Monday, November 30, 2015

From Comics to Toons: Popeye spins a yarn of Hamburger Fishing (1960)

One of the changes King Features enacted when they acquired the rights to produce their own Popeye shorts was to make Swee'pea more prominent, and for all intents & purposes phasing out Popeye's lookalike nephews. Swee'pea only appeared in a handful of shorts before KFS' 1960's run, and back then, didn't say much, if at all.

In "Hamburger Fishing", Swee'pea is one of three roles essayed by Mae Questel, in addition to Olive Oyl and the villainous Sea Hag. Popeye (Jack Mercer) tells the story of a destitute soul, who of course happens to be one J. Wellington Wimpy, forever in search of the perfect hamburger. Olive plays the part of an enchanted princess, turned into a cow by the Sea Hag.

Wimpy has always struck me as being dumber than a bag of hammers, but......!

Rating: B-.

On DVD: Challenge of the Super Friends (1978)

We have discussed Challenge of the Super Friends before, but now we're taking a look at the complete season DVD.

All 16 episodes with the Legion of Doom are included, but that's only half the show. The other half is a continuation from the previous season's format, to give the Wonder Twins something to do. When the series was broken down into half-hour increments for syndication, those episodes were kept to the side, since the LOD episodes were much more popular with comics fans.

However, there are some flaws in the writing of some of these stories, as well as some artistic gaffes. Take for example the episode, "Secret Origins of the Super Friends". Lex Luthor (Stan Jones) schemes to erase Superman, Wonder Woman, & Green Lantern from existence, and for a time, he succeeds. Problem is, and the writers completely whiffed on this point, with Superman gone pro tempore, his imperfect clone, Bizarro, should've been erased as well, because without the Man of Steel, there is no Bizarro.

As we noted in reviewing "History of Doom", Giganta (Ruth Forman) was originally a foe of Wonder Woman, but with the Cheetah (Marianne Aragon) already in the fold, the producers, ignoring the fact that Superman & Batman both had multiple foes on the Legion's roster, decided to assign Giganta to made-for-TV hero Apache Chief, as denoted in the show's opening sequence. The problem with that is, Giganta was attired in the same jungle gear she had in the books.

Funny thing: when Hanna-Barbera was commissioned by NBC to produce 2 live-action specials, they eventually posited Giganta as a girlfriend of the Atom. In the books, that would eventually happen, but not with the Atom we knew (Ray Palmer), but his successor, Ryan Choi. Like, who knew?

The documentary feature, Saturdays, Sleeping Bags, & Super Friends, has comments from comics creators such as Paul Dini, Alex Ross, and DC editor Dan DiDio (who can't write his way out of a paper bag). Whee.

In essence, Dini and Bruce Timm and company reinvented the LOD as the DCAU's version of the Secret Society on Justice League Unlimited nearly 30 years later, but with a larger roster to match the Justice League's, and missing some original LOD members. Not to be confused with the pro wrestling Legion of Doom, which was condensed down to its most iconic members, the Road Warriors, in the 80's.

Looking back now, with the series 3 years away from its 40th anniversary, it's easier to see some of the mistakes the writers made, leaving fans to consider how it could've been done better.

Rating: A-.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Looney TV: Deduce, You Say! (1956)

In the mid-50's, Warner Bros. discovered that Daffy Duck & Porky Pig had become a reliable, bankable comedy team. They sent up Dragnet, Buck Rogers, and, in 1956's "Deduce, You Say!", Sherlock Holmes, among other iconic characters.

"Deduce" has Porky, as Dr. Watkins, narrating the tale of the detectives' pursuit of the Shropshire Slasher, who proves to be more cooperative when interviewed by Watkins, rather than the impulsive, dull-witted Holmes. As with "Duck Dodgers" and his parody of Robin Hood, Daffy's own personality of the period was inserted, which really isn't how you're supposed to satirize such a beloved character......

You'd think Porky would get more respect, but the team would be broken up, leading to Daffy being paired with Speedy Gonzales during the 60's.

Rating: B.

You Know The Voices: John Fiedler & Christopher Shea (1966)

Christopher Shea was the original voice of Linus Van Pelt in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Character actor John Fiedler, for many years, voiced Winnie the Pooh's pal, Piglet, in addition to his many face-acting jobs, including a Christmas episode of That Girl.

Fiedler appears briefly as the principal at a private school where, in flashback, Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas) had worked as a teacher. One Christmas, Ann decides to stay on to help a young student (Shea), whose parents are actors and away on a movie shoot, unable to return home in time for the holidays.

"Christmas & the Hard Luck Kid" also appears on my other blog, The Land of Whatever:

Countdown to Christmas: It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown (1992)

It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown marked the end of an era for the Peanuts gang. After 36 specials, which may or may not include the miniseries, This is America, Charlie Brown, CBS discontinued the long running series, which moved to ABC. Unfortunately, this item didn't go with it. Despite solid ratings, It's Christmastime Again would not be repeated on any network.

Instead of one singular plot, series creator Charles Schulz compiled a number of storylines from the strip, including Charlie Brown trying to sell Christmas wreaths----before Thanksgiving. If the voice of Charlie's sister, Sally, sounds familiar, it belongs this time to actress Jodie Sweetin (Full House), the only "name" in the cast.

Also, this is from the period where Charlie has a girlfriend. Like, who knew he'd ever catch a break?

The same old tropes are still intact, only it's Sally writing to Santa---and failing, badly.

Rating: B.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Rare Treats: King Arthur (1968-9)

Several months back, we served up a rarely seen Filmation pilot, Dick Digit, and perhaps the only reason he never made it to air might've been because the titular hero, being small in size, was too close to DC's Atom, who'd been licensed to Filmation as part of a rotating series of backup features behind Aquaman.

Roughly around the same time, Filmation tried an adaptation of the legend of King Arthur, which would've been the first series to adapt the Knights of the Round Table in an adventure series. Ken Sobol, principal writer for Journey to the Center of the Earth, which premiered in 1967, and Fantastic Voyage (1968), wrote this pilot, in which Arthur (Marvin Miller, the voice of Aquaman) must rescue Princess Guenivere (Jane Webb) from the Black Knight (Ted Knight). Webb would also voice Morgaine Le Fey, and subsequently recycle the Le Fey voice for Catwoman (The Batman-Superman Hour).

Most scholars claim this was made in 1967. However, there are a few clues that suggest that this was later, even though the copyright date looks like it was either 1964 or '65. I'm guessing that the cartoon was actually made well before the studio signed the contract to adapt the DC heroes (Superman, Batman, etc.), but it remained in the vaults until Filmation established itself on the air. Additionally, this would be the first instance where director Hal Sutherland's signature appeared on screen, as well as the circular credit of producers Norm Prescott & Lou Scheimer. These particular items didn't begin to appear on Filmation programs until 1969 (i.e. Hardy Boys). Finally, Webb didn't make her official debut with Filmation until 1967 (Journey to the Center of the Earth), and remained with the studio until 1977.

Now, let's scope out King Arthur:

While the artists weren't credited, the linework seems to be an attempt to emulate the work of Hal Foster of Prince Valiant fame. One wonders if Foster wasn't somehow involved in the production of this piece.

Rating: A.

Animated World of DC Comics: History of Doom (Challenge of the Super Friends, 1978)

In the series finale of Challenge of the Super Friends, a trio of researchers in the far future find the remains of both the Hall of Justice and the Hall of Doom after an apocalyptic disaster. In the course of "History of Doom", we are shown the "origins" of 2 Legion of Doom members.

In a flashback, young, red-headed Lex Luthor (Michael Bell, adding a midwestern accent to his voice of Wonder Twin Zan) saves Superboy (Danny Dark, who did his best to sound younger, but not too well) from a Kryptonite meteor. A subsequent accident, mostly a miscalculation by Superboy on where to aim his super-breath, shatters their friendship. Not entirely an accurate adaptation of the account in the comics, long since ret-conned out.

Meanwhile, Giganta's origin is vastly different from the comics. Where she was originally posited as an enemy of Wonder Woman, the writers decided to match her with Apache Chief, and now we know why. A shaman (Stanley Ralph Ross, also the voice of Grodd) gives a young brave some magic dust, which enables him to grow to 50 feet tall. The woman who'd become Giganta steals the powder and uses it on herself.

For what it's worth, the producers had Louise Williams, otherwise the voice of Jayna, play Giganta's younger self. Seems they're finding she did more than one character after all. Unfortunately, Wikipedia's recent edits miscredit Stan Jones (Luthor) as the announcer, when it's clearly Bob Lloyd, as we previously discussed.

The episode also includes clips from 2 earlier episodes, making it clear this was the last episode, and that DC, ABC, & Hanna-Barbera were going in another direction with the franchise the next season.

Sidney Tucker, who posted this to Dailymotion after getting booted from YouTube, miscounted, as there were only 16 episodes of Challenge. As you can probably tell, Dailymotion has become available to use again, as it had been hacked months ago.

Rating: B+.