Original 1980’s Advertising Mascot
The character that would eventually come to be known as Claire Mulkerin was originally conceived of in 1988 by the advertising division of the Mulkerin Corporation as a way of promoting a the “Honey Fried Mellowsaurs” breakfast cereal, which was comprised of miniature imitation marshmallows in the shapes of dinosaurs that were then breaded, deep-fried, and coated in honey flavoring. In his first incarnation, the character was known as “Curious Colin,” a wide-eyed child who obsessed with figuring out how “Honey Fried Mellowsaurs” got their signature taste. He would typically express this want via his popular catchphrase, “How day get so TASTY?” He was featured in a series of popular television commercials which all featured the same basic structure: Colin’s live-action parents and siblings would all leave the house and accidentally leave the middle-child, the inexplicably animated Colin, behind. With the house to himself, he would grab a box of Honey Fried Mellowsaurs off the top shelf and attempt some sort of science experiment to figure out why they tasted the way they did. Before he could find the answer, however, the experiment would go wildly out of control and leave his house a complete mess.
1990’s Cartoon Character
In the mid 90’s, as part of an attempt to boost the sales of several products whose popularity had been waning, the television division of Mulkerin Corp launched an hour-long block of Saturday morning animation called “Mulkerin Action Hour,” which consisted of four fifteen-minute shorts per episode, featuring largely episodic stories starring various Mulkerin Corp advertising mascots. One of the more popular characters was “Curious Colin: Preteen Genius,” a character who was clearly based on the 80’s cereal mascot, but who was now portrayed as a precocious and sarcastic eleven year old who would typically use his miraculous inventions to try to get out of having to do his chores or his homework so that he could instead go to the arcade or go skateboarding. The character’s most iconic inventions, which were featured in nearly every episode, were his high-tech “cyber watch” and his floating “jet board.” The only consistent element throughout the series was that once per episode, Colin would be caught misbehaving by an authority figure, who would yell in an exaggerated fashion “COOOLIIIIIIIIN!,” to which Colin would reply with his new signature catchphrase, “That’s my name, don’t wear it out!” before fleeing.
By the end of the 90s, the character had become less associated with the cereal which he was originally designed to promote and more of an industry in and of himself, with merchandise featuring his likeness being responsible for over a billion dollars in Mulkerin Corp’s profits over the course of the decade. However, things began to take a turn for the worse for the character when the film studio division of Mulkerin Corp released the ill-conceived “Curious Colin: Preteen Genius” live action film, which was directed by Joe Dante and starred Macaulay Culkin in the title role. The film was a financial and critical failure, and is generally heralded as the beginning of the end of the character’s mainstream popularity. The film did, however, reveal in a throwaway gag, that Curious Colin’s full name was “Colin Mulkerin.” Although this was originally intended to be merely a joke at the expense of the Mulkerin Corporation, it was later canonized in future portrayals of the character to be his actual full name.
2000’s Comic Character
By 2007, it had been several years since any of the old characters from the Mulkerin Action Hour had been featured in any sort of media. The comic book division of Mulkerin Corp, in an attempt to ride the wave of the “grim and gritty” comic books of the time, commissioned a “for mature readers only” twelve-issue limited series by a collection of the most popular freelance writers and illustrators at that time called “Darkest Hour,” which took all of the disparate characters from the Mulkerin Action Hour and, for the first time, posited a shared reality between them in which they protected the world as a superhero team called the “United Action Council.” The plot of the series revolved around a mysterious villain known as Mr. Doomsday who was trying to kill the various members of the United Action Council and also manipulate them into turning on one another.
The version of Curious Colin that was featured in this series was simply known as “Colin Mulkerin,” a dark and tortured nineteen-year old billionaire entrepreneur who was responsible for creating most of the technology used by the other members of the United Action Council. He had a cybernetic arm as a nod to the cyber-watch of his 90’s incarnation, and he had a pair of high-tech magnifying goggles as a nod to both the glasses of his 90’s incarnation and the enormous magnifying glass of his 80’s incarnation. The tinge of dark sarcasm that was present in the 90’s version of the character was far more pronounced in this portrayal, to the point of total nihilism. The character was apparently killed by Mr. Doomsday in issue seven of the series, but as you can see in the now classic cover of issue eight of Darkest Hour (shown below), Colin was far from dead. By the end of the series, it is revealed that Colin himself was Mr. Doomsday, and his ultimate plan was to destroy the world. The final issue ends with him succeeding in killing all the other members of the United Action Council and activating his ultimate “Doomsday Engine,” which does indeed cause the world to explode. Although the series was generally well-received throughout most of its run, the ending of the final issue was almost universally hated by critics of the time as unnecessarily bleak.
2010’s Cartoon Reboot
In 2017, in an attempt to capitalize on the trend of 90s cartoon nostalgia that seemed to be permeating the culture, Mulkerin Corp announced plans to release a new comedic cartoon series based on their popular stable of characters simply called “Action Show.” Also, in an effort to respond to the fact that, up until now, nearly all Mulkerin Corporation advertising mascots that have been recognizably human have been straight cisgender white men, a press release from the public relations division of Mulkerin Corp has promised that many of the characters that will now be “of a variety of racial backgrounds, genders, and sexualities.” Perhaps the most prominent and controversial change that has been announced thus far is that the character of “Curious Colin” has now been reimagined as a twenty-something transgender woman named “Claire Mulkerin.” Reactions to the announcement thus far have been mixed.
Many are glad to see more representation in cartoons of women in general and trans women in particular, especially in prestigious and stereotypically non-feminine professions such as scientists. Some social conservatives see the presence of a transgender character in a children’s cartoon as a part of a coastal elite liberal agenda to corrupt their children and lead them down a path towards homosexuality and critical thinking. Some are in favor of the idea of a transgender character in the show but see the specific instance of Curious Colin as a problematic character to reinterpret in this way because of his current place in popular culture as a depressed, secretive, and ultimately evil character who was plotting to destroy the world (and ended up succeeding at doing so) in Darkest Hour.
Thus far, all that has been released in association with this show are a series of promotional images of the various characters, which are all littered with various easter eggs. The image of Claire Mulkerin, fans have noticed, seems to feature the robotic arm and goggles of the 00’s incarnation, but the black lab coat that was worn by that version of the character has been recolored white. It also features the blue shorts of 80’s and 90’s incarnation, but the classic pink sneakers of those incarnations have now been reinterpreted as high-heeled boots. Mulkerin Corp has stated that this version of the character will “pay tribute to all previous versions of the character to varying degrees, and should also give something new to people who have never experienced the world’s smartest and most disaster-prone scientist.” Whether or not the series is able to live up to the promises of this press release remains to be seen, but a version of the promotional image shown below has already spawned many popular memes, featuring jokes typically based on old catchphrases such as “That’s HER name, don’t wear it out!” or simply “How day get so TASTY?”