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‘The Toxic Avenger’ is the Superhero Franchise the World Needs Right Now

Criminals, beware of the Toxic Avenger. He’s returning to the big screen, and he will kick your butt HARD!!
Toxic Avenger
By  · Published on May 9th, 2018

Criminals, beware of the Toxic Avenger. He’s returning to the big screen, and he will kick your butt HARD!!

Troma Entertainment is the longest-running independent movie studio in North America. Founded by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz in 1974, the company has been producing and distributing low-budget schlock for over four decades, more or less surviving on a film-to-film basis since its inception.

In its time, the studio has helped launch the careers of some big name filmmakers and actors — James Gunn, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Samuel L. Jackson, Billy Bob Thornton — and they’ve amassed an army of diehard fans who keep the brand afloat. Troma is like the little engine that could, and while the films they produce are an acquired taste, there’s no denying that Kaufman and company are a testament to indie cinema.

That said, if there’s franchise that’s synonymous with the Troma brand, it’s The Toxic Avenger. The film series, which launched in 1984, follows a vigilante janitor who gets transformed into a creature with superhuman strength after being exposed to some powerful toxic waste — hence why they call him the Toxic Avenger, or “Toxie” for short.

With these powers, he cleans up the town of Tromaville by disposing of criminals, no-gooders, and corrupt corporate types in hilariously violent ways. If you’ve ever watched a superhero movie and felt that it needed more elderly slave-owning dry cleaners being stuffed into washing machines, then this is the crime-fighting hero saga for you.

The Toxic Avenger spawned three sequels, a brief Marvel comic book series, a children’s animated TV series (complete with a line of action figures), and a musical. In recent years, Sausage Party co-director Conrad Vernon was developing a more mainstream iteration of the story, and at one point, there was a remake in the works with Arnold Schwarzenegger touted to star as Toxie’s mentor, but that project never came to fruition. Kevin Smith was also offered a chance to direct a remake, but he turned it down because the producers wanted to give him a respectable budget.

It’s been nearly 20 years since we last saw the last Toxic Avenger sequel, but in an age where superhero movies are all the rage, it’s only a matter of time before Tromaville’s noble knight makes his way back on the big screen with new evil forces to eliminate. The good news: that time might actually be very soon.

Bloody Disgusting shared the news that the long-awaited fifth episode of Troma’s tentpole superhero splatter franchise is in the works. In an interview with SFX magazine, Kaufman revealed that the sequel will be “ambitious” and involve Toxie visiting Chernobyl. The film, which Vernon will be helming instead of his previously reported remake, will also focus on our hero’s two children, one of whom has “mutated into a strange being.”

Funding is the only thing standing in the way of this movie happening right now. As Kaufman notes in the interview, Troma’s upcoming “Tempest”-inspired movie Shakespeare’s Shitstorm needs to make some money so they can pour the profits into Toxie’s next outing. Only Troma Entertainment would need a movie called Shakespeare’s Shitstorm to make money so they can fund a separate movie about a chemically-mutated janitor unleashing gruesome retribution in Chernobyl. I love this company.

The biggest takeaway from the interview, however, is the news that a certain director from the MCU is involved. Check out Kaufman’s own words below for the juicy info:

“It will cost just $100,000 – but I think it is the best one yet. I have worked with [‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ director] James Gunn and the script we have for ‘The Toxic Avenger 5′ is the finest I have read. It shows Toxie fighting the bureaucrats and the obnoxious rich people who are harming the people of Tromaville.”

Judging by that nugget of information, it sounds like James Gunn has collaborated with Kaufman on the script for the fifth installment of The Toxic Avenger. Whether this was a recent development or a project that goes way back isn’t clear, but just knowing that the man who conquered the galaxy with the Guardians still has unfinished business in Tromaville is heartwarming news. You can take the boy out of the town…

In case you didn’t know, before Gunn ascended the Hollywood ranks, he wrote micro-budget gore pictures for Troma. Tromeo and Juliet is the most popular one and is rightfully regarded as a cult classic among B movie buffs. Gunn and Kaufman also co-created the short-lived TV series The Tromaville Cafe and Gunn even graced the Toxie universe with his screen presence in The Toxic Avenger IV.

Together, Gunn and Kaufman also wrote the book “All I Need to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger: The Shocking True Story of Troma Studios.” Additionally, Kaufman has appeared in the majority of Gunn’s movies — from Slither to Guardians of the Galaxy, if you look closely, you’ll spot him somewhere.

No one is denying that the Toxic Avenger movies lean toward the trashier side of the entertainment spectrum — they’re gross, stupid, and gleefully offensive. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have purpose. Like several Troma films, this particular series contains a strong environmental message and a distrust for the economic and political elite, who are typically responsible for all the horror that unfolds in this wacky world.

Those themes have never been more timely than they are now, which could make Toxie more relevant and enjoyable than ever before. Raging against the machine has been the spirit that’s kept Troma alive as both a company and creative force for decades, and their resident superhero exemplifies this mentality. It’s time to bring him back and let him stick it to the man.

Of course, with superhero movies being billion dollar behemoths at the box office these days, The Toxic Avenger would make for a fun, cheap alternative to the grandiose spectacles we’re currently spoiled with on a regular basis. When the series launched all those years ago, superhero movies were few and far between. When the last Toxic Avenger came out, the popular crusaders of Marvel and DC had still to find their groove on the big screen. Before there even was an MCU or DCEU, there was a Tromaverse.

Wouldn’t it be cool to see the studio’s misfits all come together in their own shared event movie with Toxie front and center? That would be awesome, and it’s an idea Troma should consider. Until then, any movie featuring this mutated protector of the people is welcome.

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Kieran is a Contributor to the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.