Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wonder Wednesday 09-15-10 The 60s Marvel Super Heroes

It's not really fair to compare a made-for-tv cartoon series to the theatrical Fleischer Superman shorts of the 1940s. Those had a stellar budget and were meant to be shown in theaters, so the quality had to be higher. Cartoons actually meant to be aired on television, traditionally, don't measure up. NOWADAYS, there's some great stuff made for TV, but traditionally, not so much. Case in point, the 1960s Marvel Super Heroes series.

Now Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four had memorable shows that were done fairly well. Spider-Man is remembered mostly for its super catchy theme song, and despite his costume being simplified, it was pretty faithful to the quirky tone of the comics. And the Fantastic Four's series, produced by giants Hanna Barbera showcased stories adapted straight from the comics!The Marvel Super Heroes... well, they were taken straight from the comics... literally. They took the actual artwork from the comics and had them move their mouths or move a single limb. The results were stiff and static. Next to Crash Cargo, it was probably the strangest cartoon produced in the 1960s. The show was syndicated and aired on weekdays, showcasing a different character each day. Captain America led the charge on Mondays, followed by The Incredible Hulk on Tuesdays, Iron Man on Wednesdays, Thor on Thursdays (get it?) and finally, the Sub-Mariner on Fridays. YES! Thor and the Sub-Mariner had their own cartoon series!

The show is howlingly awful. The "animation" is practically nonexistent. The one positive is that they did adapt some classic Silver Age Marvel comic book stories and verbatim. Even so, it's a chore to sit through. In the 80s, random episodes were released on home video to be freshly discovered and mocked by a new generation of fans. The Hulk is the lucky one. He had a new, WELL-MADE cartoon in the 80s, so it was that series that saw release on video. His original series is the least seen, but the entire series had a DVD release at some point... I don't think it was sold in the US, though.

Like Spider-Man, the shows are mostly remembered for their theme songs. Each hero had their own:

The best thing to come from this series is a flood of merchandising featuring these second-stringers arriving on toy shelves alongside stalwarts like Spider-Man and Captain America.
No kid wanted to be THOR for Halloween! Oh and look, it's everyone's favorite super heroine, Mary Poppins!
Marx produced a line if small, single-colored plastic figurines of the super heroes. They are crude, but highly detailed:
And highly sought by collectors today.

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