SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron is an animated action series created for Hanna-Barbera by Christian and Yvon Tremblay, two brothers from Montreal. The show ran on TBS and in syndication from 1993 to 1994, and it can currently be seen (sometimes) on Cartoon Network's sister network, Boomerang. There were a total of 23 original episodes over two seasons, with one special clip show episode to conclude the series. The story takes place in the fictional Megakat City, inhabited by anthropomorphic felines (known as "Kats"), and chronicles the adventures of two superhero best friends who fight super-crime under secret identities.
Chance "T-Bone" Furlong and Jake "Razor" Clawson were once two humble officers of the Enforcers, teaming up as the pilot and Radar Intercept Officer, respectively, of a fighter jet in the Enforcers' Air Force Squadron—until they accidentally destroyed their command headquarters and caused sizable damage while in pursuit of a criminal. Their former superior, Commander Ulysses Feral, stuck them in long-term community service in a military junkyard until Chance and Jake managed to pay off their debt... which, considering their salaries, was likely to be never. (Never mind that the incident was Feral's fault in the first place.)
Working at the salvage yard, Jake and Chance realize that people—including the Enforcers—throw a lot of perfectly useable stuff away. Using their mechanic skills, they put discarded military equipment and weapons to their own personal use, building a high-tech fighter-jet (named "The Turbokat", which bears a striking resemblance to the U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat, except with three engines and VTOL capabilites) to get back in the air and fight the numerous villains that are plaguing the city. Complete with new uniforms, masks, cool gadgets, codenames, an elaborate underground base, and occasional help from allies (like Deputy Mayor Callie Briggs and Feral's niece Felina), they kick mucho super-villain tail and generally do it with style.
The Rogues Gallery includes, but is not limited to, the criminal mastermind Dark Kat, the undead sorcerer Pastmaster, mutated sociopathic Kat-turned-snake Doctor Viper, and robotic mafia gangsters Mac and Molly (better known as the Metallikats).
Episodes of the show followed a one-shot format, featuring completely self-contained stories and certain overarching themes and villains. The Status Quo, however, does change every now and then, and only very few of the bad guys are allowed to escape punishment. On occasion, if the bad guy pushes them too far, our heroes will shoot to kill, and several villains learned this the hard way.
Unfortunately, attempts by SWAT Kats to break out of the "animation age ghetto" came too soon for many people, and the series took criticism for its violent content. Even before that, the show underwent extensive executive meddling during its first season, forcing the creators to insert several inherently silly gags aimed at younger audiences (which clashed horribly with the show's dark premise). This changed in the second season, since the first season's good ratings gave the series an animation bump (and a slight makeover) that resulted in a darker and edgier style, which proved to be a better fit for the show.
The show was cancelled after its second season, in favor of Turner's "What a Cartoon!" project, which gave birth to future Cartoon Cartoons, such as Dexter's Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls and Johnny Bravo. At the time of its cancellation, SWAT Kats was one of Hanna-Barbera's highest-rated syndicated shows, and there were three unfinished episodes in production (as well as established outlines for up to seven more episodes), which all got left hanging. Turner's excuse for the decision was that Hanna-Barbera had other cartoon series which didn't "encourage kids to shoot people".
Despite its cult following, SWAT Kats has never had an official home video release.
- SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron at the Big Cartoon Database