As I sat in a pub a couple of weeks ago, a few pints of ale already comfortably making their way through my digestive system, I began to explain to a couple of friends what exactly an allrounder is. I started by using athletes, but by their very nature it’s very difficult for an athlete to be an allrounder. Athletes excel at certain things, they’re the crème de la crème of specific functions. Sure, you get your sportsman who are classed as team allrounders – people like Ian Botham or Tonya Harding even played multiple sports. But they’re still only allrounders in their fields. The best you’re going to get is probably Charles Burgess Fry, a man whose skillset covered cricket, athletics, football, rugby union, acrobatics as well as teaching, politics, writing, editing, publishing and broadcasting. Unfortunately I only found out about him a few days after the discussion though. He pretty much is the perfect allrounder, if he stuck a bit of marathon running and weightlifting in.
Instead I resorted to cartoons to explain the concept. Which seems to happen quite a lot after a few pints. At the time it seemed like the only logical option. The discussion evolved quickly into a heated debate on the greatest cartoon character allrounders. It seemed my point was getting across. A couple on the table next to us even joined in with some suggestions. Not very good ones though.
The resultant list made everything clear. Each character part of some sort of super group or team where every member was the leader in their field. Groups where one person is the strongest, one the fastest, one the most intelligent and so on. Groups in which the allrounder sits in the middle, an amalgamation of all of their skills. Ill-equipped to beat any other member on their own terms, but as a complete individual, far more prepared for any eventuality.
Lion-o – Thundercats
I remember vividly an episode of Thundercats where Lion-o was tasked with challenging every other member of the team in order to prove himself as the leader. He had a race against Cheetarah, a challenge of strength against Panthro, some sort of stealth test with Tygra. I have no idea what he did with Snarf and the weirdo kids, not going to look it up either. The point is that although he wasn’t able to beat each head on, using all his other skills he found a way to do it.
Damn good episode in fact. You don’t get kids TV like that anymore. At least I don’t think, I don’t actually watch any.
Flash Gordon – Defenders of the Earth
Yeah sure, you can have the power of ten tigers, you can have mystical spells or you can be super strong. But when the going gets tough you’re going to need a normal guy who’s just pretty much good at everything. Definitely had a way better CV than anyone else in the team as well. He even had his own spaceship.
Batman – The Justice League
I remember reading a comic once where Earth gets taken over by aliens. They manage to capture everyone in the Justice league by working out the limitations to their powers. That is everyone except Batman. They left him alone because he was just a normal bloke.
But Batman is a testament to self-improvement and learning. He may not have a chance against anyone else in the Justice League from a physical perspective. But he’s trained hard. He hasn’t relied on one specific skill or power, instead he’s learnt about everything. He’s trained in combat, science and God knows what else. He’s basically turned being an allrounder into his super power. Looks cool as well.
Captain America – The Avengers
Yeah okay, he has got super powers. But only just. He may be faster and stronger than any human, but against the rest of the Avengers he’s pretty mediocre. If Thor or the Hulk punched him he’d probably not be getting up. He’s a lot more agile that either of them though, and far better trained at combat. Like Batman his superpower comes from a varied range of abilities and skills. Fights with a shield as well, which is cool. There aren’t enough shields around these days.
Actually Hawkeye and Black Widow are both pretty good allrounders as well. Just not that strong.
Sure, not actually a cartoon character, unless you count that weird kids show where he was ginger. He may as well be though. He’s basically ridiculous.
As skills go though he’s pretty much the complete allrounder. Most people he fights are in some way better than him. Scaramanga was a better assassin, Jaws was way stronger, that parkour guy was a lot better at jumping over buildings. He still managed to beat them all though, because he was resourceful. He had loads of other skills and talents to call upon when he needed to. That invisible car was a step too far though. Completely ridiculous.
After that we started talking about allrounders in American sitcoms, but the best we got were Blanche from The Golden Girls and the dad from Happy Days. It was about that point someone suggested we go home.
Picture credits: Rankin/Bass, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Marvel Productions, MGM