Hanna-Barbera’s 1960’s Superheroes and Super-Adventure

At one point in time, the Hanna-Barbera studios produced the lion’s share of animated Saturday morning fare – especially in the 1960’s.  Now of course there were plenty of animated slapstick cartoons out there – mostly The Flintstones and Atom Ant and Secret Squirrel and Top Cat and boy oh boy am I showing my age here…

But Hanna-Barbera also dove head-first into fantasy and action and adventure.  Heck, they were involved with both Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? and Jonny Quest, so you’ve got that working for you.

But they also produced several animated series where super-powered crimefighters fought mustache-twirling bad guys and vanquished the evil-doers in about nine minutes per episode.

Let me bring you a few.  And you might think you know these characters … but trust me on this, they’re not the way you originally remembered them.  That’s because these cartoons were from the 1960’s, and you’ve probably only seen their likenesses on late-night Adult Swim broadcasts.

SPACE GHOST

No, he’s not a late night talk show host.  The original Space Ghost was an interstellar patrolman – and yes, he had teenage sidekicks – who fought evildoers and malevolent bad guys from various outer space worlds.  And this show was violent.  Extremely violent.  You want to know why Saturday morning cartoons all had morals at the end about looking both ways before crossing the road?  Trust me, nobody would ever confuse an episode of Space Ghost with an educational broadcast.

BIRDMAN

This is neither the attorney at law, nor the Michael Keaton character.  This Birdman is a masked secret agent who fights crime and stops megalomaniacs from taking over the world.  All combined with the standard Hoyt Curtin super-jazzy musical intro.

THE HERCULOIDS

Oh man how could you not love the Herculoids?   It combined an off-the-grid family on a desolate planet, as they fight to protect their planet from invasions of all sorts.  Oh, and did I mention that they have super-powered pets – a rock-monster gorilla?  An armor-plated rhino that shoots energy bolts out of his horn?  And a flying dragon who emits energy beams from his eyes and from his tail?

THE MIGHTY MIGHTOR

We are going to skip over the crime-fighting whale Moby Dick, it’s not worth the time.  But look at the Mighty Mightor.  A super-powered Neanderthal who, with his flying dragon, fights crime and evil way back in caveman times.  And here’a fan theory – how much do you want to bet that in his older years, Mightor was trapped in an ice cave – until he was rescued in the 1970’s by three teen crimefighters, only to become the modern-day superhero Captain Caveman?  Works for me.

SHAZZAN

No, no, not Captain Marvel.  Nice try.  This one features two teenagers, Chuck and Nancy (no, their last names were not Schumer or Pelosi) who find an ancient ring – which can be used to summon a deus ex machina genie named Shazzan.  No word if Shazzan ever hang out with Barbara Eden at one point in time or another.

THE FANTASTIC FOUR

Hey, why not add a Marvel licensed comic book to your animated lineup?  Unlike the rest of Marvel’s cartoons at the time, which were produced either by ray-tracing old comic books or, in the case of the Spider-Man series, farmed out to a studio in Canada, Hanna-Barbera gave the Fantastic Four the same treatment as the studio’s other superhero shows, including that jazzy Hoyt Curtin intro.

YOUNG SAMSON (also known as SAMSON AND GOLIATH)

Hey, why not create a superhero with a Biblical theme?  You had a boy who, when he bangs his wristbands together, turns into the strongman of old – along with a dog who turns into a lion – and who fights crime and evil-doers.  No word on whether he hung out with Delilah after the filming, or whether he actually slew the Philistines with Donald Trump’s jawbone.

So … that was the 1960’s.  Most of these series only lasted about 13 to 17 episodes apiece.  What do you do when you want to rebroadcast these cartoons to a new audience?

Simple.  You combine everything into a melange of action and combat … and create …

HANNA-BARBERA’S WORLD OF SUPER ADVENTURE

Yep, they syndicated all these cartoons as one mega-run in the late 1970’s.  And that’s no Hoyt Curtin soundtrack to introduce the shows – it sounds like someone tried to copy the Star Wars theme, with only the Meco disco version as a reference point.

Still, it’s kinda fun to watch these old classics once again.  Even if it makes me nostalgic for a bowl of Frosted Flakes and a few hours in front of the TV on a Saturday morning.