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Eric

Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon Classics
by yo go re

Everybody needs that one friend they hate, right?

Eric the Cavalier may seem like a coward but is a hero at heart, wielding the magical Griffon Shield.

Poor Eric; he was the butt monkey both in and out of the show. In-universe, it's implied he's the rich kid at school, whose father doesn't have any time for him, and that he just sort of invited himself along on the amusement park trip that ended up sending them all to The Realm because he doesn't have any real friends. He dislikes being trapped in this alternate reality, and since he isn't shy about letting that be known, all the other kids feel free to mock him for the way he feels. When he complains about the things they're going through, worse things happen to him. And that's because, out-of-universe, some parents' group insisted that the show needed a "message," and that the message should be "the group is always right... the complainer is always wrong." Yeesh. That's what passed for "pro-social" in the early '80s.

Eric was given the role of Cavalier, which seems like a joke on Dungeon Master's part: like, yes, a cavalier is a name for a knight (originally any mounted horseman, from the same Anatolian-by-way-of-vulgate-Latin root that also led to words like caballero, chivalry, and cavalry), but in Elizabethan English, its meaning was expanded to also pejoratively encompass a knight's haughty attitude. So the stuck-up rich kid is cavalier? He sure is!

As a D&D Class, "Cavalier" wasn't actually introduced as a thing until the first Unearthed Arcana supplement in 1985, though that was a reprint from an article Gary Gygax had written for Dungeon Magazine #72 in 1983 - technically before the cartoon premiered, but well after it would have been in production. Did the cartoon know about Gygax working on this new class, or did they just not like the name "paladin"? That info is lost to time. But it does mean that of the six-person team, fully half of them (Eric, Hank, and Bobby) were all sub-classes of Fighter. Eric certainly dresses like a knight, with (sculpted) chainmail on his arms and legs, greaves and sabatons covering him below the knee, and a solid breastplate around the torso. Yes, he has a cloth skirt as well, but we know the top is armor and not just a shirt because it has sculpted latches over the seams on the sides. Finally, he finishes off the look with some armored gloves and a mid-length cape.

It's honestly shocking how much better the articulation is on this second series of figures than it was on the first. Like, it's not that the joints are substantially different - barbell head, swivel/hinge shoulders, elbows, and wrists, balljointed waist, balljoint hips, and swivel/hinge knees and ankles - so it's not better in that way (though putting a swivel in the knee is at least a small improvement), but if you remember those first three figures, every single joint was stiff and stuck and ready to snap off with one errant move. No longer! Eric's joints are a little stiff, but not nearly as much as before. It's not dangerous to get them moving. And the same is true for Presto and Sheila, as well.

Eric's weapon is a shield, which protects not only him, but everybody around him as well thanks to its ability to project a forcefield. Rather than doing two versions of the weapon, like we saw in Series 1, here we get the plain griffin shield, which can clip onto his left arm, and then a translucent PVC energy effect that slips onto the rim of the shield to make it look like it's glowing. Neat! The upper edge has trouble matching the curve of the shield tightly (a flaw even evident on the stock photos), but this is still a clever way of doing it.

Rather than a Build-A-Figure, the Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon Classics have a "Build-A-Dice-Set" - get them all and you'll be able to play a game of D&D. Eric gets a D10, which is kind of appropriate, because it goes along with the percentile die in the Dungeon Master & Venger set, and there was an episode where Eric was given Dungeon Master's powers.

The cartoon writers hated what they were forced to do with Eric, but they found a way around it: yes, he still complained, and yes, he was still diagetically punished for it, but the writers' subversion of the mandate as the show went on was to usually make Eric right: like, he'd say that going into a magic swamp was a bad idea, the other kids would bully him into going along with them, and then it would turn out going into the magic swamp was a bad idea, and it got them into more trouble than avoiding it would have. But by not drawing attention to that part, the show kept the parents' groups from getting mad at them. Nice! It's a shame there's been such an improvement between the first three figures and the last three, because the first pegwarmed so extensively that many fans will never even get to see Eric and the others in person, let alone get them and see how impressively the toys have been refined.

-- 12/06/23


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