with it if it wasn't for those "pesky kids". In other words it's a weekly endorsement of the Yippee catchphrase (first coined by Jack Weinberg, fact fans) "don't trust anyone over 30". And why did Shaggy and Scooby always seem to have the munchies? What was in those Scooby Snacks really? Can we trace the war on drugs to ­ Hanna-Barbera? Frankly, it's a miracle Richard Nixon didn't ban the show.

Come to think about it, maybe there's nothing particularly innocent about any of our cartoon heroes.

And don't get me started on My Little Pony …

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