Earlier this week, YouTuber kaptainkristian posted a great little documentary giving a quick look at the history of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block. Aside from the nostalgia blast brought on by old clips of "Space Ghost Coast to Coast" and "Sealab 2021," the video made me realize just how far removed I've become from cartoons after abandoning pay cable for internet-based alternatives.

Alright, that all sounds a little more dramatic a realization than it should be, but hey, it's the nerd column, OK? Sure, I'll crush a few episodes of "Bob's Burgers" when a new season becomes available for bingeing — largely stemming from a personal quest to find out why approximately 50 percent of women on Tinder claim Tina Belcher as a spirit animal — but that's about the extent of the animation I'm taking in with any regularity.


For kids of my generation, and in large part due to Adult Swim, cartoons traced a circle around pockets of free time as we aged. They encouraged huddling next to siblings in elementary school, wrapped in footie pajamas and blankets at 7 a.m. to watch some variation of "Transformers." They spurred a hustle back from the bus stop after class in one of those middle grades a few years later to watch the long-winded (yet adored) melodrama of "Dragon Ball Z."

And during perpetual stints of homework procrastination during high school, cartoons — and Adult Swim, in particular — opened a window to something foreign with its introduction to Japanese anime aimed at an older audience. Shows like "Cowboy Bebop" and "Evangelion" showed a lot of kids that animation didn't have be constrained to fart jokes, rubber-faced coyotes and overblown villainous monologues. They could be cool, they could be dark, and they could have incredibly bitchin' soundtracks.


I'd like to think this cartoon accord was more serendipitous than a result of cold, calculated (and probably Capri Sun-sponsored) market research, but that's probably not the case. Still, staying up late to consume the stilted humor of Captain Murphy and his best pal Squishface, or digging into the neo-noir of a Japanese space western, was an instrumental part of my burgeoning nerdom.

None of this is to say that cartoons have gone away; if anything, they're more popular and present than ever, with shows like "Rick and Morty" cementing themselves into the next generation of young minds (lord help them). And for me, the path that cable shows carved around and into my free time as a kid has continued in a way, with on-demand streaming now eeking into the corners of an increasingly erratic schedule. It's not as much a ritual as it once was, but it doesn't need to be. The footie pajamas have gone but "The Simpsons" are still around.

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