The Forgotten Toon Heroes Of 1960s Saturday Morning
With both He-Man and Thundercats enjoying New Millennium attention, it got me to thinking about heroes of which the current crop of toon and comics readers may not even be aware.
These were the great Hanna-Barbera heroes that dominated the airwaves during an exciting time in my childhood. Any of them – especially The Herculoids and Galaxy Trio – could be made into not only a neat cosmic comic or toon, but some serious bad-ass movie (animated or live action).
Let me introduce you to just some of my late-1960s friends:
Top of my list always was The Herculoids! The team was first seen in a Saturday morning H-B TV series debuting Sept. 9, 1967, on CBS. Hanna-Barbera produced one season for the original airing of the show, although the original 18 episodes were rerun during the 1968–69 television season, with The Herculoids sadly ending its run on Sept. 6, 1969.
The Herculoids battled to defend their planet from menaces on Amzot/Quasar and from outer space. All of the Herculoids displayed human-level intelligence -- employing precision teamwork and complex tactics -- as well as emotions, and Zandor and Tarra both displayed a working knowledge of complex alien technologies as well as the ability to pilot interstellar spacecraft. The human team members (leader Zandor, his wife Tarra and son Dorno) along with the “other” Herculoids (Zok, Igoo, Tundro, Gloop and Gleep) were essentially fighting to keep Amzot/Quasar a technology-free, primitive planet. This is further indicated by the pseudo-barbarian outfits of the humans and the fact that technology was used mainly by the various villains but rarely if ever by the heroes.
A number of episodes featured alien invaders who came to Amzot/Quasar to seek revenge against Zandor for an unspecified battle or adventure from the past. All were apparently technocratic and the alien's grudges seemed to basically boil down to them being stymied in their attempts at bringing technology to Amzot/Quasar, which the apparently primitivistic Zandor wanted to avoid.
Eleven new episodes were produced in 1981 as part of Space Stars. The plotlines are rooted in science fiction and have story direction and content similar to Jonny Quest and Space Ghost. This series is set on the distant planet Amzot (renamed Quasar in the Space Stars episodes). The name "Amzot" was first mentioned in the Space Ghost episode, "The Molten Monsters of Moltar" (in which the Herculoids made a brief guest appearance) and in the series proper in the "Time Creatures" episode.
One of my all-time favorite toons, the love of which was relit with DnA’s Guardians of the Galaxy run, was H-B’s Galaxy Trio. The toon was the secondary companion of Birdman, which has almost been permanently ruined by Cartoon Network’s Harvey Birdman, Attorney-at-Law (as much as I enjoy Adult Swim). The toon debuted on NBC Sept. 9, 1967, and ran on Saturday mornings until Sept. 6, 1969.
The Galaxy Trio is a group of three extraterrestrial superheroes -- Vapor Man, Meteor Man and Gravity Girl (cool, eh?) -- who patrol space in their cruiser Condor One maintaining order and fighting evildoers in the name of the Galactic Patrol law enforcement agency. The ship was equipped with a "displacer" very similar to the transporter device on Star Trek, which was a contemporary show.
I still loved these characters:
Vapor Man (voiced by Don Messick) -- He had the ability to transform part or all of his body into gaseous form (a power shared by at least some residents of his home planet of Vaporus), enabling him to fly, escape from physical bonds and squeeze through very small spaces as well as producing various forms of "vapor" (such as "freeze vapor") from his hands.
Meteor Man (voiced by Ted Cassidy) -- A native of the planet Meteorus. Meteor Man was distinguished by his ability to increase or decrease the size of any part of his body (I hear those jokes out there! lol) He gained superhuman strength in any limb that he chooses to enlarge. (Stop it!)
Gravity Girl(voiced by Virginia Eiler) -- She had the ability to bend the laws of gravity to her will, allowing her to fly and lift very heavy objects with her mind. The daughter of the king of the planet Gravitas, she left her luxurious home and life of privilege at an early age to fight crime with the Galactic Patrol and was subsequently assigned to the Galaxy Trio team.
I would love Cartoon Network to rebroadcast some of these great Hanna-Barbera creations -- and others like Mighty Mightor, Shazzan and the true Space Ghost – as they did only a few years ago.
Those ‘80s bums wouldn’t stand a chance!