Hello all, and welcome back to "Staying In Character", a series of articles written by yours truly, Erico, to help new and veteran SWAT Kats fanfic writers alike. Prior to today, we covered the primary cast, as well as some of their most popular recurring villains. Due largely to the fact that we are now starting a writing contest here at Megakat City, I decided it was high time to get back and start by finishing up some of the tertiary characters in the SWAT Kats continuity; characters who aren't in every episode, but who play a significant enough role that they are at least worth discussing in greater detail than a few sparse sentences.
We will begin with one of the most important tertiary cast members; Professor Hackle.
In our own history, science has often been viewed with a mixture of awe and fear, mostly because of our own nature as a species to weaponize every new development. The internal combustion engine gave rise not only to a more mechanized transport fleet and a modern road system, but also a war machine of tanks and airplanes capable of striking in hours instead of days. No character better reflects this mix of wonders and nightmares better than a retired Pumadyne engineer who in the twilight of his life, regrets everything and strives with every breath to somehow reverse the effects of his achievements. That engineer? Professor Hackle. No first name ever given.
A retired scientist of considerable means, Professor Hackle lives alone on his beachfront property, an odd mixture of seaside mansion and homegrown laboratory that has allowed him to continue tinkering on his own without relying upon the assets of his former employer. He favors wearing a white laboratory coat over his trousers, shirt, and tie, and speaks in a (In our world's comparison) Germanic accent; what the SWAT Kats world equivalent to this is has never been clearly specified, but given that mentions are given of Megawar I and Megawar II, it is possible that he is meant to act as the SWAT-verse's iteration of Professor Albert Einstein, who famously emigrated out of Germany during the rise of the Nazi regime. It is likely that Professor Hackle's personality is taken from multiple real-world equivalent sources, with the top contenders for this role being Professor Albert Einstein (Relativity and the plausibility of atomic weapons), Werner Von Braun (Rocket development and the father of the space age), Dr. Robert Oppenheimer (The Manhattan Project), Nikola Tesla (Alternating current, wireless energy arrays, and an unfinished 'death ray' energy beam prototype), and Enrico Fermi. (The 'architect of the nuclear age')
Very little is known about Professor Hackle's past, save for his employment as a weapons designer and engineer for Pumadyne industries. It is possible, given his dialogue from the episode The Metallikats
, that Hackle was responsible for the development of laser weaponry as a whole, rather than merely refining the system for decreased power consumption or increased damage output. He has also shown an incredible talent for masterstroke breakthroughs of genius in the field of robotics. In regards to any family, friends, or former co-workers, nothing is known. As to his age, he is certainly the oldest mortal cast member, but remains spry enough to tackle complex projects in his now abundant free time. He was somehow still alive and in full control of his faculties in the dystopian, robotic-dominated future in A Bright and Shiny Future
, and with assistance from the SWAT Kats, was able to make his way to Metallikat City's command center and regain control of the robot horde. He was also able to squirrel away enough supplies and tools in his personal 'resistance' vehicle that proved vital in repairing the Turbokat for the showdown in that episode.
"I should have melted down those Metallikats long ago."
In the course of the show, Professor Hackle's efforts have resulted in three major developments in the present, and one in a theoretical future that may yet be prevented. The bulk of his achievements have been cautionary tales about technology and its impact; he desired positive, beneficial changes to katkind with his work, and yet time and time again, his accomplishments have created problems, death tolls, and suffering. Most famous among his works in the show was a pair of robots that he modified to unknowingly resurrect a pair of high profile Megakat City gangsters; Mac and Molly Mange, who went on to rename themselves Mac and Molly Metallikat. His intention
was to save their lives and show that robots could be a vital force in improving the lives of katkind. In what can only be described as a terrible lapse in common sense, he was unaware of their status as criminals from their prison uniforms. This single act of good intentions gone awry would taint all his future works, as the Metallikats would prove very adept at repurposing his inventions for their own dark purposes.
One example of this Metallikat interference is found in Metal Urgency
, where Professor Hackle, preparing to reprogram the pair to remove their criminal personalities and start over, is interrupted by a news report showing a broken into hangar at one of Pumadyne's facilities. Inside of the hangar to the professor's dismay are a pair of enormous 'Macrobots' that he originally designed for deep space exploration, but which, against his wishes and without his knowledge, Pumadyne weaponized into a pair of prototype unstoppable warbots. The Metallikats take advantage of the distraction to free themselves, and in the course of the episode, manage to not only hijack the two Macrobots but also threaten the SWAT Kats in a way that the vigilantes never anticipated happening. Remorseful and desiring to put an end to the entire mess, Hackle provides Commander Feral with a neural neutralizer that puts the Metallikats permanently offline after they and the Macrobots are shattered in the episode's climactic battle. Sidenote: After Metal Urgency
, the neural neutralizer is never mentioned or seen again, which is somewhat frustrating, given how many times the Metallikats return to cause problems afterwards.
Another example occurs in a 'what-if' future timeline, where thanks to the Pastmaster's assistance, the Metallikats are able to take control of every katbot worker robot in a future Megakat City and create a robot apocalypse. Again, Hackle is instrumental in stopping the crisis, but as in every situation involving the Metallikats, it is only thanks to the timely intervention of the SWAT Kats that his efforts are of any use at all.
To date, only one invention of Professor Hackle's during the run of the show has proven to be beneficial; The assistant robot, Cybertron. During the only episode he is seen in that does NOT involve the Metallikats, Professor Hackle provides the tread-equipped robot to Razor and T-Bone as a means of apologizing for all the trouble that the Metallikats have caused them and the city. While T-Bone is immediately dismissive of the robot, Cybertron proves invaluable to the SWAT Kats surviving the march of the Katchu Picchu mummies on Megakat City; repairing the Turbokat in midflight, and also, if temporarily, protecting Deputy Mayor Briggs before being overwhelmed. Cybertron, broken and battered, is returned to Professor Hackle at the end of the episode, and his fate is uncertain, with Hackle only saying cryptically that the repairs 'could take years.' Still, even if he is only seen once, Cybertron is the singular exception to the rule that everything Professor Hackle builds is eventually used as a weapon for evil purposes.
If there is a byline to Professor Hackle's life, it might best be summed up through another fictional inventor and scientist, Professor Emmett Brown from the Back to The Future
movies. "I wish I had never invented that infernal time machine. It's brought me nothing but trouble."
Hackle's life is one filled with self-inflicted trauma and troubles. Whatever he makes is eventually tainted by blood and terror. He is a kat who made his living as an ironmonger; a creator of destructive weapons. While we do not know if he was always opposed to it, or whether his guilt about the effects of his legacy came in the later part of his life, perhaps being the cause of his retirement from Pumadyne, that sense of guilt and shame is strong enough to serve as the foundation of the Professor Hackle we are witness to in the show's course.
Whether he will ever succeed in making something that erases all his faults and mistakes, or makes up for them, is an unknown that seems very unlikely. The course of his life, either prior to the show which is rarely spoken of, or his life during the show, seems geared towards self-inflicted wounds and suffering. In spite of it all, however, Professor Hackle has a strength that others should take note of and respect; Regardless of his faults, he keeps trying to improve the lives of katkind. In his sense of fervent tenacity and unfailing convictions to continue moving forward, Professor Hackle is the consummate optimist. If something isn't working, make it work. And if something is wrong, never stop trying to make it right.
What To Avoid with Professor Hackle:
So much of Hackle's history is an unwritten book that it invites invention. However, there is a line not to be crossed; a moral core which he likely developed over time, and a line he refused to cross. Something caused Hackle to eventually quit Pumadyne, something that the true inventors in any given company rarely do except to protest its direction and focus, a lack of being unable to perform their duties, or death. Ben Rich, head of the real-life Skunk Works from 1975 to 1991, was involved with America's planes from the U-2 to the SR-71 and eventually the game-changing F-117 Nighthawk. He only retired after age caught up with him. Hackle is of a different take; given the shame he feels over his achievements, he left because there came a breaking point between himself and Pumadyne. Perhaps he felt early on that his efforts in making weapons were done to keep the world safer; eventually, his perspective changed, he changed, and Pumadyne didn't. Nowhere is that more clear than with the Macrobots, which Hackle designed for use in space exploration, but Pumadyne wanted to develop for use in warfare. Hackle may have been a very successful weapons designer who got rich making things that killed kats or blew up, but he never enjoyed it.
Like Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, Hackle eventually came to regret his innovations and seeks a measure of penance in his twilight years. Alfred Nobel created the Nobel Prize to inspire science for the good of humanity; Professor Hackle retired from the ironmonger's trade and attempted to put his talents to better use.
This innate moral core is an absolute to his character, and ties in strongly with his tenacity. Professor Hackle may be many things, but he will always regret what his hands have wrought. And he will always try to make up for it.
Next Time on Staying In Character:
Professor Abi/Abby Sinian