As I saw The Incredibles 2 this past weekend, I decided to switch things up a little bit with a Misplaced Heroes column about some characters who did not premier in a comic book. Yes, normally I go that route, but not every great superhero (or even many stupid or terrible ones) began life in a comic book.
So, here’s a supergroup from a 1966 animated series that I caught on occasion growing up, namely the Mighty Heroes.
In 1966, Terrytoons animators put out a show for CBS’ Saturday morning line-up. The show in question featured their old Mighty Mouse character, and as such, they whipped up a new group to have adventures around Mighty Mouse. Either the new guys would have an adventure sandwiched between two Mighty Mouse cartoons, or it would go the other way around. They were created by animator Ralph Bakshi, a man better known for his more adult animation like Fritz the Cat, though he also did some Spider-Man episodes that might make Jimmy Impossible twitch if you asked him about them.
Bakshi’s creation were collectively called the Mighty Heroes, protectors of the town of Good Haven from various evil types. There were five of them. They were:
- Strong Man, an auto mechanic with superstrength and something like a Southern accent. Battle cry: “Yeee-hoo!”
- Diaper Man, a baby, team leader, and the only one who didn’t wear an “H” logo on his chest. Diaper Man fought with a baby bottle loaded with milk that he could use in a variety of ways. Battle cry: “Up and away!”
- Tornado Man, a meteorologist who could spin around and create a tornado. Battle cry: “Wheeeeee!”
- Rope Man, a sailor with a body seemingly made out of rope that he could fashion into nets or lassos, and with something of an English accent. Battle cry: I think it’s “Gung ho!” but I could be mistaken.
- Cuckoo Man, the owner of a bird shop. He could fly. Granted, they all could fly, but he couldn’t do it as well as the others and had to flap his arms. Battle cry: “Cuckoo! Cuckoo!”
A typical Might Heroes adventure would go as follows: a villain would attack, and the call would go out to the Mighty Heroes. Cue opening.
After that, the heroes would fly off and tend to get caught. Diaper Man may once in a while get away, but mostly the bunch would be put into a death trap. They’d escape somehow, rally, and beat the bad guy. All that took place in about seven minutes, and while they often got stuck in a death trap, they were most likely caught by their own clumsiness.
Superhero cartoons are an old formula, and it makes sense. Kids like superheroes, the fantastic costumes, weird powers, and a complete and total disregard for the laws of physics and biology going back to the original Superman and Popeye shorts from the Fleischer Brothers. In fact, the first cartoon made specifically for TV was called Crusader Rabbit, and while the rabbit wasn’t a superhero per se, he was created by Bullwinkle creator Jay Ward, and the comedic adventure story may be a bit related to the superhero sort of thing.
On a personal note, cartoons like The Mighty Heroes, which could still be seen at late as the 70s since I do remember seeing them as a kid, worked to help people like me become the Geeks we are today. Or at least, they did in my case. Cartoons like Might Heroes, Superfriends, and even Spider-Man made me the superhero fan I am today, so even the forgotten and forgettable have their places in the grand scheme of things. Besides, Bakshi went back to Saturday mornings and Mighty Mouse in the late 80s with Might Mouse: The New Adventures, one episode of which featured the Mighty Heroes as older men (Diaper Man says he’s 37 at the end of the cartoon, the others are much older), so they could always come back when we least expect them to.
On a side note, I showed a younger co-worker the opening bit above, and his reaction beyond general dumbfoundment that such a show existed was to wonder if all cartoons from the 70s were animated that way (even if this one was from the 60s), that Tornado Man looked better out of costume, and a sort of general horror when he realized Rope Man’s body was made entirely of rope.
Sometimes, I think I love horrifying people by showing them things that actually exist.