Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Top Ten Offbrand Superhero Cartoons

Reviewing the Superheroes in Animation link over on Wikipedia, I found it woefully lacking as it was missing quite a number of my favorite superhero cartoons. Upon closer inspection, I noticed it seemed mostly devoted to cartoons from the Big Two (Marvel/DC). I thought about fixing the entry myself on Wikipedia, but I've had problems with their site in the past, so today, I present (in no particular order) the Top Ten Non-DC/Marvel Superhero Cartoons!

1. Space Ghost
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Space Ghost is a fictional character created by Hanna-Barbera Productions and designed by Alex Toth for CBS in the 1960s. Space Ghost is credited with being almost single-handedly responsible for the popularity of superhero cartoons in the 60's. In his original incarnation, he was a superhero who, with his sidekick teen helpers Jan, Jace, and Blip the monkey, fought supervillains in outer space. A DVD Collection of the original Space Ghost cartoons is available on Amazon.

In the 1990s, the character was brought back as a host for his own fictional late-night talk show, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, on Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. In the 2000s, he was revamped as a serious superhero once again in a mini-series by DC Comics. ~Wikipedia

2. Space Sentinels (aka Freedom Force)

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Space Sentinels (originally titled The Young Sentinels and renamed midway through its only season) is a Saturday morning animated series produced by Filmation which debuted on the American NBC network on September 10, 1977 and ran for thirteen half-hour episodes. The series has been called "ahead of its time" due to its racially diverse cast of main characters. In this series, the Roman mythological figures Hercules and Mercury are joined by Astrea, a character created specifically for the series, to form a superhero team to protect mankind.  The show would evolve into the Freedom Force by the next year (see following entry). The complete series of the Space Sentinels was released on DVD along with the complete series of The Freedom Force. ~Wikipedia

The Freedom Force is a 1978 animated television series produced by Filmation and aired on CBS as a segment of Tarzan and the Super 7. It showcased a superhero team gathered by the heroine Isis from around the world to help fight evil. Isis had previously appeared in the live-action television series, The Secrets of Isis, although the actress who portrayed her, Joanna Cameron, did not reprise the role for the cartoon. Only five episodes of the series were produced. ~Wikipedia

3.  Defenders of the Earth

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Defenders of the Earth is an American animated television series produced in 1986, featuring characters from three comic strips distributed by King Features SyndicateFlash Gordon, The Phantom, and Mandrake the Magician—opposing Ming the Merciless in the year 2015. Supporting characters include their children Rick Gordon (son of Flash), Jedda Walker (daughter of the Phantom), Kshin (adopted son of Mandrake), Mandrake's assistant Lothar, and Lothar's son L.J. The show lasted for 65 episodes; there was also a short-lived comic book series published by Star Comics (an imprint of Marvel Comics), created by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru and John Romita, Sr.. The closing credits credit Rob Walsh and Tony Pastor for the main title music, and Stan Lee for the lyrics. The series was later shown in reruns on the Sci Fi Channel as part of Sci Fi Cartoon Quest. ~Wikipedia

4. Birdman and the Galaxy Trio

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 Birdman and the Galaxy Trio is an animated science fiction television series created by Alex Toth and produced by Hanna-Barbera. It debuted on NBC on September 9, 1967, and ran on Saturday mornings until September 6, 1969. The program consists of two segments: Birdman, depicting the adventures of a winged superhero powered by the sun, and The Galaxy Trio, centering around the exploits of three extraterrestrial superheroes. NBC ran two new segments of Birdman each Saturday, separated by a segment of The Galaxy Trio.

Birdman (voiced by Keith Andes) - An ordinary human endowed by the sun god Ra (although this origin is only vaguely and briefly hinted at during the series; his real name is given as Ray Randall) with the ability to shoot solar rays from his fists and project "solar shields" to defend himself against attacks. He was recruited by a top-secret government agency, Inter-Nation Security, and now works full-time fighting crime, assisted by his eagle sidekick Avenger. In addition to the abilities he received from Ra, Birdman also possesses the power of flight, thanks to the giant wings which sprout from his back. His sole weakness is that he must periodically recharge his super powers through exposure to the sun’s rays, a weakness that is exposed in nearly every episode. His trademark is his battle cry of "Biiiiirdman!!" when he goes into battle.

The Galaxy Trio is a group of three extraterrestrial superheroes, Vapor Man, Meteor Man, and Gravity Girl, 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,[citation needed] which was a contemporary show.
  • Vapor Man (voiced by Don Messick) - He has 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 is distinguished by his ability to increase or decrease the size of any part of his body. He gains superhuman strength in any limb that he chooses to enlarge.
  • Gravity Girl (voiced by Virginia Eiler) - She has 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, with whom she has served ever since. ~Wikipedia
 5. Young Samson

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Samson & Goliath (also known as Young Samson) is an animated television series produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions for NBC, where it debuted on September 9, 1967. Primarily sponsored by General Mills, who controlled the distribution rights through its agency Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, Samson & Goliath was retitled Young Samson in April 1968 to avoid confusion with the stop-motion Christian television series Davey and Goliath.

The series was the only Dancer Fitzgerald Sample-sponsored cartoon to be outsourced to Hanna-Barbera; the agency's in-house studio, Gamma Productions, had closed shortly before the series began. (It was also the only cartoon in the DFS portfolio not to be created by Jay Ward Productions or Total Television.) A young Tim Matheson did the voice of Samson, while Mel Blanc supplied the voice of Goliath. John Stephenson did the various character voices. ~Wikipedia

6. Phantom 2040

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Phantom 2040 is a French-American animated science fiction television series loosely based on the comic strip hero The Phantom, created by Lee Falk. The central character of the series is said to be the 24th Phantom. In the year 2040, environmental disasters and the economic Resource Wars of the early 21st century have decimated the fragile ecological balance of an Earth once teeming with life. Everywhere, the privileged and wealthy continue to thrive in expensive real estate developments that tower above the suffering masses. The victims of Earth’s misfortune have been forced to subsist on scavenged refuse from the past on the mangled streets of forlorn city-states.

The only hope for the survival of humanity is the Ghost Jungle — thousands of square miles of mutated vegetation that may be the planet's salvation. This secret source of life is submerged beneath Metropia,unseen by most. College student Kit Walker Jr. is chosen by fate to save the world, donning the black mask and purple suit of his people’s savior, the 24th Phantom.

The unusual character designs were the distinctive work of Peter Chung, creator of Æon Flux.
The show debuted in 1994 to rave reviews, though it survived only 35 episodes before it was relegated to weekend repeats in 1996. Along with action sequences, stories focused on intelligent plotting and character development, winning the series praise for its subtle teaching of such values as individuality, freedom and the volatility of humanity. ~Wikipedia

7. WildC.A.T.S

The WildC.A.T.s television series was created in 1994 and aired on CBS. The series was produced by WildStorm Productions in association with Nelvana. Although DC Comics owns the rights to the characters (due to DC's 1999 purchase of WildStorm), FUNimation Entertainment distributed the series' run on DVD, which was released on July 19, 2005.

It ran for thirteen episodes with a family-friendly storyline. WildC.A.T.s featured a rock soundtrack, and a theme song performed by Sheree Jeacocke and Gerry Mosby. WildC.A.T.s, along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Skeleton Warriors, was grouped into the "Action Zone" showcase that used a wraparound animated fly-though pre-credit sequence to bookend the three very different programs. The series was canceled around the same time that the "Action Zone" concept was officially retired (although TMNT retained the "Action Zone" credit sequence until the end of its run two years later) ~Wikipedia

8. Spawn

Todd McFarlane's Spawn is an animated television series which aired on HBO from 1997 through 1999. It is also released on DVD as a film series. It is based on the Spawn comic series from Image Comics, and was nominated for and won an Emmy in 1999 for Outstanding Animation Program (longer than one hour)

The series centered around the story of an ex-serviceman named Al Simmons, who fought in the Vietnam War as a commando. He was betrayed and killed by a man whom he believed to be his close friend (the man, Chapel, burned him alive with a flamethrower). Upon his death, Simmons vowed revenge on Chapel and hoped that he would one day return to his beloved wife Wanda.

In order to accomplish his vow, he makes a pact with the Malebolgia (who was the overlord on the eighth plane of Hell). The pact was a simple one: Simmons would become a Soldier in Malebolgia's army (known as the "Hellspawn" or "Spawn" for short) in return for the ability to walk the earth once again in order to see Wanda. However, Simmons was tricked and his body was not returned to him; instead he had been given a different body which was a festering, pungently cadaverous, maggot-ridden walking corpse that had a massive living red cape attached to it. The head of this new body had been rotten for some time and was in an advanced state of decay, which led to Simmons donning a mask in order to cover its grotesque appearance. ~Wikipedia

9.  Savage Dragon

In 1995 the Savage Dragon appeared in the half-hour animated television series The Savage Dragon as part of the Cartoon Express on the USA Network. Produced by Universal Cartoon Studios, it ran for 26 episodes from 1995 to 1996 and featured numerous supporting characters from the comic book series, including She-Dragon, Horde, Barbaric, Mako and Overlord. The Dragon was voiced by Jim Cummings.[1] Additional voices were provided by Mark Hamill, Michael Dorn, Jennifer Hale, Rene Auberjonois, Frank Welker, Paul Eiding, Rob Paulsen and Tony Jay.

Episode 21 of Savage Dragon, "Endgame", served as the second part of a four-part crossover with three other shows in USA's "Action Extreme Team" programming block: Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, and Wing Commander Academy. ~Wikipedia

10. Hellboy

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 Hellboy Animated are original straight-to-DVD animated films based upon the Hellboy comic books by Mike Mignola. Both films, Sword of Storms and Blood and Iron, received the signature of Mike Mignola and Guillermo del Toro.

 Sword of Storms
In Sword of Storms, Hellboy and Kate Corrigan are dispatched to Japan to solve the mystery of a professor possessed by the Japanese demons Thunder and Lightning. The demons wish to get their hands on a powerful haunted sword, which will free them, and allow them to unleash their brothers and destroy the world. While Hellboy is sent into an alternate dimension, facing Yokai on the way, his B.P.R.D. teammates, Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman, try to stop one of the Dragons on the first wave of the coming chaos. 

Blood and Iron
Hellboy: Blood and Iron deals with Professor Trevor Bruttenholm's experience with a vampiress (the blood countess) in 1934 and the present day. Hellboy also faces off against Hecate. The DVD for this also includes a bonus short called Hellboy: Iron Shoes. ~Wikipedia

Honorable Mention


There was a short-lived Ultraforce animated television series that ran for 13 episodes. It was based on the first version of the Ultraforce comic book, and was produced by DiC Entertainment and Bohbot Entertainment.[2][3] There was also an Ultraforce action figure line produced by Galoob.

The Ultraforce is a fictional superhero group that appears in comic books published by Malibu, and later Marvel, as well as an animated series produced by DIC. Their purpose was to protect the public and keep other Ultras from getting out of line. The membership consisted of various "ultras" (superheroes) in Malibu's Ultraverse, including the super-strong Prime; Topaz, warrior queen of Gwendor; Prototype, Ultra-Tech's armored spokesperson; the undead Ghoul, the last surviving member of the Exiles; Hardcase, one of the first public Ultras; and the mysterious Contrary, who organized the team and provided their technology. ~Wikipedia

I think that's all the cartoons I can remember. If I missed one of your favorites, please post it in the comments!

- Jim


-> Ray said...

Blue Falcon and Dynomutt!

Anonymous said...

The Tick

Crize2foi said...

Great post, brings back some very happy memories. As for other superhero cartoons, 'Battle of the Planets' (or G-Force) was another of my favourites. And didn't 'He-Man and the Masters of the Universe' come from Mattel toy company?

Jim Shelley said...

@Ray, Anonymous and Crize2foi - I plead guilty to faulty memories for forgetting Blue Falcon, The Tick and perhaps G-Force.

With He-Man, I lump him in the Sword & Planet Genre which is where I would classify Thundarr, BlackStarr and Herculoids. I may do a post on that genre in animation one day.

MattComix said...

BOTP/G-Force was a dubbed (and altered) version of the anime Kagaku Ninja Tai Gatchaman (Science Ninja Team Gatchaman). The "gatcha" is an onomatopoeia used to give the feeling of the sound of big, heavy mechs slamming together.

The animators were inspired by American comics of the time and when you look at the uniforms I think it's hard not to imagine them as something Dave Cockrum might have come up with himself.


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