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An assembly of various characters from adult cartoons
© Cartoon Network/Comedy Central
'Toon Time: Cartoons Grow Up
'Toons aren't just for kids any more; check out these series aimed at adults

By Paul Semel
MSN Entertainment

While cartoons have never been just for kids, lately there's been an explosion of animated shows that are actually good for grown-ups. Whether it's because they're smarter ("Futurama"), sexier ("Drawn Together"), or downright surreal ("Aqua Teen Hunger Force"), these 'toons are geared more toward adults than adolescents. While most of us are familiar with "South Park" and "Family Guy," there are lots of other cartoons that are perfect for those above the legal drinking age as well. With that in mind, here's a primer for those hoping to enter the ever-expanding world of grown-up cartoons.

Name: "Aqua Teen Hunger Force"
What's the deal: A milk shake, large fries, and ball of ground beef team up to fight crime and each other.
Why adults will like it: Because it's easily the weirdest 'toon on TV.
Why kids shouldn't watch: Besides the obvious health risks, the surrealistic humor might confuse them.
If you like this, you'll like: The similarly surreal "Sealab 2021."
On DVD?: Volumes 1-3 are out now.
When it's on: Monday through Thursday at midnight and 3 a.m. on Cartoon Network.

Name: "Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law"
What's the deal: The former cartoon superhero is now a lawyer, though not a very good one.
Why adults will like it: Because all of Harv's clients are Hanna Barbera cartoon characters.
Why kids shouldn't watch: Because they won't understand why Scooby and Shaggy were busted for possession.
If you like this, you'll like: "Space Ghost: Coast To Coast," in which another former superhero was also given a new job: late-night talk-show host.
On DVD?: Volume 1 is out April 12.
When it's on: New episodes begin June 12 on Cartoon Network.

Name: "Drawn Together"
What's the deal: It's a "Real World"-style reality show, but with cartoon characters.
Why adults will like it: Because when a video-game hero, a fairy princess and a Japanese battle monster stop being polite, they start getting real.
Why kids shouldn't watch: Because Foxxy Love is bad, and she's drawn that way.
If you like this you'll like: "Newlyweds," which is equally silly.
On DVD?: Nope.
When it's on: Thursdays at 10 p.m. and midnight on Comedy Central.

Name: "Invader Zim"
What's the deal: Deemed a pain in the butt, Zim is sent to Earth to do recon for an invasion, but it's actually to get rid of him.
Why adults will like it: Because its goth visuals are matched by its equally dark humor.
Why kids shouldn't watch: Because it might give them the wrong idea about aliens.
If you like this, you'll like: "Johnny The Homicidal Maniac" and "Squee," two graphic novels by Zim creator Jhonen Vasquez.
On DVD?: Volumes 1-3 are available now; a complete series collection is out April 12.
When it's on: It's not, unfortunately.

Name: "Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex"
What's the deal: The classic cyberpunk anime movie is now an equally cool TV show.
Why adults will like it: Because they loved the classic anime movie, its sequel and the graphic novel that inspired it all.
Why kids shouldn't watch: Because while Maj. Motoko Kusanagi doesn't get au naturel like she did in the movie, her fashion sense is still closer to Pam Anderson than Velma.
If you like this, you'll like: "Wolf's Rain," another futuristic anime on Cartoon Network.
On DVD?: Volumes 1-4 are out now, as are the movies.
When it's on: Thursdays at 1 a.m. and 4 a.m., and Saturdays at midnight and 3 a.m., on Cartoon Network.

Name: "Star Wars: Clone Wars"
What's the deal: Serving as a bridge between "Star Wars: Episode II" and the upcoming "Episode III," this chronicles the galactic civil war.
Why adults will like it: Because everyone wants to know what happened during the Clone Wars.
Why kids shouldn't watch: Oh, they can watch this. "Star Wars"-loving adults will just like it too.
If you like this, you'll like: "The Clone Wars" and "Clone Wars Adventures" graphic novels, and the "Clone Wars" and "Republic Commando" video games.
On DVD?: Volume 1 is out March 22.
When it's on: Season 2 begins March 21 on Cartoon Network.

Name: "Kid Notorious"
What's the deal: Famed movie producer and party animal Robert Evans is already a character; this just made him animated.
Why adults will like it: Because Evans is a Hollywood icon who isn't afraid to bite the hands that feed him.
Why kids shouldn't watch: Because Evan's playboy lifestyle isn't rated PG. Or PG-13.
If you like this, you'll like: "The Kid Stays In The Picture," a documentary about Evans' life narrated by the man himself.
On DVD?: Nope.
When it's on: Sundays and Wednesdays at 2:30 a.m. on Comedy Central.

Name: "The Batman"
What's the deal: It's the early adventures of the caped crusader.
Why adults will like it: Because unlike the silly movies and '60s TV show, this is a dark and arty take on Batman.
Why kids shouldn't watch: Older kids can take it, but young ones might get a bit spooked by the Dark Knight.
If you like this, you'll like: "Batman: The Animated Series" and the graphic novel "Batman: Year One" by Frank Miller.
On DVD?: "The Batman: Training For Power" is out May 24.
When it's on: Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. on The WB, and 9 p.m. Saturdays on Cartoon Network starting April 2.

Name: "Futurama"
What's the deal: After being cryogenically frozen for a thousand years, former delivery boy Philip J. Fry gets a new job -- as a delivery boy.
Why adults will like it: Created by "The Simpsons" mastermind Matt Groening, it has the same smart writing.
Why kids shouldn't watch: Because of all the gratuitous alien nudity.
If you like this, you'll like: "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," which is available as a book, a BBC miniseries on DVD, a radio show on CD, and soon a movie.
On DVD?: Volumes 1-4 are out now.
When it's on: Monday-Thursday at 11:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m., and Saturdays at 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., on Cartoon Network.

Name: "Duckman"
What's the deal: Though the office door says he's a private investigator, Duckman's actually a sexist, sex-obsessed, alcoholic dick (as in "detective," of course).
Why adults will like it: Because Duckman is like an alcoholic Hugh Hefner.
Why kids shouldn't watch: Because Duckman is like an alcoholic Hugh Hefner.
If you like this, you'll like: Bender on "Futurama," who's like a robotic Duckman.
On DVD?: Nope.
When it's on: Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays at 3:30 a.m. on Comedy Central.

Paul Semel writes about music, movies, TV and video games for such magazines as Maxim, Wired, Giant, Electronic Gaming Monthly, Spin and Vibe. He is also available for weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Are you watching adult cartoons?  Let us know which ones you like at heymsn@microsoft.com