Martin Mystery

Should It Return? Martin Mystery

How many people even remember this show? Well, I did. I remember seeing some episodes occasionally when I was younger, but I was never a hardcore fan. Still, some aspects stuck with me. I recalled a lot of character’s names and the plot points of certain episodes. 

I thought, maybe there was something to it that was worth checking out so I did. I watched all sixty-six (sixty-seven if you count the Totally Spies crossover) episodes of this show and now it’s time for the analysis. Martin Mystery aired from October 10, 2003-March 27, 2006 on Nickelodeon. The series was based on Martin Mystère, an Italian comic book created by writer Alfredo Castelli and artist Giancarlo Alessandrini. I haven’t read it and from what I hear, the show deviates a lot from the source material.

Therefore, other than some references I will only be focusing on the TV series. It stars the title character, Martin Mystery along with his step-sister, Diana Lombard, and their friends Billy and Java. By the way, Billy is an alien and Java is a caveman. They work for a paranormal investigation organization called The Center that is run by a woman called Mom (Mystery Organization Manager. Although, in one episode she does use the alias Ms. Olivia Mandell. I’m just going to call her Olivia). She will send the intrepid trio a mission briefing. Then from there, it’s usually up to them to solve what’s going on.

Now that I’ve explained the premise, let’s get into the style. The show has an anime-ish aesthetic. In fact, I did see on one site that the show was animated in Japan while the voicing was done in Canada and France. I don’t know if that qualifies it as an anime. Regardless, if you aren’t into that style, this show will be dead on arrival for you because it leans into it hard.

Let’s say you’re okay with that and the premise sounds alright, kind of kid-friendly MIB crossed with X-Files, it’d sound pretty good, right? Well, let’s talk more about the characters. I can’t lie. I wanted to jump through the screen and strangle Martin in the first three or four episodes. He wasn’t as bad as say, Navi or Scrappy Doo. My Christ, though, was he annoying. 

When I realized this was who I’d have to spend hours watching, I felt instant regret. Nonetheless, I pressed on. He has kind of a Johnny Bravo thing going on where nearly every woman he hits on rejects him. It’s understandable seeing as how he hardly showers or cleans up after himself. In one episode, however, it gets legit stalkery. 

He basically uses a supercomputer to track different info on the girls he and Diana live at. The girl who has it the worst has to be her friend, Jenny. I’ve lost count of the number of times Martin has tried asking her out and she has shot him down. Yet, he always kept asking. That’s great for kids to learn. 

“If a girl says no to going out with you, keep bothering them until they say yes!” Then again the show was produced by the French. Okay, joking aside, I will say the whole Jenny thing did also have exceptions. When she saw him trying to improve himself in some way, she became legit into him. Unfortunately, in those instances, something would happen to make her lose said attraction.

 I’ll touch more on the romantic aspects of the series later. For now, let’s talk about Martin’s relationship with his family and friends beginning with his siblings. He and Diana are polar opposites. He’s messy. She’s organized. He’s almost always late. 

She’s punctual. He’s more go-with-the-flow. She’s more plan-everything-out. I think you get the picture. I will admit that the interactions between them I did like. 

Maybe it was how well their personalities played off each other. Then again it could have been that Diana would beat up Martin when he did something stupid. It could be both. While in their day-to-day lives, they clash a lot, when it comes to their missions they do play off each other kind of well when push comes to shove. Here’s the thing, though.

Diana is supposed to be the skeptic of the show. The problem with that is she always gets proven wrong to the point that aspect of her seems almost pointless. In fairness, within the context of the show I have to assume the majority of cases the Center comes across are probably false alarms considering not many people work for the organization. If that’s the case, Diana would be right most of the time. She and the others are just dealing with the cases where she isn’t.

To her further credit, she does have her moments too, and has helped save the others a few times. Occasionally, she’s even gone out of her way to help Martin. Overall, I’d say that they have a nice brother-sister relationship. I mean I know I said I found him annoying, but growing up my brother was into horror as well which partially set me on this path. I think most people who grew up with an older brother can relate to Diana.

I will say there are some questionable aspects to their relationship that I’ll revisit. Moving along this time to Java who is technically 20,000 years old. He uses caveman speak, referring to himself in the third person and using sentence fragments. He was a specimen that the Center contained, but thanks to Martin he was able to integrate into society. Given the era he was from, Java’s adaptation to modern life is pretty impressive.

He isn’t stupid just not as educated. He’s tried to keep Martin from making dumb decisions albeit unsuccessfully. Also, his strength does come in handy on missions. He tends to take more after Martin which also makes sense given it was his idea to free him. If he sees his friends are in trouble, he’ll drop what he’s doing to save them.

Billy is where things get a little iffy for me. In short, he’s a coward. Granted, he’s helpful, analyzing samples the others give him. On the other, he’ll just straight up leave them in life-threatening situations.  I don’t only mean it like he doesn’t want to go in the spooky house way either. 

There was an episode where his friends were practically on death’s door and he bailed on them. Another issue relating to this character comes from his friends’ attitude toward aliens. It seems like every other episode Martin will go on about them being responsible for some paranormal horror which is odd considering that again, Billy is one, and several work for the Center. Real “I’m not X! I have X friends!” energy. The main problem with him I have, though, comes in a later season.

On the off chance, someone wants to get into this show, I won’t spoil it. However, I will say that something comes up about Billy’s past. Even in the context of it being a kids’ show, it’s major and I felt that it got brushed aside way too easily. Granted, he had changed and did regret what he did. I just thought it’d be more believable if his friends gave more of a reaction to learning about his past beyond “damn, that’s crazy”.

Let me put it to you like this. Imagine your best friend. You’ve known them for a long time and you get along great with them. Now suppose you end up learning they did some messed up stuff in the past, stuff that negatively affected lives. If they’d genuinely changed, would you be able to look past those flaws and still be friends with them? I’m not sure I would.

At the very least, I’d need time to think about it. One good thing about it I will say is that in those particular episodes, he genuinely doesn’t want to go back to his old ways. Now it’s time to talk about the most patient character in the show, Olivia. Yes, she does get angry and yell. The thing is, she’s dealing with Martin.

In almost every episode, he breaks something she is working on right before he and the others embark on a mission. I don’t mean something akin to say a house of cards either. We’re talking about things that probably cost the Center billions to create or obtain. Then Martin doesn’t heed his boss’s warnings and that money goes down the drain. If that were me, I wouldn’t have thrown the book.

 I would have thrown the entire shelves at him. In case you can’t already tell, I find a bit of a kindred spirit with Olivia. In addition to combating Martin’s mishaps, she is also running an entire organization. Don’t let the fact she is shown sitting at her desk most of the time fool you. This woman knows how to fight.

I should also mention that there are certain aspects of her I appreciate more now that I’m older. At the risk of further incurring the wrath of the French, I will say some scenes with her do feel kind of like fanservice. I mean, that could entirely be the case. I know in some other countries they aren’t as strict when it comes to censorship, at least in certain areas. Either way, I won’t complain about her.

She’s shown to be professional most of the time. On occasion, she knows how to cut loose. I also have to assume she has a bit of a soft spot for Martin since he gets away with way too much. The evidence I have for this will come up involving another character later. As for her relationship with the others, I’d say it’s pretty good. 

She’s still strict while wanting the others to keep Martin in check. Speaking of, I know it seems like I’ve been shitting on him for most of this article, but I do have to admit he has his moments. If I had to describe him, he is an idiot, but he isn’t stupid. If that doesn’t make sense, allow me to elaborate. The series shows him as someone who is a lot better at picking up information than trying to sit down and absorb it.

He’s obsessed with the paranormal and it’s been implied that if he comes across something relating to that subject, he’s far more likely to recall it later. Compare that to Diana who’s a study fiend. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything. However, I will say these two methods end up clashing in a big way. Credit due to him, I can also see why Olivia would keep him around.

He has come in clutch multiple times and has shown himself to be resourceful. I don’t know if that makes up for all the damage he causes. I guess if she still keeps him around, it must. While he can come across as being rude, I think that’s more a lack of maturity than maliciousness or apathy. I’ll admit, it took some episodes for his character to grow on me.

I think changing him from extremely annoying to mildly annoying helped. Either that or I just adjusted to his annoyance factor.  I can’t brush aside, the stalker behavior, though. Okay, I understand the whole “girls play hard to get” trope was more prevalent back then (Wow, I’m referring to the early 2000s as back then), but if I recall right, even when Johny Bravo got rejected he left it at that. Unlike Martin, who doesn’t seem able to do that.

As I said with Jenny, she only gives him chances when he shows himself to be more capable. As for her character, I don’t have a whole lot to say. Other than being Diana’s friend and someone for Martin to fawn after, she doesn’t add a whole lot to the story overall. Getting back to Martin, he does show care for his friends as shown by what he did for Java as well as just saving them a lot in general. I’ve talked about family and friends.

Let’s talk about rivals and this is where a new character gets introduced later named Marvin. He’s similar to Martin if he showered more often. Right away, Martin has anonymity toward him because he’s into a lot of the same stuff he is while being able to do it better. It’s not like he does it intentionally so Martin’s jealousy just ends up coming across as really petty. When Marvin gets pissed at him I felt that it was completely justified.

I also have to call out Olivia and this will kind of spoil some things, sorry. Now, keep in mind how much damage Martin has caused. Marvin only messed up once and he got transferred to the worst center location. Somehow, I get the feeling there’s a bit of bias involved there. Getting back into the iffy territory. 

Diana is attracted to Marvin which I found weird considering how similar he is to her stepbrother. As a matter of fact, in the original comics, she and Martin aren’t step-siblings. They’re husband and wife. I think the reason they changed this is that they’re older in that version. Maybe they thought going with that angle in the show would have been weird.

 If that’s the case then I agree. It gets kind of questionable, though in some areas such as Diana’s attraction to Martin. Shot in the dark, maybe it was a nod to that aspect of the comics. Martin does become less jealous of Marvin as the show progresses. Credit there, I suppose.

He’s a fairly decent character I’d say. Who isn’t is Caitlin. Spoiler warning, although, you aren’t missing much. This character was entirely pointless. She’s introduced in a later season as someone who is a perfect match for Martin.

 Keep in mind, when she says yes to being his girlfriend this is fifty-five episodes in. That’s over two and a half seasons of him striking out every single time when he asked a girl out. You know what? I was genuinely happy for him when Caitlin said yes. Guess what happened in the next episode?

She dumped him. Not only did she do that. She did it for the dumbest reason possible. She was able to deduce Martin was a paranormal investigator. Yet, when he uses that as a legitimate reason for standing her up, she doesn’t want to hear it. 

What sense does that make? She was only in three episodes. You could have swapped her with any other random person Martin meets on his investigations. The end result would have been the same. At least Martin was able to brush off being dumped so easily which surprised me.

Since I’ve talked about the characters and story overall, would I recommend it? Well, I did see some person on the Wiki asking for a season four. Therefore, I have to assume somewhat of a fanbase exists for it. As for me, personally, I think there are better kids’ horror series. For example, a few years ago I watched through all of Gravity Falls for the first time and loved it.

Had I watched it when I was younger I would have been all over it. Hell, just last year I rewatched Danny Phantom. Certain aspects didn’t age that great for me, but overall I’d recommend both these shows. I can’t fully say the same thing for Martin Mystery. Don’t get me wrong. 

It’s decent if you have kids who are into horror and they’re wanting to get their feet wet, but you don’t want them watching anything too extreme.  Although, there are some legit body horror moments in the show. Plus, it has decent tributes to horror. It’s just that compared to say Danny Phantom the character growth feels lackluster. I feel like the early 2000s was kind of an experimental phase for kids’ cartoons where they were slowly trying to make them more in-depth.

What bothers me is that it seemed as if they were going to try this with Martin’s character only to end up pulling it back. I think the potential is there. Maybe if the show had a fourth season Martin would have been shown becoming more Mature and the others would have developed more along with him. That’s all speculation, though.

Do I think this show should come back? Not really. Would I watch it if it did come back? Maybe. It would depend on the direction they decide to take it. As it stands now, I’m giving it a high C or a low B.

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