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MARVIN THE MARTIAN :: An Earth Shattering Kaboom in Pop Culture

MARVIN THE MARTIAN :: An Earth Shattering Kaboom in Pop Culture

By Kish Lal

It’s no fluke that Marvin The Martian’s Looney Tunes debut in 1948 on the cartoon “Haredevil Hare” coincided with a flying saucer crashing into New Mexico. While Roswell was said to be surreptitiously covered up by the military, Marvin’s first appearance was less menacing — even as he threatened to blow up the Earth with his Uranium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator. In Haredevil Hare, the softly spoken, anthropomorphized, invader dressed in a Roman soldier’s uniform and basketball shoes fell victim to Bugs Bunny’s swift switcheroo, which did save the planet but created a new foe.

Hailing from Mars, Marvin represents more than just the fourth planet from the sun. Following Roswell, the world’s fascination with extraterrestrial beings went into overdrive. From wreaking havoc in Alien and creating ominous crop-circles in Signs to the more benevolent moments of E.T. and the clumsy and cute hive-minded race in Home, aliens flooded the collective consciousness.  

Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Blake Griffin are all names synonymous with basketball but in 1993, followed by the release of Space Jam, Marvin The Martian became the NBA’s most infamous enemy. With confirmation that Space Jam 2 is set to arrive in 2021, LeBron James will be the next baller to come face to face with the relentless martian.

Like many of pop culture’s favorite villains, Marvin is petty, clumsy and rarely succeeds. Whether he’s trying to destroy the Earth to get a better view of Venus or kidnapping humans (and talking bunnies) to study them, he’s seldom as frightening (or successful) as he hopes to be. Beloved as a heel, Marvin’s influence transcends Looney Tunes, inspiring a pair of Jordan 7 Retros, a coveted series of Be@rbricks and a line of Lot29 t-shirts.

As Marvin The Martian prepares to make his next impact on Earth with The Hundreds, we look back at his appearances throughout pop culture, from Space Jam to The Simpsons.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Continuity errors are great, despite the fact that they often spawn the best (and worst) conspiracy theories. The live-action and animated comedy film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which was released in 1988, was set in 1947, a year before Marvin’s actual debut in 1948. Selected for the United States National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” the film is a wonderful homage to the golden age of cartoons. Hosting a sea of cameos from Warner Bros. greats, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and Tweety, Marvin The Martian was in great company and will forever be tied to a moment of cultural significance.

Nike commercial (1993)
How many commercials get turned into movies? Said to be the precursor to Space Jam, this Nike commercial cleverly interpolated animation with live action, setting a trend in advertising, with Sega, Hertz, and McDonald’s following suit.

The Nike commercial begins with Marvin, the antagonist, together with his trusty sidekick K-9, stealing Earth’s entire supply of Air Jordans, only to be stopped by the unlikely duo of Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan themselves. Marvin, confuddled by some fast talking, eventually sends a league of giant alien birds to play ball against the duo. They lose to Bugs and Jordan, who reclaim the sneakers and send Marvin back to Mars.

Animaniacs: “Cat on a Hot Steel Beam” (1993)
While Marvin became a Looney Tunes staple, his introduction to a new generation of cartoon fans began with shows like Animaniacs. A titular parody of the Tennessee Williams play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, this episode narrates a comical chase across a construction site. As Buttons protects Mindy by extending a plank‚ he ends up being extended up to the moon and sees Marvin the Martian, idly standing there. He may be from Mars, but albeit for anyone to keep him from vacationing on the Moon. It’s a brief cameo that sets up Marvin as a constant presence, ever lurking in space.

Clueless (1995)
Whether you’re from Earth, Mars, or Venus, Clueless goes down as one of the most important movies from the 90s. A visual capsule of that time period, the movie represents everything the decade is known for, from fat jeans and Cindy Crawford to frosted tips and Coolio. Tai, played by Brittany Murphy, transforms from awkward new girl to the popular kid and sets her sights on the “burnout skater,” Travis. While flirting in the cafeteria, he mentions wanting to cover his skateboard with pictures of Marvin. Tai excitedly says she can draw him, before opening up a folder full of doodles: “I mean there’s not really a lot to him.”

Space Jam (1996)
An uncanny amalgam of animation, basketball, live action and the fate of the Looney Tunes combined to make Space Jam a beloved movie amongst millennials. Despite receiving mixed reviews, it was a box office hit, grossing $90.4 million domestically and an estimated $230–$250 million internationally.

A cornerstone of nostalgia, Space Jam saw Bugs Bunny, Jordan, and the Looney Tunes band together to fight against one common enemy — and this time it wasn’t Marvin. Instead, he’s an impartial player, refereeing the basketball game set to decide the Looney Tunes destiny against Mr. Swackhammer and the MonStars.

The Simpsons: “The Springfield Files” (1997)
Following the success of Space Jam, Marvin became a prominent member of the Looney Tunes — foe or not — and subsequently evolved into a cultural icon. Appearing in an episode of The Simpsons, the ultimate cameo, Marvin stood in an FBI lineup with other famous aliens including Gort, Chewbacca, ALF, and one of the Kang and Kodos siblings.

Pinky and the Brain: “Star Warners” (1998)
“Star Warners” sees Pinky and the Brain take the concept of a crossover episode to new heights. The final episode sees the Animaniacs cast take on a Star Wars parody of A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Meanwhile, Pinky and the Brain attempt to wield the Mega Star for their plans of universal domination. Proof that he’s a romantic at heart, Marvin makes a brief cameo, sitting on a date with Minerva Mink, unaware of the destruction around him, that he, for once, has no hand in.

Ludacris “Mouthing Off” (1999)
While Rihanna likely takes top spot for most mentions in rap songs, Marvin gets a slick shoutout from 4-IZE in Ludacris’ 1999 track, “Mouthing Off.” “Yo, I am going to blow up the Earth,” he raps on the second verse, “With my Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator.” A call back to Marvin’s first appearance and his modest modulator, 4-IZE gives the martian an enduring moment in hip-hop, but it wouldn’t be the last.

South Park: “Imaginationland Episode III” (2007)
The three-part story arc that won the 2008 Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program for One Hour or More, South Park’s “Imaginationland Episode III” is the final chapter in the series, where Stan and Butters fight against imaginary forces as terrorists attack the embodiment of human imagination. In the concluding episode, Marvin marches alongside an army of evil fictional characters in a clash against the surviving good characters. Joined by a corrupted Gossamer and rabid Wile. E. Coyote, Marvin’s dark side is elucidated in this dark tale from TV’s most twisted writers.

T-Pain “Time Machine” (2007)
Florida boy T-Pain paid homage to Marvin and his Space Modulator on his 2007 song, “Time Machine.” “Illudium Pew-36 explosive space modulator,” he croons in autotune, “going on a trip, I’ll be back home, boy I’ll see you later.” This was based on Marvin’s attempts to blow up the Earth with a Uranium Pew-36 Explosive Space Modulator, the name of which was changed due to government sensors to the fictional Illudium Pew-36 in later films.

Young Justice: “Secrets” (2011)
This Halloween episode of Young Justice details a suspected Martian invasion in Manhattan. Miss Martian takes on the form of a gigantic Marvin the Martian to scare someone coincidentally named Marvin, who attempts a distasteful prank telling everyone two of his friends are dead. This Godzilla-sized Marvin teaches everyone a worthy lesson.

Blake Griffin and “The Dunk to End All Dunks” (2015)
In a commercial for the new Jordan Super.Fly 4s, Marvin corners an unsuspecting Blake Griffin on the court for a dunk contest to end all contests. Armed with an unfair advantage, Marvin shows Griffin up, despite being just 3-feet tall. While Marvin looks set to win, Bugs turns up with a fresh pair of Jordan Super.Fly 4s, and together with a matching pair of basketball shorts, Griffin dunks from the foul line — the other foul line. If this is a taste of what’s to come in Space Jam 2, then we’re excited.

Ready Player One (2018)
70 years after his debut in “Haredevil Hare,” Marvin continues to be part of the zeitgeist. Steven Spielberg’s dystopian science fiction film, Ready Player One, is an eerie peek into the future of virtual reality. Spotted in a penultimate moment that unlocks one of the first clues, Marvin’s enduring legacy is embedded in pop culture, and Spielberg’s recognition is as good as it gets.

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THE HUNDREDS X LOONEY TUNES: MARVIN THE MARTIAN DROPS ON THURSDAY, MAY 23

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