Bugs is witty, intelligent, rarely flustered and always one step ahead. He's also arrogant and cocky, but just to the right degree. Crucially, he never initiates the quarrell whether it be against Elmur Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck or Marvin the Martian. Bugs is just happy being Bugs, living his life, eating his carrots, until somebody comes and picks a fight with him. When they do, he responds by humiliating them. That's key.
His influence on popular culture is incredible. He's has one of the most instantly recogniseable faces across the world and his catch phrase is as famous as he is.Bugs was untouchable for well over 60 years, until finally succumbing last year in the Family Guy movie. Still, he had a good run.
5. Zapp 'The Zapper' Brannigan - Futurama Possibly the most suprising entry on my list is Zapp Brannigan or the "Zapper" at number 5. A highly decorated General of DOOP (Democratic order of Planets), Zapp has risen through the ranks to become Earths greatest hero in the year 3000. Most of this appears to have been down to luck with little of it being down to his smarts or ability. His successful military victories include defeating the pacifists of the Ghandi nebula, conquering the Retiree People of the Assisted Living Galaxy, and leading the Earth Army to victory over the Spiderians of Tarantulon 6. (hat tip Wikipedia)
Zapp reminds me a great deal of one of my favourite comedic characters of all time, Inspector Clouseau. Like Clouseau he has risen through the ranks predominantly on luck. He has no true sense of himself, seeing himself as dashing, intelligent, sophisticated, sexy, totally believing his own hype. For example he claims to suffer from a sexy learning disorder, 'sexlexia'. In reality however he is a buffoon, an idiot who is inept in his position but for some reason he gets by and the world is as oblivious to his defects as he is. Such a character has great comedic potential.
He boasts about his sexual conquest of Leela ("Kif, I have made it with a woman. Inform the men") and is determined for a repeat ("But as a gentleman, I must warn you. If you so much as glance at another woman, I'll be all over Leela like a fly on a pile of very seductive manure.").
Oh and he hates neutrals, "I hate these filthy neutrals Kif! With enemies you know where they stand but with neutrals? Who knows! It sickens me."
4. Wile E Coyote - Road Runner Shorts If ever somebody was in need of protections provided to consumers under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1893, Wile E. Coyote was it. How many times were his brilliant and intricate plans thwarted by substandard Acme products?
I love the Road Runner shorts for a number of reasons. The plot is simple (Coyote chases Roadrunner, but never succeeds), they are incredibly clever and witty and in Wile E. Coyote they have the near perfect anti-hero.
Wile E. Coyote is the first aggressor I can remember rooting for as a child. Of course this was mostly motivated by that smug Roadrunner who was in dire need of being brought down a peg or two. I mean most of the time Roadrunner escapes because of some flaw in Acme equipment and yet he always felt the need to rub salt in the wounds with a "Meep, Meep" before dashing off. Nonetheless, with Coyote, here's a guy who is doomed to fail but he never relents and kept coming up with these incredile schemes to reach his goal.
He's the epitomone of the mantra "if at first you don't succeed..." Creator Chuck Jones once proclaimed that "Wile E. is my reality, Bugs Bunny is my goal", I can relate.On top of that, he's flat out hilarious.
3. Stewart Gilligan Griffin - Family Guy I resolved at the start of this list not to include two characters from the same show. Stewie wins over Peter simply because I cannot remember seeing another character similar to Stewie. A one year old American sexually ambiguous baby genius, who speaks with a British accent, and who's goals in life is to kill his mother and rule the planet.
Yes, Stewie is nothing if not the a-typical infant. Stewie slowly descended into insanity in the 9 months he spent trapped in his mothers womb. To pass the time he kept a diary ("Day 171: I've sprouted another finger. Counting the one from yesterday, I'm up to 11"). He also spent his 9 months plotting the destruction of Europe and was followed out of the womb by several maps, marking major European cities.
Stewie like most great characters is a bunch of oxymorons. He's suave and sophisticated, reading the Wall Street journal. He's cool, with obscure pop culture references aplenty (witness his hilarious parody of William Shatner singing Rocketman). He also dreams of world domination.
All this from a baby, who requires adult assistance to change his diapers. Brilliant.
2. Eric Theodore Cartman - South Park I was relatively slow to "get" the appeal of South Park. As far as I could tell all the hype was over one of the characters dying every week and 8 year old kids swearing. No big deal. Then I saw Eric Cartman feed Scott Tenorman's parents to him in some chilli because of a dispute over pubes and all that changed.
"You guys, you guys, Guess what?"
Cartman is quiet simply the most selfish, spolit, racist, anti-semitic, ill tempered, manipulative and flat out evil 8 year old ever to appear on TV. And the funny thing is, you can't help but love the guy! Like Wile E. Coyote, Cartman is the anti-hero, the guy you shouldn't root for but can't help it. (It helps that he and I share a mutual contempt for hippies though!)
He is capable of innocence and shocking evilness. For example in the episode with Scott Tenorman alluded to above, Cartman thought he could beat Stan and the rest to puberty by buying some 'pubes' from an older boy, Scott. When he finds out that his newly acquired pubes are useless in that respect he hatches a diabolic scheme of revenge which ends up with Scott eating his own parents.
South Park in recent years has evolved into one of the finest political and social commentary shows on TV. It has improved year by year and its as funny as hell. Nonetheless, Cartman carrys the show, with episodes suffering when he is not at, or close to, the centre of the action.
Trying to pick a favourite Cartman moment is flat out impossible. Watch some episodes if you don't believe me. He is also responsible for some of the most shockingly un-P.C one liners I have ever heard. My favourite would probably be when he's trying to offload a bunch of aborted foetuses for stem cell research. As he haggles for the best price he declares:
"Oh plehease! Okay, you tell me where you can get aborted fetuses for seventy cents on the dollar? You tell me, Chuck? ...Yeah, I didn't think so-You know, I'm just like the fetuses, Chuck. I wasn't born yesterday, either. Uh huh. ...So are you gonna talk to me, or are we just gonna keep bullshitting each other? Breakin' my balls, Chuck."
1. Homer J. Simpson - The Simpsons Anybody who knows me, knows my affection for the greatest TV show in history, and the greatest cartoon character I've had the pleasure to watch. Homer quiet simply is the greatest. He's far and away the biggest reason I will watch an episode of the Simpsons time and time again and still find it funny. Whilst he's not as funny as he used to be he's still the man.
If I start talking here about Homer, I might not be able to stop. For some reason my head is an encyclopedia of scenes, quotes with him. Again ask anybody who knows me. If only it was as easy to memorise facts and figures at school! He's the only father I know of who uses examples of hitting a referee with a whisky bottle to explain emotions to his kids. He gives advice like "Trying is the first step toward failure" and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of the code of the schoolyard. All entries in my Top 6 Simpsons episodes featured Homer heavily. That says all I need to say about Homer.
Homer Simpson, my favourite cartoon character of all time!
Honourable Mentions: Dangermouse, Pinky & the Brain, Tom & Jerry, Daffy Duck, Peter Griffin, Bart Simpson, Butters Stotch, Batman, Ralph Wiggum, Adam West, Marvin the Martian, Taz, Bender, Mutley.