I don't remember much about "Carmen Sandiego" either, except for the late Lynne Thigpen's ACME Chief (probably the first black person I ever saw) and the Rockapella song. So I knew Carmen's name long before I knew about the city in California and that caused a bit of confusion down the line. Sometime during middle school, Rockapella actually came and performed for us in an assembly so that was sweet and piqued my memory.
I don't think I would have much interest in that show now, since it's about a bunch of kids answering geography trivia questions, but having dabbled in some of the books and computer games since then I am kind of obsessed with the franchise as a whole and especially its protagonist. Since I'm also obsessed with music, you can understand my joy at discovering a couple of out-of-print music albums dedicated to the series. The first, released the year before I was born and appropriately eponymously titled:
The year after I was born (if you're clever, you can look up both release dates of and extrapolate the year I was born) came this album:
And what a topic! I hate to love her, you know, because stealing things is bad and not a trait to admire, but Carmen is just the best at it. She makes Gru look like an underachiever. "The moon? That's cute. I stole Saturn's rings and the Great Red Spot of Jupiter." Like Boba Fett and other mysterious cool people, her backstory varies depending on the source, but usually the gist is that she was a morally upright ACME agent until she got bored and defected to do something more exciting.
Now for the question that must have occurred to everyone by this point. What man could ever be worthy of such a goddess of thievery? None, of course, but just as she took pity on incompetent villains and let them into her secret organization, so too she found room in her heart for someone. All of this is totally canon.
She rolled her eyes, because she'd heard that one at least eight hundred times before. But at the same time she failed to suppress a blush and a smile, because he had stolen hers too. And it was cute how he always paid for stuff that she would have just taken anyway.
But Carmen Sandiego couldn't stay in one place for long, and where she was going, Waldo couldn't follow. For the first time she felt torn between love and duty. But when her decision was made, she took comfort in Waldo's parting words:
"I'm sorry," he said, "this was kind of rushed, so I haven't got a ring yet, but -"
Carmen gave him a dismissive wave of her hand. "Been there, stolen that. I took them from Saturn, remember?"
"Er - right." Waldo was a little more at ease now, seeing how well she was taking this. "I meant one for your finger, with a diamond in it."
"Ha!" Carmen said. "Diamonds aren't worth nearly as much as diamond companies want you to think they are. Besides, if I wanted one, I would steal a jewelry store franchise." But then a worse thought occurred to her: what would this mean for her lifestyle? Could she really settle down? She had missed Waldo, to be sure, but she was certain she would miss her globetrotting thievery just as much. She felt torn now between love and fear.
Carmen manages to keep her eyes open a few moments longer to look at Waldo. He looks a little different from when they met but, like her, he's only improved with age. She thinks of all they've been through together, of his unflinching loyalty to her through thick and thin from the first moment he offered her that drink. She sees the love in his eyes and the pain that probably surpasses her own. And with her final breath she says, "Maybe your heart was the biggest thing I ever stole after all."
I can't believe I just made myself cry with my own writing.
She will also star in a few non-canon crossovers just for fun, because every franchise will become even cooler with her in it. For example, what could be better than her stealing the artifacts that Indiana Jones recovers? She would probably get to them first. She would steal not just the Ark of the Covenant, but the entire Well of Souls. And you just know that despite their initial disagreements they would end up working together and making out (this would be before she met Waldo).
"We're not all that different, you and I," Carmen says to Indy as they catch their breath after fighting off eighty-seven Nazis. "Both of us have devoted our lives to stealing things. The difference is that I'm much better at it than you."
"The difference," Indy growls, refusing to look at her, "is that I am a tenured professor of archaeology. The artifacts that I st- that I recover go into a museum. To be shared with the world. To enrich, to enlighten. Or at least they would if they didn't always get taken away first."
"Such nobility," Carmen says, letting out a tinkly little laugh as she sees that she's gotten under his skin. "But does the end goal change the fact that these things don't belong to you? That you're taking them from where their rightful owners left them for a reason? And do tell me more about how an archaeologist's toolkit consists solely of a bullwhip and a revolver."
Indy doesn't have a snappy response ready. Somehow no one has ever called him out on that before. He winces to his core as Carmen laughs again, louder this time. She's almost as bad as Marion.
To Carmen Sandiego, as has been readily demonstrated, space and time are as easily traversed as an empty dirt road. So it is that she also finds herself a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. After grappling with the Nazis, she's developed a fondness for taking on evil dictatorships, and when she sees how the Galactic Empire is cracking down on thieves she knows she has to take a stand. She misses working with lesser beings so she enlists with the Rebellion and quickly demonstrates her value to them.
"You've got the Death Star plans?" the hologram of General Dodonna says breathlessly.
Carmen keeps a straight face. "Well, not exactly."
General Dodonna fails to keep a straight face. "Not exactly? How so?"
Carmen smirks a little. "The mission you gave me was much too easy. I decided to do something more worthy of my skill set."
Now General Dodonna goes ballistic. He isn't normally the type to do so, but the Rebellion placed its hope in Carmen Sandiego and now it appears she's let them down for no good reason. "Too easy? Are you [redacted] kidding me?? Your mission was of unspeakable importance! Trillions of lives are at stake here, Carmen! What, pray tell, was 'more worthy' of Your Holiness?"
Meanwhile, on Coruscant...
"Hang on, I gotta take this." A meeting with two of Emperor Palpatine's advisers has just been interrupted by an important phone call. "Vader! How's my favorite Sith?" He leans back in his desk chair, relaxed, feeling that life is good and all is right with the galaxy now that - "Whoa, whoa, whoa, huh? She what? Are you trying to be funny, Vader? I - yeah, yeah, real funny, ha ha. Look, I'm very busy right now, and - Vader, this isn't funny anymore. How stupid do you think I am? I didn't get to be ruler of the galaxy by being gullible. Yeah, whatever, bye." Palpatine hangs up and rolls his eyes at his advisers. "That moron's trying to convince me that someone 'stole the Death Star'. Isn't that the stupidest thing you've ever heard?"
They laugh. "Yeah," Mas Amedda says. "Even stupider than most inhabited planets having only one type of terrain."
"Right?" Palpatine says.
In conclusion, that's why Carmen Sandiego is my heroine and I want to be just like her when I grow up.