In the age of reboots, revivals, reimagnings, this is the place where we shine a light on some of the properties, whether it was a potential franchise, TV Pilot, TV Series, comic/graphic novel, books, video games or others that deserve a second chance.
Nature's Guard Retrospective:
The Epic 80s Throwback That Never Happened
By Ezekiel McAdams
Feb 9 2018
The year was 2002, a brand new potential franchise emerged, Nature's Guard. Likened as a cross between G.I. Joe meets Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it was heralded as an modern throwback to classic 80s cartoons. It featured expansive worldbuilding, a plethora of characters and a potential multimedia franchise comprised of comics, toys and a cartoon series. This was going to be an epic tale of an elite group of anthropomorphic animals, the Nature's Guard, waging a war against the terrorist group, the SpiderSect Empire.
The high concept premise sounds very familiar to those who grew up on 80s cartoons, surrounded by Transformers, G.I. Joe, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, ThunderCats and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Was Nature's Guard ahead of the curve?
While the early 2000s did have revivals of Scooby-Doo (What's New Scooby Doo), 2002's fondly remembered He-Man revival by Mike Young Studios, a 2003 darker Mirage comic inspired iteration of Ninja Turtles, there was less emphasis on revivals and franchises that are so prevalent now.
Now, we are in the age of throwbacks, where nostalgia is king. Where brands and IP's are devoured, studios desperately scrambling for their piece of the pie, whether it be a cinematic universe or a lucrative franchise.
Where is Nature's Guard? And what happened to it?
It all began in 1989. Jonathan Bryans, had an idea that he couldn't let go. An itch that nineteen years later he is still scratching to become reality. Bryans wanted his own version of G.I. Joe
Bryans, grew up in the 70s, where like many children, teenagers and even adults, fell in love with Star Wars. "May 25 1977, I'm sitting in the first screening of Star Wars, in Hamilton, I watched the star destroyer fly across the screen and I said 'I want to do that'" Bryans said.
It was that moment, that a fiery spark was born inside him, beckoning to create.
Fast forward to 1988, Bryans began playing Sierra On-Line's King Quest series "Every game I bought and I played and played. And I started writing some fan fiction and was encouraged to do something about it." he said.
Bryans, a self professed fan of G.I. Joe, had already created his own versions and that was the idea that stuck. An animal lover as well, Bryans, combined anthropomorphic characters with the concepts from G.I. Joe, an elite special forces unit fighting a global terrorist organization. "It was military, I came from North Ireland. I grew up loving the military. I got a couple characters and I was hooked. I loved the uniqueness of each character. They had their own abilities, their own weapons, every character was different and the file card on the back. Looking at the file card, seeing the history of the characters, drew me in." Bryans said.
The idea that was Nature's Guard has gone through multiple iterations and titles and is still evolving. One early title was N.U.T. Patrol (Nature's United Troop Patrol) "It was too much of a mouthful. It was a stupid name. Too many people thinking it was a comedy, and that's not what this property was it intended to be" Bryans recalled.
He settled on Nature's Guard creating characters such as Boon, the raccoon leader and Longtail, the squirrel commander, that have remained with every iteration. "I'm a huge animal-head. Two of my favourite animals are raccoons and squirrels. I know it's a joke, Trash Pandas, but they're much smarter then they're given credit for." he said.
For Bryans, he didn't have to look far for inspiration, his own backyard extended into a forest and trail. This helped form the fictional world of Foresyta, which was to be the centre for his characters and expanding universe. "It's representative of my youth. Of me and people I know. Secret Woods is where I grew up."
Bryans was lucky and through a connection of his father's was able to freelance for various toy companies in the 90s. It was sporadic, and despite his success, he put some of the creative juices aside as he started a family and had children, but the itch remained and in 2001, decided it was time for Nature's Guard.
He formed his own company, Aen Entertainment, that became Gaelstone Media in 2006.
Bryans, by his own assertion, wrote a very crude version of a story bible for an animated series, that contained 160 characters, and five seasons, of which each episode had a rough synopsis.
Bryans created a rich world populated with an array of characters intermingled with politics, patriotism and high stakes terrorism. At the end of civil war in PineCrest Forest, an elite unit is formed to combat the growing threat of not only the SpiderSect Empire but factions of IronWeasels and Cobrax.
Nature's Guard consisted of Boon, the leader of Nature's Guard. Kat Nipp (cat), Longtail (squirrel) and Klondike (grizzly bear), the Commander of the Grizzly Guards.
Allies included Decoy, a freelance operative duck, Steelhide, (elephant), the weapons specialist, Oasis (camel) a desert warfare specialist and field medic, Hunter Grey (wolf) a freelance ninja, Crosshairs and Quickstep, two rabbit operatives, Silicon (mouse, Summit (eagle), Chirp (cricket), Rockslide (beaver) and Fumes (skunk) a female Sergeant that is the resident chemical and biological specialist.
Heroes need a good rogues gallery and Bryans provided good combatants, the likes of Empress Webula, Grandsilk Weaver (spiders), the hierarchy of the Spidersect Empire. The Empire included Senator Araknor, Commander Cobweb, as well as one of their enforcers, General Scorpius (scorpion). Other villainous threats included Baron Ironweasel (weasel), whom was the instigator of the civil war of PineCrest Forest, the Cobraxian Alliance, comprised of the snakes, Cobrax and Slythor, Mad Simian (monkey), Carcass (vulture), Salamandos (salamander) and Mother Nature (raccoon) leader of the Eco Terrorist group, The Naturalists.
The battles were fought over diverse terrains of Forestya, deserts, wetlands as well as the populated areas of the cities in the forest that were specifically designed continue the ever expanding universe.
With the world and characters and story arcs in place, Bryans went to work pitching to various comic companies, finally succeeding with emerging UK. publisher, Warpton Comics. " I had wanted to do a comic book. One of the things, you'll find with me, I set a goal in six months that I'd get picked up to do a comic. It was a fluke, I was searching online and I don't know why it went to England but they were looking for submissions, and Warpton popped up." Bryans said.
Bryans and Warpton reached a deal for a three issue mini-series that would be drawn by renowned artist Leonard Kirk (Supergirl), whom was a childhood friend of Bryans.
Bryans fueled by perseverance and his ambition was able to recruit several Star Wars alum to be the voices. The original cast was going to consist of Jeremy Bulloch, notable for his role as fan favourite, Boba Fett, was to voice Longtail, the squirrel, Peter Mayhew (Chewbecca) as Klondike, the grizzly bear and Warwick Davis (Wicket the Ewok) as the freelance operative, Decoy the Duck. Other voices included Brian Liddiard (Boon), Meghan Magwood (Kat Nipp), Ethan Phillip, well known as portrayed Neelix on Star Trek: Voyager was Slythor, Jerome Blake (Oasis), Ellen Dubin (Emperess Webula) and Michael Sheard (Baron Ironweasel).
In 2002, with the comic prepared and the voice cast assembled, Bryans and others debuted Nature's Guard at the Brighton Comic Con as well as launching, a now defunct site www.naturesguard.com. "We launched the comic, it got rave reviews. That was 2002. We really did well, This was going to be their big book that they were putting out but it never went further." Bryans said.
The website debuted two trailers from KeyFrame Entertainment. Development on the project appeared to be happening, until nothing further transpired.
The miniseries concluded, not long after, Warpton, went out of business, Bryans, had not signed a contract and retained the rights, so he was free to try to find another home for the animated series to no avail. "We would go to toy companies and animation studios and we would get the same thing, it's going to be really hard to sell a raccoon running around with a machine gun."
Whether it was the political and cultural environment, post 9/11, the property hit a wall and in 2004, Bryans decided the shelve the concept for a few years.
In early 2006, Bryans returned this time with a complete redevelopment. The title changed to N-Guard and, the core characters became teenagers. "We were getting a lot of people going, Nature's Garden, and I had to go, no, Nature's Guard. Like, soldier." Bryans mused.
Bryans also shortened the roster of characters, keeping only a core few and giving the teenage characters powers from nature. " I turned the team, into Nature meets Ninja Turtles. The villains stayed the same.. The spiders stayed the same. They become more of biological and ecological threat and did more development."
Revivals have had a bigger push the last few years, nostalgia for the 80s decade has been high with shows like Netflix's Stranger Things garnering commercial acclaim, is the time right for someone to take a creative risk and bring back Nature's Guard?
Nature's Guard presented an exciting new universe, an epic tale featuring anthropomorphic animals, diverse characters, political machinations and a potential multimedia franchise.
Maybe Nature's Guard is the new G.I. Joe?
"We had the greatest generation in the 80s. I wanted to go back to Saturday morning cartoons. I wanted to tell a story, where we watched as kids, where you didn't have to have a continuous story arc, I had stand alone episodes, crossovers or multipart. It had that very 80s feel, where it was just telling this great adventure story."
In 2008, Bryans launched a new comic, to go with the new iteration, a four issue miniseries, from AAM Markosia. "We did very well. We did amazing online when we went to digital. We did over a million downloads. We were pulling in numbers that would rival the likes of Batman or Spider-Man in regards to digital downloads, which was cool." Bryans said.
Although successful, Bryans felt it was time for another break. "It was almost at the twenty year mark, so I wanted to develop other properties."
Through his company Gaelstone Media, Bryans, was able to forge new properties in conjunction with Global Genesis Group, which includes Santa's Spies and Ricky Rocket and the Rocket Rangers. It is however, Action Mice, a new property that Bryans is pushing heavily. The series which borrows elements from Nature's Guard including transplanting several characters such as Baron Ironweasel.
As of 2018, N-Guard is in active development through Gaelstone Media and Global Genesis Group. Bryans however is focusing on Action Mice.