In 1986, the same year that Chuck Norris battled terrorists in the R-rated The Delta Force, he also starred in the kid-friendly animated series Chuck Norris: Karate
Kommandos. In the ’80s, it was commonplace for testosterone-fueled heroes to peddle cartoons and toy lines: Sylvester Stallone turned Rambo into a sanitized he-man, while Mr. T led a precocious team of gymnasts/crimefighters in the appropriately-named, Mister T. Today, it would be career suicide for an action star to even attempt such a thing — imagine Christian Bale doing “Christian Bale’s Batman Buddies” — but during his Delta Force years, Chuck Norris’ big screen persona was readily adaptable to cartoons.
For his sole foray into animation, Chuck teamed with the celeb-friendly Ruby-Spears Productions (It’s Punky Brewster, Rambo)
and borrowed the format of Mr. T’s popular series. In live-action
segments, Norris interrupted his training sessions to introduce the
episode’s storyline and to teach kids valuable lessons about
cooperation, hard work, and avoiding violent confrontations.
(Particularly ironic, considering the show mostly consisted of Norris
kicking people.) For some reason, the same government that sent Norris
to rescue hostages in Delta Force now paired him with a
multi-ethnic team of “Kommandos”: a precocious technology expert, a
samurai, a sumo champion, the technology expert’s useless brother, and
Chuck’s young ward. Together they stopped the evil Dr. Claw, and his
henchman, the aforementioned Super Ninja, from taking over the world
with their laser-equipped robots and renegade satellites. It was all very G.I. Joe — and, naturally, spawned a toyline and comic book.
Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos aired as a five-part syndicated miniseries in September of 1986, a few months after Delta Force stormed theaters, and then promptly disappeared. Over the years it has made sporadic returns on cable (and, of course, YouTube) and found a cult following among Norris fans. Today, Karate Kommandos
stands as a testament to how much our action heroes have changed. Oh,
for the days when a major movie star could run around fighting Super
Ninjas without even a hint of irony.