Inspired by Future Quest, I am soliciting opinions of the following H-B shows. I'm familiar with Jonny Quest and Space Ghost, but I've never seen any of the ones listed below. Which ones can you recommend? Not recommend? All of these are available on DVD. Any thought/commets would be appreciated.

Herculoids

Thundarr

Frankenstein, Jr. & the Impossibles

Mightor

Birdman

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Wikipedia tells me Thundarr was Ruby-Spears. A lot of comics people worked on the show, but I've never seen it.

I watched The Herculoids, Mightor and Birdman, but I don't remember them well. They were adventure cartoons. My recollection is their action scenes were repetitive. You might find they get tedious quickly. I like Alex Toth's designs.

The premises of The Herculoids and Mightor sound great but I don't recall ever really loving them. There was a period where I made a point of watching Birdman. The parts I liked most were the Galaxy Trio segments, about a space-based super-team.

Toth also did the designs for a cartoon about a giant genie called Shazzan.

I remember watching and enjoying Herculoids as a kid on Saturday mornings. As far as such things go, it wasn't bad. It would be difficult for me to offer opinion on how it's aged however.

I'm sure I watched Herculoids, Frankenstein Jr., and The Impossibles back in the day, and have fond memories of them, but I wouldn't want to challenge those memories by watching them today. 

I've seen them today and I like them still.  Not so much Mightor, but Herculoids and Frankenstein Jr.

Seven years ago, I did a seven-part Deck Log entry on Saturday-morning television, and I had remarks about both Frankenstein, Jr., and the Impossibles,The Herculoids, BirdmanShazzan!, and The Mighty Mightor.   Here's what I said:

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Frankenstein, Jr., and the Impossibles debuted 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 sapient 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.

H-B’s first new offering of the fall ’67 season was The Herculoids.  After Space Ghost, it is probably the most fondly remembered of all of Hanna-Barbera’s super-hero output.  The protagonists were a nuclear family consisting of alpha male Zandor; his wife, Tara; and their son, Dorno.  They lived on (and seemed to be the only human residents of) a primitive, unnamed planet, in the land of Amzot.  In every episode, Zandor and his family were called upon to defend their home from invaders.  Fortunately, the family got considerable help in this from a quintet of bizarre pets.  There was Zok, a flying dragon that could emit laser beams from his eyes and tail; Igoo, a King Kong-sized ape made of stone; Tundra, a ten-legged, armour-plated triceratops who could discharge explosive “energy rocks” from his horn; and Gloop and Gleep, a pair of protoplasmic creatures.  All of them displayed exceptional animal intelligence and were well-trained by Zandor.  They were unfailingly loyal to their human masters.

 

Most of the threats came from various marauding tribes of sub-humans that were native to the planet.  However, occasionally danger came from attacking aliens from outer space or even from nature, such as when a horde of giant army ants marched into Amzot.  While Zandor was indisputably the head of the family, neither his wife nor his son were hapless victims-in-waiting.  She might have been a fetching blonde in a skimpy animal-hide skirt, but Tara had balls.  She’d charge headlong into a band of space pirates and brain the lot of them with a broken tree branch.  And Dorno was every bit his father’s son, lacking only his old man’s battle savvy.  All of them spoke with voices that sounded pumped up on steroids.

 

Like many of H-B’s super-hero cartoon series, The Herculoids was shrouded in vagaries.  It was never established if Zandor and his family were native to the planet or if not, how they came to be there.  Nor was it explained how Zandor had adopted the five odd creatures.  And though their surroundings were of the general Tarzan-of-the-Apes level, with lodging, clothing and weaponry fashioned from hides and wood and vines, the family seemed readily familiar with any super-sophisticated technology it happened across.

Birdman and the Galaxy Trio followed the now-familiar H-B format of book-ending two episodes of one super-hero series around a middle offering of a second.  The lead series, “Birdman”, showed much of the same kind of thought that H-B had given to Space Ghost.  “Birdman” was the first H-B serious super-hero cartoon that was clearly set on Earth in the present day.  The protagonist was Birdman, a winged crimebuster, whose headquarters was situated in the hollow of a dormant volcano.

 

Besides his obvious ability to fly, Birdman possessed a variety of solar-based powers.  According to a back story prepared by H-B, but never more than hinted at in the stories, Birdman had been an ordinary man who received his powers from the Egyptian sun-god, Ra.  The rays of the sun would charge Birdman’s body with incredible strength and enable him to project heat rays from his hands.  He could also convert his solar power to form shields or force fields.  The down side was that, if Birdman was cut off from exposure to the sun, his powers rapidly depleted.

 

Through a relationship never made clear, Birdman took crime-fighting assignments from Falcon-7, the head of a U.S. government agency.  Falcon-7 was one of the most intriguing characters in the series, primarily from the mystery surrounding his involvement with Birdman.  Intelligent and urbane, the pipe-smoking, tuxedo-wearing government agent could have been mistaken for Tony Stark, except for his brown hair and eyepatch.  Primarily a plot device, Falcon-7 usually appeared only on a televisor in the winged hero’s lair.  Only a couple of times was ever seen in the main action.

 

Over the televisor, Falcon-7 would hand Birdman his assignments or alert him to the activities of a super-villain, after which the winged hero, accompanied by his pet eagle, Avenger, would launch himself into the sky, shouting his trademark battle-cry “BiiiiiiiiiiirdMAN!!”

 

Birdman had a stronger sense of continuity than most Hanna-Barbera super-heroes, mainly in his history with his rogues’ gallery.  A few of his foes, such as Dr. Millennium and Vulturo, returned to square off against Birdman a second time, often making references to their earlier defeats at his hands.  A running sub-plot involved FEAR, a cartel of international criminals that found its evil machinations constantly disrupted by the flying crime-fighter.

 

The only classic super-hero accoutrement that Birdman lacked was a sidekick, always useful for exposition (someone to explain things to) or dramatic device (someone to rescue).  This was remedied about halfway through the season by introducing Birdboy.

  

Birdman was a solid H-B offering, but it was often eclipsed by the series stuck in the middle---The Galaxy Trio.  Set in an indeterminate, but significantly distant future, The Galaxy Trio depicted the adventures of three space-bound law-enforcement officers for the Galactic Patrol.  They were Vapor Man, who had the ability to transform all or part of his body into any gas of his choosing; Meteor Man, who could expand all or any part of his body, gaining super-strength in the process; and Gravity Girl, who could control the effects of gravity on herself or other persons or objects.  They patrolled the Milky Way galaxy in their space cruiser named Condor One.

 

The three space cops were clearly veterans, tackling every mission with the confidence of experience.  The threesome relied heavily on teamwork.  Obviously comfortable together and familiar with each others’ abilities, they worked together with unspoken efficiency.  They had the demeanour of cops as well, formal and all-business around others, relaxing (and then, just a tad) only when alone to themselves.

 

Next to nothing was known of the trio’s off-duty lives.  But over the course of the series, a case took place on each of their home worlds, providing tantalising glimpses into their backgrounds.  For example, on a mission to Gravitas, Gravity Girl’s native planet, it was revealed that she was the daughter of the world’s king, much to the surprise and amusement of her teammates.

While Space Ghost and The Herculoids were based in futuristic settings, Shazzan! went in the other direction.  A prologue at the beginning of every show informed the viewer of the set-up:

 

Inside a cave off the coast of Maine, [teen-age siblings] Chuck and Nancy find a mysterious chest containing the halves of a strange ring.  When joined the rings form the word "Shazzan", and with this magical command, they are transported back to the fabled land of the Arabian nights.  Here, they meet their genie, Shazzan.  Shazzan presents them with Kaboobie, a magical flying camel.  Shazzan will serve them, whenever they call, but he cannot return them home until they deliver the ring to its rightful owner.  And thus begins their incredible journey.

 

The premise made the show seem a lot more exciting that what it turned out to be.  Ostensibly a quest-type show, in which the heroes are required to achieve an end (such as, in Chuck and Nancy’s case, getting home to modern-day Maine), very little emphasis was ever placed on actually accomplishing it.  Occasionally, one of the kids would say something about finding the ring’s true owner, but that was about as far as it ever went.  Most of the time, Chuck and Nancy would travel to yet another strange Arabian city, where they would blunder into hands of an evil despot.  The siblings would make an attempt to solve their troubles on their own, but fail and summon Shazzan to save their bacon.

 

The episodes quickly lapsed into that formula.  Now, formula is not necessarily boring, but in the case of Shazzan! it was.  The genie Shazzan had no weaknesses or limitations; he was omnipotent (except for that not-being-able-to-send-Chuck-and-Nancy-home thing.)  Even though the villains almost always had some kind of magic gimmick of their own, it never gave Shazzan a moment’s pause.  He would simply utter a Jolly Green Giant-like “Ho ho ho!” and turn the evil caliph into a cockroach or something. 

 

The only lasting thing of interest about the episodes was the visuals.  Every week, Shazzan would duel against the villain’s magic and that would result in some Spectre-like transformations of objects or of Shazzan himself.  I have to give the writers credit for making those sequences distinctive.  Nevertheless, no matter what trick was employed against the genie, the outcome was never in doubt.  Shazzan never even broke out into a sweat.

 

But there was never any real drama.  Occasionally, Chuck and Nancy might get separated (without being able to join their respective ring halves, they could not summon Shazzan) or have their rings taken away.  That aroused some interest.  But, as soon as the writers figured out that the show’s only real draw were the duels of magic, the scripts stopped giving the kids anything to do but call for Shazzan at the first sign of trouble, then sit back and watch the fun.

Hanna-Barbera’s last new cartoon series for CBS’s 1967 season was Moby Dick and the Mighty Mightor.  Despite the second billing, “the Mighty Mightor” was the lead feature.  Every show contained two episodes of Mightor.  For this, H-B went back even further into the past than Shazzan’s Arabian-night era. 

 

A brief prologue narration every week provided Mightor’s origin.  Back in the prehistoric era, Cro-Magnon teen, Tor, and his pet dinosaur, Tog (separated at birth from the Flintstones’ Dino), rescued an old man before he can be eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  In gratitude, the old man gave Tor a magic club; when Tor activated the club’s powers, by raising it overhead, he was transformed into a super-powered adult, complete with animal-hide cape and antlered cowl.  And Tog changed into a flying, fire-breathing dragon.

 

The Mighty Mightor possessed super-strength and flew.  His club was multi-purpose; besides using it for general skull-bashing, Mightor could also cause it to emit a force beam.  He used his powers to protect his clan from danger.

 

To all intents, the Mighty Mightor was the answer to that burning question “What if baby Kal-El’s rocket had landed on Earth during the Stone Age?”  Tor (Clark Kent) acted meek and mild.  He had an over-inquisitive semi-girlfriend named Shana, who was determined to find out who Mightor really was (Lois Lane).  Shana’s father was Pondo, the overbearing chief of the clan (Perry White).  And Tor was constantly followed around by his kid brother, Li’l Rock, who constantly got into trouble, requiring Mightor to fly to his rescue (Jimmy Olsen).

 

Sandwiched between the two Mightor cartoons of every show was an episode of “Moby Dick”.  The H-B Moby Dick was a friendly great white whale who rescued two youths, Tom and Tub, following a shipwreck.  A friendship formed between the boys and the whale, and they went on to have adventures under the sea.

 

“Moby Dick” was the least inspired of all of Hanna-Barbera’s super-hero efforts.  In fact, it was downright ludicrous.  Tom and Tub were able to stay submerged under the ocean, at any depth, for an unlimited amount of time, wearing only simple scuba suits with tanks that never needed recharging.  And, granted, most super-hero-cartoon animals exhibited higher-than-normal intelligence, but Moby Dick was smarter than Tom or Tub or any of the other people he came across underwater.  Even the “trapped in a lost world” situation didn’t ring true, when all the boys had to do was climb on the whale’s back, have him surface, and then drop them off at the nearest seaport.

 

(I always had a suspicion that, somewhere, there was a missing-children support group for the families of Dino Boy, Chuck and Nancy, and Tom and Tub.) 

_______________________________________________________________

Hope this helps.

 

Hey! Where's the link?

Commander Benson said:

Seven years ago, I did a seven-part Deck Log entry on Saturday-morning television, and I had remarks about both Frankenstein, Jr., and the Impossibles,The Herculoids, BirdmanShazzan!, and The Mighty Mightor.   Here's what I said:

I would have linked it, but those entries appeared on the long-departed old board and I haven't added them to the current board as "From the Archives" entries, yet.  There are seven parts, and I didn't want to go that long in "re-runs", instead of writing some fresh articles.

However, if you folks don't mind . . . . 

Shazzan was surely named after Captain Marvel's magic word. What convinced me of this was a clip of the kids summoning the genii, and his appearing after a lighting and thunder effect.

I also wonder if the H-B guys' inspiration was a feature about a boy and his genii called "(Kulah and) The Jinni in the Jug" that appeared intermittently in Brown Shoe Co.'s Buster Brown Comic Book. Comic Book Plus has all the issues. The title had wonderfully good art.

Tor and his club resemble Don Blake and his cane.

Thanks, everyone (especially Commander Benson) , for your thoughts, opinions and comments. Herculoids is the least expensive set (and I was leaning that way, anyway), but Adam's comments convinced me that that's the one to try first. (For some reason, the Birdman set is more than twice as expensive as any of the others.) We're watching Return to the Planet of the Apes now (at the rate of one episode per night), but Herculoids is now waiting on deck.

Gold Key did comic book stories based on the cartoons (and one we didn't mention, Samson & Goliath), in Hanna-Barbera Super TV Heroes. DC also did some in the 90s in Cartoon Network Presents.

Glad I could help,.Jeff.  I still remember watching all those cartoons back in '66-7, in the TV room of our house on Willow Park Road.  Of the Saturday-morning fare, Space Ghost was my favourite.  (I didn't provide my writings on that show because you said you were already familiar with it.)

I've had decades to get used to it, but it's still funny how half a century ago can seem like just yesterday.

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