From the Archives: Deck Log Entry # 60 Saturday Morning Silver Age: Part Four--Hanna-Barbera, the Best to You Each Saturday Morning

In television, as in all other fields of endeavour, relative status is seldom above dispute.  However, one of those rare exceptions has to be the studio created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, who became the dominant producers of television animation throughout the last half of the 20th century.  Hanna and Barbera certainly had the pedigrees to earn that distinction.  They had worked as an animation team at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon studio, beginning in 1939.  There, they created the famous MGM cartoon pair of Tom and Jerry, and went on to win eight Academy Awards directing the animated tussles of the cat-and-mouse duo.

 

After MGM closed its cartoon studio in 1957, the pair, now established as Hanna-Barbera Enterprises, hired most of the MGM animators, and turned its sights toward the largely untapped medium of television animation.  It was an effort which almost died a-borning.  Hanna and Barbera discovered that, unlike the movies, television didn’t have the time or the money to produce theatrical-level work.  As Joe Barbera once explained, MGM provided the funding for him and Hanna to produce five or six two-reel Tom and Jerry cartoons per year, at $40,000 a pop, while television required a five-minute cartoon to be produced every two weeks and provided less than a tenth of the MGM budget.  H-B Enterprises had made a deal with Screen Gems, the television division of Columbia Pictures.  “We received about $2,700 instead of $40,000,” said Barbera, “and that was after great negotiating and pleading.”

 

Hanna and Barbera were faced with the dilemma of either producing cartoons economically or going out of business.  Necessity resulted in their development of limited animation, the mechanics of which I described back in Part One.  This made producing cartoons at television’s pace and budget practical.  H-B’s first cartoon series was The Ruff ‘n’ Ready Show, which debuted in 1957.  While not a runaway hit, it was successful enough to follow it up with The Huckleberry Hound Show in 1958.  Huck Hound was H-B’s first genuine triumph, validated by winning of the 1960 Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Children’s Programming.  The Huckleberry Hound Show also produced the first television cartoon spin-off, when Yogi Bear, who had occupied the third slot on Huck’s show, graduated to a show of his own in 1961.

 

Huck and Yogi and H-B’s next entry, Quick Draw McGraw, were syndicated and usually occupied that afternoon “children’s hour” from 4-to-5 p.m.  The animation, of course, was inferior to the movie cartoons of the ‘40’s and early ‘50’s, which forced the elimination of many of the clever sight gags that inspired belly laughs in theatre audiences.  Nor was the writing of the TV cartoons as piquant or laced with adult-level wisecracks as its movie brethren.  Still, the TV cartoon material was clever enough to overcome the limited animation.  Hanna and Barbera managed to infuse varying levels of gags and punchlines so that they appealed to small fry and older youngsters alike.  And every once in a while, a grown-up would sneak a peek or two.

 

As H-B refined both the quality of its writing and its mastery of limited animation, it gained enough clout to break into prime-time.  It scored a television first by establishing the first prime-time television cartoon, The Flintstones, in 1960.  It would also prove to be the team’s greatest evening success, running for six years and generating a never-ending run of spin-offs, commercials, and merchandising.

 

One would had to have spent the entire decade of the 1950’s living in a cave someplace not to recognise that The Flintstones was a dressed-up version of Jackie Gleason’s The Honeymooners, but somehow, Hanna and Barbera managed to develop the show in such a fashion that it avoided the carbon-copy association and established its own identity.  The cleverness in depicting the conveniences of “modern” Stone-Age life helped.  Also contributing to The Flintstones’ uniqueness was the show’s willingness to actually evolve.  Fred and Wilma produced a child, Pebbles, and we saw them go through the trials and adjustments of early parenthood.  A season later, neighbours Barney and Betty adopted a foundling, Bamm-Bamm.

 

With the success of The Flintstones, more H-B cartoons saw their way into the networks’ evening schedules---The Jetsons, Top Cat, and, quite probably the most well-crafted “kids’ cartoon” of all time, Jonny Quest.  Despite employing good scripts and top-notch voice talent, Hanna-Barbera could not get away from the derivative nature of their shows.  The Jetsons was a futuristic redux of The Life of Riley; Top Cat was an anthropomorphic version of Sergeant Bilko; and Jonny Quest took its premise from radio’s Jack Armstrong, All-American Boy.  None of these follow-on programmes lasted more than a year in their original forms.

 

The law of diminishing returns had kicked in.  The novelty of The Flintstones as a prime-time animated series did not sustain in the H-B’s other prime-time cartoons.  The adults looked for other fare, leaving only the kids enjoying them

 

Consequently, H-B sought more fertile ground and found it in Saturday morning, which had become the province of children’s cartoons.  After failing in their prime-time venues, both Top Cat and The Jetsons found slots in the Saturday morning schedule and among the kid-centric audience, garnered healthy ratings.  Hanna and Barbera knew then it had found a new home.

 

 

  

I have already discussed how, in 1965, CBS vice-president of daytime programming, Fred Silverman, had taken an active control of the network’s drifting Saturday-morning schedule, giving it the same attention to detail as the nighttime line-up.  A year later, as The Flintstones was winding down to its last prime-time season, Silverman was energising Saturday mornings by latching onto the Batmania sweeping the nation.  The ABC network had a lock on Batman, so Silverman grabbed up Superman.  But it wasn’t enough; he still had a few more Saturday-morning hours to fill.

 

In 1966, pinchpenny Marvel Comics wasn’t ready to take the animated plunge, so Silverman started looking around for a company that could produce original super-heroes and make them saleable.

 

Hanna-Barbera had gotten a jump on that sort of thing with its Atom Ant cartoon, which had débuted on NBC the year before.  Atom Ant was a curious blend of funny animals, super-hero derring-do, and the campy dialogue of Batman.  It wasn’t a world-beater in the ratings, but it proved popular enough to persuade Silverman that Hanna and Barbera could deliver on super-heroes, too.  With Silverman’s blessing, H-B came up with two more shows for the 1966 season, jam-packed with costumed crime-fighters.

 

Frankenstein, Jr., and the Impossibles launched on 10 September 1966. Despite the implication of the name, Frankenstein, Jr., was not related to Mary Shelley’s famous literary monster except, vaguely, in appearance.  True, Frankenstein, Jr., had been assembled from parts, but not organic ones.  Rather, he was a thirty-foot-tall robot constructed out of transistors, diodes, and servo-mechanisms by one Professor Conroy for his son, Buzz.  When crime threatened, Buzz would activate “Franky” with a control ring, then hop onto the giant robot’s back as it flew into action.

 

While generally sentient and capable of independent use of some standard equipment, such as his jet-propelled astro-boots and fingertip-installed power beams, Frankenstein, Jr., largely relied on the commands of young Buzz to combat the various villains.  Buzz’s ring enabled him to activate various devices concealed within the robot’s cavernous chest.  Much like Batman and his utility belt, Frankenstein, Jr., almost always “just happened” to have on hand whatever gadget was needed to defeat the current threat hurled against him.  Here again, Hanna-Barbera had taken a previous concept---the boy-controlling-a-giant-robot premise had come from the Japanese cartoon Gigantor---and put its own spin on it.

 

The other half of the show belonged to the Impossibles, a trio of super-heroes who tackled missions assigned to them by “Big D”, the head of a super-secret government agency.  The three crime-fighters were Coil Man, whose limbs were constructed of springs; Fluid Man, who could convert his body to water; and the mop-topped Multi-Man, who was able to replicate himself endlessly.  In civilian life, they were a rock ‘n’ roll group also named the Impossibles.  Fortunately, the public seemed no more able to make the connexion between the two Impossibles trios than it could between the Green Hornet’s sidekick, Kato, and Britt Reid’s valet, Kato.  Even if someone had put three and three together, it wouldn’t have mattered much, anyway; the heroes’ private careers as musicians were never expanded upon.  It was simply a plot device, in hopes of further luring young viewers, by inserting some knock-off rock ‘n’ roll numbers into the action.

 

While not outright comedies, the adventures of both Frankenstein, Jr., and the Impossibles were light-weight.  The emphasis was on simple super-hero action, punctuated by gags taken straight from Joe Miller’s Joke Book. These were romps, watered down to a child’s level, with no real sense of menace.

 

That was the last thing one could say about Hanna-Barbera’s other 1966 offering. 

 

 

 

Space Ghost was ultra-serious and loaded with menace---and that was only the beginning of the things the show had going for it.

 

Space Ghost, the character, was an interstellar free-lance law-enforcement officer who patrolled the galaxy.  Like any self-respecting super-hero, he had a variety of powers and gimmicks at his command.  He possessed an unusually high degree of durability and strength, on top of which, he could survive unaided underwater and in the vacuum of space.  But the most notable of all of his abilities were his power bands.

 

The power bands were twin wristlets equipped with three buttons each, but there seemed to be no end of capabilities in those six push-switches.  Not only did they permit Space Ghost to fly and to become unseen (by activating his “inviso-power”), they emitted ray beams capable of whatever the writers could think of, and they could think of a lot of them.  With a press of one of those buttons, Space Ghost could activate a magnetic ray, a force ray, a battering-ram ray, an electro-shock ray, a sonic-vibro ray, a heat ray, a freeze ray, a stun ray, a pile-driver ray, a force ray, a scatter ray, a locking ray, a laser beam, a megaton-force ray, an anti-matter ray, a destroyer ray, a reversing-force ray, a hypno ray, a force shield, or the ability to create a time warp.

 

Unlike most cartoon super-heroes, Space Ghost was given a particularly full mythos.  His headquarters was based on the Ghost Planet, and he did his patrolling in a stylised spacecraft called the Phantom Cruiser.  He was assisted in his crime-fighting by the teen-age twins Jan and Jace, outfitted in matching costumes.  Also along for the ride was the monkey Blip, also decked out in the same uniform as the twins.  As with most cartoon-hero pets, Blip was both unusually intelligent for his species and the source of the few bits of humour the show permitted.  Space Ghost, the teens, and the monkey would all stay in touch through communicators installed in the triangular ghost-motif insignia they all wore.

 

While the rich background added to the character’s popularity, there was a shroud of mystery about Space Ghost which the fans found equally fascinating.  Either through omission or intent, many questions were never addressed.  Space Ghost’s face was never seen, nor was he ever given a real name or origin.  It was presumed that he was from Earth, but that in no way was certain. 

 

Nor was the relationship between Space Ghost and the twins, Jan and Jace, certain, either.  Were they his younger siblings?  His own children?  It was generally assumed that they were his wards, but like so many other personal details, who knew?  Viewers weren’t even told if Space Ghost’s adventures took place in the present or in the future.  These unanswered questions only added to the character’s mystique.

 

So much came together to make Space Ghost a stand-out effort.  The heroes’ costumes were designed by famed comic-book artist Alex Toth, who also did the story boards for the cartoon, giving it a sleek look that made even the limited animation seem elegant.  And the modulated baritone of announcer Gary Owens served as Space Ghost’s voice, contributing to much of the character’s heroic bearing.

 

But more than anything else, what made Space Ghost memorable was its drama.  His were no light-hearted, giggle-laced, catch-the-bad-guy adventures.  Fighting crime in outer space was serious business.  Space Ghost was no-nonsense, approaching every situation with the attitude that the world was about to end at any minute (and in many of the plots, it was).  He gave his opponents no quarter.  None of this “code against killing” business that most super-heroes followed (or tried to).  If Space Ghost could take out a villain with his disintegration ray, he didn’t think twice about it.  Usually the chief bad guy survived to make return appearances (not from Space Ghost’s lack of effort, though), but his henchmen usually wound up melted, frozen, pulped, vapourised, or crushed under a mammoth piece of machinery.

 

To be fair, most of them had it coming.  A Space Ghost villain was truly evil.  Ordinary bank robbers and hold-up men were beneath the hero.  His quarry was the world-dominator, the purveyor of mass destruction, the seeker of galactic conquest.  Space Ghost’s rogues’ gallery was an array of bizarre and alien beings, with names like  Brak, Mettalus, Zorak, the Spider-Woman, Moltar, Pirahnor, and Dr. Nightmare.  As designed by Toth, their appearances alone would give the viewers the chills.

 

The villains’ plans usually included planetary take-over, widespread destruction, and/or robbery on a massive scale.  Occasionally, they focused their efforts on Space Ghost directly, either through a desire for revenge or in acknowledgement that, if their plans were to succeed, they would have to take the super-hero out first.  In these cases, the bad guy usually stuck at Space Ghost’s weakest point, the teens Jan and Jace.  While, unlike most cartoon youngsters, Jan and Jace were intelligent and competent, they were far more vulnerable to ambush than their older brother/father/mentor/whatever.  Even with the twins in peril, Space Ghost remained undaunted.  No matter what the danger or disadvantage, Space Ghost was grim-facedly determined and unbending.  Just about the only time the stony set of his jaw lightened into a smile was at some fade-out antic of Blip or the particularly satisfying end of a villain.

 

 

  

Almost lost in the majestic sweep of the galactic hero was the cartoon series sandwiched between the two Space Ghost episodes in every show.  This was Dino Boy in the Lost Valley.  Dino Boy was Todd, a normal American boy approximately twelve years of age (old enough to be reasonably capable, young enough to still think girls were yucky).  According to the premise, told at the beginning of every episode, Todd was forced to parachute from a disabled aeroplane.  He landed in the Lost Valley, an uncharted area that had inexplicably remained in the prehistoric era.  There he befriended the caveman, Ugh, and they shared many adventures, usually following the formula of becoming the captives of yet another unseen tribe or race every week.  Ostensibly, Dino Boy was trying to find a way out of the Lost Valley, but he never seemed too distressed at not having colour television, hi-fi, or a MacDonald’s.  (Probably because he didn’t have any school, either.)

 

It didn’t matter.  Nobody cared.  Everybody tuned in to watch Space Ghost and went into the kitchen to make a bowl of cereal when Dino Boy came on.

 

There would be more super-heroes to come, but Hanna-Barbera had struck gold with Space Ghost.  Atom Ant, the Impossibles, and Frankenstein, Jr., would be forgotten in due time, but Space Ghost was emblazoned into the brains of an entire generation of youthful viewers.  Of all of the original super-heroes created for Saturday-morning cartoons, he would be the most memorable and enduring.  Space Ghost was the best that Saturday-morning super-hero cartoons had to offer. 

 

In one very critical aspect, he was also the worst.  But I’m getting ‘way ahead of myself there.  We have a couple more chapters to explore first.

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They'd have to make huge changes in Shazzan. Otherwise they'd be back to the 50s "Superman must be removed until the last couple of pages so he doesn't beat everybody." But what sort of challenge level should Shazzan be given?

True, he almost never ran into anyone as tough as he was.

Ronald Morgan said:

They'd have to make huge changes in Shazzan. Otherwise they'd be back to the 50s "Superman must be removed until the last couple of pages so he doesn't beat everybody." But what sort of challenge level should Shazzan be given?

There was a Big Little Book about them tracking down the previous owner and Shazzan being killed by a villain hunting him who stabs him in the back. They manage to bring him back and he defeats the villain, but the princess they talk to just says she was only one of his previous owners, not the original they need to find, and they fly off again.

I've actually read that one.

Ronald Morgan said:

There was a Big Little Book about them tracking down the previous owner and Shazzan being killed by a villain hunting him who stabs him in the back. They manage to bring him back and he defeats the villain, but the princess they talk to just says she was only one of his previous owners, not the original they need to find, and they fly off again.

Silver Age Fogey's TOO LONG comments, part 1:

ITEM: Note that at H-B’s beginning, there were two types of shows; the episodic shows that have three shows per half hour, and the full show that took up the entire half hour. (NOTE: When I say “half hour”, I mean the 22 minutes or so that was actually content, and notwithstanding the several minutes of commercials and promos.) Ruff and Reddy and The Huckleberry Hound show both filled the prior definition; the Flintstones, Jetsons, and Top Cat were of the latter (and, likely not coincidentally, the prime time shows.) I personally think the episodic nature was far more suited to the attention span of young people.

 

ITEM: You noted that “Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles” had half of the show with Franky and half with the Impossibles. Sadly, that wasn’t the case, as even the opening credits showed. This was an episodic show with two “sandwich” episodes of the Impossibles and a “filling” episode of Frankenstein Jr. For some shows, this worked excellently (I will note “Space Ghost and Dino Boy” and “Moby Dick and the Mighty Mightor”, where it was hard to get as interested in Dino Boy and Moby Dick.) But I much preferred Frankenstein Jr. I feel that was a gamble that didn’t pay off for H-B.

 

ITEM: I found the rock music of the singing Impossibles surprisingly tolerable. Elvis and the Beatles weren’t losing any sleep, granted, but it wasn’t quite of the same “kid ignorance” style as Bob Haney had for the Teen Titans. Sigh.

 

ITEM: I’m a little surprised you left Jonny Quest quite so untouched… I think you gave him short shrift here. This was a style of animation and storytelling completely unknown until this time. There were elements to attract kids and keep their attention… but there was a lot more that was intended for grown ups. The stories were mature; the animation was exciting and revolutionary for its time (even if it was, occasionally, a bit of the Marvel Super Heroes style of “only one piece moves”); the music was thrilling and expressive; and some of those stories just scared the hell out of me. I’m thinking of the giant spider robot, or the Invisible Creature. But it wasn’t so very schtick; Jonny and Hadji were very obviously children, but were NOT treated as nuisances to be ignored; when they said they heard this, saw that, or that other event occurred, Dr. Quest and Race listened to them and often believed them. I would venture that the whole revolution brought on by Jonny Quest might be deserving of its own column sometime.

 

ITEM: Philip Portelli: I never felt that the Impossibles were a take on the Three Stooges. That was Hanna Barbera’s later efforts with the boys appearing in the Scooby Doo Movies, and later as the Three Robonic Stooges (about which, the less said, the better.)

 

ITEM: Fraser Sherman, you’re right about the similarity between Shazzan and Dino Boy; and you can add Moby Dick to the formula. Kids look for trouble; kids FIND trouble; main hero comes to the rescue.

ITEM: Something that people never seem to notice, despite its prevalence in H-B super hero cartoons; the theme music matched the action on screen. For the best example, watch Space Ghost's opening, and time up the events with the beats of the music. You gotta LOVE your product to make it work that perfectly!

Silver Age Fogey's TOO LONG comments part 2: SPACE GHOST!

 

ITEM: I was always amused that the emphasis on Space GHOST was his power bands, and not his inviso-power. Mind you, turning invisible isn’t as exciting as a force hammer… but it was funny. COROLLARY: Space Ghost, as a hero name, was so perfect that changing it would have been a crime. Gary Owens helped this a lot in the opening and closing themes, of course. COROLLARY 2: I am not convinced that Space Ghost’s power bands were the source of his inviso-power. He used his belt to turn invisible, which was echoed with Jan, Jace, and Blip.

 

ITEM: Let’s be QUITE clear; in the original Space Ghost cartoons, there was NEVER a case of Space Ghost interjecting his own name. That was a much later – and weaker – feature of the character. Birdman and Mightor, and even Zandor, used it to effect; but never Space Ghost.

 

ITEM: Per cartoon sheets, Space Ghost DID have a face, and an identity; Thad Ghostal. However, H-B wisely decided to not use these, and leave him mysterious.

 

ITEM: The ONLY time frame reference in Space Ghost was that his adventures occurred in the same sequence as Moby Dick, Tom, and Tub… and their chronology was just as vague as Space Ghost’s. This happened during the CONTINUED STORY of "The Council of Doom" - which had actual super hero crossovers. My mind is still blown by this concept... all the H-B super heroes were in the same universe! This leads to the Fogey's theory of H-B super heroes, concerning timelines, continuity, and other nifty ideas that NO ONE wants to hear.

 

ITEM: Dino Boy was always a good time for a bathroom break. FUN TRIVIA: Johnny Carson did the voice of Dino Boy… but not the talk show host. It was a different fellow.

 

ITEM: As I am sure has been noted in other quarters, DC released a maxi-series last year called “Future Quest” where they crossed over several of H-B’s super heroes in one galactic battle. And it was SENSATIONAL! It didn’t cleave exactly to the cartoons, but the differences didn’t much matter to me (e.g., Buzz Conroy’s surviving parent was his mom, not his dad. And the boy genius looked slightly different.) I CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS ENOUGH if you had interest in the H-B stable of super heroes.

What amused me about the Birdman 'toons was that they'd always spell out his SPECTRE-style adversary "F.E.A.R." instead of saying it, at least in any that I saw.

Eric L. Sofer said:

Silver Age Fogey's TOO LONG comments part 2: SPACE GHOST!

 

ITEM: I was always amused that the emphasis on Space GHOST was his power bands, and not his inviso-power. Mind you, turning invisible isn’t as exciting as a force hammer… but it was funny. COROLLARY: Space Ghost, as a hero name, was so perfect that changing it would have been a crime. Gary Owens helped this a lot in the opening and closing themes, of course. COROLLARY 2: I am not convinced that Space Ghost’s power bands were the source of his inviso-power. He used his belt to turn invisible, which was echoed with Jan, Jace, and Blip.

 

ITEM: Let’s be QUITE clear; in the original Space Ghost cartoons, there was NEVER a case of Space Ghost interjecting his own name. That was a much later – and weaker – feature of the character. Birdman and Mightor, and even Zandor, used it to effect; but never Space Ghost.

 

ITEM: Per cartoon sheets, Space Ghost DID have a face, and an identity; Thad Ghostal. However, H-B wisely decided to not use these, and leave him mysterious.

 

ITEM: The ONLY time frame reference in Space Ghost was that his adventures occurred in the same sequence as Moby Dick, Tom, and Tub… and their chronology was just as vague as Space Ghost’s. This happened during the CONTINUED STORY of "The Council of Doom" - which had actual super hero crossovers. My mind is still blown by this concept... all the H-B super heroes were in the same universe! This leads to the Fogey's theory of H-B super heroes, concerning timelines, continuity, and other nifty ideas that NO ONE wants to hear.

 

ITEM: Dino Boy was always a good time for a bathroom break. FUN TRIVIA: Johnny Carson did the voice of Dino Boy… but not the talk show host. It was a different fellow.

 

ITEM: As I am sure has been noted in other quarters, DC released a maxi-series last year called “Future Quest” where they crossed over several of H-B’s super heroes in one galactic battle. And it was SENSATIONAL! It didn’t cleave exactly to the cartoons, but the differences didn’t much matter to me (e.g., Buzz Conroy’s surviving parent was his mom, not his dad. And the boy genius looked slightly different.) I CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS ENOUGH if you had interest in the H-B stable of super heroes.

LOVED Dr. Zinn's spider robot (which I always think of as his Spider-Slayer). And I was never able to confront a mummy in Dungeons and Dragons (I played for a number of years) without imagining the Jonny Quest music playing over that mummy scene in the opening. And lord, those have got to be the most action packed opening and closing sequences ever.

Eric L. Sofer said:

Silver Age Fogey's TOO LONG comments, part 1:

ITEM: Note that at H-B’s beginning, there were two types of shows; the episodic shows that have three shows per half hour, and the full show that took up the entire half hour. (NOTE: When I say “half hour”, I mean the 22 minutes or so that was actually content, and notwithstanding the several minutes of commercials and promos.) Ruff and Reddy and The Huckleberry Hound show both filled the prior definition; the Flintstones, Jetsons, and Top Cat were of the latter (and, likely not coincidentally, the prime time shows.) I personally think the episodic nature was far more suited to the attention span of young people.

 

ITEM: You noted that “Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles” had half of the show with Franky and half with the Impossibles. Sadly, that wasn’t the case, as even the opening credits showed. This was an episodic show with two “sandwich” episodes of the Impossibles and a “filling” episode of Frankenstein Jr. For some shows, this worked excellently (I will note “Space Ghost and Dino Boy” and “Moby Dick and the Mighty Mightor”, where it was hard to get as interested in Dino Boy and Moby Dick.) But I much preferred Frankenstein Jr. I feel that was a gamble that didn’t pay off for H-B.

 

ITEM: I found the rock music of the singing Impossibles surprisingly tolerable. Elvis and the Beatles weren’t losing any sleep, granted, but it wasn’t quite of the same “kid ignorance” style as Bob Haney had for the Teen Titans. Sigh.

 

ITEM: I’m a little surprised you left Jonny Quest quite so untouched… I think you gave him short shrift here. This was a style of animation and storytelling completely unknown until this time. There were elements to attract kids and keep their attention… but there was a lot more that was intended for grown ups. The stories were mature; the animation was exciting and revolutionary for its time (even if it was, occasionally, a bit of the Marvel Super Heroes style of “only one piece moves”); the music was thrilling and expressive; and some of those stories just scared the hell out of me. I’m thinking of the giant spider robot, or the Invisible Creature. But it wasn’t so very schtick; Jonny and Hadji were very obviously children, but were NOT treated as nuisances to be ignored; when they said they heard this, saw that, or that other event occurred, Dr. Quest and Race listened to them and often believed them. I would venture that the whole revolution brought on by Jonny Quest might be deserving of its own column sometime.

 

ITEM: Philip Portelli: I never felt that the Impossibles were a take on the Three Stooges. That was Hanna Barbera’s later efforts with the boys appearing in the Scooby Doo Movies, and later as the Three Robonic Stooges (about which, the less said, the better.)

 

ITEM: Fraser Sherman, you’re right about the similarity between Shazzan and Dino Boy; and you can add Moby Dick to the formula. Kids look for trouble; kids FIND trouble; main hero comes to the rescue.

ITEM: Something that people never seem to notice, despite its prevalence in H-B super hero cartoons; the theme music matched the action on screen. For the best example, watch Space Ghost's opening, and time up the events with the beats of the music. You gotta LOVE your product to make it work that perfectly!

Eric L. Sofer said:

ITEM: I’m a little surprised you left Jonny Quest quite so untouched… I think you gave him short shrift here. This was a style of animation and storytelling completely unknown until this time. There were elements to attract kids and keep their attention… but there was a lot more that was intended for grown ups. The stories were mature; the animation was exciting and revolutionary for its time (even if it was, occasionally, a bit of the Marvel Super Heroes style of “only one piece moves”); the music was thrilling and expressive; and some of those stories just scared the hell out of me. I’m thinking of the giant spider robot, or the Invisible Creature. But it wasn’t so very schtick; Jonny and Hadji were very obviously children, but were NOT treated as nuisances to be ignored; when they said they heard this, saw that, or that other event occurred, Dr. Quest and Race listened to them and often believed them. I would venture that the whole revolution brought on by Jonny Quest might be deserving of its own column sometime.

I guess I'm an older fogey than you are. I was already 16, so the threats didn't scare me. The show was very exciting and was, IMO, a very good approximation of comic book action adventure. I also appreciated that the kids were neither stupid nor annoying. I loved the music and the opening sequence.

Fraser Sherman - Birdman or Falcon 7 very rarely referred to FEAR agents as opposed to Eff Ee Ay Are, but you're right; mostly they were oddly pronounced.

And that Jonny Quest theme music by Hoyt Curtin was a thing of great joy, as were the other themes he did - and themes by Bill and Joe too. FUN FACT: Hoyt Curtin admitted writing the Jonny Quest theme to be so difficult that it could not actually be played... something about a joke on the trombonists. All I know is, what they DID turn in was GORGEOUS.

Richard Willis - I was forty at the time, but I still scared pretty easy.

Okay, okay, I'm not 90. And I agree - there was a LOT to enjoy about Jonny Quest. You dug it, obviously... I hope you collected, or choose to obtain, the "Future Quest" TPB. I'm pretty confident in predicting that you'll LOVE it... save for one thing.

When you read it - as when I read it - you'll HEAR the character voices in your head, I'm sure. Except that Dr. Quest had two voice actors, so I was continually perplexed. Until I finally said, "Don Messick, and we're DONE with that decision."

I'll definitely check out Future Quest.

I sometimes wonder if they went with F-E-A-R because they thought if we put it together ourselves ("It spells — Fear!!!!!") we'd be more impressed.

I always thought that the name "Thad Ghostal" was an addition made to the Talk show incarnation of Space Ghost, and not the original, but it's not like HB was noted for more subtle character names.  Birdman's FEAR organization was never given a fleshed out acronym, was it?  The Fraternity of Evil, Avarice & Revenge would have been fun.

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