This list is an analysis and overview of the most iconic characters from Cartoon Network in the 90s and early 2000s. We’ve ranked them across different categories. We’ll try to be as objective as possible, so let’s get our remotes out and remember the golden age of Cartoon Network.
Disclaimer: We’ll solely focus on characters from Cartoon Network that were created and developed by Cartoon Network Studios. Therefore, we will not discuss Goku, Dragon Ball, or any other shows or characters that were only broadcast on Cartoon Network during the 90s and early 2000s. Also, Ben 10 was only produced by Cartoon Network Studios, it was created by Man of Action Entertainment.
12. I.R. Baboon
I.R. Baboon is by far the funniest and probably the dumbest of all the other characters from Cartoon Network that we’ll discuss. He comes from a famous show I Am Weasel. I just loved how he was a really good representation of a “baboon” type of guy that we all had in school. Baboon is actually 40 years old, which was revealed in an episode titled “I.R.’s First Bike.” During the opening scene when I.R. Baboon writes that name on his white t-shirt, that’s the moment that you realize how high his IQ is. Baboon is a jealous person who hates Weasel, who is smart and a more reasonable person than Baboon. Even the way I.R. Baboon talks is funny; it’s most of the time grammatically incorrect, and his pronunciation is underdeveloped and childish. The funniest part about I.R. is how dumb he looks when he’s smelling his finger; not to mention he’s scratching his red butt.
I.R. Baboon’s actions were usually followed by the sounds of other monkeys, which are hilarious. Monkey sounds surround I.R. Baboon, usually during his planning phase, or when his plans are ruined. Baboon is a personification of the Dunning-Kruger effect when you think about it. Who doesn’t know it’s simply when people who have limited abilities overestimate themselves; stupid people think that they’re smarter than they are. Just like in the pilot episode “This Bridge, Not Weasel Bridge” when an architect is taken away by the comet, I.R. thinks that he can become the next engineer just like that. What happens is that I.R. makes a bridge to Mexico, instead of France; plus the bridge goes underwater in some ways. In the end, we all love Baboon because, after all, he reveals to have a good heart and becomes Weasel’s best friend. I.R. Baboon is more of a “monkey” than an actual villain; he’s just too “slow in the head” and likes to compete with guys out of his league.
11. Major Doctor Ghastly
Probably one of the hottest characters from the Cartoon Network show Evil Con Carne is Andedonia J. Ghastly, a.k.a. Major Doctor Ghastly, because this gal had everything. She was the right hand of the world’s most evil guy, Hector Con Carne, and she was a mastermind scientist. Since it wasn’t weird that a Weasel had a beautiful human girlfriend, Nurse Loulabelle. Why couldn’t a bear with a human brain and a human stomach have a hot assistant? Later on, it was revealed that she is deeply in love with Hector, which in some episodes looks creepy, as she fantasizes about him and even cries when another girl wants to win Hector over. One of the weirdest aspects of her fantasies is that she envisions Hector with his old, attractive body but with his brain instead of his face.
Major Ghastly is usually made fun of by Hector, who calls her names like fat, nerd, or fat nerd. It was revealed that in the future, Major Ghastly and Hector would have a child, which was quite unusual. I hit puberty at about that time when I saw a bear with a human brain and a stomach in a jar. Having a baby with a hot, nerdy, crazy scientist raised so many questions. C’mon, people, just look at her outfit: skin-tight rubber suit, elbow-length latex gloves, and high-heeled boots; it was obvious all along. Ghastly adds a lot of dynamic elements to the show, especially since the other characters are mostly dull, except for the evil General Skarr. One final point about Ghastly is that she starts standing up to Hector because she grows tired of his foolish plans and ignorance.
10. Red Guy
Probably the first of all the other characters from Cartoon Network that I can recall seeing is the Red Guy. I’ll never forget his chaotic personality and the weird way that he moved and always yelled at anyone. Red Guy a.k.a. The Devil is also a character in I Am Weasel, but he became a permanent member in the second season of that show. Anyway, he’s one of the most hilarious characters with the creepiest dialogue; just the way he says “yes, oh, yes” is pretty bizarre. Just like the real Devil, he always changed jobs but was always superior or in most cases; in one word, he was everywhere and everyone. He’d pop up as a barber in one episode and as a construction worker in another. The Red Guy always had the upper hand but lost every time. Just like the real Devil, he always tempted everyone, from the pilot when he tempted Chicken into smoking so he could drag him into hell.
Red Guy, apart from being mean all the time, also had a funny way of calling everyone. He’d use words such as “ladies,” “girls,” “gals,” or “men.” What we all remember and what was shocking at the time is that he was always naked and had that pointy tail and two little horns. This guy, unlike any other characters from Cartoon Network, walked on his butt, or he’d roll around on the floor. Some of his most famous quotes are “Hello, it’s me,” and he’d add something new every time. His relationship with Cow and Chicken seems to be natural, as they’re some kind of weird “friends.” It seemed like he had some kind of disorder when speaking, as he always yelled, and right after that, he spoke silently like a nice gentleman. When I rewatched the show, it felt like he had bipolar disorder or something, as his behavior was all over the place, as well as his tone. Everything about the Red Guy is weird, chaotic, and silly, just like with the real Devil.
Unlike other characters from Cartoon Network, Ed is the stereotype of an older idiot brother who lives in his partner’s basement. Ed is obsessed with monsters, horror comics, and B-production sci-fi and horror movies. This is how Ed could be defined in one superficial sentence, but he is more than that; much more. Other than being a buffoon for most of the time, he is actually a really kind and good person. Unlike his best friend Eddy, who is a narcissistic cash-obsessed guy, nor is he as smart as Double D a.k.a. Edd. Simply, Ed’s a good soul with not that high IQ trapped in his parent’s basement. Ed is something that all fantasy, horror, or sci-fi fans were at that age, just most of us had more brains than Ed had. Since the show was produced in 1998, it probably reflected basement geeks from the ’80s and early ’90s.
In the second episode of the first season, “Over Your Ed,” Ed has revealed his first talent – being cool. Those jokes at the time and his looks were just hilarious; this one joke stuck with me till today: “Swiggity swag, what’s in the bag?”. Other than being, as Kevin called them, dorks, now one of them is all of a sudden a swagger. Also, the blonde Kanker sister called May was into Ed; can you just imagine what a trailer camp basement mix hellhole that would have been? In the episode “Dawn of the Eds,” we saw that Ed knows pretty much about aliens as he was the leader of the three they were imagining being in a sci-fi B movie “Space Invaders.” In the episode “It Came From Outer Ed,” The Curse of Evil Tim is introduced, giving +1 to Ed’s zombie knowledge. Ed even became a real-life Godzilla-like monster in the episode, “The Day the Ed Stood Still”; Ed chewed Chunky Puffs and spit them out to stick his victims to the wall; now that’s gross.
8. Mojo Jojo
“I Am Bad, I Am Evil, I Am Mojo Jojo” is the quote that describes this character the most. First of all, Mojo Jojo was actually the cause of why we even have this show. As the Professor was cooking something in his lab, a bad little monkey called Jojo accidentally pushed Professor towards Chemical X, and thus the Powerpuff Girls were born; more like created, but okay. You see, Mojo Jojo was a pet to the Professor before the creation of the girls, just like any other parent, he neglected Jojo when he got the girls. After the explosion, Mojo Jojo’s brain got large, and he made his home in an alley as he had nowhere to go. Mojo Jojo is different from other characters from Cartoon Network as he is an ape and not a monkey. Since I hold a bachelor’s degree in ecology, I have to conclude that Mojo is an ape because chimps are apes and not monkeys. The major difference is that all monkeys have tails, and apes don’t.
Most importantly, all other characters from Cartoon Network have both sides, but Mojo actually got a chance and showed us that he doesn’t. On the 10th anniversary of “The Powerpuff Girls Rule!”, Mojo Jojo actually conquered the world, and I thought that he was a good guy. Instead of destroying the world, he brought an end to world hunger, obtained world peace, and gave everyone a puppy. That was for a couple of minutes until he was bored and started wrecking the world and wreaking havoc on Townsville and the rest of the world. What we know for sure is he is one bad ape, but on the other hand, he isn’t as evil as Him. Mojo Jojo is even respectful of girls and other characters, and he even saves the day a couple of times. My theory is that he lacked some attention after he was neglected by the Professor. It’s funny how every time he isn’t in the center of an evil deed, he accidentally saves the day by ruining others who want to destroy Townsville or conquer the world.
7. Johhny Bravo
You could learn a lot of how-to lessons from other characters on Cartoon Network, but from Johnny Bravo, you could just learn how NOT to behave, especially around girls. This is one of the funniest narcissistic, blonde, upper-body-building guys out there. Johnny’s legs are so tiny compared to the rest of his body that his middle name could be “forever-skip-leg day.” Bravo, unlike other characters, isn’t any fantasy lover or possesses any powers or fantasies; except winning over some girls. Johnny Bravo is a personification of “What guys shouldn’t do to win over or impress a girl.” He is a wanna-be-Elvis with his black sunglasses, big biceps, and an even bigger ego. Bravo is something like Homer or Krusty the Clown, a character that the audience is supposed to laugh at. One of the reasons why Johnny Bravo was a good show is that he always stayed himself; he never learned anything, and he was always Johnny Bravo.
Johnny Bravo is the type of guy who hits the gym and lives with his mom. His best friend and therapist is a girl called Little Suzy. It’s revealed throughout the show that ever since he was a kid, he had a keen interest in girls but never got a date. According to show creators, he gets girls occasionally, but that’s not the point. Johnny is one of the few characters from Cartoon Network with whom writers tried to address bigger issues in society – the way men interact with women. He just kept approaching girls and making bad jokes every second on screen. He is an egomaniac, and his way of rudely interrupting women with no respect, and his way of showing off self-confidence, is cringe at best. Johnny is intended to be a clown of all the wrong things, with self-help dating books that have taken the world by storm.
Sometimes a man just can’t get his Slushie” is a sentence that would define Coop. Coop reminds me somewhat of a Dude from The Big Lebowski, Coop just cares a bit more. He is a big guy who just wants to be happy. In one word, he’s a hedonist. He likes to play video games, drive his car around town, smash some robots, and impress his little cousin from time to time. Most importantly, Coop is a good guy, but we can’t say the same for his best friend Jamie. Another reason why I love the character of Coop is that, OMG, he is so simple, and Coop enjoys making Scooby-Doo-style sandwiches. He’s a really passionate guy, and he doesn’t have any insecurities. Coop is what he is, and most importantly, he is satisfied with what and who he is. Nowadays, he could be a billion-dollar motivational speaker.
What they did differently with Megas XLR is that they made Coop the main character, and this was probably the craziest idea at the time. Usually, the good guys are handsome, tall, beautiful, and not overweight gamers who eat a ton of sandwiches and drive giant robot cars. Coop is quite a large guy, he has more Xs than Megas does, and he’s not looking to hit the gym anytime soon. His greatest skill is that he’s a better pilot than pilots from the future, and that’s all because of video games. Since he was a kid, he was winning and beating a lot of games, and probably eating challenges along the way. Other than that, it’s a pity that the hero, at least in this case, didn’t get the girl. In the end, he got a Slushie and a bunch of food, plus the video games and an updated Megas from the future. Coop was different from characters from Cartoon Network because he was an overweight couch potato with a pure heart; something like an overweight Goku (without powers) in a Super Saiyan Ape Mecha.
Dexter is the most popular and widely known of all the characters from Cartoon Network. It was never so easy to do science homework after watching Dexter’s Laboratory. Dexter is a little nerdy genius who just happens to have a huge lab hidden behind his bookcase. He lives in a suburb of Genius Grove; it’s been speculated that it’s somewhere in California near a big city. Dexter speaks with a slight Russian accent, but the rest of his family doesn’t. He is very protective of his sister Dee Dee, who likes to get on his nerves and from time to time destroy his whole laboratory. Dexter is also quite naive, sometimes not even understanding the simplest things, but we’ll forgive him; he’s still 8 years old. Dexter is one of those characters that I’ve loved to meet ever since I was a kid, but it’s hard to get and talk with Elon Musk these days.
When it comes to why Dexter always wears gloves, that reminds me of Nikola Tesla, who always wore gloves; we all know who Tesla was, right? Dexter’s orange hair, glasses, and height contribute to his iconic geek-genius stereotype. Out of all the scientists, Dexter’s biggest idol is Albert Einstein; he has a picture that he sometimes cries to in his school locker. Some of his most iconic inventions are introduced in the first season, and it’s none other than an interdimensional portal. Later on, in the same episode, he has to rely on his sister Dee Dee to carry a message into the past to warn him. We could already guess that he liked Einstein since the first episode was all about time travel. Monkey is one of the many pet characters from Cartoon Network that felt really fresh. I always thought that the Monkey was inspired by Bananaman or had something in common, like a Honeydew. Out of all the other characters in Dexter’s Laboratory, Dee Dee sometimes takes the first place.
Amanda, a.k.a. Mandy, is what goth metal girls were like in the ’90s and early 2000s. What made her even more creepy and scary was that she always wore that pink dress like a sweet little girl. Unlike other characters from Cartoon Network, Mandy is quite a sadistic person who’s kind of a psychopath, but only to some extent. During the show, we saw a couple of times that she could be in love, but as she said, ‘romance is for the weak-minded.’ In another episode when Billy pretended to be dead, she freaked out and showed sympathy towards him. It means that Mandy is a good girl but likes horror and sarcasm and is quite an intelligent girl. At that time, that was how we imagined strong female characters, especially since Mandy was destroying anyone who stood in her way. Not to mention that her pet is Grim the Reaper.
Mandy is the one who actually won Grim over; it’s better to say she outsmarted him. In the episode ‘Mandy the Merciless,’ Grim showed Billy, Mandy, and Irwin the future where Mandy is a giant demon-worm-human hybrid and a dictator of the world. This was a parody of Frank Herbert’s ‘God Emperor of Dune’ book, just Mandy is feeding on cinnamon while in the book, Leto is feeding on the Spice which smells like cinnamon. Mandy has one more physical trait that makes her even scarier, and it’s her hair, which has the shape of a devil’s horns. One good thing about Mandy is that she doesn’t like cheating but is quite spoiled because her parents let her do anything. Her parents seem to fear her too, as her mom is always complimenting her and buying her things, while her dad is cooking and cleaning after Mandy; she’s an emperor in her own house. In 2021, Maxwell, the show creator, revealed that Mandy was autistic.
Courage was the character that adored me from the first time I saw him back in ’99. There wasn’t a lot about him that people couldn’t like; he’s cute and smart, and he is brave even if he’s a coward on the surface. For all of those who disagree, just remember that kids are afraid of insects and tiny things. But Courage had to find some horrible nightmarish creature. Just imagine seeing a ghost of a pharaoh Ramses from Ancient Egypt who wants his Slab to be returned. Courage is if you don’t know or don’t remember an adopted puppy. Also, if some of you were wondering which kind of dog he is, you’ve guessed it—he’s a beagle. Courage has some of the most memorable screams and some of the most horrific scenes, from ripping his skin off to turning into a creepy monster, and many others.
Courage was found by Muriel in the made-up town called Nowhere after Courage escaped from the Pets of Tomorrow animal clinic. He was easy to spot on TV back in the day, just like The Simpsons because of their color. The Simpsons were eye-poking yellow, while The Courage was fluorescent pink. He has three black spots on his pink fur, and he’s always tiptoeing around the house. This was all well made up to represent a perfect coward trying to live in a world full of horror. It was so funny how he shapeshifter into absolutely anything when he tried to explain to Eustace and Muriel that a terrible monster or a strange-looking person was coming. Also, the sounds that he made were hilarious, as well as how he’d get upset after they didn’t understand a single word; then all of a sudden, a stranger would knock on the door. Courage enjoyed sleeping in Muriel’s lap while she was in her rocking chair, just pure hedonism.
2. Samurai Jack
Out of all the characters from Cartoon Network, this one was probably the first real hero by today’s standards. There was also Dexter, but he was a bit too geeky, although he also had some great battles alongside Action Hank versus Mandark. Samurai Jack is what we boys dreamt of as young warriors; he was brave, fighting for honor, his family, empire, and protecting the weak. Samurai Jack was for us the 90s kids something like what Robin Hood was for British folks back in the day. He is a well-built, strong samurai warrior who travels the world to defeat the evil that is Aku. Jack possessed many different skills that he learned both in the past and the future. Some of his enhanced human abilities are superhuman speed, strength, endurance, weapon mastery, and ‘jump good’ (huge jump). He happens to wield a magical sword that can kill anyone evil.
Jack has a good heart, probably the purest of all other characters from Cartoon Network. Ed, Coop, Nigel Uno, they’re all good, but this one is humble, it’s good. Jack is the type of man and a character that they’re not making anymore. He is capable of surviving anywhere in the world because he can adapt to any circumstances. Jack possesses huge self-control and he has specific charisma which is shrouded by being polite, humble, and appreciating all forms of life. He can destroy armies, but when he sees a deer in the forest, he lets it humbly drink water from a small river next to him. His Shinto ways of looking at the world are something that amazed me, as he saw good in everything except in Aku; who is a personification of evil something like The Devil. It’s remarkable how in most episodes Jack just walks around in silence until something happens or he talks. This was the best way to introduce the calmness, humbleness, politeness, and goodness that Jack shared with us. Sometimes this silent and just world expoloration and exposure would be enough.
1. Nigel Uno a.k.a. Numbuh One
Here’s to the Numbuh One called Uno, Nigel Uno. Uno means 1 in Spanish, which explains why he’s called Nigel ‘Numbuh 1’ Uno. Out of all these characters from Cartoon Network, he’s the one that stuck to my heart the most. Nigel was part of something bigger; he was part of Kids Next Door. Nigel Uno was a great team leader, maybe something best that came after Splinter from TNMT combined with Leo. His unstoppable leading talent and care for his team is something that just got me stuck with his character, as well as with his team. He always had a lot of plans, and his voice acting was just perfect.
Nigel also happens to be the only kid, as he doesn’t have any siblings. His father, Monty Uno, “Numbuh 0,” was the one who brought the seventh age of KND. Monty was a Nigel Uno before Nigel Uno, and now that’s a cool dad that every kid dreams of having. For most of the show, Monty Uno is just a boring dad who wants to go fishing, but when he is revealed to be “Numbuh 0,” that is a big turnover. Numbuh One was the type of kid who always had a chubby girlfriend, Lizzie Devine, but I was always hoping that by the end of the show, he’d end up with Numbuh Five. As we can see, the show had some great writing, and the relationships within the show were fantastic. Nigel Uno was also bold, and it was stated that that’s the work of nobody other but The Delightful Children From Down The Lane. The biggest surprise for me was when I found out that Nigel’s Mom, Mrs. Uno, was the sister and daughter-in-law of Grandfather and Benedict Wigglestein and the Delightful Children From Down The Lane.
Final Thoughts on Characters From Cartoon Network
Anyway, KND was my way out of childhood, the show after which I unplugged. It was the one that “decommissioned” me since I was a teenager at that time. It’s just like the day when I left the Xbox controller and never came back; the last time that I thought of that person and didn’t realize that it was the last time; so was it with Cartoon Network, cable, and KND. All of these characters from Cartoon Network have stayed in our hearts, and that’s the best comeback that we could ask for. From time to time, we can take a look at these episodes with a smile and think what a wonderful time it was, but it’s over, and that’s how it should be. For those of you who seek a comeback, I just hope that you won’t get disappointed too much. Reboots don’t usually work and remakes are just a quick cash grab.
The shows had a nice beginning, but as the animation changed, so did the writers. Just like with the case of The Simpsons, once the great writers left, and the animation changed, the show’s viewership numbers started to decline. This also happened with Dexter and other Cartoon Network classics, as they tried to expand the universe or use some U-turn moves to make the show different. This all led to cancellations after cancellations, and eventually, all shows ended in 2010. I understand it was easier to just make new shows rather than keep the old ones zombified, but c’mon, we’re the generation that grew up on dark humor, and nowadays it’s all rainbows and unicorns. That being said, whatever happens in the future, we will still have all these memorable CN series to re-watch for as long as we want.
Image Credits: Cartoon Network Studios