In conjunction with the show’s August second season finale Cartoon Network and toy mogul Mattel have recently released a series of The Secret Saturdays themed actions figures and related merchandise. Among these products are a series of miniature pre-fabricated models of the various “cryptids” or monsters featured on the show.
As a lover of mythology and monsters one of the things that I most enjoy about The Secret Saturdays is Jay Stephens’ use of some rather obscure creatures such as the Hibagon (Japan’s version of Bigfoot), the Buratsche-al-Ilgs (a Swiss lake monster that looks like a stomach covered with eyes), and the Biloko (a mandrill-like swamp monster from the Congo) rather than the sundry choices of dragons, Sasquatches, lake dwelling plesiosaurs, and chupacabras (though this particularly famous Mexican monster does make a cameo in episode #13).
Nevertheless it may just be that Jay Stephens’ love of obscure mythical creatures has actually gotten him into some trouble.
In episode #6 of the first season a pink, one eyed, bat-like creature identified as a Popobawa is featured in the opening scenes. The creature is shown dive bombing the Saturday family, apparently guarding its nest.
Though the Popobawa is only featured for a few minutes (the Saturdays leave it once a distress call is received) its presence on a children’s cartoon show is intriguing nonetheless as the Popobawa is actually a type of incubus from Eastern African folklore. In world folklore and mythology incubi are male demons who rape human women, however in the Popobawa’s case men are actually his preferred targets.
Photos from both the 2009 New York Comic-Con and Toy Fair back in February revealed that first line of cryptid models would include a Popobawa figure among others.
In the end, I simply considered it a matter of time before some outraged parent contacted Cartoon Network, Mattel or the media upset over their child learning about and or playing with a plastic toy incubus.
But low and behold it appears as if Cartoon Network and Mattel have beaten this controversy to the punch. I went by my local Wal-Mart today and, as is customary for me, decided to take a walk down the toy aisle. I was delighted at long last to see The Secret Saturdays action figures and models out on the shelves and began looking at some of the various plastic monsters. However as I began pulling toys off the rack I noticed that the pink Popobawa was nowhere to be seen. When I flipped over one of the packages to look at the back I discovered that a green sticker had been clumsily placed over one of the cryptid’s pictures. After easily removing the sticker enough to peek underneath it I saw that it was the Popobawa that was being hidden.
Intrigued I returned home where I jumped online and went to several different toy store websites only to learn that none of them were carrying the Popobawa figure. I then did a Goggle search to see if any news had broken regarding the toy being pulled from the shelves or simply delayed. After finding nothing regarding a pull but also nothing to persuade me that this was a simple delay in the toy’s release I decided to check one last source.
On Amazon.com I found The Secret Saturdays Official Cryptid Field Guide book along with a customary peek inside the interior. This peek allowed me to see that even though the Popobawa was plainly featured on the book’s cover no entry for the cryptid existed in book’s table of contents.
Suspecting that some sort of cover up was afoot I decided to e-mail Jay Stephens himself and ask for an official statement regarding the disappearance of the Popobawa from the recent merchandise release. Was it a simple delay or had the powers that be removed the monster after doing a bit of research into its mythology?
Fortunately Jay Stephens was nice enough to e-mail me back the same day and after complimenting Of Epic Proportions stated that he had no official comment concerning the Popobawa merchandise but would like to go on record as saying this regarding the creature’s presence on the show…
"Many creatures from world folklore/mythology are studied by cryptozoologists to determine if a real, live, animal-- unknown to science-- might be behind the legend. Such is the case with the Popobawa. There have been many modern sightings of a bat-like creature that have been identified by locals as the Popobawa. If such an unknown creature exists, it is highly unlikely that the legendary proclivities attributed to the mythical Popobawa are true... it is (if it exists) merely an unknown winged mammal, nothing more or less. This is the view of several real-life cryptozoologists, and the unknown animal (or 'cryptid') that appeared in our cartoon is based upon this research. I chose to dismiss the accounts of rape as pure myth, just as anyone who features a 'Bigfoot' in their cartoon ignores the many reported cases of rape associated with that much more famous cryptid. In any event, the Popobawa in our Secret Saturdays world was portrayed as a female, egg-laying creature, clearly incapable of the deed."
In the end we can not say for certain that The Secret Saturdays merchandise related to the Popobawa has been pulled permanently and will not simply be released at a later date. For now however it appears that something is definitely up.
As for my thoughts on the matter I have long recognized the fact that mythology contains adult content and that we should be careful when relaying such myths to our children to not expose them to themes that they are not yet ready for. I also believe that no matter how you look at it Jay Stephens took a real risk in deciding to include the Popobawa on his children’s television program but that hopefully any repercussions that do come from it will not be too harsh.
Turns out an earlier statement (8/12) from Jay Stephens was actually given to "Agent Specter" the owner and administrator of the fan site Cryptid Saturdays regarding the Popobawa but was not publicized outside the site’s forums. This time Stephens went on the record as saying that episode #6 of The Secret Saturdays is going to be re-dub so as to remove the word "Popobawa" and replace it with the less offensive "Devil’s Cave Bird." Stephens says that "the change was last minute, and came as a surprise." However, still no word on how this will affect the potential toy release.
At Top: The Secret Saturdays from top to bottom - Zon (a pterosaur), Fiskerton (a gorilla-cat), Doc Saturday (the dad), Drew Saturday (the mom), Zak Saturday (the son), and Komodo (the Komodo dragon).
Center: The Popobawa toy as seen at the 2009 New York Comic-Con via cryptidsaturdays.com.
 In real life, cryptozoology (lit. “the study of hidden animals”) is a pseudoscientific discipline most notably characterized for its interest in proving the existence is such mythical creatures as Bigfoot, the Yeti, lake monsters (ala Loch Ness), and the chupacabra. Today the world’s foremost expert in the field of cryptozoology is probably Loren Coleman, author of several books on the subject and curator of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.